Now the children are settled back in school, my husband suggested a nice day out together. I was thinking relaxing spa, shopping in Bath and lunch but realised I was way off track as we arrived in the car park at West Lulworth for what he described as a “lovely walk.” As we began to climb up the steep hill (or rather a cliff) in front of us I focused my mind on the pub lunch that he was sure to have booked.
The South West coastal trail runs 630 miles long from Poole Harbour to Minehead. We tackled one stretch of it – from West Lulworth to Ringstead Bay. To say it was steep is probably an understatement – it was described as “a monstrous rollercoaster of a route” in a guidebook we read afterwards, so perhaps not suitable for small children other than those who are training for the rugby season. No sooner had we climbed one hill, we began our descent down the other side and this repeated itself over and over until I declared very grumpily that I felt sick. He pulled a bag out of his small ruck sack and offered me a lump of fudge thinking it would help.
However, once we got beyond Durdle Door, the path was more gentle and the views absolutely breathtaking. It was a fresh, still day and we could literally see for miles. We were almost totally alone apart from the one photographer we came across and a couple of hang gliders floating above us. We passed some wonderful remote cottages perched on the edge of the cliffs and imagined what it would be like to live there shut away from the rest of the world. My husband convinced me they were MI5 safe houses, hiding away secret Russian spies. After about 5 miles of hard walking we arrived at Ringstead Bay. “Where’s the pub?” I said. “I’ve got sandwiches,” he replied. So we sat on the beach eating his ‘surprise’ packed lunch – cheese sandwiches, a packet of crisps and a banana. Perfect.
We both agreed that we weren’t sure we could cope with the steep inclines of the coastal path again so we took the ridgeway back across the Dorset Downs. Walking up past the car park at Ringstead, we took a footpath to the right and walked along farm land. Once we reached South Down Farm, we walked through the farmyard and headed up a steep lane. Turning right we strolled across the Downs – field after field of sheep, again with staggeringly beautiful views of the coastline. Once we came across the holiday park, we decided to walk the short way back along the road to West Lulworth, largely because our legs were definitely feeling the strain of going cross country.
We arrived back to the car park exhausted with aching legs and rugged wind burnt faces, but it was wonderful. We talked about anything and everything, planned the rest of our year and put the world to rights along some of the most stunning coastline I’ve ever seen. Today, I am housebound and can barely walk – and so are the dogs.
This walk is 11.5 miles so probably only suitable for adults, but you could do the Downs walk very easily with small children. Some of the pathways on the coastal walk are very steep with sheer drops down the cliffs, so do keep a close eye on dogs if you have them with you. We left West Lulworth car park at 9.45am and arrived back to the car at 3.45pm, having stopped for half an hour for lunch. Some of our favourite place names we came across were “Dagger’s Gate” and “Scratchy Bottom.”
- Take walking sticks to help with the steep climbs
- Take a picnic, snacks and plenty of water to keep you going
- Take a camera
- Remember your mobile phone
- Take loo paper or wet wipes just in case you get caught short (there are excellent loos at West Lulworth but nothing open at Ringstead Bay)
- Take water for dogs