East of Exeter and West of Portsmouth lies one of England’s best playgrounds for adventure: Dorset.
I fell in love with the place around 2014, and couldn’t believe I’d not ventured there more often. Its rolling hills, historic Jurassic beauty, charming countryside and unique coastline blows me away every time I visit. There is always something new to explore.
Whether you want to hike, cycle, swim, paddle, dive, surf or just camp out and hunt for fossils, there is something for everyone on the most dramatic coastline in England - a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason!
My dream Dorset trip, moving roughly from west to east
First, scramble for fossils on the remarkable Ammonite Pavement just west from Lyme Regis Harbour. You can then head further east for more hunting (and swimming) on the spectacular Charmouth Beach. Be sure to grab some well-earned fish and chips in Lyme Regis afterwards, most notably at Lyme's Fish Bar and Harbour Inn. There's also a great little taproom at Lyme Regis Brewery where you can enjoy craft beer after a hard day exploring.
Quaint Abbotsbury is fantastic for an amble, and Chesil Beach for a longer walk, watching the cod anglers as you go. Be sure to rest with a glass of crisp white wine and the finest local chow at the Crab House Café, just above Portland. Delicious!
For your next adventure, I recommend donning your speedos and goggles and swimming through the Durdle Door arch and around to Man ‘O War beach, if you’re up for it (this is what we did during an Adventure Uncovered event with the Wild Swimming Brothers, back in 2017). If you prefer to stay dry, walk east along the coast until you hit Lulworth Cove, which has some excellent places to eat and chill.
Further inland you can visit Corfe Castle, a Saxon stronghold and Norman fortress in its ten centuries dominating the Purbeck landscape. The nearby New Inn pub, dating from the 16th century and made from stone and thatch, overlooks the Purbeck Hills and serves some fine ales.
In autumn and spring, experienced surfers should head out from the cliffs at Kimmeridge Bay for a gnarly swell, where you'll sit on your board like a pendulum enjoying the stunning landscape on one side and the horizon on the other, in between sets.
Also in the tiny hamlet village of Kimmeridge, there is another, really wild adventure you can make, which will transport you back in time hundreds of millions of years, to the time of the dinosaurs. The Etches Collection - Museum of Jurassic Marine Life is a fossil museum containing fantastic specimens of mainly vertebrate reptiles, such as dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and others. The owner Steve Etches collected fossils for about 40 years, just from the cliffs of Kimmeridge Bay, where the experts had said there would not be many fossils! The museum has its own small car park and there is a good restaurant opposite with parking too. contact Steve and he will show you how to prepare fossil bones and the story of his adventures collecting them.
(Note: As all museums around the country are suffering due to lack of funding during the pandemic, as they rely on contributions as well as attendances, any financial support will be a good way to come out of this pandemic by helping our excellent institutions, more info here)
Finally, the Blue Pool - a flooded, disused clay pit - offers magical swimming and some lovely walks.