7 magical wild swimming spots in Dorset
PUBLISHED: 17:24 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:23 10 September 2020
Dorset Magazine editor and keen wild swimmer Helen Stiles shares some of her favourite coastal locations for a dip
Church Ope Cove
Remote and beautiful, Church Ope Cove is not easily reached, and is for those with strong knees! From the car park just round the bend from the road called Wakeham out of Easton, almost opposite Pennsylvania Castle, you access this little beach down steep paths through the woods and the old abandoned St Andrew’s church yard, or on steep steps via Rufus Castle. This steep access means few come to this pebbly beach with its tranquil blue waters that beckon you in for a swim. Whether swimming or snorkelling, stay close to shore though, the currents outside the direct cove area are strong and treacherous.
Getting there: Wakeham Car Park (DT5 1HP)
The Walk: Bindon Hill 3.8 miles with some steep stretches of ascents and descent with a long flight of steps.
This walk, high above Lulworth Cove, comes with spectacular views and takes you to Mupe Cove to the east. Here the sea has carved caves and arches in the softer rock. Children old enough to manage this hilly walk to reach this special cove will be rewarded with some wonderful rockpools to explore. A combination of trickier access to this beach, it’s only accessible when the Firing Range walks are open, and access only from Lulworth or Tyneham, makes this a more secret beach. The waters are always turquoise here because of the chalk underneath the water. Getting there: Park in West Lulworth car park (BH20 5RQ).
The Walk: Chapman’s Pool from Worth Matravers 5.7 miles path is steep in parts.
Chapman’s Poole is a wonderfully wild beach where a freshwater stream joins the sea via a ravine plunging through the cliffs. The natural and quarried caves here make it a great playground for would be pirates! The waters are crystal clear in this sheltered cove and offer wonderful snorkelling. Reward your efforts for climbing back up with a pint and a pasty at The Square and Compass. Getting there: Worth Matravers car park (BH19 3LE)
The Walk: Osmington Roman Walk 4.7 miles some gentle climbs and descents.
You will walk through history to reach this beach, taking in a Roman temple and a horse carved on a hillside. The manor here is mentioned in Domesday and the thatched Smugglers’ Inn dates from the 13th century. The South West Coast Path runs along the edge of the field above Osmington Beach, which is sheltered by a headland making this a lovely spot for swimming and snorkelling. Getting there: Bowleaze Cover car park (DT3 6PW)
The Walk: Tyneham Village and Flowers Barrow 4 miles easy with one steady climb and one steep descent.
This walk takes in the ghost village of Tyneham, abandoned in 1943 when the area was commandeered by the War Office for training, the villagers had to leave never to return. The route takes you to the prehistoric ridgeway along the top of the Purbeck Hills, where the Iron Age Flowers Barrow hillfort offers glorious coastal vistas from Portland to Poole Harbour. Worbarrow Bay is dog-friendly all year round and offers swimming opportunities for both you and your canine companion. Getting there: Tyneham Village (BH20 5DE)
If Studland is the Edinburgh of Dorset’s beaches, then Ringstead is Glasgow: wider, rougher, but grittily beautiful, Ringstead is a vast expanse of beach. Opt for the western flank, marked by an old boathouse. The short hike here across pebbles means you are more likely to end up with a private swim, which comes with stunning views to White Nothe and Portland. Best accessed from Osmington Mills, an easy 15-minute cliff walk away.
One for experienced wild swimmers this natural pool, blasted out of the rock back at the beginning of the last century for a local private school, offers a rough and ready natural infinity pool with a sea view. When the tide turns the pool becomes more of wild Jacuzzi, then it’s time to clamber back to the Coast Path before Dancing Ledge disappears under the waves. Experienced wild swimmers can swim in the sea next to the pool, but it is one for those who know where to dive into the deep waters and can manage the strong waves and difficult exit. Most swimmers opt for the pool. Park in Langton Matravers or Spyway car park and follow the footpath signs to Dancing Ledge from the village, it’s a steep 1.5-mile walk. The last section is a bit of a scramble down steep rocks, not one to do on your own.