Edward Griffiths drives, strolls and walks to see some of Dorset's most stunning views

PUBLISHED: 09:42 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:51 20 February 2013

Views, Glorious Views!

Views, Glorious Views!

In the first of a new occasional series, Edward Griffiths drives, strolls and walks to see some of Dorset's most stunning views

In the first of a new occasional series, Edward Griffiths drives, strolls and walks to see some of Dorset's most stunning views

Recent research has concluded that a visit to the countryside can lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels. It seems that fields of green and clouds of white, and birds twittering their little heads off, are calming and beneficial. Well, that's a surprise isn't it? So, always willing to learn, I've been out to test the theory by revisiting some of my favourite Dorset views. Many can be enjoyed without leaving the car, some are only a few yards from the road, and others are less than a mile's stroll away. Guess what? It works!

This series will show you some of Dorset's best views, some with car parks and some without, but all eager to revive flagging spirits. And with nearby pubs, cafs and shops also indicated, there's ample opportunity for light refreshment to keep you going!

Viewpoints with Car Parks

Blackdown Hill, near Martinstown

Visible for miles around, the Hardy Monument stands at 237m (778ft) above sea level between Portesham and Martinstown, but the gated parking area sometimes closes eccentrically. The 21m (70ft) stone tower commemorates Thomas Masterman Hardy, Nelson's flag captain at the Battle of Waterloo, but even the car park offers outstanding views.

Start by locating Weymouth and the Isle of Portland in the south-east. Then, sweeping round anticlockwise, the nearby barrow-filled ridge is Bronkham Hill, with the Jurassic Coast's White Nothe far beyond, and the Isle of Wight's chalk cliffs on the distant horizon. Continuing anticlockwise, Dorchester and ever-expanding Poundbury come into view. Further round to the north-west, look for the distant hill fort trio of Lewesdon Hill, Pilsdon Pen and Lambert's Castle. Finally, far away across Lyme Bay, on a really clear day, you can see the barren hills of Dartmoor, and the sea cliffs of Berry Head and Start Point in Devon. This is a truly magnificent vantage point.

Food and Drink

Martinstown: The Brewer's Arms for lunches and bar meals, and the Londis shop for sandwiches.

Portesham: The Kings Arms in Front Street for lunches and bar meals.

Creech Hill

From Wareham, the Stoborough to Lulworth road passes Creech Grange before climbing Creech Hill. At 165m (541ft) above sea level, the parking area is a favourite for model-glider enthusiasts, and for picnics. Facing south, the car park catches the south-westerly breezes blowing along the Tyneham valley from Worbarrow Bay on your right. Beyond Worbarrow is the Isle of Portland, and Whiteway Hill is at the far end of your own ridge. Smedmore House is down the valley to your left, with Kingston church tower in the woods on the hill.

Over Tyneham valley, you can trace a footpath's route along the opposite ridge, starting at Worbarrow Bay. It's a delightful walk, passing Gad Cliff's sheer drop and continuing over elevated Tyneham Cap to the Kimmeridge road. Then it heads up Smedmore Hill to prominent Swyre Head. Behind you, there are super views over the heath left to Winfrith, and right over Wareham to Poole Harbour.

Food and Drink

Stoborough: Light meals and 'fine fayre' at The Kings Arms. Snacks and drinks at Lookout Premier Stores.

Kimmeridge: Clavell's Village Caf and Farm Shop for breakfasts, lunches and cream teas.

Viewpoints with Short Walks

Badbury Rings

Badbury Rings Iron Age hill fort stands 99m (325ft) above sea level and is just off the Blandford-Wimborne B3082 road. From the National Trust's free parking area, the Kingston Lacy Estate's 21/4-mile-long beech avenue runs past the point-to-point course. There are good views ahead to Tarrant Rushton Airfield's great hangars and the patchwork fields of Cranborne Chase stretching into the distance. But, if you walk up to the hill fort and wander clockwise around the inner bank, you should be able to pick out Kingston Lacy House's cupola south-east in the trees, and Bournemouth's hot-air balloon on the far horizon.

Horton Tower is east-north-east across Cranborne Chase and, continuing round past the OS trig point, Wiltshire's Win Green, the highest point on Cranborne Chase at 277m (909ft), is slightly right. Due west beyond the Stour Valley is Spetisbury Rings hill fort and, finally, south-west on Highwood Hill is Charborough Park's lofty tower.

Food and Drink

Pamphill: Pamphill Dairy Farm's restaurant serves morning coffee, light lunches and delicious teas. So does the Stables Courtyard at Kingston Lacy.

Tarrant Keyneston: The True Lovers' Knot for lunchtime and evening bar meals.

Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head was once home to the Durotriges, the ancient Dorset people. They were highly skilled artisans, who traded agricultural implements, coins minted here, metallic ores and pottery for European goods. Their old iron ore pits are now pleasant pools for birds and newts.

About a 1/2 mile from the car park, the OS point is only 36m (118ft) above sea level, but the views are brilliant. Across the sea, the Isle of Wight's Needles and Tennyson Down are clearly visible and, due east are Hurst Spit and Castle, part of Henry VIII's south-coast defensive line, with the New Forest beyond. Ranging towards you along the cliffs are Milford-on-Sea, Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe. Then you'll see Mudeford Spit and Christchurch Harbour entrance, with Christchurch town on its far side. Sweeping around Poole Bay you will see Bournemouth seafront and Poole Harbour's entrance, with Old Harry Rocks and Ballard Down closing the scene.

Food and Drink

Hengistbury Head: The Hiker Caf serves morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas.

Mudeford Spit: The Beach House Caf, at the Land Train's far end, for morning coffee, light lunches, teas and evening meals.

Viewpoints with Longer Walks

Hambledon Hill

With its magnificent Neolithic causewayed enclosures, and impressive banks and ditches encircling the top, Hambledon Hill is one of the richest and most spectacular archaeological sites in Britain. Lots of footpaths and bridleways climb Hambledon Hill, including a bridleway from Shroton, footpaths and bridleways from Child Okeford and another bridleway from Hod Hill.

From its peak, 184m (604ft) high at the southern end, the views are captivating. Facing west, Shillingstone village and Shillingstone Hill are to your left and, rotating clockwise, Okeford Fitzpaine is next, with Child Okeford at your feet and Piddle Wood slightly left of Sturminster Newton, a few miles beyond. Further right, on the distant ridge, is Alfred's Tower on the National Trust's Stourhead Estate, with nearer wooded Duncliffe Hill nearly north. Further round is the Saxon hilltop town of Shaftesbury, with prominent Melbury Beacon just in front on Cranborne Chase's western edge.

Food and Drink

Child Okeford: Bar meals at the Saxon Arms and Baker Arms. Coffee and teas at the Post Office Shop. Pies at Cross Stores.

Shillingstone: Coffee and teas at Willows Tea Rooms. Lunches and evening meals at the Old Ox Inn. Hot food and drinks at Londis Shop.

Ballard Down

Reaching 144m (472ft), Ballard Down's chalk ridge separates Swanage from Studland. Our viewpoint is the 'Rest and be Thankful' stone seat, 11/4 miles from Studland and 11/2 miles from Swanage. It's only one mile from Ulwell lay-by, but the footpath steps are almost vertical before the water board's obelisk.

Looking south from the Rest-and-be-Thankful fingerpost, Peveril Point's foaming waves and Durlston Castle are at the far end of Swanage Bay. Turning anticlockwise, you'll see the Isle of Wight's chalk cliffs in the east. These were once joined to Old Harry Rocks, at the far end of Ballard Down. Behind you, across Poole Bay, you can see Bournemouth seafront and the cliffs ranging from Hengistbury Head to Highcliffe.

Further left, but closer, are Studland Beach, Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island and Poole Quay. Still further left, the River Frome from Wareham meets Poole Harbour. Finally, running due west, uphill from your feet, is the Ulwell path.

Food and Drink

Studland: Two beach cafs. The Bankes Arms' for lunchtime, afternoon and evening bar meals. Manor House Hotel for lunchtime meals and bookable Sunday table d'hte lunches.

Swanage: Innumerable pubs, cafs, chip shops and restaurants.

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