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Dramatic coastal scenery, Lulworth cove, hidden beaches, a cliff arch, and a ghost town. Travel by car only.
Dorset SWC Walk 54 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This beautiful coastal walk takes in Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Purbeck's dramatic coastal scenery, and the abandoned village of Tyneham.
The walk is a figure of 8 centred on Lulworth Cove by the Castle Inn (lunch pub)
The Tyneham loop starts with a hill, with fine views of the coast before following the coast over dramatic cliffs. It then climbs a ridge above Tyneham with a 360° view of Purbeck. It then descends into the village, which is worth exploring (church, museum), and climbs the other side of the valley to the cliff edge. It then follows the rollercoaster South West Coast Path (SWCP) back to Lulworth Cove, past a beach and more dramatic viewpoints.
The Durdle Door loop is gentler. It follows the SWCP west along cliffs to Durdle Door (an arch) and a nice beach. The return is slightly inland, on a higher path (with less ups and downs) over open grassland, with fine views of the coast.
This is a 'car walk', as its not very suitable for public transport. There is a rare bus service from Wool Station, about 4 miles away. See below for details. For groups, there are reasonably priced taxis.
Lovely Coastal walk starting with a busy prom, then a short ferry crossing to start the South West Coast Path along Studland Bay (a sandy beach), past Old Harry (cliffs) to Swanage, a seaside resort. Optional ridge walk ending to Corfe Castle. Return by bus.
Dorset SWC Walk 73 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk follows a hidden valley to the sea, a sandy beach to Sandbacks for a short ferry over to Purbeck, the start of the South West Coast Path (SWCP) along Studland Bay (a long sandy bay great, for swimming, with an official naturist area), a cliff-top pub in Studland village, a cliff top walk out to Old Harry point, a climb up to a ridge, and either a descent along the SWCP into Swanage, or a longer ridge walk inland to Corfe Castle, before catching a bus back to Wareham station
This walks starts with a slow descent to the sea along a path through a forested chine (a steep sided valley).
It then follows the seafront, a sandy beach along a mixture of promenade or for a few short stretches, the sandy beach itself. This stretch is lined with cafes and beach huts, and can be quite busy in summer.
Soon expensive Sandbanks is reached, where there is a short 'chain ferry' crossing (every 10-15 mins, takes 5 mins, 2013 fare: £1.00, free to return) across the entrance to Poole Harbour to South Haven Point. Lunch is at a small cafe just after the ferry with views over the harbour.
South Haven Point also marks the start of the SWCP. After lunch, the walk follows the SWCP / beach path for 4 km. First along Shell Bay to a point (a good picnic spot), which marks the start of the National Trust's Studland Bay, a sandy beach backed by sand dunes. While any part of this walk is good for swimming, the start of Studland Bay is particularly good as there is a sandbar offshore which keeps the sea shallow, and so, quite warm. The middle of Studland Bay is a well known official naturist beach, which is quite busy on a warm summer's day. There is an alternate "heather path" through the NT's Nature reserve behind the beach.
At the end of the bay, there is a cliff top pub in Studland village, with an idyllic location. A bus follows the route of this walk to this point, joining it at the ferry, Studland Village (and Swanage), so it is easy to cut short this walk if you'd prefer to swim or...
Weymouth Bay, then a dramatic cliff walk past small beaches, then higher cliffs past Durdle Door (stack) to Lulworth Cove
Dorset SWC Walk 99 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
This spectacular coast walk follows the waymarked South West Coastal Path (SWCP) from Weymouth (seaside town with pictureque harbour) along its seafront promenade, then over cliffs and past secluded coves and beaches towards Durdle Door (stack) and Lulworth Cove. All, with views over Weymouth Bay and the Isle of Portland.
The start is gentle - along the seafront then seawall. Then over a small hill (pub, cafe, both with views) to Bowleaze Cove with its spectacular art deco hotel. Then past some small beaches to the Smuglers Inn in Osmington for lunch. After lunch the path climbs to an undulating ridge (a more level inland option is available) past Durdle Door (a stack, great beach) before descending to Lulworth Cove.
Return to Wool Station by bus (summer only) or taxi
This walk can also be done in reverse, indeed transport considerations may may that a better option. In this case, take a bus from Wool to Lulworth Cove. At the end, continue along the coast to Weymouth's Historic Harbour area which is much nicer than the tacky seafront next to the train station
You hardly need a map for this walk as the SWCP is very well waymarked, and you are just following the coast, but it is useful to check your progress. The paths and signs were updated for 2012 the Olympics (the sailing events were in Weymouth)
You can swim in Weymouth, by Overcombe, Osmington Mills, Ringstead/Burning Cliff (there's a path up at the end), Durdle Door (St Oswald's Bay), and Lulworth Cove
Weymouth's harbour, the South West Coast Path, a disused railway path, industrial archaeology and a grandstand view of the Devon and Dorset coast.
Dorset SWC Walk 77 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk was inspired by a BBC 'Railway Walks' program featuring a disused railway line between Weymouth and the Isle of Portland. It also features the sea, and industrial archeology - the quarrying of Portland stone.
It is in 2 distinct sections: 1) from Weymouth, south to the causeway by train or SWCP, and 2) the Isle of Portland Circular path
Weymouth has a pretty harbour, with many pubs and cafes. There are 2 routes south to the causeway over to Portland, the South West Coastal Path (SWCP), and a disused railway line turned into a cycle path. Railway walks buffs suggest doing the walks twice, once in summer for the greenery, and once in winter to appreciate the engineering, but once is enough for most. The causeway is part of Chesil beach, a pebble beach forming a long spit.
The Isle of Portland is a tall wedge shaped slab of Portland Stone, high at the north end, and sloping slowly into the sea at the south end at Portland Bill. The hill on the north side is the Verne. On top of it is a citadel (a fort housing a prison). The Verne has stunning view over Chesil Beach, Weymouth harbour, The Isle of White, and a large stretch of Devon and Dorset's coast - a 1/4 of the entire SWCP.
Note there is no route to the east of the prison, the path shown on the OS map is a dead end. You need to go around the west side of the citidel to join the coast path. On the south side of the prison are remains of WW2 gun emplacements, and much evidence of quarrying, disused tramways and the like.
Furthur south along the east coast, you can choose between the cliff-top SWCP or the route of the railway line, which goes as far as Church Ope, the island's only beach. At the southern tip, is Portland Bill and a lighthouse.
There is a regular bus service for most of the route, so it is easy to cut the walk short at any time.
Weymouth to Portland and back is far too long for 1 day, so 3 day walks are suggested.
77A : Weymouth to the Isle of Portland and Portland Bill (linear walk)
Head south from...
Coastal walk via Eastbourne's promenade, Beachy Head and the 7 Sisters, then inland over the downs to East Dean. Return by bus.
East Sussex SWC Walk 60 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
The bulk of this walk reverses the end of the Seaford to Eastbourne walk from Time Out Country Walk Book 2. This brings you along Eastbourne’s pleasant seafront, and up onto Beachy Head for lunch, and then down to Birling Gap for tea. After Birling Gap there is a gentle climb inland, with fine sea and downland views, to the village of East Dean, where there are further refreshment options, and frequent buses back to Eastbourne.
The walk is not quite a reverse of the book route, however, as if you follow its suggestions, it takes a slightly different route along the seafront promenade out of Eastbourne, and uses the lower clifftop route to Beachy Head, which may be unfamiliar to walkers. This route stays close to the sea along the foot of the downs (with wonderful wild flowers in late June and July), and then at the last minute makes a very steep beeline up the hill (with exhilarating backward views) to arrive directly at the Beachy Head pub.
Flat coastal walk along the south coast past busy sea front promenades and quiet beaches.
East Sussex SWC Walk 66 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This gentle walk follows the 15 miles (24 km) of flat coastline between Eastbourne and Hastings. It is in 3 parts - 2 seafront promenades with a quiet shingle beach in between which is nice to walk on only at low tide when the flat sandy part of the beach is uncovered. If doing the middle section, check tide times so you can walk along sand at low tide, rather than the shingle, which is very heavy going. Although the entire walk is quite long, there are shorter options, as there is a railway line following the coast, with several stations en-route.
Eastbourne to Pevensey Bay - seafront promenade
Starting in Eastbourne, a faded Edwardian grandeur seaside resort, the walk heads from the station down through a pedestrian shopping street to a very nice seafront esplanade and a Victorian pier (1 km) and a sandy beach. It then follows the seafront promenade north-east, quickly leaving the touristy areas.
After 3km, it passes Soverign Harbour, a modern marina complex, crossing its sea lock via pedestrian bridges. Turn left (instead of right over the lock bridges) for shops, restaurants etc. At this point the beaches turn from sand to shingle with sand only at low tide.
The coastal path continues for 3km to Pevensey Bay. Just before you reach it, the sea front path ends, and you have a choice of sand (at low tide), shingle, or uninspiring roads behind the beach with no sea views (at high tide).
Pevensey Bay to Cooden Beach - sandy beach at low tide or mix of mix of shingle / seawall / roads behind the beach
Pevensey Bay has 2 sea-front pubs (one is a sailing club open to the public). Here you can cut the walk short by heading inland to Pevensey Station and Roman fort. NB there are 2 Pevensey Stations - the easterly one (Pevensey Bay), closest to the beach has infrequent trains.
The next section of 5 km along a very quiet section of beach is difficult except at low tide, and there are long stretches where there is no coastal path. It passes Beachlands, a long narrow village of...
The best walk in the book! A South Downs ridge, picture postcard Alfriston, Cuckmere Haven (beach), and cliffs with views of the Seven Sisters. Long but worth it.
East Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 31 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 14 miles (23 km)
Everyone's favourite walk in the book. It starts with a South Downs Ridge walk. Lunch is in the picturesque village of Alfriston. After lunch there is Cuckmere Haven (a pretty river valley), and a coastal cliff walk into Seaford. You can swim at Cuckmere Haven or Seaford.
Near the start, the route goes through Firle Park and then follows the South Downs Way for much of the day, with not as much climbing as Walk 25's arduous route into Hastings, and with marvellous views across the lush valleys to the north and down to the sea. There are three lovely villages to enjoy during the course of the day, all with open churches: West Firle, West Dean, and (the suggested lunchstop) the old smuggling village of Alfriston, which likes to call its church a cathedral.
There is slightly further to walk after lunch than before it. From Alfriston the route follows the riverbank through the Cuckmere Valley and through Friston Forest down to Exceat, an extinct village on the edge of the Seven Sisters Country Park, where there is a Visitors’ Centre. The Vanguard Way then leads through the Seaford Head Nature Reserve – hoopoe, bluethroat and wryneck have been seen here – to the beach at Cuckmere Haven. This is in season a good enough place to take a dip or just to enjoy a front-stalls view of the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters.
Finally there is a walk along the coastal path and down into Seaford, a seaside town with a long esplanade and reconstructed shingle beach.
Seaside Hastings, a hilly cliff walk with 4 steep climbs and a remote naturist beach. Gentle afternoon to historic Winchelsea and Rye via a noted viewpoint.
East Sussex TOCW Book 2, Walk 29 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This rewarding walk starts with a fine clifftop coastal walk with steep climbs along the way. This section is the most strenuous part of the walk. Lunch is at Pett Level, after which the terrain levels out, before leading up through the New Gate into Winchelsea for tea. After tea and just east of the town, you reach The Look Out, offering panoramic views across the whole of Romney Marsh and the Kent Downs beyond. From there it is down and along to Ferry Bridge, following an easy flat route north east to Rye.
The best walk in the Southeast! A dramatic cliff walk passing Cuckemere Haven, the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head as the South Downs meets the sea. Ends with Eastbourne's promenade and pier.
East Sussex TOCW Book 2, Walk 28 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
This classic cliff-top walk – one of the finest coastal walks in England – affords stunning (and very famous) views of the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, and the renowned Beachy Head, before ending in the elegant seafront town of Eastbourne. There is quite a lot of climbing and descending on the walk – indeed, apart from the section around Cuckmere Haven and the finish along the Eastbourne seafront, almost none of the route is flat – but somehow in the grandeur of the scenery the effort is not noticed.
In summer, the walk also offers numerous opportunities for a dip in the sea: which is best will depend on the tide. Seaford and Eastbourne beaches can be swum at any state of the tide. At Cuckmere Haven and Birling Gap, however, there are awkward underwater rocks that are well covered at high water and exposed when the tide is out, but covered by shallow sea for a period in between; nonetheless, if you catch these beaches at the right time, they make a wonderfully scenic place for a dip.
Take care near the cliff edges on this walk, as they are crumbly and liable to collapse: the official advice is to keep 5 metres from any cliff edge (advice regularly ignored by summer tourist: but don’t copy them!).
The hardest walk in the book. A gentle start with the 1066 Path and a great pub for lunch. After lunch, a great coastal cliff walk with 4 steep climbs, Fairlight Glen naturist beach, fish and chips on Hastings seafront, so one for summer.
East Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 25 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
This is a delightful walk with lovely coastal views is the hardest in the book - it has a very hilly ending, and is best done in summer if you would like to swim, otherwise in spring when the woodland floor is covered in bluebells and other wildflowers and, in early May, the gorse is bright yellow. The inland start from Winchelsea is flat to begin with, with just 1 climb for lunch at an excellent and very pretty pub. After lunch the route heads to the coast and follows the coastal path, and there are 4 steep cliffs to climb (with the Fireheights lookout, and Fairlight Glen beach in the middle). Hastings has a 'working beach', a resort beach, and a quaint old town.
Starting below Winchelsea (once a coastal port, but storms have since stranded it 2km inland), the walk follows the River Brede and canals to an early lunch at a 17th century pub near the church in Icklesham. The pub is quaint, and its beer garden has a lovely view, but don't dawdle, less than 5km of this walk is before lunch, and the ending is strenuous.
After lunch, the route crosses two relatively clear streams, both with ill-fitting names: Pannel Sewer and Marsham Sewer, to the coast at Cliff End.
From here, the walk follows the hilly coastline, with sea views. A detour off the coastal route through the houses of Fairlight is required, as a result of severe coastal erosion (an average 1.4 metres of cliff-face is lost annually in these parts). Thereafter you follow the coastline through Hastings Country Park, with 3 steep climbs out of the wooded Warren, Fairlight and Ecclesbourne Glens. The first summit is Fireheights, a coastguard lookout, with excellent views of the coastline. from here on, there are many side paths worth exploring to secluded viewpoints.
The very picturesque Fairlight Glen has a nudist beach where you can drip-dry in fine weather, if you don't happen to have a towel. The path down to it is officially closed due to landslips, but (at your own risk) duck under the fence by the 'closed'...
A short North Sea coastal walk between 2 seaside resorts
Essex SWC Walk 52 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This walk is ideal for a hot summer day, not too strenuous with plenty of swimming opportunities.
Coastal walk from a faded grandeur Victorian seaside resort with pier to a fast eroding, fossil rich headland and a sand spit. Return along the beach or through a nature reserve.
Essex SWC Walk 98 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This is a short and easy but varied costal walk is as much a day out as a walk. It starts in a faded grandeur Victorian Seaside resort with a long pier. But its real star is the Naze - a headland with fine views and red cliffs of London Clay subject to rapid erosion and a fossil hunters paridise after stormy weather.
After leaving the pier, arcades, beach huts, some nice Victorian architecture, and good swimming beaches behind, you quickly reaches the Naze - a wild headland with good sea views. There is a small tower with a tea room, which is visible for much of the walk as a landmark. Due to the erosion on the headland - by up to 2m a year - walking along the beach is quite interesting, and can be rich in fossils after storms. After the Naze is a sand spit out to Stone point (closed May 1st to July 31st in case there are any ground nesting birds)
The Naze and spit protect the backwaters, shallow waters with salt flat islands, which inspired Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books. The return route is either along the beach, or optionally around a nature reserve's sea wall overlooking the backwayers (good for birdwatching, but a bit hard going in summer as overgrown)
Depending upon tide times, walk out along the cliffs, and back along the beach or visa-versa
After returning to the town centre, head out to the end of the pier. For a longer walk, head south along the coast and beach huts to Frinton (station)
Your opinion of this walk will be in part how you see Walton-on-the-Naze - faded grandeur, or tacky amusments which may be busy and noisy during summer evenings. In winter, the town would be very quiet, the amusements closed, and beaches empty
A coastal walk along the Bournemouth promenade past Hengistbury Head, with a ferry crossing and some hidden beaches.
Hampshire SWC Walk 74 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This is a flat coastal walk, and swimming is possible for the entire route.
It starts by going through central Bournemouth, a large seaside resort to its pier, and then follows its wide sandy beach, either on the promenade, or the cliff-top path on low cliffs above (a mix of the 2 is best). This is the least interesting part of the walk - see options below to skip some or all of it.
The highlight of this walk is Hengistbury Head, a nature reserve with sand dunes, and a headland (small hill) with a nice view over Christchurch harbour and the surrounding coastline. Below the headland is a nice quiet hidden beach. At the end of the headland is a narrow spit with a beach hut 'village' with a cafe, and a frequent ferry service across the narrow harbour entrance to Mudeford Quay
Lunch is at Mudeford Quay's pub or fish and chip shop. After a short family beach, climb up to Steamer Point nature reserve, and follow the cliff top path to the impressive Highcliffe Castle (entrance £ 2.60) and its tea room
Pass another hidden beach, and follow the coast along a good path to the entrance of Chewton Bunny (great name - its a steep sided valley)
The cliff top at this point is blocked by a private holiday park, so either
- detour inland around it, return to the coast, and follow Barton-on-Sea's cliff top road (recommended as of 2015)
- walk along the shingle beach below (as of 2015) is considered no longer safe due to continued landslips and crumbling cliffs. It may still be possible at low tide. Once past the danger zone, there is a good path up to the cliff top at Barton-on-Sea
The 2 routes meet up just before a pretty cliff-side cafe. There's a short bus ride (or 30 min walk) to New Milton station
Easy coastal walk along the Solent Way with views towards the Isle of Wight. Return by bus.
Hampshire SWC Walk 62 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
A delightful and varied coastal walk starting at the attractive seaside town of Lymington in the New Forest. Passing by the colourful Quay and yacht basin, the route joins the Solent Way which winds through tranquil salt marshes and a nature reserve where many different types of birds and wildflowers can be spotted. After lunch there is a short amount of esplanade walking followed by a very gentle cliff top path with fine views of the Needles and the Isle of Wight. Tea is at the Beachcomber café which has a lawned outside seating area overlooking the sea. This is an easy, fairly flat walk and the directions are straightforward and consequently minimal.
The Solent Way and the River Swanick with sea views, marinas and mudflats
Hampshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 3 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
The walk goes down through the Royal Victoria Country Park, past the Netley Chapel, down to the shore at Southampton Water, with a dramatic view of the vast Fawley oil refineries opposite. Then the way is along the stony beach for a couple of kilometres, followed by an inland path through the woods and Hamble Common to the ferry in the delightful village of Hamble. The Warsash Ferry (Enquiries tel 02380 454512: Duty Boatman tel 07827 157154) returns to Hamble every ten minutes or so from 9 am to 6 pm Saturday and Sundays and 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and costs £1.50 per person, with room for 12 people maximum (closed Christmas week). In winter, there is no regular service and you have to call the Duty Boatman who will turn out for you. On the other side of the river, the walk continues up alongside the River Hamble, with its marinas for yachtsmen and mudflats for birds – every variety from Grey Herons and Kingfishers to Redshank and Lapwing (binoculars are worth bringing). Lunch is in Lower Swanwick. Then it is up the other side of the river on a choice of routes to Manor Farm and Country Park, an open farm run for visitors by Hampshire Council, with a tea-room open 7 days in summer until 31 October (last orders 4.45 pm). The route ends in a pleasant footpath called Lovers Lane, over a stream and up into Botley, where there are three pubs and one tea shop. It is then a not-very-pleasant 820 metre walk along the main road to the station, with a good pub (across a very busy road) opposite that serves food all afternoon.
This walk replaced the original Walk 3 in the Country Walks Book at its second edition, due to problems with the lunch place. That original walk, Dunbrige to Romsey, has since been re-written.
This walks position in the Book's rota - Walk 3 on Week 3 - meant a January outing for a coastal walk, which could be "envigourating" and nippy in deep winter. In the latest edition of the Book, the walk's position in the rota has been moved to mid-summer, a...
The north east section of the coastal path: cliffs, Victorian promenades, and a quiet harbour.
Isle of Wight SWC Walk 71 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This walk follows the Isle of Wight Coastal Path around the north-eastern corner of the island. The suggested starting point is Lake, the small station on the Island Line between Sandown and Shanklin which is conveniently close to the path, but you could also start from one of those stations. Between the busy Victorian promenades of Sandown and Ryde the route varies from the cliffs of Culver Down to the quiet harbour at Bembridge and small seaside villages. There are good opportunities for swimming on this walk, eg. at Sandown Bay near the start.
This is not an original walk. There are plenty of walking guides to sections of the Coastal Path (eg. see Sandown-Ryde).
The Isle of Wight coastal path, Tennyson Down, a nature reserve, and a disused railway.
Isle of Wight SWC Walk 72 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk follows the Isle of Wight Coastal Path from Yarmouth to Alum Bay, then along Tennyson Down to Freshwater Bay. Leaving the Coastal Path, the route turns north through Afton Marsh Nature Reserve and returns to Yarmouth via a disused railway line along the Yar estuary. Swimming may be possible at Colwell Bay and Totland Bay, in the first part of the walk.
This is not an original walk. There are plenty of walking guides to sections of the Coastal Path (eg. see Yarmouth-Brighstone), and the section back to Yarmouth is also featured in other walking guides.
Easy coastal walks, passing the dramatic ruins at Recluver
Kent SWC Walk 28 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This is an easy coastal walk - it is entirely flat - and the directions are straightforward and consequently minimal. It passes the dramatic landmark of Recluver, the remains of the twin towers of a 12th C church set amongst the ruins of a Roman Fort (free entry, English Hertitage, Wikipedia)
In summer there are opportunities for sea swimming throughout (see notes below), and though the walk is almost entirely on tarmac or concrete paths, with only a 1km section beyond Reculver that is on grassy clifftops, there are still plenty of rural delights. After an initial section on the seafront promenade (or cliff top park) of Birchington-on-Sea you follow the raised sea wall over the flat marshland (a sea channel until the 12th century: see Points of Interest below), along an unspoilt shingle beach which has interesting wildflowers (in summer) and seabirds: also fine views of distant shipping and windfarms, and the ruins of Reculver church as an aiming point on the horizon. Beyond Reculver your path takes you along the top (or bottom) of a very pleasant grassy slope facing the sea, which again has interesting wildflowers in summer, to the charming, if slightly faded, seaside resort of Herne Bay.
Incidentally, while one may think of this as a perfect summer walk, it makes a nice winter outing too, if the weather is fine. The low sunlight on the sea and marshes can be quite entrancing, and at this time of year the birdlife is more numerous, particularly at low tide when they feed on the shallow shingle and mudflats. Best of all this is a walk almost entirely without mud. Note that there is no shelter, however, so in rain it can be fairly wretched. If the winds are blowing strongly from the west, consider reversing the walk (see Walk Options below.)
Easy cliff walk following the Saxon Shore Way along the 'White Cliffs of Dover' to historic Deal
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 30 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This simple walk (it should be impossible to get lost if you keep the sea on your right hand side) is nevertheless one of the finest coastal walks in England, taking you right along the top of the famous White Cliffs of Dover. On a clear day, you get stunning views of the English Channel, and the ferries buzzing in and out of Dover Harbour, and the French coast from Boulogne to Dunkerque. On hazier days, the dramatic (though dangerously crumbling) cliffs afford exciting views of the inaccessible beaches below.
Surprisingly for a walk that seems to spend much of its time on the airy heights, not much exertion is involved. There are only two significant climbs, one out of Dover and the other out of St Margaret's Bay. Otherwise the terrain is level or gently undulating. The last quarter of the walk, indeed, is totally flat, along a tranquil coastpath behind the pebble beach of Deal. Though less dramatic than the White Cliffs this section of the walk is full of historical and natural interest, passing Walmer and Deal castle, and – in late May and June – a stunning display of coastal flora on Deal’s shingle beach.
When using mobile phones on this walk, check they haven’t switched to a French network, as happens routinely at St Margaret’s Bay, for example
Easy Coastal Walk
Kent SWC Walk 12 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This is an easy walk, physically plus the directions are fairly straightforward. One of the attractions of this walk is that it provides a good contrast to some of the classic coastal walks, such as Seaford to Eastbourne (book 2 walk no.28), or Hastings to Rye (book 2 walk no.29). Phone ahead for The Sportsman pub.
Coastal Walk along the cliffs to Dover, with options also taking in The Warren.
Kent SWC Walk 13 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is a highly scenic coastal walk with fine sea views throughout. It introduces you to some of the quainter sides of Folkestone, a town which like many south coast seaside towns is undergoing something of a renaissance. You then climb up past two Martello Towers (Napoleonic-era fortifications) onto a high clifftop, following the North Downs Way. This path is easy to follow, has fine Channel views, and passes the Battle of Britain Memorial and then a fascinating series of World War II installations, including a rare sound mirror (an early form of aircraft detection that was superseded by radar), and some large gun emplacements.
The only downside on this latter section of the route is noise from the A20 dual carriageway just inland, though this is muted when the wind is blowing from the sea (ie, from the south or south west). In compensation there is a dramatic approach to Dover – a narrow (but not difficult) ridge between an inland valley and the sea. The walk finishes by crossing the town’s Western Heights, passing deserted 19th century forts and with wonderful views of the town and port.
A dramatic ridge walk along the North Downs Way, overlooking the English Channel.
Kent SWC Walk 93 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk follows the waymarked North Downs Way (NDW) along the edge of an escarpment with views over the English Channel for almost the entire route. Apart from 2 steep climbs near the start, the route is level and easy going.
The walk starts with a steep climb up Tolsford Hill, with views over the English Channel, to pick up the waymarked North Downs Way (NDW). Heading east, the NDW descends into a valley and under a disused railway line. There's a second steep climb up the other side. Navigation along this stretch is a little tricky in places, so do take / print out a map.
The rest of the walk is easy, along a level, well maintained path along the side of the hill with spectacular views out over the coast, the English Channel, and later Folkestone, and the Channel Tunnel rail terminal. For the rest of the walk, you can see Folkestone, and either of the stations you are aiming for!
Just past the viewpoint over Channel Tunnel, by an ancient hill fort, there is an option to cut the walk short to Folkestone West. Note that this involves a long pavement walk to the station.
The main walk continues, contouring around the summit of a hill, high above Folkestone, with views out over the channel, until it reaches the coast at the start of the White Cliffs of Dover. Here there is a choice.
- Finish in Folkestone. Turn right and follow the coast path down to Folkestone's seafront. You can catch the train from Folkestone Central, but if you have time, continue along the elegant cliff top promenade a little way to have tea at the Folkestone Grand - a faded Victorian era Grand Hotel.
- White Cliffs of Dover. Turn left and continue the cliff top walk along the White Cliffs for a little way with views over the Channel and the Warren (an undercliff), passing the Battle of Britain memorial, to reach a nice cafe with sea views. Either retrace your steps (recommended) and take the path down into Folkestone, or continue to Dover.
- Finish in Dover Turn left, and continue along the White Cliffs,...
Easy coastal walk with fine cliff top views, 3 classic seaside resorts, and a number of stunning sandy bays and coves that make it a great swimming walk
Kent SWC Walk 101 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This is a gentle coastal walk linking 3 historic coastal towns (Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate) on the Isle of Thanet (NE Kent). Much of the walk is along low chalk cliffs with views over the channel, with several secluded coves. At low tide, you can walk along the beach between them.
The farthest corner of the Isle of Thanet is arguably where the east coast of England meets the south coast, though the gently curving coastline makes it hard to identify a precise turning point. This gentle walk along the coast passes 3 historic seaside towns and many bays and beaches.
For much of the way it is possible to choose between walking on top of the 20-30 metre high chalk cliffs ("cliff top level"), or at low tide, walking along the beach or promenade below ("beach level"). Although this stretch of coast is largely built-up, there is a wide strip of open grass along most of the cliff top. The beaches are sandy and flat - the tide goes out a long way.
The walk can be done "clockwise" (starting in Margate) or anti-clockwise (starting in Ramsgate or Broadstairs). Clockwise allows 2 possible endings, so you can choose between a medium and a longer walk. Anticlockwise give you 2 possible starts.
These notes, and directions below, assume "anticlockwise". The start of the walk is best done at low tide. It is a series of bays which are joined together at low tide. At high tide, you need to use the cliff top path between them. The last part of the walk has a concrete promenade at beach level (OK at high tide). If starting at Margate ("clockwise"), its the middle and end which are best at low tide.
Apart from the small part to/from Ramsgate station, the route is pretty easy - just follow the coast, swapping between the cliff top path and the beach as you wish and the tide dictates!
Ramsgate and Broadstairs have interesting old town areas to explore around their harbours. Margate, while not so historic/pretty, has many bars and cafes
These 3 resorts are very busy on sunny days, but the rest...
A swimming walk. Starts with a disused railway line, Saltwood Castle, and downland. Finishes along the coast to Folkestone.
Kent SWC Walk 51 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
This walk was designed as a swimming walk – that is, to give you a pleasant morning walk of 7.3km (4.4 miles) and then get you to the beach for an afternoon sea swim (the sea is warm enough from July to September). However, it also makes a pleasant short outing at any time of the year – for example as a late start walk in spring or summer, or a brisk excursion in winter. There are one or two bluebell woods near the start of the walk in late April or early May
The walk starts along the track of an old branch line which chugged down the hill to Hythe and Sandgate until its closure in 1951. Then there is a pleasant section of orchards and fields which brings you to the village of Saltwood, with its church and castle (the home of Alan Clarke MP: he of the famous diaries), before you suddenly find yourself on a fine section of open downland. The first steep (but not very long) hill climb is here, which takes you up to a ridge with fine views of the sea.
After a slightly awkward (but also very short) road section, you pass by Sene Farm and over more downland territory, before descending into the Seabrook Valley and on up the second steep hill, which brings you out by a military cemetery with even better sea views. Finally, there is an unexpected and quite dramatic descent down through luxury houses to the coast at Sandgate for a pub lunch and a swim. The walk ends with a pleasant 2.4km (1.5 mile) stroll along the (largely traffic-free) sea-front promenade into Folkestone, finally climbing up to the The Leas, the town's clifftop promenade.
A quiet coastal path with wide beaches, sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, nature reserves, barrier islands, and lots of birds.
Norfolk SWC Walk 70 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 45 miles (76 km)
The North Norfolk Coast path is a national long distance trail that, as its names suggests, follows the north Norfolk Coast.
The path follows a mixture of low cliffs, sand dunes, very wide sandy beaches, salt and fresh water marshes. It is great for birds and, in one place, seals. The beaches are very wide with firm sand, and the sea goes out a long way, making great beach walking. There are barrier islands that can be explored at low tide. There are a few inland sections that can be bypassed by bus, or at low tide, by following the coast. There are many small harbours, which are 'sea' at high tide, and mudflats at low tide. The eastern end of the walk is quite different - gentle cliff top paths, or coastering at low tide, and some seaside resorts.
There is a regular bus service (1/2 hourly in summer) that follows the entire route, making day trips, or returning to your car very easy
Given the distance, this would be a good weekend trip from London
The coast path suffered in the December 2013 storm surge, but now seems back to normal. There is even a new re-routed section of the coast path at Beeston (near Cromer), and an extension south east beyond Cromer. See Griffmonster's blog for the latest news.
Remote coastal walk with sand dunes, beaches, pine forests and salt marsh - ideal for rest day, or when there is bad weather on the tops.
Wales (Anglesey) SWC Walk 103 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This is a short and gentle but very varied low-level costal walk around Newborough Warren (the largest area of sand dunes in Wales), a remote beach, a sand spit (with big open wiews along the Menai Straights to Snowdonia and the Llwyn Peninsular), salt marshes, a Pine Forest, Llanddwyn Island (with its lighthouse) and Maltraeth Sands.
This walk would make a good alternative walk if you have come to North Wales to visit Snowdonia, but there is poor weather or low cloud over the tops, but it is a lovely walk in its own right. It is suitable for children.
There are 2 options, a circular walk (public transport friendly), and for car drivers, 2 short coastal walks starting from a beach car park.
- The circular walks starts in Newborough village (pub, bus from Bangor). It crosses grassland, then sand dunes to reach the coast. At low tide cross the sands to Menai Point, or circle inland, along the dunes around a salt marsh. Menai Point is the end of a sand spit at the entrance to the Menai Straights between Anglesey and the mainland. The second leg of the walk is around the point and around Llanddwyn Bay - a long, sandy beach beach backed by sand dunes - to Llanddwyn Island. Half way around the bay, behind the dunes is a car park used by the short walks. Llanddwyn Island, at the far end of the bay, is only a few metres off shore, a long, narrow peninisular connected to Anglsey by sand. After walking out to the tower/lighthouse at end and back, continue past the island to Maltraeth Sands - more beach walking, or if you prefer, the pine forest behind it. Finaly, a short walk inland returns you to Newborough village. Bus travellers can continue on to the cob (a causeway) that leads to Maltraeth village (pub, bus to Bangor).
- The short walks are i) along the beach or sand dunes in 1 direction to Menai Point, and ii) along the beach in the other direction to the island.
Train travellers can start from Bordorgan Station, walk to Maltraeth and cross the cob to start the circular walk,...
Out through NT pine forest with salt marsh views to a lighthouse, back along sand dunes and a remote beach.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 89 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
This is an unusual but stunningly beautiful walk.
It starts in Llanmadoc, a small village on the north west corner of Gower, and heads into a NT Nature Reserve through a very pretty pine forest with salt marsh views on one side, and sand dunes on the other..
At the the end of the pine forest are lovely views over the sea / estuary to Pembrokeshire and the remains of a lighthouse (follow the tide out, don't stay long - dangerous tides!)
Return along the long secluded beach backed by sand dunes (or through the sand dunes). This area is discreetly used by naturists. Walking along the beacj is easy going, even at high tide.
Return through the pine forest along the base of a small hill, or walk a little further arouns the hill, and back over the headland.
There is a gastro-pub in the village
For a longer walk, climb Llanmadoc Hill, to the south of the village.
A gentle walk, up to then along he downs overlooking a stunning beach, and back along the beach itself.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 87 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
Rhossili is a truly stunning beach, regularly on best in the world lists
This easy walk starts in Rhosilli, a small village at the south west end of the Gower Peninsular, and climbs Rhossili Down (a treeless hill) behind the beach for a ridge walk parallel to, but above, the beach to Llangennith (pub). The route back is along the beach itself.
Tea is on the terrace of a pub with a truly stunning view.
A gentler cliff top headland walk a dramatic extension - a classic walk out to 2 small islands cut off at high tide, with stunning views of Rhossili beach.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 88 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
These 2 walks starts in Rhossili, a small village at the south west end of the Gower Peninsular. Rhossili is named after a truly stunning beach, regularly on best in the world lists. Both walks head out from the village (pub, tea rooms, bus to Swansea) to its headland.
The first is the classic walk out to the Worm's Head (NT), 2 small islands which are cut off by the sea at high tide. You must plan this walk in advance by consulting tide timetables.
The second walk is a gentle cliff walk around Rhossili headland (with stunning views of the beach), continuing past Worms Head, around to Mewslade Bay, and back across the headland to Rhossili village.
These 2 walks can be done together, but either is a spectacular walk on it own.
The walk, including Worm's Head is suitable for children, with adult supervision. Dogs should not be off the lead due to sheep, and cliff edges.
Tea is on the terrace of the Worm's Head Hotel pub with a truly stunning view.
The inlets of Chichester Harbour (best at high tide) and the historic Cathedral town.
West Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 37 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This is a walk around the shoreline of Chichester's tidal harbour, finishing in Chichester itself - there are no hills at all. On a clear day you can enjoy marvellous views for miles – inland to Chichester Cathedral and south across the harbour. Birdwatchers should bring binoculars. This walk has a very different feel depending upon the tides. At low tides, there are mudflats and birds. At high tide, its like walking around a lake.
The lunchtime stop is the popular old village of Bosham (pronounced 'Bozzum'), which appears deceptively close quite early on, except that there is a long detour around the water to get to it.
In the afternoon, the walk goes via Fishbourne (there is a Roman palace nearby) and approaches Chichester Cathedral through the lovely Bishop's Palace Gardens. The suggested tea place is the cathedral cafe. Then its a short walk through the pedestrianised centre of the old town, past pubs and cafes to the station.