SWR's favourite coastal walks

Benefits of coastal walks

17 June 2021

England’s coastline has some of the most spectacular sights in the world. There’s little better to raise the spirits (or cure a hangover) than a ramble over a blustery coast, spying ships, sand and hidden coves. But don’t let us tell you – there’s plenty of evidence that walk on Britain’s marvellous shores brings a host of benefits to your health as well.

How coastal walks improve your wellbeing

Vitamin D boosts

Sunshine has some massive impacts on our wellbeing – just 15 to 30 minutes outside can improve it, even in the UK’s somewhat limited capacity for sunny days. Just remember your sunscreen!

Happier moods (and better sleep)

Fresh sea air is full of negative hydrogen ions, caused by a phenomenon called the Lenard effect where water drops break up in spray – like that caused by the ocean meeting the shoreline. Despite knowing about these ions in the air for more than a hundred years, only now are we understanding their impact on human health – in particular their ability to help us balance our serotonin levels (helpful after a long year of lockdown), improve oxygen absorption, and neutralise harmful free radicals in our bodies.

Nature’s exfoliator

Sand in the air acts like a natural exfoliator, improving your skin’s natural regeneration capabilities and making you feel younger! And there’s seawater too – with its natural antiseptic properties helping to heal the skin. Rumour has it that sea water can even help prevent snoring!

Our favourite coastal walks

The coast of our region – from Exmouth to Portsmouth – boasts some incredible variety of seashore, from Sidmouth’s red cliffs, Bournemouth’s golden beaches, the incredible sights of Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks, and the incredible impact of humans on the busy and industrious Solent. Here’s some routes that we love, with our handy Muddy Boot ratings to show you the more challenging ones.

Difficulty guide

  • 1 muddy boot - flat for the most part, with refreshments and comforts available all along the route
  • 2 muddy boots - the odd stile to climb or the occasional hill
  • 3 muddy boots - many stiles, muddy paths and decent hills

Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

Rating: 1 muddy boot
Length: 3 miles
Nearest stationsWool

Arguably the prettiest walk on the Dorset coastal path (in the UK in our opinion!), on a blazing summer day you’ll mistake the azure seas and moored yachts for the south of France. Fortunately, this three-mile amble is only a little way from Wool station, meaning you can leave your passport at home! Take a picnic and stop on Durdle Door’s golden beach, or head back to Lulworth for some hearty pub grub.

This stretch welcomes 200,000 walkers a year (making it one of the UK’s busiest) – so time your visit with this in mind.

Durdle Door
Durdle Door

Weymouth to Portland

Rating: 2 muddy boots
Length: 6 miles
Nearest stationsWeymouth

This is a pretty walk that takes you out of Weymouth to the rather spectacular Church Ope Beach in Portland, utilising the Rodwell Trail for much of the route. This old railway line used to take trains through to the Isle of Portland but now serves as a popular walking route, teeming with wildlife.

Church Ope Cove
Church Ope Cove

You’ll spy Henry VIII’s Sandsfoot Castle on this walk, part of a huge development of coastal defences created during his reign. Once you reach Church Ope Cove with it’s Portland stone pebbled beach, you can take a dip – or stop into the local villages for a bite to eat. Don’t fancy the walk back to Weymouth? The number 1 bus takes you back to the town centre.

Exbury Village and Lepe

Rating: 2 muddy boots
Length: 10 miles
Nearest stations: Brockenhurst (via New Forest Tour green route) and Southampton Central (via Hythe Ferry and Beach Bus)

Known primarily for the Gardens and Steam Railway, Exbury itself is a peaceful and charming village that holds a fascinating wartime history. The nearby beach at Lepe was crucial to D-Day preparations in the second world war, and if you make it an early morning walk you can expect some seriously stunning sunrises over the Solent.

Head back by ferry to Southampton to enjoy the delightful Hythe Pier train and a weekend in one of England’s most impressive port cities.

Lepe Beach
Lepe Beach

East Devon Way

Rating: 3 muddy boots
Length: 38 miles
Nearest stations: Axminster (for Lyme Regis by bus), Honiton (for Sidmouth by bus), Exmouth

Taking you from Lyme Regis to Exmouth, this is a route best attempted in short sections (or by the hardy over a weekend!). Taking you through the heart of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, across the South West Coast Path, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the Exe Estuary, this is a bumper trail with an incredible amount to see.

Lyme Regis coast
Lyme Regis

You’ll find traditional Devon thatched cob cottages, Saxon-era villages, prehistoric hill forts and ancient churches – as well as spectacular vistas of both the rolling green hills of Devon and the English Channel. Stop in for a drink or stay at one of the numerous oak-beamed pubs along the route to best enjoy this trek.

Portsmouth Coastal Circular

Rating: 2 muddy boots
Length: 14 miles
Nearest stations: You can easily pick up this route from Cosham, Hilsea, Fratton, Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour stations

A mix of urban and coastal walking around the UK’s only island city, you can experience (literally) every side of Portsmouth on this lively walk. From the bustle of Gunwharf Quays, the flurry of activity that is the naval base, and the gigantic ferries taking travellers and goods to Spain and France on the western side of Portsmouth to the peaceful Milton Common looking out onto Mulberry Lake, it’s a perfect opportunity to explore the city’s unique place on the British coastline.

Spend a weekend here to make the most of a visit to this spectacular city.

Southsea Beach
Southsea Beach

Brownsea Island

Rating: 1 muddy boot
Length: up to 3 miles
Nearest stations: Poole (via ferry to Brownsea Island)

Brownsea Island almost feels like going abroad – inaccessible except by boat, it feels like a proper journey, particularly when you arrive on the island and can look back at the mainland. Remarkable for its prolific population of native red squirrels (one of the last remaining locations without the competing grey squirrel) and lack of development, it’s now a National Trust site welcoming thousands of visitors every year.

Brownsea Island
Brownsea Island

Add in a cruise to Old Harry and Swanage Bay (giving you a chance to spot one of the local dolphin populations) to make the most of a day in Poole.

So whether you’re sold by the idea of the bracing sea air, the chance to spot some of the local wildlife or just a chance to enjoy the wide open spaces, it’s easy to plan your next day out. Sign up for our cheap ticket alerts to get the best deals.