The place I was most excited to visit during our Dorset road trip was the Durdle Door. The pictures I had seen were just stunning, an unusual rock formation against the blue sea. The stretch of England’s Jurassic Coast around the Durdle Door may be the most picturesque part. It’s worth spending a day exploring. You can see the Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove in a few hours, since it’s a short hike between the two. Then, you can visit the nearby Lulworth Castle.
Note: The Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, and Lulworth Castle are all owned by the Lulworth Estate.
The Durdle Door is an arch rock formation in the English Channel. It was carved out by the sea around 10,000 years ago. The word “durdle” comes from the old English word ‘thirl’ meaning bore or drill. I think the name is quite fitting. The Durdle Door reminds me a bit of El Arco in Cabo San Lucas Mexico.
It is located on the Jurassic Coast in the county of Dorset in England. The closest town to the Durdle Door is West Lulworth.
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Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door Walk
I read that the Jurassic Coast walk from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door was easy and one of the most beautiful in Britain. I am not sure I fully agree. The hike was scenic but not sure I can say it was easy. The first bit of the hike to Durdle Door was steep! (Not anything like Breakneck Ridge though!) They did a great job with the path. It wasn’t paved but had stones laid almost like bricks which definitely made it easier. Once you get past that first big hill, it’s a relatively easy hike.
I couldn’t get over the color of the water. The view looking back to seashell-shaped Lulworth Cove was impressive and the Durdle Door is an example of Mother Nature at her best.
We parked at Lulworth Cove and walked towards Durdle Door. The hike starts from the Lulworth Cove parking lot. The first part of the hike is a steep climb. Don’t get intimated though, take as many breaks as you like and look back at the gorgeous view of Lulworth Cove. Once you get to the top, you have finished the most challenging section.
As I was climbing that first hill I was wondering if we would see the Durdle Door once we got to the top, but no. The coastal view was still beautiful and the path started a gentle decline. We were talking and just enjoying walking along the Jurassic Coast until we noticed a herd of cattle in front of us. At first, I wasn’t sure if the cows were on our path or if the path curved around them.
We walked a little closer. What at one point had been barbed wire holding them in their pasture, was now string that they had busted through. It was early so we were the only hikers and we debated trying to walk through their field or even trying to walk through them. I didn’t feel comfortable with either option.
There was another way though. I could see that the cows had gathered close to the gate where the path down to the Durdle Door started. We could walk back to our car at Lulworth Cove and then drive to the parking lot at Durdle Door. There we could pick up the path just on the other side of the cows. The whole thing reminded me a bit of our run-in with a cow on the Ring of Kerry.
Down to the Durdle Door
We headed back to the car. It took about five minutes to drive to the Durdle Door parking lot and we picked up the path again. The cows were still there guarding the gate.
The trail down to the Durdle Door is a bit steep. The incline is not quite as bad as the beginning of the path from the Lulworth Cove parking lot, but it wasn’t as well made. Be careful as there is some loose gravel that can be slippery. You could see where some people had chosen to make their own path in the grass. You might find it easier to use those paths.
Man O’ War Beach
It wasn’t long before we could see the edge of the cliff. Again, I wondered if we would be able to see the Durdle Door. We didn’t have a view of the Durdle Door yet, but we did see an amazing beach, the Man O’ War Beach. The Man O’ War Beach is right next to the Durdle Door Beach. It is definitely the most picturesque beach I have been to so far in England. To me, it looks more like a Hawaiian Beach than an English one. I couldn’t get over the color of the water, it was almost teal. When we visited, the stairs to go down to the Man O’ War Beach were closed off. It looked like there had been some kind of erosion or landslide that made those stairs dangerous. We had to settle for admiring the view from the platform at the top. I would love to come back and take a walk on this beach.
Durdle Door Beach
After a few photos, we continued on and it wasn’t long before we finally saw the Durdle Door. To me, it was actually bigger than I expected. Sometimes, when you finally see something you have been admiring online, it doesn’t live up to your expectations. This was definitely not the case with the Durdle Door.
From the top of the cliff, you have the perfect view of the Durdle Door. To the right, you have a beautiful view of some of the white cliffs that make up the Jurassic Coast. After taking some photos, we went down the stairs to the beach to get a closer view.
It is 88 steps from the top of the cliff to the Durdle Door Beach. The steps (which were rebuilt in 2015) were not too bad, they are a little steep and wide enough for two-way traffic in most places. The beach is rocky. It was a windy day so the waves were big compared to what I have seen on other English beaches. We saw one person swim, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Not only was it dangerous, but I don’t think people appreciated the swimmer being in their photos.
We walked along the rocky beach. I wanted to get a closer look at the caves in the cliffs that I could see from a distance and, who knows maybe we could stumble upon some fossils. (This was before I did the fossil hunting tour, so I didn’t know what to look for.) When we got closer to one of the caves, I realized you have to climb up a bit to get to the cave. I sent Russell up to check it out. Unfortunately, he only found a bunch of litter. After our visit, I read that with the risk of cliff falls, you are not supposed to go inside the caves.
After our short walk, we headed back up to the car. Our next stop would be Lulworth Cove for lunch. Check out our Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door Video to get a better idea of what the walk was like.
Note: You can also do this hike in the opposite direction and walk from Durdle Door to Lulworth Cove. However, then you start with the highlight of the hike instead of walking towards it.
We saw Lulworth Cove from a distance during our hike and it looked beautiful, so we thought we would take a closer look. Just behind the visitor center, you will find the street that takes you to Lulworth Cove. It’s a pretty easy walk from the Lulworth Cove parking lot through the pretty fishing village of West Lulworth to the Lulworth Cove Beach. You will pass a few pubs, shops, and ice cream shops along the way. There is a cafe right by the beach too.
We brought our lunch so we found a spot on the Lulworth Beach to eat and enjoy the view. Several other people were doing the same. The water here was much calmer than by the Durdle Door. It was peaceful watching the boats floating on the water. We also saw several kayaks. On our way back to the car, we stopped for an ice cream. It was a fitting reward for finishing our hike.
Lulworth Castle is a picture-perfect castle located a short drive away from Lulworth Cove. It was built in the early 17tth century by Thomas Howard, 3rd Lord Bindon. At first glance, you would never guess that it was badly damaged during a fire. Inside the castle, that is one of the themes that you learn about.
First, climb the steps to the top to check out the panoramic views of the Dorset countryside and the Jurassic Coast. Unfortunately, the day we visited the weather did not cooperate so visibility was limited. After you have had time to enjoy the view, go all the way down to the basement. Here you will find exhibits explaining the history of the castle including more about the families (the Howards and Welds) who lived here.
On the ground floor, you can get an idea of how lovely the castle would have been. I saw a poster about how you can have your wedding at Lulworth Castle. I could see how it would be a dreamy place to say your vows. They are actually closed on Saturdays for weddings. (Check Lulworth Castle Opening Schedule here).
Other Points of Interest on the Lulworth Castle Grounds
It’s also worth exploring the grounds of Lulworth Castle – which are huge. There are several paths where you can take a relaxing walk. You can also see the rose garden. There is a playground for kids. The Lulworth Park area is perfect for a picnic or if you prefer the castle has a tearoom.
There are two churches on the Lulworth Castle Grounds – one Anglican and one Catholic. It was interesting to see the contrast between the two. The inside of the Catholic Church, St. Mary’s, was elaborate, while the Anglican, St. Andrew’s, was simple.
I should warn you that there are military bases near the grounds of Lulworth Castle. We drove right by them and saw a sign advising that there may be military exercises. Even inside Lulworth Castle, we could hear the gunfire and what sounded like shots from a tank. I was glad I saw the sign otherwise I would have been terrified.
What to Bring to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove
Even though this is not the most difficult hike you will ever do, you need to wear shoes that will give you support. Hiking boots are ideal, but you can get away with wearing sneakers (I did!). Also be sure to bring along some water and stay hydrated. It’s also always a good idea to wear sunscreen. You will be outdoors and there is not much shade in the area. Also, please make sure you bring your camera! (We use the Sony A6000)
Logistics for Your Visit to the Lulworth Estate
When is the best time to visit the Durdle Door?
Go early! The Durdle Door is one of the most popular attractions in Dorset so it does get crowded. When we arrived around 8 am, we almost had the place to ourselves. By 11 am, it was getting crowded and we weren’t there during the peak time in the summer.
Both Lulworth Cove and the Durdle Door are open to visitors all year. The weather will be better if you avoid the winter but I am sure it would be less crowded. Lulworth Castle is not open during the colder months.
How long is the hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door?
The hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door is about 1.25 miles one way or 2.5 miles round trip. I guess it can be done in an hour if you hurry and don’t stop for photos. Realistically, though, you are going to want to stop and take in the view. We took lots of pictures and had that little run-in with the cows. Plus, you will want time to explore the Durdle Door Beach. I would allow a minimum of 2 hours to do this hike, but more if you can.
How much does it cost to go to the Durdle Door?
There is no charge to visit the Durdle Door. It is not exactly free though! You do have to pay for parking. The money you pay to park goes to help maintain the area.
How much does it cost to go to Lulworth Castle?
You can visit the Lulworth Castle grounds for free but if you want to go inside Lulworth Castle admission is £6 for adults. We got in for free because we are English Heritage members. It’s one of the over 400 sites that you can go to for free in you are a member. Click here for more information about English Heritage Membership.
Where can you park?
There are separate parking lots at Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, and Lulworth Castle. They are all pay and display. The maximum charge is £9 for the whole day. It’s convenient that you have the option to pay once for all-day access to all three.
Both the Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door parking lots can get full, so during peak times either arrive early or late. Do not park on the roads as it blocks access for emergency vehicles.
For the Lulworth Cove Parking lot, use postcode BH20 5RQ. To get to the Durdle Door use postcode BH20 5PU.
Can I get to the Durdle Door from London using public transportation?
Yes, but it is not easy to go from London to the Durdle Door without a car. You can take the train from London Waterloo to Wool, the nearest train station. (Click here to check schedules and pricing). Then you can transfer to the bus (15, 30, X54 or X55) to go to West Lulworth. You could also take a taxi from Wool to West Lulworth but you will need to book it in advance. From West Lulworth, you can hike to the Durdle Door.
Note: The 15 bus operates on school days only. The X54 and X55 operate daily from mid-April to mid-September. The 30 bus operates from late June until mid-September.
Can I take a tour to the Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove?
I could not find any day tours from London to the Durdle Door. If you would like to do a Durdle Door tour, you will have to travel some of the way from London on your own. Check out this tour of the Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove from Bournemouth.
Is the Durdle Door accessible?
Unfortunately, no. The path to the point where you can see the Durdle Door is steep and then there are stairs to the beach. I would not recommend trying to use a wheelchair.
Are there any facilities by Durdle Door?
Yes. By the Durdle Door parking lot, you will find bathrooms and a snack bar. There are more food options in West Lulworth, which is right next to the Lulworth Cove parking lot.
Worth the Hike
We enjoyed our visit to the Lulworth Estate. The Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door walk was scenic and memorable. It was also interesting to visit Lulworth Castle.
Have you been to this part of England’s Jurassic Coast?
Expert Tips for visiting the Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove
- Go early to beat the crowds. The Durdle Door is especially popular.
- Allow plenty of time for the Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door walk. It’s not that far, but you will want to take lots of pictures.
- Join English Heritage so that you can visit Lulworth Castle (and many other sites) for free.
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