Walk to Stair Hole
From behind the beach at Lulworth you can take a short cliff walk to nearby Stair Hole, which I would highly recommend if you like cliff scenery and are interested in seeing another demonstration of the dramatic geology of the coastline here. At Stair Hole another bay is in the process of being formed. A breach has been made in weak points in the massive Portland Stone, creating caves, arches, stacks and blowholes. Embryonic coves are now forming in the lee of this natural defence. Eventually Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole will form one larger cove.
The eastern cliff at Stair Hole also offers a clear view of the famous “Lulworth Crumple”. Changes in climate 147 million years ago produced layered Purbeck rock strata. These were later heaved up into a complex fold when the Tethys ocean began to close and disappear beneath Europe. You can see this fold really clearly in photo 2.
There is a viewing platform at Stair Hole from where you can get excellent views of this phenomenon and of the churning waters below, but there are no steps to the beach here because of the unstability of the cliffs.
Update August 2008: many thanks to VT member kokoryko for helping to make my explanation about this folded rock more scientifically accurate
On the beach
It goes without saying that in a place named Lulworth Cove the beach is one of the main attractions.
Lulworth Cove was formed approximately 10,000 years ago by the awesome powers of a river and the sea. The soft Purbeck, Wealden, Greensand and Chalk rocks eroded, and are still eroding. behind the narrow Portland Stone entrance (for more on this see my general geology tip).
This is a pebble beach, and because of the natural protection offered by its two headlands, is very sheltered. Although plenty of people enjoy spending time here, especially on a sunny day such as we were lucky to have, it isn’t a typical seaside resort with lots of attractions and facilities, and a wide sweep of sand. Instead the appeal is in the beauty of the landscape and the attractive, almost circular shape of the bay.
However, there is plenty to do on the beach. Take a walk from one headland to the other, admiring the dramatically tilted rock strata. Explore the rock pools, looking for crabs, shrimp and other small creatures. Paddle or swim in the sea. Go for a boat trip from the slip-way, or hire kayaks from the shop in the village and venture along the coast to Stair Hole and other bays.
There is a café on the beach serving ice creams, light meals and refreshments and there are toilet facilities nearby.
Explore Lulworth Cove village
The main attraction here are naturally the beach and the cliff walks, but don’t neglect the village totally. In addition to the Doll’s House which I’ve described in a separate tip, there are a number of pretty cottages along the main street to distract all you photographers, a classic English duck pond (which bizarrely I don’t seem to have photographed), plenty of places to eat and drink, several gift shops and the very informative Heritage Centre near the car park. Here you can see exhibitions focused mainly on the geology of the area, with displays and videos that demonstrate the awesome power of the sea to carve out this dramatic coastline. The building also houses the visitor information centre for Lulworth Cove, and the staff there are very helpful. It is open free, every day of the year from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm in summer and 10.00 am to 4.00 pm in winter.
Please note that West Lulworth is a slightly separate village from the one at the Cove, and as we didn’t stop there I’m not describing it in these pages, despite having placed them under that heading (due to the vagaries of VT not listing the Cove separately!)
The Dolls’ House
As you stroll down the main street in Lulworth Cove, look to your right to see this tiny house. Once home to a local fishing family, it now sells sweets and ice cream, but you can step inside to see what life was like in Lulworth years ago. One room is still set out as the Victorian kitchen of the cottage, and display boards describe life in the house, focusing particularly on what life would have been like for the mother of the family.
The house is said to have been brought to Lulworth from Canada and rebuilt here in 1860. Whether you look at it from inside or out, it is hard to imagine that 11 children were once raised in this tiny house.
During the 1920s and 30s it was known as Ash Cottage. Jimmy Carter is said to have lived here at this time, a fisherman who was reputed to smear his boat with dripping to stop tourists sitting on it!
- Historical Travel
The Fossil Forest
Unfortunately we were at Lulworth Cove on a Thursday, as army firing practice prevents access to certain parts other than at weekends. This meant we were unable to visit the “Fossil Forest”, although I remember seeing it many years ago when holidaying in this area as a child. Nevertheless I’m including a tip about it as it really is worth seeing if you are able to.
The “Fossil Forest” is an amazing example of fossils left behind by trees millions of years ago. These were late Jurassic or early Cretaceous coniferous trees of a cypress or juniper type. Most of the fossils are in fact “tufa”: fossilised rings of algae that gathered around tree trunks as the forest flooded nearly 150 million years ago. Much of the wood has been eroded by the weather or taken in the past by fossil hunters, but the huge tufa remain. You can see a photo on the website below, from where I also took most of this information.
Durdle Door was our main reason for coming to Lulworth and we were not disappointed. The famous rock formation is simply one of the best natural sights I have seen in England, and I have seen quite a few. To be ctd.
- Hiking and Walking
This the gateway to the Jurassic Coast (UNESCO SINCE 2001). The sea is naturally corroding the coastline but the multitudes of visitors also are. Wooden staircases etc... have been put in to try to alleviate some of the tourist-wear and tear...
The cove is a perfect shape with a narrow opening. The best thing to do here is to look for fossils.
- National/State Park
cream teas and tat!
On the walk down to the cove there are plenty of little shops selling cream teas, ince-creams and assorted things... it's a pretty little walk down... and you SHOULD have a cream tea which is a pot of tea and sonces with clotted cream and jam. This is THE taste of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and no trip here could be complete without!
I don;t like tips without a photo... and I didn't think you would want to see a photo of my children with cream smeared all over their faces... so I have left a picture of the boat we sat by!
- Food and Dining
The cove itself is yet another major sight here and we walked to it from Durdle Door (see tip) and got a great overview of its horseshoe shape. To be ctd.
- Sailing and Boating
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
up, up and to Durdle!
Whichever you slice or dice it, it is a steep, old climb to get up to the top...
The views are spectacular.
- Hiking and Walking