The Best Walks in and around Dorchester, DorsetThursday, May 26th, 2016
The great thing about living in Dorchester is that there are so many lovely walks to be had just a few minutes from the centre of town. Whether it’s wandering up the River towards the Blue Bridge or just taking a stroll around town – there is so much to see in Dorchester and well worth leaving the car behind.
Here’s a few of our favourite walks around Dorchester :-
Durnovaria Town Walk – 1 mile
The Durnovaria Town Walk takes you on a walk around Dorchester, following the boundary of the fortified town in Roman times. This walk takes in some lovely views and opportunities to stop and visit some of the main attractions around Dorchester along the way, such as The Borough Gardens and Salisbury Fields.
Durnovaria Town Walk – https://discoverdorchester.co.uk/place/discover-historical-dorchester-walk/
Ratty’s Trail – A circular route along the River Frome – 1.5 miles
Ratty’s Trail was set up in 2005 to encourage local people and visitors to explore some of Dorset’s beautiful countryside whilst highlighting the habitat of Ratty the water vole. It follows a lovely circular route along the River Frome where there are plenty of opportunities for the kids to spot animals along the way – including ducklings, swans and brown trout.
If you are lucky you might see Ratty, as the River Frome is one of the most important rivers in the UK for water voles.
Download Ratty’s Trail here – https://discoverdorchester.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/fromevalleyrattystrail-1.pdf
Dorchester Town Trail Walk – 2 miles
This 2 mile walk around Dorchester starts at the monument known as the Town Pump in South Street and takes in some of Dorchester’s points of interest including Brewery Square and Maumbury Rings. The walk follows footpaths around the town and apart from needing to take care of traffic on some busy roads the walk is very easy and provides a few places to stop off on the way including Borough Gardens.
A nice easy walk where you can perhaps grab a coffee or a bite to eat half way round and then continue taking in the delights of Dorchester.
More info on this walk – https://discoverdorchester.co.uk/place/dorchester-town-trail-walk-2-miles/
Walking to Hardy’s Cottage from The Casterbridge – 6 miles approx
Follow in the footsteps of novelist Thomas Hardy as you take this walk out of town and up to the famous cottage where he lived as a boy. It is said that Thomas Hardy passed the Casterbridge every day on his way to school in Dorchester from the little hamlet of Bockhampton.
This walk takes in paths across the water meadows, Hardy’s Cottage, Higher and Lower Bockhampton as well as Stinsford Church. This was Hardy’s parish church as a child and it is here that his heart lies buried alongside members of his family. Here too lies the Poet Laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis. Much of the route would have been walked by the great writer and were used as settings and inspiration for many of his works.
Dorchester to the Sea at Weymouth – 10 miles
Wide and sweeping coastal views are combined with quiet valleys on this splendid walk. After passing Max Gate, the home of Thomas Hardy, the route then takes you through woods and close to Winterborne Came Church, the resting place of the Dorset poet William Barnes. The walk then continues through a gentle valley before emerging to give stunning views of the sea before descending through the picturesque village of Sutton Poyntz and then the final coastal walk into Weymouth.
The walk is 10 miles long but can be shortened to 6 by finishing at Sutton Poyntz. The local pub The Springhead is an ideal place for a spot of lunch and a pint ;0). Walking boots or stout shoes are recommended.
Cerne Valley Circular Walk – 26 miles
The Cerne Valley Trail is a circular route of 26 miles taking in the villages and hamlets of Minterne Magna, Cerne Abbas, Nether Cerne, Godmanstone, Forston and Charminster. The route follows the course of the river, from near its source in the basin formed by the hills of High Stoy and Dogbury to its confluence with the Frome, in the water meadows below Charminster
The Trail can be started at any point but starting from Dorchester will enable you to walk the entire length of the trail.
The trail is waymarked along its entire length. It is advisable to walk the trail using the relevant OS map, Explorer 117, and following the waymarkers.
The eastern arm of the route parallels the river closely, exploring the rich and varied habitats along this chalk stream.
Charminster and Godmanstone
A shorter walk that takes in some of the Cerne Valley Trail – this circular walk is a lovely way to spend a day. If you get off to an early start from Dorchester, work your way up through Charminster following the river and then on to Godmanstone.
On the way back there is the perfect pub stop – the Sun Inn. Built on land once owned by Henry VIII who gave it to the Earl of Ilchester, the surrounding farmlands are still owned by the Ilchester Estates. Much of the land here is bordered with estate fencing. The Sun Inn is a 17th Century pub, which doubled as the blacksmiths at various times in the past. Tip – the carvery here on a Sunday is ideal after your walk.
More info on this walk – https://www.dorsetforyou.com/media/96358/Cerne-Valley-Leaflet/pdf/CerneValleyLeaflet_1.pdf
The Dorset Walk – Maiden Castle and Martinstown
Maiden Castle in Dorset is one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe – the size of 50 football pitches. Its huge multiple ramparts, mostly built in the 1st century BC, once protected hundreds of residents.
This walk starts from Maiden Castle car park and enjoys some spectacular views south to the Ridgeway and north over Dorchester and far into the Dorset countryside. It’s the perfect place to take the kids and run off that excess energy, and if you are lucky you might spot the odd crop circle too.
Complete the walk by following the path along the Ridgeway and then down in to Martinstown. There is a nice pub stop at the Brewers Arm where you can relax with a drink after your walk.
More info on this walk – https://discoverdorchester.co.uk/place/the-dorset-walk-maiden-castle-and-martinstown/
Maiden Castle & Clandon Barrow – 3 miles
If you fancy doing a less strenuous walk and skirt around the edge of Maiden Castle, then this is the walk for you.
Start your walk in Martinstown and then follow the footpath across farmland in a circle back towards Maiden Castle.
Look out for Round Barrows – The South Dorset Ridgeway is one of the most important sites in the country for these circular mounds, surrounded by a ditch or two and often accompanied by a bank. Built around 4,000 years ago for burials of cremated remains, there are different types.
Clandon Barrow – A large bowl barrow. An excavation in 1882 found a patterned gold lozenge.
Among the largest and most complex of Iron Age hillforts in Europe, Maiden Castle’s huge multiple ramparts enclose an area equivalent to 50 football pitches, protecting several hundred residents.
Barrow Circle – 5.5 miles
Starting in Martinstown (the village with two names – also known as Winterborne St Martin) this superb walk climbs up to the ridge for fantastic views and one of the UK’s most interesting Bronze Age cemeteries.
Look out for the mediæval church and 19th Century sheep washing pool. Bronkham Hill is well known as an early Bronze Age Cemetery with many round barrows – circular mounds, surrounded by a ditch or two and often accompanied by a bank. Built around 4,000 years ago for burials of cremated remains, there are several types. Shake Holes – a steep-sided hole or funnel-shaped dip in the ground. These are formed when the ground falls into underground holes.
More info on this walk – https://discoverdorchester.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Walk-3-Barrow-Circle-Low-Res.pdf
Stones & Circles – 7 miles
Slightly out of town – but well worth a visit, this walk starts in the village of Portesham. It is quite a strenuous walk that passes an abandoned quarry, stone circles and other monuments. Start and end at the Kings Arm pub – which great place to stop and grab a bite to eat after your walk.
Things to look out for :-
- Long Barrow – The Grey Mare and her Colts was built nearly six thousand years ago to bury an early resident of the Ridgeway area.
- Dorset’s Stone Circles date from 3000 to 2000BC. it would seem that one of their roles was as a ritual and meeting place to mark important times in the agricultural year.
- Kingston Russell is a flattened circle about 24m across. All 18 stones are lying down and it’s easy to miss in the summer.
- Hampton is a 6m oval. The original circle may have been demolished in the late 17th century. After an excavation in 1965 the circle was restored by putting the stones back into old sockets.
Some of the sights you can see on these walks