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Distance: 16 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Method: Walk
Wow Factor: 10 out of 10
  • Location: Isle of Purbeck, Dorset
  • Terrain: Coast path steep in parts; tarmac paths near Swanage
  • Height gain: 350 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer OL15
  • Starting point: Knoll Beach National Trust Car park (GR SZ 033 836)
  • Activity Summary:

    One of the best Dorset coast walks this clifftop and downland circular route offers some of the finest views around. Starting in Studland the walk heads along the South West Coast Path to Swanage via Harry’s Rocks. It returns along Swanage’s promenade and tarmac pavements before heading up to Ballard Down with magnificent views across the Arne Peninsular, Isle of Wight and Bournemouth. The final leg of the walk uses the quiet rural lanes of Studland passing its bucolic farm buildings, great tearoom, and upmarket hotels back to Middle Beach and on to Knoll Beach.

  • Route description:

    The circular walk from Studland to Swanage via Harry’s Rocks starts at Knoll Beach National Trust Carpark, Studland.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    From here take the sandy coast path that runs slightly inland of the beach to the wooden steps that lead to Middle Beach car park. Walk left of Grooms Cottage through the trees to reach Bankes Arms Inn.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    Continue down Manor Road, past the small lane that leads to Joe’s cafe; turn left past the public toilets along the stoney lane. The lane leads to a path across to the grassy headland and spectacular views of Old Harry’s Rocks.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    Continue around the coast along Old Nick’s Ground, climbing to Ballard Point. Near the top of Ballard Cliffs ignore the footpath to Ballard Down and continue along the coast path for great views of Swanage Bay. After 800 metres start the descent to the Bay.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    At almost sea level there are two options to walk into Swanage. On all but the highest of tides it is possible to take the steep steps down to the beach and walk into Swanage either on the beach or the promenade Alternatively use the footbridge to cross the gully and climb the steep steps to follow the Coast Path signs into town.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    To return from Swanage town centre, retrace steps north along the promenade. At the end of the Promenade continue on the pavement beside the Ulwell Road, taking the right fork on Redcliffe Road (to the right of All Saint’s Church). At the next junction take Redcliffe Road to the left of Ballard Stores and after the left bend in the road turn left onto Hill Road. Climb to the left bend in the road, heading straight ahead on the path signed to Studland, that runs to the right side of the modern house.

    Leave the residential area as the path continues uphill alongside fields. Pass through a gate and continue to a small lane, cross and walk straight ahead on the footpath beside the small cottage (Whitecliff Farm is to your right).

    Walk to harry's Rocks

    Head steeply uphill onto Ballard Down. At the footpath junction (to the obelisk and Old Harry Rocks) continue straight ahead towards Studland enjoying fabulous views across to the Arne peninsular.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    Descend to the right side of Glebeland Estate then descend on the lane towards Studland and Manor Farm Tearooms. Follow the road sign to ‘Church only’, pass various estate buildings, and walk through the churchyard.

    Walk to Harry's Rocks

    Turn right on the small lane, then left at the next junction opposite The Pig. Follow the lane around to Middle Beach car park and retrace steps to Knoll Beach.

    Food and drink near Old Harry Rocks

    There are some great cafes here to try…. Here are some of our favourites

    • Manor Farm Tearooms are our favourite Studland cafe and is very near South Beach. Located in concerted farm buildings, try the fabulous cream teas, cheese scones, carrot cake, coffee and walnut cake and more (and more).
    • The Old Harry Bar at Studland Social Club is very chilled and close to the beach. Run by a committee of local volunteers on a not-for-profit basis it offers a great pizzas and a good selection of wines and beer. Open Thurs – Sat 7pm-11pm.
    • Joe’s Cafe nestled amongst the beach huts of South Beach in Studland this idyllic and hidden spot on the Jurassic Coast offers great pasties, cakes, sarnies and home-cooked food and hot drinks served in china mugs!
    • Isle of Purbeck Brewery for those that love their craft beer this brewery is located in the Bankes Arms pub

    Other places for food and drink nearby include the National Trust’s Knoll Beach Cafe; Middle Beach Cafe;

    Where to stay near Harry’s Rocks here are some of our favourite hotels, B&B’s, self-catering and campsites near Old Harry’s Rocks

    Camping near Harry’s Rocks

    For rural camping within easy walking distance of Swanage and a short walk to Harry’s Rocks Whitecliff Farm Campsite is a fab place for tent campers. For motorhomes and campervans we always use Ulwell Holiday Park which is a great location for this walk or for Swanage and beaches.

    Hotels near Harry’s Rock

    • Knoll House – with a stunning view from the front, a charming and timeless appeal, and open fires this unique hotel remains a firm favourite. Its delightful rooms have been a haven for a list of famous guests including Sir Richard Branson, Winston Churchill and Enid Blyton and, surrounded by National Trust land, it remains in an undeveloped area and a local treasure.

    Holiday cottages near Harry Rocks

    • Clarence Cottage, Swanage – we love this fantastic  grade 2 listed  cottage, its quirky features and secluded garden where you can help yourself to fresh apples and figs. Only a short walk to Swanage and the beach.
    • The Barn, Ulwell – they say it’s ‘located away from people’ and it is despite being close to Swanage. Great location for walkers.

    Luxury hotels near Harry Rocks

    The Pig on the Beach, Studland –  uninterrupted views of the coastlines, warm walled kitchen garden, a sea view conservatory restaurant, a path down to the beach, private beach hut, log fires and the usual to be expected from this small group of hotels.

    Getting to the start of the walk

    By Car – the Knoll Beach car park is located at GR SZ 033 836; post code BH19 3AH

    By Bus – the Purbeck Breezer 50  bus leaves from various stops between Bournemouth and Poole – includes open top buses in summer and crosses the chain ferry. The bus stops at Knoll Beach and Beach Road for access to Middle Beach (and continues to Swanage if you want to start the walk there).

    Nearby islands


    Portsea Island

    Hayling Island

    Poole Harbour islands

    Thorney Island

    Isle of Wight

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