You’ll likely remember the famous white cliffs of Dover, but head west along England’s southern coast and you’ll find another spectacular stretch of cliffs in Dorset. Nicknamed the Jurassic Coast, the geological wonder was England’s first UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site and remains one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline in England.
Spanning 153km (95 mile) from Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks at Dorset’s Studland Bay, the cliffs of Dorset encompass the highest cliff of the south coast – the 191 meter (627 foot) Golden Cap – but it’s not just the vistas that are awe-inspiring. The Jurassic Coast is a geological marvel, unveiling fossils that map out a mind-blowing 185 million years of history.
Even if you’re not here to dig up dinosaurs or marvel the origins of the earth, Dorset’s picturesque coastline makes the perfect backdrop to a British vacation. Sweeping coastal walks, windswept beaches and homely villages offer welcome respite from the bustle of the cities, with a number of great hikes and cycle routes in the region. The entire length of the coastline can be walked on the South West Coast Path, one of the country’s most popular historical walks whisking hikers on a journey through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras and taking in a variety of unique landforms.
Highlights include the vast cliff faces of Triassic red sandstone; the sculpted clays of Lulworth Cove, where erosion has created a natural archway (known as the Durdle door) in the limestone cliff; the red Budleigh pebbles that make up the Budleigh Salterton beach; and the inter-tidal lagoons nestled along the 29km Chesil Beach. At the westernmost Orcombe point lies the Geoneedle, a 5-meter tall stone sculpture fashioned from sections of rock taken from each layer of the cliffs.
Of course, you don’t have to hike the path to enjoy the cliffs. Great views can be had from a number of coastal areas including Studland Beach, Lulworth Cove, Weymouth and Lyme Regis, where you soak up the landscape from the beach or make the most of the choppy seas by windsurfing, sailing or kayaking along the Channel.