Hiking the South West Coast Path

Hiking the South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is the longest hiking trail in the UK. With September weather turning out to be quite pleasant, it seemed like an excellent option for our second hiking trip.

Andrew, our hike planning master, decided we would start in Swanage and take the trail to Worth Matravers, where we would stay overnight. The next day, we would hike from Worth Matravers to Corfe to see the castle there. It sounded perfect.

We decided to make a full weekend of this hike since the train ride down to Swanage was too long to make it there and hike ten miles in just a day. After stopping by designjunction, I met Andrew at Waterloo and we hopped a train down to Bournemouth, where we’d stay Friday night.

Taking the train to Bournemouth cut our train journey nearly in half on Friday evening and we were able to find cheap accommodation right near the train station at the Lea Hurst Hotel. The bus to Swanage also left from the train station, so we were well situated to begin our weekend adventure.

Lea Hurst Hotel, Bournemouth

What we didn’t anticipate was such a memorable evening in Bournemouth! We ate an M&S dinner on the train, but figured we’d check out a historic pub near our B&B once we arrived. That turned into a couple half pints at the Cricketer’s Arms, as we had arrived just in time for bingo with the locals!

It was a blast. We didn’t end up winning anything, but to drop into this local scene was worth the walk!

Our bed and breakfast was such a gem. The staff were so nice, our room was very comfortable and clean and our breakfast was the perfect way to fuel up for the hike ahead.

Full English Breakfast at the Lea Hurst Hotel in Bournemouth

The sun was shining as we left the Lea Hurst for the train station to catch the bus. We hopped on the Purbeck Breezer, which has routes all through the Dorset seaside. The bus ride from Bournemouth to Swanage was about an hour and the bus even went on a ferry ride!

We got off the bus in the quaint seaside town of Swanage. It was really cute and the street along the beach was blocked off and filled with families enjoying the sunny weather. We cut through the little town to the start of the path.

Starting off on the South West Coast Path

It was not a far journey to our first sight, the Great Globe. It is one of the largest stone spheres in the world! Pretty cool.

The Great Globe, Swanage, South West Coast Path

Most of the path followed along the seaside cliffs.

Journeying Along the South West Coast Path

Sometimes, this took us through pastures of cows and sheep. We had to walk up and around one pack of cows, which was new and different for us!

cows on the south west coast path

The coast in Dorset is filled with abandoned quarries. It made for an even more interesting coastline.

Abandoned quarry on the South West Coast Path

This was my first-ever hike with my backpack. It took about 45 mintues or so for me to figure out how to fit it so that it rested comfortably on my hips, not my shoulders. Once I got that right, it was pretty smooth sailing until the end.

Hiking the South West Coast Path from Swanage to Worth Matravers

I will say that the added weight of the backpack makes a difference! Fatigue set in earlier than usual, and the undulating hills of the coast were just that much harder. It was a fantastic workout.

Andrew hiking the South West Coast Path

Though I fatigued faster, there were sights to take in along the way to distract me. We stopped for lunch with a view at the beautiful Dancing Ledge, another abandoned quarry site.

Dancing Ledge, South West Coast Path

All along the path, but especially at quarry sites, we saw climbers heading for and climbing up the cliffs. They are braver than I’ll ever be!

Climbers at Dancers Ledge


The pictures just don’t do the coastline justice. It was a beautiful place to spend a sunny day, and our fellow hikers out on the trail were so nice (they recommended we turn down this side trail). It was exhilarating to spend such a beautiful day out on the water, admiring the cliffs and green fields we passed along.

We turned off again at Winspit Quarry, where you can explore the ruins of the buildings on the site and even the caves that had been mined.

It was so cool (and it was nice and cool temperature-wise in the caves!).

Winspit Quarry Caves

We didn’t know what this was at the time, but we also passed by the radar monument, commemorating Worth Matraver’s role in the development of ground to ground radar communications during the Second World War.

Out beyond Winspit Quarry, we came upon this interesting rock formation and interesting wave break out in the water.

Sweet relief came when we made it to St Aldhelm’s Chapel, signalling to my tired legs that the hike would soon be over.

This beautiful stone chapel has stood there and been an active place of worship for over 800 years. It was really neat to step inside and see the lovely vaulted ceiling.

Remember how I said that the chapel gave me faith that the hike was nearing its end? Well, that was a tease because the biggest descent and ascent came after the chapel. Luckily, I had the view of Chapman’s Pool to distract me from my burning legs.

After climbing back up, we came upon the Royal Marines Commando Memorial. This peaceful spot is beautifully situated atop the cliffs with beautiful views.

The view of Chapman’s Pool was my favourite part of the hike.

Our day hike came to an end after ten or so miles with a walk through some fields to get to Worth Matravers. We even had to wait for a tractor to pass. It was pretty awesome.

It was a truly fabulous day out on the trail and manageable to do in one day. If you’re not one for hiking, there are car parks and bus stops along the route that lead to all of the pretty seaside sights. This was one of my very favourite days in the UK so far – perfect weather, a great workout and a beautiful trail!


Jenn is an American expat living in London, spending her time freelancing, traveling and writing on this here blog. Thank you for reading. Are you planning a trip here? Tell me your plans in the comments!

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