Walking in Swanage Trails and inspiration

Are you planning a coastal break in a location that has great walks?

Swanage on the South Coast of England is the place to visit, all year around.

Swanage is situated with in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there are 95 rights of way, totalling 33.7 miles in length. The coast path along the Swanage coastline from St Aldhelm’s Head to Old Harry Rocks stretches for 11 miles and the cliffs the path spans are part of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For keen hikers there are trails that link with other villages, and enable you to walk sections of the 630-mile South West Coast Path and 95-mile Jurassic Coast. Plan your route to link up with the award-winning Purbeck Breezer or Jurassic Coaster bus routes and Swanage Railway with their vintage steam and diesel engines.

Whatever your personal ability, you will find trails to excite you, many with constant views of the sea. There are plenty of gentle walks and sightseeing trails, just a stroll on the restored Victorian Swanage Pier is a pleasure.

You’ll be within striking distance from show-stopping sights including, the iconic Corfe Castle, Old Harry Rocks (which recently featured on David Attenborough's Wild Isles series), 145-million-year-old dinosaur footprints along the Priests Way walking trail, and Durlston Country Park and Nature Reserve.

Other big-name coastal attractions are within easy travel distance – Durdle Door, Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island.

Step back in time – Hikes with history

The Purbeck Way walk links Swanage with Corfe Castle and its historic village, either via St Aldhelm’s chapel (13 miles) or via Ballard down (9 miles). Both routes can be planned to link with either the bus or train for a return ride back to Swanage.

Join a 90 minute guided walk (no booking required) with local historian from Easter to the end of September on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 2pm from Swanage Museum.

Uncover the history of Swanage with an enjoyable stroll, stopping off to enjoy the Victorian architecture, discover the war time history and the connections to London and quarrying.

A self-guided walking route with illustrated map and timeline exploring the Victorian history of the town is also available from Durlston Visitor Centre. Take a history tour of Swanage and hear about the history with a guided stroll along the pier.

Guided walks

Let our expert leaders guide you, the WALX Festival takes place every September, provides approx. 30 guided walks across Dorset, a choice of great guided walks taking place in Swanage.  If you are not planning to Visit during September, their guides can also provide bespoke guided walks all-year-around, helping you discover all the best views, information and friendly company along the way.   The Best Way to Explore Dorset on Foot - Go with a Guide (visit-dorset.com).

Jurassic Jaunts walking guides also offer half or whole day walking tours for groups of up to 20 people to discover the highlights of Swanage.

Discover the Jurassic Coast, walk to Old Harry Rocks or walk the cliff top trails gazing down at the hidden coves. Learn about local history including world war II, the wildlife and local folk law along the way, or they can create the best route for your interest.

History, family and nature guided walks take place at both Durlston Country Park and on Swanage Pier.  Join a Park to Pier ranger guided walk which occur monthly at weekends. 

Walking events

An all-year-round programme of guided walks and talks is run from Durlston Country Park, from castle tours to spring walks to see the flowers and wildlife of the nature reserve.  Also look out for the Swanage Pier guided history talks and the summer Town History Guided Walk leaving from Swanage Museum. Groups bookings can also be taken for these events.

For keen hikers there are walking challenge events including the Purbeck Plod is a 25 mile, 16 mile or 12 mile which starts and finishes in Swanage. The Jurassic Coast Ultra Challenge Charity event (walk, run or jog) has with three different distance lengths. The Big Hike Jurassic Coast Challenge is a charity hike with full or half marathon distances. The WALX Festival in September is 7 days of guided walks in Swanage and across the Isle of Purbeck.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of trailblazing by the South West Coast Path Association they have organised an epic relay walk to celebrate this milestone covering the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path, The relay will include Swanage and Studland on the 27th May 2023 see their website for full details and to book a place.

Find out more about events in Swanage.

South West Coast Path challenge

A new scheme has been launched to recognise the personal challenge of the completing this famous national trail.  The South West Coast Path Passport is booklet which can be stamped at official points all along the trail to help you record your achievement (and takes inspiration from other famous trails like The Camino de Santiago in Spain).

Swanage Information Centre is the first (or last!) point on the SW coast path to gain your official stamp.

SWCP Passport - South West Coast Path.

Next stamping point on- route is The Etches Collection – a museum of marine life fossils in Kimmeridge and the Lulworth Visitor Centre.

The South West Coast path website features a distance calculator which shows the gradients of routes along the coast path.

Making trails more accessible

Durlston Country Park have tried to find ways to make the enjoyment of their trails more accessible for all, including information about the length and difficulty of their trails and by providing a range of aids to help you explore.

Audio tours.

British sign language tours.

Tramper mobility scooter hire .

Explore Dorset's History - Swanage Route 5 is a 90 minute (1.2 mile walk) exploring the rich history town, gardens and seafront. Read more and download the leaflet with historic photos.

Planning your hike

  • Download the OS map OL15 or purchase from Swanage Information Centre, to accurately plan your routes.
  • Choose one of our suggested easy-to-follow and free to download mapped routes for self-guided walks.
  • Join a guided walk or book a guide for your tour.
  • Choose from a great range of leaflets and maps of suggested routes at Swanage Information Centre, Swanage Museum or Durlston Country Park.

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Walking trailsSwanage

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Starting at either Wareham Quay or Swanage the Purbeck Way can be walked in sections passing Corfe Castle via the Purbeck Ridge and connects with the Jurassic Coast, bus routes and Swanage Railway. Total length 26 miles (42km).

The Smugglers Ways walk is a 3 mile (5km) circular trail near Swanage. It starts at Worth Matravers then travels to Winspit Quarry and along the South West Coast Path to Seacombe.

The historic Priests' Way is a 3 mile (5km) walking route connecting Swanage, Langton Matravers and Worth Matravers.

Discover the Victorian history of Durlston and Swanage on this 3 mile (5km) Trail. Walk from Durlston Castle to Swanage Railway Station, or from the station to the castle.

Reasons to choose Swanageas your base


Holiday parks, cosy cottages and apartments by the sea, we have it all.

Festivals & events

Swanage is a popular festival destination with an exciting calendar of events throughout the year.

Eating out

What's our speciality? Seafood, ales or cider, scrumptious ice cream and chocolate.

Autumn adventures in Swanage

When the carefree days of summer come to an end, the beauty and entertainment continues all year around in Swanage.

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What does your Dorset look like? Adventures on our epic coastline? Visiting attractions with family? A walk through the beautiful countryside? Or perhaps a chilled out evening eating and drinking with friends? Discover a sample of your #VisitDorset images below and share your love for Dorset using the hashtag on Instagram.