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Portland Bill, Jurassic Coast Walks In Dorset, England, UK

Portland Bill - Jurassic Coast Walks

Portland Bill, Jurassic Coast Walks was about 7.25 miles in distance. The terrain of this easy route is a combination of coastal clifftop paths, tracks and roadside pavements or verges.

Along the route there were two lighthouses rising from the most southern tip of this sacred Isle of Portland. Although now technically a peninsula, thanks to the pebble bank of Chesil Beach, the status of Portland as a holy place apart from the mainland was recognised by stone circles and burial chambers, which unfortunately are now lost to quarrying.

Early on the route Portland Museum is passed, which contains the sarcophagi and a mysterious stone head which may well be Phoenician. Also early on is Pennsylvania Castle, which is called “Sylvania Castle” in the Thomas Hardy novel “The Well Beloved”, which Jocelyn rented to be near Avice.

The Gothic Pennsylvania Castle was built by John Penn as a home in 1800, naming it after the state in the USA which was founded by his grandfather, William Penn. This was the centre of Portland before a medieval earthquake caused the eastern side of the island to sink into sea.

Other landmarks passed early on include Coombefield Quarries and Cave Hole.

Combe is an ancient British word for “valley” (modern Welsh word is “cwm”). A local tradition recorded by Elizabeth Pearce has the early occupants of Portland called Combens, descendants of the Phoenicians. The Balearic Islands, off the Spanish mainland, were also a Phoenician colony and the Phoenician words “Bal jaro” meant “master at slinging”. Also, the Romans attested to the accuracy of Hannibal’s stone slingers from the Balearics and the English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy wrote of Portland as the “Isle of Slingers”.

Cove Hole, is said to be guarded by a legendary black dog similar to the Egyptian Anubis, or the dog Cerberus who guarded the entrance to Hades.

Starting in the centre of Easton, leg one went south east along roads and paths to Church Ope Cove. Leg two then followed the Coast Path south west to Portland Bill. Leg three headed north along the Coast Path until passing Bowers Quarries. To complete the walk the fourth and final leg turned inland south east along tracks and roads back to the start in Easton.

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Portland Bill, Jurassic Coast Walks Route

The Portland Bill, Jurassic Coast Walks route was circular in a clockwise direction with four legs.

Leg 1

On this first leg we started in Easton and headed south east along roads and paths to Church Ope Cove.

  1. We began the walk from the south eastern entrance to Easton Gardens.
  2. With the toilets behind us and the clock tower away to our right, we went east to the left along a road called Straights.
  3. We passed a children’s library on our left.
  4. We turned right along a road called Wakeham until we reached Portland Museum on our left.
  5. Continuing ahead we went along Pennsylvania Road, passing the museum car park on our right.
  6. We turned left through a gap in the wall, down a sign posted footpath which passed Pennsylvania Castle on our right.
  7. Descending along a woodland path, we went through an archway and passed the ruins of St Andrews Church on out left.
  8. We descended steps to reach a sign posted path junction and kept descending into Church Ope Cove.
  9. At a waymarked path junction immediately above beach huts, we turned sharp left down to the pebble beach in the cove, which is one of only two landing places on Portland.

Leg 2

Having walked about a mile to this point, the second leg followed the Coast Path south west to Portland Bill.

  1. After climbing back up to the Coast Path waymark, we turned left along the Coast Path, keeping the sea to our left.
  2. Where the Coast Path turned sharp right, we ascended with it to Southwell Road, to avoid landslips.
  3. We went left along the roadside verge and passed Cheynes Weares car park and viewpoint on our left and passed Coombefield Quarries on our right.
  4. Next we descended to our left along a path signposted “Coast Path” and kept the sea on our left.
  5. After passing two cranes we found ourselves standing above Cave Hole.
  6. Continuing ahead we crossed a wooden footbridge and passed holiday huts to reach the lighthouse at Portland Bill.
  7. After the lighthouse we turned right to go passed toilets on the left.
  8. We then went inland through a car park, passing a seasonal bus stop and reached a Coast Path signpost beside a road.

Leg 3

After about the 4 miles mark the third leg headed north along the Coast Path until passing Bowers Quarries.

  1. We crossed the road and went ahead uphill to a lookout.
  2. We then continued northwards on the Coast Path above the sea on our left, up the western flank of Portland.
  3. We passed Southwell on our right.
  4. Where the path split, we went left to continue along the Coast Path.
  5. After passing Weston on our right, crossing a wooden boardwalk and passing through a stone archway on Coast Path,
  6. After pass Bowers Quarries on our right we reached a low stone waymark pillar on the ground.

Leg 4

Having travelled about 6.5 miles, the fourth and final leg turned inland south east along tracks and roads back to the start in Easton.

  1. At the low stone waymark pillar we turned sharp right, inland along a track.
  2. Reach post beside low waymark pillar and turn sharp right along track towards Easton.
  3. On reaching Wide Street we turned right towards St George’s Church.
  4. We crossed Wide Street before reaching the church and turned left along a road called Reforne.
  5. We passed a cricket ground on the left, the George Inn on the right, and returned to Easton Gardens via the north western entrance.

When Done & With Whom

I did this hike with my partner Anne whilst on a Dorset hiking holiday during May 2012. We drove from our holiday accommodation in Puddletown, Dorset to the starting location of Easton, Portland Bill, Dorset. We parked in a council car park not far from Easton Gardens at grid reference SY 692 717 before walking to the start of the walk which was Easton Gardens.

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