24 hours on the Dorset coast

Hugh RoperHiking Tours, News

Footpath through Maiden Castle

Day 1: Weymouth, Dorset

The cloudless sky, the blue sea on the left, the crowds on the beach just visible behind the palm trees in the photo…it might be California or the Italian Riviera. But no, it’s Weymouth on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset in the south of England. The Art Deco building in the foreground (top left) dates from the 1930s, while the Victorian shelter (top right), an early morning view, is a bit older. But Weymouth has been a popular beach resort ever since King George III (bottom left), who reigned from 1760 to 1820, used to spend his holidays here. The sandy beach (bottom right), which is thoroughly cleaned every morning during the summer, was recently (2015) rated by users of tripadvisor.com among the 10 best beaches in Europe.

Weymouth beachfront art deco
Weymouth Victorian seafront shelter
King George III statue, Weymouth
Weymouth beach

Weymouth is an overnight stop on The Discerning Traveller self-guided walking tour ‘Jurassic Coast of Devon and Dorset’ and at the end of August 2016 I stayed at this B&B (top left) overlooking the beach. The Dorset Coast Path National Trail (top right, note the sign on the left end of the brick wall) crosses Weymouth’s busy fishing harbour (bottom left) via a lift bridge (bottom right).

B&B, Weymouth, Dorset
Dorset Coast Path National Trail sign
Weymouth fishing harbour
Weymouth harbour bridge

Like many seaside resorts, Weymouth has its share of jokey shops (below left).

Just outside Weymouth, and also on the Dorset Coast Path, is the rocky peninsula of Portland. In the evening I caught the number 1 bus, which runs every 10 minutes or so from the King’s Statue to Portland, in order to admire the view over Fortuneswell along the Chesil Bank (below right). Also known as ‘Chesil Beach’ this is a 20 km long shingle ‘tombola’ separated from the mainland by a lagoon known as ‘The Fleet’.

You may recall that Chesil Beach provided the title for a novel by Ian McEwan. With an extra day at Weymouth you can follow the coast path round the Portland peninsula to the lighthouse at Portland Bill and back.

Weymouth joke shop
View along Chesil Bank

Day 2: Abbotsbury to Maiden Castle

The previous day’s walk on the Discerning Traveller Jurassic Coast tour starts at the pretty stone-built village of Abbotsbury (top left) near the western end of the Fleet lagoon (top right). The coast path follows the shore of the lagoon, but we prefer the inland alternative route along the South Dorset Ridgeway (bottom left). Apart from extensive and panoramic views (bottom right) this well-marked trail brings you close to one of the wonders of ancient Britain: the vast and well-preserved iron-age hill fort of Maiden Castle.

Abbotsbury village
View over Fleet Lagoon
South Dorset Ridgeway footpath sign
View from the South Dorset Ridgeway footpath

The interior of the fort covers only about 19ha (50 acres), but the concentric series of banks and ditches (see plan bottom left) more than doubles the area. Some idea of the scale of this hand-dug structure can be gained from comparing the height of the 4 banks and 3 ditches on the S side with the two human figures on the topmost bank (bottom right). The fort seems to have been surrendered by the local British to the incoming Romans without much of a struggle.

Footpath through Maiden Castle
View within Maiden Castle
Plan of Maiden Castle
Maiden Castle bank

Within the fort there is little to see apart from the foundations of a pagan temple of the 4thC A.D. (below). Although Christianity had already reached Dorset by this time, this temple seems to have been dedicated to the goddess Minerva.

Temple remains at Maiden Castle

24 hours on the Dorset coast

All the pictures in this post were taken within a 24 hour period on 31 August and 1 September 2016. Just an average day on the Jurassic Coast!