Lulworth Cove is both one of the most beautiful places in Dorset and one of the most overrun with visitors. While living in Dorset I walked or rode there more often than driving as the sight was a reward for the effort. This predominantly cross country cycle ride takes in some of the best views South Dorset has to offer, and is a lot of fun too!
This cycle ride joins the South Dorset Ridgeway just above the eastern edge of Weymouth, follows the inland route to Luworth Cove and then returns along the coast. The walking route between Ringstead and Lulworth is as hard a walk as I have done anywhere – I have done easier walks in the Pyrenees. There is a gentler route about 200 metres inland from the cliffs, and this is the route you cycle back to Weymouth.
The climbs aren’t Alpine but it will challenge the moderately fit. 22.6 miles, mostly off road so you won’t be cut up by too many cars at high speed. I did this in 4 hours with a quarter hour break for water and a snack – I am no speed fiend, and rode it on my 10 year old Scott YZ4 mountain bike.
On this route I mention some ‘bail out routes’ – everyone gets into trouble at times, and these may just save an hour or two of slog with an injury or broken bike.
So, the ride begins…
- Leave your car on Coombe Valley Road in Preston, or even better cycle to this as your starting point.
- Head up Coombe Valley Rd to the first junction, signposted Sutton Poyntz. Turn right and up a steep hill for 20 metres. Near the crest there’s a gate to your left. Pass through the gate and cycle for two or so miles, passing through gates on the South Dorset Ridgeway. Follow signs for Poxwell.
- You will see a pedestrian gate to the left of the field leading to a track running parallel with the fence. Go through that and straight on for a good mile and a half, passing through a number of gates.
- You will come onto an overgrown track through a gate. Another half mile up that, which opens out onto a small pasture surrounded by trees.
- After 200 or so metres you will see a gate into a field. Bear right and through another gate onto a track. At the bottom of the hill you will see another gate beside some farm buildings (usually cows there too) and a sign that gives you a number of options. Turn hard left and down the track. A quarter of a mile later down the gully, pass through another gate and follow the track to the A353.
- Turn right down the A353. This is a major route into Weymouth so take care. After about half a mile you will see the road bending to the right but about 50 metres before you will see a gate into a copse and a track going up a hill to your left. Pass through the gate and climb the footpath. The farmer occasionally keeps his bull in this field but I haven’t run into him yet.
- I’d call the A353 Bail Out Route #1 – if you’re tired or injured it is a safe route home.
- The copse becomes a field. Follow an obvious track through the field (it seems to go through the middle of it). You will come to another gate, and pass through this. In the next field you will see a horseshoe gully to your left. Head to the corner of the field beside the gully and pass through a pedestrian gate.
- Follow the horseshoe round to the left and then through another gate to your right. Pass across this field to Gallows Hill Road near Holworth. Pass through the gate and across the road. Through the next gate.
- Bail Out #2 is to your left down Gallows Hill Road that takes you to the A352 Wareham Rd.
- A wheat field is to your left. Stay to the right of the wheat field, and cycle on through other gates and cross the next road, the road to West Chaldon.
- When you come to the next road turn right down it and about 100 metres later you will see a track to your left. Follow this and on to Winfrith.
- Bail Out #3 is off to the left at Winfrith and back to Wareham Rd (A352).
- When you reach Winfrith, turn right and head down about a mile to East Chaldon. Just before the sign you will see an unmetalled track (known locally as Lime Kiln Road) to your left. Head up that, around some cottages and down to a field. Through a gate, following the track for about 200 metres and you will see a pedestrian gate to your left. Pass through the gate heading up the hill. Follow signs to Dagger’s Gate, up a climb for about a mile through a number of gates. At the crest of the hill you will see a hedge and a track down to Dagger’s Gate – and the sea for the first time!
- Turn right onto the road and bomb down the hill past Newlands Farm and Durdle Dor. Don’t be scared – you won’t be climbing as high as you have descended!
- Enjoy refreshments at mile 13.8 in Lulworth Cove, pleased you are one of a small minority there to deserve the view and refreshments!
- After your break head through the car park following the track to Durdle Dor. Immediately through the gate there is a narrow path to your right up a relatively gentle climb parallel between the hedge and hill. I came off my bike here as the pedal slammed into the bank. The other thing to worry about is the few people who walk it – it really is only a 2 man wide track.
- Pass through a gate and up the track. This is a field in a gully and you will see the Durdle Dor campsite at the top. Climb to this and turn right through the gate.
- Go straight across the road and through the campsite, climbing all the way. You will come to the road which goes around it again – join the road for 150 or so metres and you will see Newlands Farm to your left. Turn left, through the farm, and left again onto an unmetalled track. At the top you will hit a field. Below you to the left is the coast and the folds of the coast path. Stay high.
- The next two or so miles you will stay parallel with the fence with the coast to your left until you see a series of gates, in front of you. If you want, head onto the White Nothe. You will follow a tractor track beside arable fields to your left for a good mile. You come to the farm above Ringstead – go straight on, at a junction that could lead you down to Ringstead (easy enough down but a pig going up so I’d advise against it) and at a fork in the track, take the left one, climbing to South Down.
- Through the gate into South Down and over a cattle grid and onto the road. Follow the road down the hill to Upton Farm and up the last pig of a climb to the A353. For the next 2 miles this is a fast road so on tired legs, be very careful and wary this is the second biggest road into Weymouth.
- Pass through Osmington and crest the final hill before descending over a mile as fast as you like onto Preston Road, past the White Horse to your right. When you get to the roundabout at Charlbury Corner turn right, and right again onto Coombe Valley Road. You’re home!