Walks to share with the ones you love
This month we bring you the walks in Dorset that never fail to make our heart skip a beat, from a bucolic, hidden-away garden to dreamy places to watch the sun rise or set. Save them up for a future date, in one or both senses of the word.
Dusk on the Priest’s Way
The ancient track known as the Priest’s Way connects Swanage, Langton Matravers and Worth Matravers and, as the name suggests, was the route taken by the local priest to travel between the churches in his care. For us, this route is associated with heading back to our tent at Langton, after a day’s meandering and swimming along the coast path, a little crispy from the sun and sometimes a little merry from a seafood and fizz supper at one of Swanage’s seafront restaurants. There’s nothing strenuous about this route and little navigation is required, leaving you free to enjoy the golden glow across the fields as the sun dips and the light softens. Continue as far as Worth to enjoy a twilight pint outside the Square and Compass, one of the finest pubs in the world in our opinion, as you watch the moon rise over the sea.
Hurrah for Houns Tout
If ever there was a walk that delivers bang for bucks, it’s the one between the village of Kingston and Houns Tout on the Purbeck coast. The walk out to the Tout is about a mile and a half through woodland and then flat, grassy footpath, often grazed by sheep, with views down to the beautiful bowl of Encombe Valley. The sea soon comes into sight before you reach the precipitous heights of Houns Tout, which, at 490ft, affords a wide sweep west towards Kimmeridge and Portland. It almost feels like cheating to have such a vantage point having barely broken into a sweat. If the stone bench is free, huddle up with your walking companion and take in one of the most breathtaking views on the Dorset coast.
Impossibly romantic Forde Abbey
It’s possibly something of a cop-out to include the grounds of a stately home in a post about walks but there are few places we know that make us feel quite as wistful as Forde Abbey. A full 30 acres on the banks of the River Axe, the gardens of this former Cistercian monastery are so much more than the sum of their already very charming parts. Hidden away on the Dorset-Somerset border, the drive there alone will have you swooning at the bucolic scenery. Once arrived, there’s a welcome subtlety to the way in which the gardens are run: you are pretty much at liberty to roam through the grounds as if you were lord and lady of the manor, enjoying the topiary-lined vistas, the arboretum, sweeping lawns and the borders that make us want to weep into a copy of Gardens Illustrated, all set against the backdrop of the impossibly romantic abbey. Still not sure? Check out the Forde Abbey Instagram feed and tell us you haven’t fallen in love.
Sunrise on Melbury
There’s a distinctly Shaftesbury bias to our last two recommendations. Melbury is the hill depicted in our logo and the one that dominates the view from the town’s Park Walk. It’s not simply to be admired from afar, however; the 360-degree view from the top stretches across the sweep of the Blackmore Vale, the Vale of Wardour (nothing to do with Tolkien, we promise) and, unsurprisingly, back to Shaftesbury itself. At dawn it can fair take your breath away as the sun slowly rises behind ‘the caterpillar’, the plantation on Breeze Hill, and if there’s low mist in the valley, you and your walking companion will truly feel as if you’re on cloud nine…
Sunset at Castle Hill
Few visitors to Shaftesbury will ever find Castle Hill. It’s always overshadowed by the celebrity view on the other side and is easily overlooked on a cursory wander around the town. Keep this trick up your sleeve if you’re seeking an easy but memorable sunset walk with your favourite person: head down the street known as Bimport and take the cutting next to the ambulance station. From this unpromising start, a painted backdrop of a vista quickly opens up in the form of a vast sweep of the Blackmore Vale and over towards the Somerset-Wiltshire border beyond. Choose a bench and settle in to watch the sky turn all shades of pink behind Duncliffe Hill and Glastonbury Tor on the very distant skyline.