Best Pub Walks in Dorset

It’s one of the most enchanting counties in England, every year welcoming walkers to its coastal paths, woodland tracks and riverside trails come winter, spring, summer or fall.

Here are a handful of Dorset’s most scenic pathways, with a cosy country pub thrown in just for good measure…

The Greyhound Inn, Corfe Castle

Described as ‘one of Britain’s most iconic survivors of the English Civil War’, Corfe Castle continues to capture the imaginations of all those who walk its ghostly ruins. Here, history comes to life through the arrow loops, fallen walls, ‘murder holes’, and wrecked turrets – a treacherous tale behind every corner. Perched upon the tufty mounts of the Purbeck Hills, the castle’s paths boast magnificent sweeping views of the surrounding Dorset countryside it once stood sentinel over. Walkers can follow the ancient ways once galloped by Knights of the Realm and oath-sworn cavaliers, soaking in the history before dropping by the Greyhound Inn for a pint in the ample beer garden at the foot of the castle. The inn welcomes families, walking groups and is also dog-friendly, serving fresh, locally sourced food throughout the day, all year round.

 

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The Bankes Arms, Old Harry Rocks

Of all of Dorset’s many landmarks, the chalk-white sea stacks at Handfast Point must be the most striking. Known as Old Harry Rocks, these majestic outcrops once stood as mighty sea archways before succumbing to the weather and the tempestuous swells of Studland Bay. Walkers adore the breathtaking views and unique rock formations along this much-loved stretch of the Jurassic Coast.

Follow the South West Coast Path westward past Old Harry and his shrunken wife, and along the slip of coast known as The Pinnacles. Keep your eyes peeled for Peregrine Falcons which often hunt from the sheer cliff faces. Just before you reach the famous stone bench etched with the words ‘rest and be thankful’, turn inland down the hill toward Studland village. Here you’ll find The Bankes Arms, a gorgeous country pub dating to the 16th century, built from old Purbeck stone. Food is served every day with a menu crammed with seasonal specials, and there’s a blossoming beer garden ideal for alfresco dining during the summer months. If you’re visiting ‘Old Harry’ during more autumnal climes, you can expect a roaring fire and a hot bowl of soup to warm your cockles.

 

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The Ship Inn, Dancing Ledge & Langton Matravers

Enjoy a scenic walk past wildflower meadows and chalky grasslands following the waymarks and dry stone walls to pick up the coastal path to the Dancing Ledge, the remnants of a limestone quarry so called because of its resemblance (in size) to a ballroom floor.

This now idyllic picnic spot was once rife with smugglers, and during darker days, the ancient bough of the lonely, windswept sycamore tree was believed to have felt the hempful bite of the hangman’s noose. During springtime, keep an eye out for nesting puffins on the cliffs, while the butterfly-filled summer months often bring dolphins to the waters, breaching the sparkling swells as they dart and tail for mackerel. Stick to the gorse-banked shepherd’s path to arrive at an area of ancient grazing land, inexplicably named Scratch Arse Ware. Continue on to the nearby village of Langton Matravers to find the old swing-sign of The Ship Inn, a centuries old hostelry that prides itself on quality, local ales and ‘proper’ pub grub.

The Minster Arms, Wimborne Water Meadows

Follow the winding banks of the River Stour along the water meadows bound for the attractive old market town of Wimborne and The Minster Arms. Guided by stiles and waymarks, you’ll walk down boot-worn paths bathed in wildflowers, along tranquil riverside trails and quiet country lanes, enjoying some of the Stour Valley’s most captivating and charming scenery. The walk also includes a handful of ornate features, such as the elegant Lady Wimborne Bridge. What better way to work up a thirst than by exploring one of the most scenic corners of Dorset.

The Square & Compass, The Priest’s Way

The Priest’s Way is an ancient, often bracing, route once trod by local clergymen as they travelled to and from churches in Swanage and Worth Matravers. This challenging trail passes abandoned limestone quarries and cliffs pocked with caves and tunnels, marks left by the Romans who used the ancient rock to build cathedrals and monumental buildings. Palaeontologists and geologists hold this stretch of coastline in extremely high regard, as many of the world’s most impressive fossils have been unearthed here, preserved in the layers of sedimentary rock for millions of years. Also along Purbeck’s oldest path, you’ll see an abundance of wildlife, including several species of butterflies attracted to the coastal plants that thrive in the chalky soils, a pond inhabited by the rare great-crested newt, and the equally precious greater horseshoe bat which can be spotted at dusk darting in the quarries.

 

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At the end of this three-mile yomp you can reward yourselves with a pie and pint at one of Dorset’s most famous coastal pubs, the Square & Compass, and enjoy a fabulous view towards Seacombe Cliff from the old stone benches in the pub garden, and maybe listen to some live folk music as the sun sets on your latest Dorset adventure.

The Angel, Ferndown Common

The Bronze Age barrows, dry heathlands, woods and ponds of Ferndown Common create the setting for the popular Angel pub walk. Follow the tracks and trails through these ancient lands, home to some of the rarest creatures in the British Isles, including the sand lizard, smooth snake, heath grasshopper, Dartford warbler, silver-studded blue butterfly, European nightjar and stonechat, at least fourteen species of dragonfly, the common frog and the palmate newt. Awarded Town Green status in 2003, the common is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and owned by the Wimborne Estate but lies under the stewardship of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, such is the significance of its precious inhabitants. The landscape is flat, encompassing several clay and gravel pits, boundary banks, ridges and furrows. Once you’ve embraced the circular walk, you can rest and enjoy some of the Angel’s renowned hospitality and delicious British menu.

 

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The World’s End, Blandford Forum

Bask in the beauty of the rolling north Dorset countryside with a round stroll along leafy tracks and down the old byways of two idyllic folds. The first is the thatched cottage village of Winterborne Zelston, which takes part of its name from the River Winterborne, so called because it only flows over-ground during the frostier months. The second is Winterbourne Tomson, another of Dorset’s delightful olde worlde haunts, where quiet honeysuckle lanes wander from gatepost-to-gatepost. With its stone eaves, studded oak door, flag-stoned floor and timber bell-cote, the 12th Century parish church of St Andrew’s is a striking building to behold; as is the buttressed walls of the 17th Century stone-built Tomson Farmhouse nestled in the nearby acreage. This circular route winds up at The World’s End, a traditional country inn full of rustic charm and a menu for all seasons, named in keeping with its remote backcountry setting.

The Golden Fox, Wareham Forest Way

The tranquil, sun-dappled trails of the Wareham Forest Way guide you through the lesser-known hinterlands of Purbeck and east Dorset. Expect to see not a soul as you walk under the forest canopy to the songs of woodlarks, enjoying gorgeous scenery at every turn. Pick up the forest trail at the pretty riverside town of Wareham and follow it all the way to the historic village of Sturminster Marshall, where you’ll find the cosy pub known as The Golden Fox. See for yourself why it continues to attract such glowing reviews.

 

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If you’re thinking about a walking holiday in Dorset and need a comfortable base from which to branch out and explore the rest of this magnificent county, look no further than Toad Halls’ long list of Dorset Holiday Cottages, many of which are dog-friendly.