England – Dorset
Dorset - In the footsteps of Thomas HardyBack to Routes
The Jurassic Coast from Thorncombe Beacon
Cottages and millponds
Through the fields
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury
Cricket match at Milton Abbey
On Hambledon Hill
Milton Abbas village
Cerne Abbas Giant, ancient chalk hill figure
The Cobb at Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis harbour
Fossil hunting in the cliffs at Charmouth near Lyme Regis
"Meeting the team in Salisbury was great, boosted my confidence and they really couldn't do enough for me. Just so impressed with the ethos of the company." November 2018more testimonials
A wonderful, terrific hike and trip. The countryside was really the star. I've read about Dorset/the Downs/the south English coast in all those wonderful novels and British crime mysteries etc but really never been there or seen it. And it definitely more than lives up to its reputation.
We really loved going through the countryside, trying to figure out how many shades of green we were seeing, having it all to ourselves - just astonishingly beautiful and peaceful. Ending the trip walking from Bridport to Lyme Regis on a near perfect day - well, hard to forget. So thank you all - you did a great job.
Robert Lurie, Asheville, USA - May 2019
Beautiful English countryside.
It was a wonderful experience walking through fields of barley and wheat, through farms with sheep and cows. We crossed stiles and went through gates. Because of pre-existing right of way since medieval times, we were free to wander through private fields and farms. The little English villages like Cerne Abbas and Evershot were delightful.
Mags - August 2019
We truly appreciated that we hiked in the country in which your operation is headquartered, feeling comfortable that if we did run into any difficulties, you could guide us easily.
All accommodations exceeded our expectations and gave us a fine opportunity to meet the locals. The routes provided time in the evening to explore the larger villages that we were in, which was greatly appreciated.
Warren Lake, Chicago, USA - May 2019
We walked from Salisbury to Lyme Regis through lovely Spring countyside, wild garlic and bluebells lined the lanes and old drover’s routes we were directed along with easy to follow maps and instructions.
The choice of accommodation was great. The hotels were welcoming and dog friendly. The food and quality of accommodation was excellent.
Peter T - April 2019
Hiking in the countryside and exploring the small towns and villages was great.
We were pleased with all our lodgings. The directions were excellent. Finding Old Wardour Castles along our way was a great beginning to our walk.
Ken and Martha Fischer, California, USA - September 2018
Meeting the team in Salisbury was great, boosted my confidence and they really couldn't do enough for me.
Just so impressed with the ethos of the company.
Gillen Wright, Coffs Harbour, Australia - September 2018
What I liked most was the beauty of the trek.
It was wonderful. We felt we were able to be in the 19th century for a few days. We loved picnicking in lovely spots and the "treasure hunt" feel of following the directions.
Kate Sims, Hawaii, USA - June 2017
At a glance
7 nights (6 days walking) - the full route. Extra nights possible at all accommodation. Customised shorter breaks possible on request.
How much walking?
Full days: 15-24km per day, 4¼-7 hrs walking
Using shortening options: 10-17km per day, 3-5¾ hrs (using lifts)
From Salisbury to the Dorset Coast
Dorset in style! Our route discovers the Wessex that Thomas Hardy knew and loved so well.
Following an overnight stay in the beautiful cathedral city of Salisbury, and a short train ride, the walk winds west past the romantic ruins of Old Wardour Castle to the Saxon hilltop town of Shaftesbury. Heading on down picturesque Gold Hill towards the south coast, you’ll explore Dorset, one of England’s most beautiful counties, happening on quintessentially English villages and staying in some fascinating old inns. Cross Cranborne Chase to ancient Hambledon Hill and the ‘new village’ of Milton Abbas; through remote Bingham’s Melcombe to idyllic Plush and the always-ready Cerne Abbas giant. Your last day is spent exploring the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, and enjoying the views from high up on Golden Cap, all the way to journey’s end, the fishing village of Lyme Regis.
Walked by On Foot staff: Mary, Harriet and Simon
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
- The cathedral city of Salisbury
- Old Wardour Castle
- Shaftesbury – a Saxon hilltop town, and Gold Hill
- Idyllic rolling and unspoilt countryside with constant Thomas Hardy references
- Quintessential English villages and inns
- Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, Golden Cap and Lyme Regis
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Coast, Villages and farms, History
An extra day to relax and explore the local countryside at the perfect pub at Plush, or at Thomas Hardy's "Sow and Acorn" in Evershot, at the seaside at Lyme Regis or in the cathedral city of Salisbury.
Eating and Drinking
A great chance to taste real English ales, hearty food and even the infamous Dorset Knob. The restaurants at the Brace of Pheasants and the Acorn are excellent. Also try Mark Hix’ Oyster and Fish House on Cobb Road in Lyme Regis (online reservations) and don’t miss fish and chips eaten al fresco on the seafront in Lyme (but watch out for hungry seagulls).
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 10-17km per day, 3-5¾ hrs (using lifts)
Some smaller footpaths are used, mostly signed, though some not – careful attention to note details needed. Excellent maps. Basic compass skills essential.
Medium: Average CUSs per day 445m (320-640m, using shortening options 350m (250m-430m). Note: Coastal option on Day 7 – 750m.
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: May, June, July, September, October
Other possible months: March, April, August, November
This walk is best in spring and autumn, but beware of shorter days at the beginning and end of the season, when it may also be rather wet and muddy! In August it may be hard for us to secure accommodation.
Important: our accommodation in Evershot and Lyme Regis are unlikely to accept a one night stay on a Friday or Saturday. Please consider this when selecting your holiday start date, or ask us for advice.
Please note: our only accommodation in Evershot is fully booked on the 17th and 18th May, so please avoid staying in Evershot on those dates.
Temperature and rainfall chart for Salisbury
Day 1 - Arrive in Salisbury
Visit the Cathedral and Close, enjoy the shops and have a meal in one of the city's pubs and restaurants.
Day 2 - Salisbury to Shaftesbury
After a short train ride to Tisbury, a gentle ramble through river valleys, past the ruins of Old Wardour Castle, and via villages and parkland to the hilltop town of Shaftesbury. Dine at a choice of pubs and restaurants. (Medium: 4¼ hrs, 15km, CUSs 350m)
Day 3 - Shaftesbury to Child Okeford
Head down famous Gold Hill into the Blackmore Vale, past water mills, and then up again to Ashmore (Dorset’s highest (and some say prettiest) village) and the woodlands and wide vistas of Cranborne Chase. Climb iron-age Hambledon Hill before dropping down into Child Okeford and enjoying a traditional pub supper. (Medium-hard: 7 hrs, 24km CUSs 475m, or medium: 4¾ hrs, 17km, CUSs 400m using initial lift with luggage)
Day 4 - Winterbourne Stickland to Plush
A veritable feast of a day for connoisseurs of Thomas Hardy, country churches, and the English landscape at its best. After a short transfer (included), leave the Stour valley and climb back up into the hills, dropping then into much-photographed Milton Abbas complete with ancient abbey. Then, walking through picturesque Dorset countryside, discover the church at Hilton, and feudal and almost inaccessible Bingham’s Melcombe (more Hardy), before heading for the heights at the Dorset Gap and supper and overnight at the perfect thatched pub. (Medium: 5¼ hrs, 18km, CUSs 455m, or easy-medium: 4 hrs, 14km, CUSs 315m using lift at start)
Day 5 - Plush to Evershot
A switchback day of five valleys and four ridges, taking in lunch at pretty Cerne Abbas, famous for its virile giant carved in the chalk. Then a lovely walk up through Cerne Park and over to the Sydling valley, remote and agricultural, and to the next – Frome St Quentin and its old church, before finally reaching Evershot, and staying in Hardy’s old “Sow and Acorn”. (Medium-hard: 5½ hrs, 22km, CUSs 640m, or medium: 4 hrs, 14km, CUSs 400m using lift at start)
Day 6 - Evershot to Bridport
This beautiful and easier walk takes in some gorgeous countryside – ancient lanes, former parkland, a country house garden and a watermill. Garden lovers should visit Mapperton (March-Oct, not Sat); take tea at the Mill at Mangerton, and the final walk into Bridport will surprise you in its tranquillity. At journey’s end, explore Georgian Bridport too. (Medium: 5¼ hrs, 20km, CUS 320m or easy-medium: 4¾ hrs, 17km, CUSs 255m using lift at start)
Day 7 - Bridport to Lyme Regis
A day of two options – either join the South West Coast Path at West Bay and enjoy an undulating (!) walk with fabulous views along the Jurassic Coast (Medium-hard: 18km, 5¼ hrs, CUSs 750m) or continue your treat of unspoilt Dorset countryside, villages and churches, with lunch at Whitchurch Canonicorum before joining the end of the Wessex Ridgeway as it snakes its way craftily through Lyme’s back door. (Medium-hard: 6 hrs, 21km, 430m)
Depart for home (or choose to stay further nights)
ARRIVING BY AIR
The best “local” airport is either Bournemouth, Southampton or Bristol. Intercontinental flights use London Heathrow or London Gatwick.
Land by: 16:00 for public transport connections to Salisbury (c. 2 hrs).
Return flight earliest: 12:00 for public transport connections from Axminster (c. 3 hrs)
In view of the large number of suitable airports in the south of England, if your inward flight lands after 16:00 or your return flight takes off before 12:00, please contact us for transfer advice.
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “Getting to the start of the walk” below for transfer information
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway station:
Getting to the start of the walk
The first hotel is in the medieval city of Salisbury and the last in Lyme Regis, a lovely old fishing village. Transfer times and methods are suggestions from London Gatwick and London Heathrow airports, but if you arrive at either Bristol, Bournemouth or Southampton airports, then transfer times will be shorter in most cases.
Outward: Train to Salisbury (2½ hrs) then short walk or local taxi to first hotel
Return: Bus or local taxi to Axminster, then train to London Gatwick (c.3½ hrs)
Outward: Bus then train to Salisbury (c.2½ hrs) then short walk or local taxi to first hotel
Return: Bus or local taxi to Axminster, train to Woking then bus to Heathrow (c.3½ hrs)
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
An historic inn with ‘Constable’ views in Salisbury sets the scene for the accommodation along this route, which varies from small-and-friendly B&Bs and picturesque pubs to a newly-renovated townhouse hotel in Lyme, with surprisingly spacious rooms.
Upgrade hotels available in Child Okeford, Bridport and Lyme. Accommodation in Evershot and Lyme Regis require a 2 night minimum stay at weekends (Fri/Sat nights).
The place to stay in Lyme Regis. Boutique B&B with outstanding breakfast. Most rooms have (distant) sea views. Normally min. 2 night stay. Standard rooms are lovely but upgrade to a premium room if you feel like pushing the boat out.
Salisbury – Wyndham Park Lodge (B&B)
A warm welcoming B&B in a large Victorian house, close to the town centre.Website
Salisbury – The Old Mill (B&B)
16th century inn on the edge of the watermeadows, complete with its own millrace.Website
Evershot – The Acorn (B&B)
Traditional hotel with Hardy connections. Small rooms but full of character. 2 night min. stay on weekends.Website
Bridport – The Bridge House Hotel (B&B)
Warm and friendly family-run hotel on the edge of town. This hotel has great facilities and a supplement is payable if staying here.Website
Bridport – The Bull Hotel (B&B)
Stylish hotel with individually designed rooms. 2 night min. stay on weekends.Website
Lyme Regis – Dorset House (B&B)
The place to stay in Lyme Regis. Boutique B&B with outstanding breakfast. Most rooms have (distant) sea views. Normally min. 2 night stay. Standard rooms are lovely but upgrade to a premium room if you feel like pushing the boat out.Website
Lyme Regis – The Mariners Hotel (B&B)
Former 17th century coaching inn where Beatrix Potter stayed when she was young. Traditional decor and some of the rooms have a sea view. Minimum 2-night stay on Fri/Sat nights.Website
Lyme Regis – Hix Townhouse (B&B)
Recently converted townhouse in centre. Breakfast hamper in room. Min 2 nights stays at weekend.Website
There are many wonderful places to stay in Bridport and we have selected our favourites above. We also use…
The Tiger Inn
The Tiger Inn is an atmospheric and lively pub in the centre of town. We usually use the rooms on the third floor which are well protected against noise from the bar below.
Lyme Regis has some excellent places to stay but can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays. In the event that our usual accommodation is full, we also use…
On a quiet street on the edge of town, Lyme Townhouse offers comfortable, well appointed rooms. It is worth upgrading to one of their larger rooms as the standard rooms can be slightly snug. A supplement may be payable for this hotel.
Total 7 nights in double/twin room, 7 breakfasts (breakfast hamper in room in Lyme), short transfer at the start of Day 4 and luggage transfers from Tisbury to Lyme Regis; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £275
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £190
Larger party saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £35 per person
Maximum party size: 8
Please note that weekend stays (Fri and Sat nights) in Evershot and Lyme Regis may be subject to a minimum 2 night stay and a supplement.
Extra nights in any hotel along the route: Contact On Foot Holidays (seasonal pricing)
Guiding for one day by an On Foot staff member (priced per group): £200 irrespective of group size
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK and Ireland: £10-£40 (per pack, location dependent)
Route designed by:
On Foot Holidays team
This route has been designed by the staff team at On Foot Holidays in Salisbury.