Within just a couple of hours from London there are lots of beautiful spots for a weekend getaway with your dog. If beautiful all-year-round dog-friendly beaches, unusual coastal landscapes and countryside walks are on your list, the Jurassic Coast, in Dorset, is a great dog-friendly destination. Last Summer we decided to head out of London for a two-day trip there, to see the Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, of course taking Argo the dog with us. In this post we tell you about the area and give you some tips about things to do with your dog (and things to avoid), to help you planning your next trip to the Jurassic Coast with your four-legged.
A dog-friendly weekend trip to the Jurassic Coast
- Lulworth Cove: a beautiful dog-friendly beach
- Durdle Door: a spectacular (but crowded) spot
- Hiking on the South West Coast Path
- The Fossil Forest
- Dog-friendly castles: Lulworth Castle & Corfe Castle
- Mupe Bay beach and other dog-friendly beaches
- The Blue Pool
- Swanage Steam Railway
- Nature reserves to visit
Planning your trip:
- Dog-friendly accomodation
- Getting there and around
- Key tips and information
Things to do with your dog
If you google “Durdle Door” and “Lulworth Cove” you will find breathtaking photographs, resembling Mediterranean landscapes that seem far away from London. Yet, Lulworth Cove (and the close-by Durdle Door) can be reached with a 2 hours and a half train trip from London Waterloo, plus a 20/25-minute bus trip, or a 3-hour something car journey from the City.
To our surprise, we found that both Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are all-year round dog-friendly beaches (!), which makes it a perfect and popular destination for dog owners. What we didn’t know, though (although we should have guessed), is that the site attracts such huge crowds of people, especially in August and around Bank Holidays – exactly the time we chose for our trip. This creates some logistic problems that shouldn’t be underestimated, but you can be strategic about visiting, to enjoy the Jurassic Coast in all its beauty (more in this post).
In the area there are not only Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door to see, but many other things to do and dog-friendly activities, we will tell you about in this blog post. But let’s start with the two “must see.”
Lulworth Cove: a beautiful dog-friendly beach
Lulworth Cove crowns the tiny village of West Lulworth, which is dotted with nice cottages with thatched roofs and plenty of ice-cream shops. The cristal clear colour of the waters of Lulworth Cove and its landscape don’t look anything like other beaches in the UK we have seen so far (apart perhaps those of Cornwall). With its pebble beach enclosed by gentle hills in a volcano-cone-like shape, it reminded us of the coasts of Italy and the Mediterranean sea. If you visit early in the morning, you will find only few people and can have a good swim and play with your dog without having to worry about disturbing people nearby.
The access to the main beach at Lulworth Cove is easy (nothing to deal with that to Durdle Door, which has a steep descent and many many steps). From West Lulworth there is a little road gently descending to the beach, and with just a couple of steps you will find yourself on the pebbles beach. There is just a very small dog-free zone on the West part of the beach, but for the rest (of the huge beach) dogs are welcome.
Lulworth Crumple and Stairs Hole
On the other side of the West slope of the cove, there is a smaller rock pool enclosed by the Lulworth Crumple, taking its name from the beautiful rock stratification visible on its sides.
With a steep descend you can reach the sea, where you will encounter people kayaking and climbing. We checked and it doesn’t seem that there was any company offering dog-friendly kayaking/SUP at that spot at the moment, though, which would have been so much fun.
You may also spot fossils in the rocks, if you look well and there are some view points for a charming panoramic gaze.
A dog-friendly walk to Durdle Door
From Lulworth Cove there is a path running upcliff that takes you to Durdle Door (the path runs uphill and then downhill and if you are fit it may take around 35-40 minutes, otherwise longer). The descend to Durdle Door is steep, so good sturdy walking shoes are recommended (avoid flip-flops at all costs!) and this may prove quite challenging for people and dogs with mobility issues.
Durdle Door is spectacular. But don’t let the idilliac photos depicting it like a lost paradise trick you: its charm make it a really popular destination. When we visited the location in August, it looked like a busy hive, with hordes of people battling for towel space on the beach, dark streams like an army of ants walking down the paths, and queues for taking photos at the best viewpoints. I must assume the pictures we had seen online were most probably taken in Winter! My husband was put off by this detail and couldn’t really enjoy it. I could still appreciate the spot, but t I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I found the crowds a bit overwhelming. We both agreed that the worst part was waiting for the bus for a hour and a half upon our arrival at Wool train station to get to Lulworth Cove, and almost two hours at Durdle Door to get back – not the best use of time for a very short trip like ours.
There is a much less beaten path that continues upcliff past Durdle Door, which can be a good opportunity for some dog walks away from the crowds – which takes us nicely into looking at other dog-friendly things you can do near Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, on the Jurassic Coast.
Things to do with your dog in the Jurassic Coast near Durdle Door
After visiting the two iconic spots discussed above, there are other things to do with your dog in the Jurassic Coast in the Isle of Purbeck – is the peninsula where Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are located -. We will be looking at dog-friendly things to do within a 35-minute drive/one hour and a half ride by public transport from West Lulworth.
1. Hiking on the South West Coast Path
From Lulworth Cove you can take a 7 miles (11.3km) circular walk leading you to Durdle Door and White Nothe. You will need good legs and breath, as this is a challenging walk. You can find a map and description of the route on the South West Coast Path website. As you will be walking on top of the cliffs, keep your dog on a leash and close to you and don’t go near the cliff edge, to ensure both your and your dog’s safety.
You can park your car at Lulworth Cove’s car park (pay and display – more about at the bottom of this blog post). If instead you are travelling by public transport, the bus X54 or X55 or the 30 Breezer bus (the latter during Summer only) run from Wool Station. If you can, the best way of travelling will be a dog-friendly taxi, booked in advance (more below).
2. Visiting the Fossil Forest
The Fossil Forest is on the South West Coast Path, but East of Lulworth Cove. Since the area is included in the Lulworth firing ranges, this part is only accessible at certain times – please do double and even triple check so you don’t put yourself at risk. You can find the official webpage of the firing times on the Government’s website here, but they also advice you call to double check, as there can be last minute changes.
At the moment, the area is closed due to a small cliff collapse, and they hope to restore its access and put it in safety soon (their notice is updated to 16 January 2020).
3. Enjoying a dog-friendly beach
As mentioned, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are all-year-round dog-friendly, but there are also other dog-friendly beaches in the area. If you want to visit other beaches, there is a wide choice and a few allow dogs at all times, while others restrict their access during the high season: find a list on the Jurassic Coast Trust’s website here. Unfortuntely no dog-friendly kayak or SUP are available in Lulworth Cove and surrounding beaches as far as we are aware of, contrary to our hopes. Mupe Bay beach, which can be only reached when there is no firing times, seems to be a little paradise and less crowded than the more famous ones.
4. Heading to the stunning Blue Pool
The Blue Pool, is a wonderful pool sitting in a deep clay bowl in the middle of a woodland and heathland, with turquoise water and 20 acres of natural beauty around its banks. There is a ban on entering the water for both people and dogs. The site is open seasonally (it will re-open on 1st March) and there is an entrance ticket which price will be confirmed on their website before their opening date.
On site there are also Tea Rooms, which welcome dogs on a lead (both outside and inside) and can be the perfect chance for scones and . The Tea House will re-open at Easter. Finally, you can also access the small museum with your dog.
5. Visiting a dog-friendly castle: Lulworth Castle and Corfe Castle
Very close to Lulworth Cove, Lulworth Castle can be reached with a 10-minute drive from Lulworth Cove. If you are on foot, it will take you a bit more than an hour (I can’t confirm whether the full walk has footpaths available). Dogs are welcome in the park only, as long as they are kept on a lead. Only assistance dogs are allowed to enter the castle itself, as well as the church and chapel.
- Address: East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QS
- Official website: lulworth.com/castle-and-park/
- Price: If you only visit the Park and woodland walks, there is no entrance fee (the parking costs £3 per vehicle per day though). A separate ticket price is applied for visits to the castle (£6 adults, £4 child).
- Opening times: Note that while Park and woodland walks are open Sunday to Friday all-year-round, there are winter closures of the castle. The Castle and grounds are not accessible on Saturdays. Find out more about the castle opening times here.
- Parking: there is parking on site – £3 per vehicle per day
Corfe Castle is a picturesque ruined castle managed by the National Trust that welcomes dogs on a short lead. To get to Corfe Castle, it takes about 20 minutes by car from Lulworth Cove if there is no traffic. It is can be more complicated by bus: it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes changing bus at Wareham (X54 and 40 Breezer buses, changing at the Wareham Red Lion bus stop); considering how it has been a nightmare to just get to Wool station by bus at peak time on a bank holiday, I imagine it may prove similarly challenging unless you avoid high season. In case you are staying on the East Coast, in Swanage, there is a dog-friendly steam railway (the Swanage Steam Railway – more about which below) that takes you a few minutes walk from the castle.
- Address: The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5EZ
- Official website: nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle
- Price: £11-13.20 adult (depending if off-peak/peak and with or without gift aid), £5.50-6.60 child (same). The official website provides more information about prices and peak times.
- Opening times: Opening times vary depending on the time of the year and can be found here
- Parking: Pay and display at foot of castle, off A351 (Castle View visitor centre, BH20 5DR free to National Trust members, 800 yards walk uphill). Purbeck Park (BH20 5DW, all-day parking, train to village) and West Street in village (pay and display, BH20 5HH), neither National Trust.
6. Having a ride on Swanage Steam Railway
The Swanage Steam Railway, running between Swanage and Corfe Castle – stopping at Harman Cross -, is dog-friendly and welcomes dogs for an extra charge of £2 return (or £1 one way). While by car Swanage is a 35 minutes drive (if there is no traffic) from Lulworth, by bus it takes a bit more of a ride.
- Prices: return tickets are £15 per adult, £8 child, £8 dog, but there are a number of different price combinations you can find on their official page; tickets can be bought here
- Timetable: check out the Swanage Steam Railway timetable
- Dog policy: Dogs are welcome on board but must be kept on a lead and on the floor. The fare is £1 per single journey, £2 return. There is no charge for assistance dogs. Dogs are not permitted in the Buffets, the Dining Trains, the Station Shop or on the Santa Specials (assistance dogs excepted).
- For information about how to get there and parking, this useful page provides plenty of tips
7. Studland (beach and) nature reserve
Studland Bay, on the East Coast of the Isle of Purbeck seems to be a doggie paradise. It has a beach and the National Trust organises free “Doggie splash and stroll” events (where dogs are required to stay on a lead). Dogs are welcome at Studland Beach but restrictions apply depending on the time of year.
If you like the genre, not far there is also Durlston Country Park and Natural Reserve, which also features a castle and welcomes dogs both in the park and in the castle as long as they are kept “on a lead or under close control outside” and on a lead when in the Castle and in the Cafe.
Planning your trip
Getting from London to the Jurassic Coast and around
Train + bus
Trains run from London Waterloo station to Wool station taking you there in 2 hours and 20/30 minutes. Right outside Wool station there is the bus stop, where you can catch the Breezer 30, or the buses X54 or X55 (the 2019 price was £5.80 return to Lulworth Cove, or £7 return to Durdle Door) to Lulworth Cove and/or Durdle Door. Get in the queue as soon as you get off the train!
Train + Taxi alternative
Instead of the bus alternative, you can combine train and taxi, which has some great advantages in case you are travelling in high season: solving any parking issues (as mentioned, car parks can become full quickly and it can be a total nightmare to find another spot) and avoiding waiting for hours an already rare bus that doesn’t come when it is supposed to or is too crowded and so doesn’t let you jump on. There are some dog-friendly services. These include:
- A1 Taxis Wool, an independent family run taxi company: they have a car with a dog guard and accept dogs of all sizes (small pets may be be allowed to be held by passengers) – you can book their taxi on 07758 130281.
- I am currently looking for the name of another one which has has a big van and is very dog-friendly – the driver said he is a massive rottweiler lover and joked he woudl give a discount to whoever travels with a rottie). I’ll let you know as soon as I find my note! Cost is approx. £15 to get to Lulworth Cove (one way).
Make sure to pre-book your taxi with good advance – when getting off the train, crowds of people will have the same idea and there is a limited number of taxis, especially dog-friendly ones!
SOLUTION 2 – Car
If you are thinking about getting there by car from London, consider traffic and aim to get to Lulworth Cove/Durdle Door early in the morning to secure your parking spot, in case you are travelling during the Summer/during Bank Holidays.
- Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door: pay and display car parks (all-year round) – more information about parking charges here
- Lulworth Castle: there is parking on site – £3 per vehicle per day
- Corfe Castle: Pay and display at foot of castle, off A351 (Castle View visitor centre, BH20 5DR free to National Trust members, 800 yards walk uphill). Purbeck Park (BH20 5DW, all-day parking, train to village) and West Street in village (pay and display, BH20 5HH), neither National Trust.
- Studland nature reserve: Pay and display (free to members) at South Beach, Middle Beach, Knoll Beach and Shell bay, prices vary per season.
Dog-friendly accomodation near Durdle Door
Our trip was a bit last-minute, so the only dog-friendly accomodation we could find was a shepherd’s hut at The Seven Stars Inn (which we booked through Airbnb), not too far from Wool. The hut was nice (although nothing to do with the luxury of The Merry Harriers shepherds hut in Surrey Hills we stayed at previously), but not the most comfortable accomodation for one little detail: it did not have an ensuite bathroom. Instead communal camping bathroom facilities were located at the back in two separate containers, which would have benefitted of an upgrade (to be honest, we didn’t find them the most well-maintained facilities, but if you are used to spartan accomodations in camping sites you may find it fine).
On the other hand, the manager was the loveliest lady and she even offered to pick us up at the station upon hearing that we were on foot; plus we had a lovely meal at the pub (unfortunately dogs are not allowed inside, so you will have to dine outside unless you are happy to leave your dog in the hut) and enjoyed playing pool by the bar before returning to our hut.
In the area there are many other dog-friendly accomodation options, if you book well in advance (many are already fully booked until May!). A couple of selected options:
- The Castle Inn is a lovely traditional Dorset pub and inn with 6 dog-friendly rooms (you can have a 360 tour of the place on their website to check if it is of your taste). There is a £15 charge per dog per night. Dogs can join in the bar for your meals.
- Spring Cottage – paces from Lulworth Cove beach and a truly lovely one, that sleeps 4. It is rented for minimum 3 nights, but the price for 7 nights is more convenient, as it is only £100 more than the 3-nights price.
For more tips and help to find where to stay, check out our guide to finding a dog-friendly holiday accomodation.
Tips for your trip
- Beware of traffic, parking nightmares and bus timetables
Full car parks, small roads completely clogged by traffic jams, (already rare) buses’ arrival time made completely unpredictable by the traffic and inability to hop on some of them because they are overcrowded – London’s rush hour seemed like child’s play in comparison, when we visited the area at the end of August last year, before the Bank Holiday.
So avoid the high season (especially Bank Holidays) if you can, or at least travel there early in the morning when the masses haven’t yet taken over the place (we visited Lulworth Cove on an early morning and it was much more quiet and relaxing than the afternoon at Durdle Door). My personal preference would be to travel by train and book a taxi for moving around, to make the most of the time and don’t waste it looking for parking or waiting for buses that arrive extra late.
- Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door: which to visit first?
While the taxi driver we met the second day suggested that the best route is visiting Durdle Door first and then Lulworth Cove, because there is a very demanding walk to get from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door, while you will enjoy a downhill stroll in the other direction.
In case you are travelling by bus, though, my tip is to do the opposite. In fact, starting from Lulworth Cove and head to Durdle Door means that you’ll be able to catch the bus from Durdle Door when it is still empty, while at Lulworth Cove there is a chance there will be too many people for you to get on, leaving you without a lift.
- How many days?
We stayed there 2 days (one night only) and it felt a bit rushed. If you can, 3 days can be a good time to explore the area a bit more. Again, it will depend on how you travel and your personal preferences how much you are able to fit in a day.
In case you only have a couple of days and don’t plan to travel much in the area, my advice would be to find an accomodation in Lulworth Cove and not move your car/be forced to get around by bus, as you will be able to walk and enjoy the paths in the area!
- What to wear and what not
There are many steep paths and high cliffs in the area, so good to bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes and comfy clothes – not a place for flip flops and flats! Stay safe when you walk on the cliffs and keep your dog on a leash to avoid incidents.
You will need your usual dog walking kit: water bowl and bottle, leash, poo bags and a dog toy. Having your dog wear a harness with a handle can be helpful for the case you need to lift them up or help them somehow.