A ramble around West Bay and Thorncombe Beacon
PUBLISHED: 11:37 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:38 05 July 2019
This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with sensational sea and countryside views
A bustling fishing harbour, archetypal 'rolling hills', the Jurassic Coast, lush farmland, flower-bedecked cottages, fields of grazing sheep, and butterflies galore all combine to reward determined walkers on this delightful West Dorset adventure.
1 From the car park, turn left along West Bay Road and around the right bend to the harbour. Follow the walled pavement alongside the left harbour and over the sluice-gates. At the roundabout, turn left along Quayside and continue up to the Esplanade. Turn right above the beach. At the turning circle, take the sign-posted 'Eype 1' Coast Path up the cliff path with lots of benches. Through the top kissing-gate, follow the clear path up the field, with Bridport views right, passing a Coast Path (acorn marked) post, to the 'Eype ½' footpath kissing-gate. Through, follow the path up above the left old quarry and lime-kiln, back to the cliff-top with right Highlands End caravan park. Continue down the hill with Thorncombe Beacon, Doghouse Hill and Lyme Regis ahead. Near the bottom, fork right at the Coast Path post down to pass the '2 Seatown' signpost. Down steps and over stepping stones, visit Eype's Mouth beach with remnants of World War II anti-tank obstacles.
2 Then, continue up steps and the path to the turning circle. Cross to the 'Coast Path Seatown 2¼' signpost. Up steps and through the car park, continue steeply upwards to the Coast Path kissing-gate, signed 'Thorncombe Beacon' and 'National Trust Down House Farm'. Steeply uphill with fine views right, reach a Coast Path stile and footpath kissing-gate. Keep left for 'Thorncombe Beacon ½', still uphill. Veering slightly away from the fence, follow the clear grass path down into the deep valley with a spring-fed sheep-wash right. Then ascend steeply, passing a bench and following hand-rails to Thorncombe Beacon. Arrow-post SY4354 9145 points right to Down House Farm and Eype Down. Turn right, away from the cliffs, down the grass path with the sheep-wash valley right. Pass the left Bronze Age bowl-barrow.
3 At a paths' crossing, don't go up to the sign-posted gate/stile. It's pointing back down for 'Down House Farm ½'. Keep to the lower path along the ancient track-way 'shelf'. Ignoring a right fork, continue downhill past a left gate. In 80 yards, go over the left 'Downhouse Farm' signposted bridleway-gate/stile into a field. Follow the right fence to the bridleway-gate/stile onto a fenced track. Instantly, take the left bridleway-gate onto the grass track downfield to the 'Please Shut Gate' bridleway-gate onto the track. Turn right to the bridleway-gate by the right stone barn. Through, continue past left Down House Café and down the Tarmac drive. On the right bend, take the right '¾ Eype' bridleway-gate/stile. Walk down the field, basically keeping to the central ridge and crossing another track coming from the left fence's National Trust sign.
4 Continue down the field but, 100 yards before the facing hedge's bridleway-gate, veer left onto the barely visible path to the bridleway half-gate in the left corner. Through the deep hedge path into a field corner, follow the left hedge path down to the wet corner bridleway half-gate. Through onto the clear path down through sedge into trees with a stream, go through and fork right at a bridleway-post off the track and up into the concrete yard. Walk through to the gate. Through, bend right, left, and right-hairpin past Lower Eype Farmhouse onto the lane. Continue up to the T-junction, signed back 'Lower Eype Only' and 'Bridleway'. Left is the village's raised pavement with attractive, mostly 17th-century, cottages and the New Inn. Turn right. Follow the lane, signed 'To The Sea', past a bridleway-track on the left bend.
5 Continue up to 'Elswood Barn' right bend. Turn left, signposted 'Footpath' onto the car park's concrete drive. Instantly, go through the right gate onto the fenced grass path with right bushes. Past the left field corner-gate, continue down and up the enclosed path. Bending right/left, continue up to steps into the Caravan Park. Follow the path between caravans and cross the drive to the reverse-fork. Go right down past caravans to the path after Number A027 left. Walk through to the footpath half-gate onto a hedged grass path between fields with West Bay ahead. Continue down to the footpath half-gate into the fenced bridleway between bungalows to West Cliff Estate. Walk down to the Brit View Road and West Walks T-junction. Turn right, continuing into Westcliff Road, down to 1½ gates onto the Esplanade. Turn left and retrace your steps to West Bay Road car park where you started.
Distance: 4¼ miles/6.75 km
Time: 3¼ hours
Exertion: Strenuous. Undulating considerably both before and after Thorncombe Beacon's 500ft ascent.
Start: West Bay car park, West Bay Road
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 193
Public Transport: Jurassic CoastLinX53
Dogs: On leads where livestock is (there are lots of sheep on this walk as well as cliff edges) and in accordance with specific notices encountered on the walk and The Countryside Code.
Refreshments: Coffee, cake and light lunches at various West Bay venues including Cafe Sladers at Sladers Yard and Rise; ice cream kiosks around the harbour such as Baboo Gelato, or enjoy a cuppa at Down House Café en route (closed Mondays)