A walk from Old Harry Rocks to Swanage beach and back

English weather is known for being moody and changeable. Going for a walk when it’s grey and cloudy can make you feel nostalgic or melancholic, but not when you’re walking with your friends. Even on a cloudy day, walking from Old Harry Rocks to Swanage Beach and back can be an exciting and pleasant stroll. Admiring beautiful scenery from the cliffs, eating Cornish pasties during a break in Swanage and finishing a 13 km (8 mile) walk with some comforting food at a cosy pub sounds like a good plan for a Saturday afternoon, doesn’t it?


We drove from Bournemouth to Studland and parked our car next to the Bankes Arms pub. You can get there by ferry from Sandbanks or via Wareham, which seems like a longer drive but it actually takes the same time (approximately 50 minutes) and it does not include the time waiting for a ferry.

The breathtaking rocks are part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and managed by the National Trust.
‘The chalk formations are popularly know as Old Harry Rocks, but the name actually refers to the single stack of chalk standing furthest out to sea. Until 1896 there was another stack known as Old Harry’s Wife, but erosion caused her to tumble into the sea, leaving just a stump.’ Source: visit-dorset.com

Poor Harry has been widowed for over 100 years!

Coming close to the edge to take a picture is both scary and thrilling. You won’t see the beautiful view if you don’t get closer, but I think it’s better to crawl. There have been incidents of people and dogs falling from the cliffs – some of them miraculously survived. You can read some articles about it here and here.

This is how walking on the cliffs makes you feel 😉
A view over the Swanage beach and some beautiful yellow flowers called gorse.
Swanage beach is different to Bournemouth beach. It has a wilder character, is less touristic, and is beautifully peaceful and quiet. It has won many Blue Flag Awards.
Beach huts are one of my favs to photograph. They are colourful and reflect an English seasidey atmosphere. Which of the outfits these ladies are wearing do you prefer?
Seeing colourful huts on a cloudy day was like a breath of fresh air and brightened up our walk. These colours are so typically marine!
My friend noticed the reflection of red beach huts in the water so we had to capture it on camera.
I can’t help myself but to take photos of dogs running happily on the beach. I always ask their owners if I can which is a bit embarrassing! This is Josh – wet but pleased with a beach run – who proudly posed in front of my camera.
Red seaweed?
After the walk from Old Harry Rocks, we stopped to recharge our batteries and ate traditional Cornish pasties, and drank some tea and coffee.
Traditional Cornish Pasties with beef, swede, potatoes and onions gave us energy to climb the hill leading to Old Harry Rocks.
Fruit scones. This time we just admired them through the window display.

Our way back to Old Harry Rocks. It was obviously much harder to climb the hill than walking down to Swanage, but believe me, the feeling of satisfaction after a climb is worth the effort. I took this picture of my walking team when I was left far behind. Ah well, it was my fault as I took pictures of everything I encountered – the tough life of a blogger!

The climb from Swanage beach back to Old Harry Rocks was rewarding but quite challenging and it left me in pain for all of Sunday and Monday! It was windy, foggy and it was slowly becoming darker, but I loved it.

We made a friend – a black raven which we fed with some pasty. We named him Harry.

At 7 o’ clock in the evening, Old Harry Rocks were covered in a mysterious mist and you could hardly see a living soul. Legend says that the Rock was named Harry after a devil with the same name slept on it.

At this point we had almost reached the Bankes Arms where we started our journey. I looked up and saw how creepy this tree looked. We also heard an owl in the background. I did not want to be part of a horror story or have a close encounter with Harry the Devil, so I was extremely happy to be approaching the pub and was looking forward to some comfort food.

Walking 13 kilometres feels like a good excuse to eat whatever you want and however much you want! The Bankes Arms Inn welcomed us with very tasty food and generous portions of my favourite classsic fish & chips, hot dog with chorizo and a game casserole with pheasant, rabbit and venison.

A walk from Old Harry Rocks to Swanage and back was a great adventure and I would definitely recommend it if you would like to make some more physical effort and challenge yourself. So what are your favourite places to take more demanding walks?

Things to Do in Bournemouth for Free: Pier-to-Pier Walk

It’s not a huge challenge or achievement to walk from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier. It’s only 2.1 km (1.6 miles), but on the pleasant stroll you can get a real taste of Bournemouth, seeing both piers, the beach, sea waves, seagulls and beach huts. What can be more relaxing than walking on the sand, listening to sea waves and chattering seagulls flying against the wind? If you need some Vitamin SEA, take a look at my photo story from a Sunday walk in January.

From Boscombe Pier to…
…Bournemouth Pier and back to…
…Boscombe Pier.
The view from Boscombe Pier.
You can read the history of both Boscombe Pier and Bournemouth Pier while having a walk on them. One of the boards that grabbed my attention was about a whale that washed up on the shore in 1897. Its skeleton was displayed on Boscombe Pier as a tourist attraction.
Seagulls sitting in synchrony.
The ocean is calling and I must go…
The only sentence that comes to my mind when I look at this photo is a famous tongue twister: She sells seashells on the sea shore. The sea shells that she sells are seashells I’m sure!
The beach provides pure freedom for dogs to be unleashed. Even if you don’t have your own dog, just looking at them playfully running with sticks thrown by their owners is a pleasant experience.
‘Shell’ we dance?
On your way to Bournemouth Pier, you’ll see colourful huts that could be an amazing advertisement for a paint company. But who painted Bournemouth’s huts, I don’t know!
When I finally reached Bournemouth Pier I had a close encounter with some seagulls.
Trust me, having a walk by the sea makes you hungry. You can buy traditional fish & chips close to Bournemouth Pier at Harry Ramsden’s, a famous ‘chippy’ chain in England and Ireland. I’ll be honest – it was tasty, but it was definitely not the best fish & chips I’ve ever eaten. So if you’re looking for a genuine fish & chips experience, it’s not the place to go. Nevertheless, it tasted decent.

A pier-to-pier walk is an enjoyable and free activity in Bournemouth, even in January (provided it’s not raining!). The changing colours of the sky provided an amazing backdrop for my photos and the sunshine on our faces was more than desirable, especially in January. SEA YOU SOON!