Whilst Dorset is bursting with charm and distinctive beauty throughout the year, the arrival of autumn brings a special magic all of its own. As nature’s colour palette changes, the landscape transforms into a wonderful kaleidoscope of warm yellows, burnt oranges and vibrant reds. This is one of the best times of the year to take to the coastal path, explore ancient woodlands, roam along the ridgeways and visit historic gardens throughout our magnificent county.
Wherever you are in Dorset, you can be sure that an enjoyable walk is never too far away. We have picked some of our favourite autumnal walks in Dorset that will invigorate and refresh the whole family, whether they have two legs or four!
Distance: 9.5 miles
Dog-friendly? Dogs welcome under close control
Starting at the iconic ruins of Corfe Castle and taking in the ancient and impressive chalk formations of Old Harry Rocks, before following the coast path around to Swanage, this is a truly scenic route which is bound to delight all holidaymakers. Take a moment to drink in the spectacular autumnal views over Poole Harbour and Swanage, across the sea towards the Isle of Wight. There is even an opportunity to climb aboard the historic Swanage Railway or take the number 40 bus to return to Corfe Castle at the end of an invigorating walk. With such an impressive landscape to explore, walkers will certainly be rewarded at every turn.
Distance: 1 mile
Dog-friendly? No dogs
After taking one of the regular boats across to the Island from either Poole Quay or Sandbanks, walking on the National Trust’s Brownsea Island is like stepping into another world with its abundant and diverse wildlife and rich history. This easy one-mile walk is an enjoyable gentle amble that will reveal stunning views to the Purbeck Hills beyond and peaceful spots to gaze across Poole Harbour. Walkers can seek out the red squirrels as they busily scamper across the carpet of autumn leaves, search for wildlife in the lily ponds, discover hidden ruins or forage for chestnuts.
Distance: 2 miles
Dog-friendly? On-lead only
Iron age Maiden Castle, with its 4000 year history, never fails to impress with its size and majesty, and regardless of the weather always offers an enjoyable and unique experience. One of a selection of hill forts, it’s ideal for walking, running, dog walking, kite flying or just admiring the panoramic views with a picnic. During autumn, the route is often quiet and peaceful, with crisp breezes and beautiful scenery combining to create a truly refreshing day out.
Hardy’s Cottage Discovery Trail
Distance: 7 miles
Dog-friendly? Dogs welcome in woodland, but not in Hardy's Cottage or garden.
Nestled in beautiful Thorncombe Woods, walk in the footsteps of the great English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, feeling the fallen leaves crunch beneath your feet as you explore the wonderful landscapes that inspired his work. Visit Stinsford Church, the resting place of Hardy’s heart (his body was interred at Westminster Abbey) and of his two wives, before continuing on to Hardy’s Cottage itself. The pretty cottage is open to the public every day from March until the end of October and from Thursday to Sunday during November and December.
Distance: 1 mile
This woodland trail is perfect for animal and nature lovers. Pack your binoculars and stop by the bird hide which overlooks Little Sea, a freshwater lake. Autumn is a fantastic time of year to lose yourselves amongst the trees, as the forest becomes alive with all manner of wildlife, as well as conkers, wild blackberries and much more. Keep a close eye on the floor for all kinds of reptiles and insects and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot the resident deer among the trees. This easy and short route is ideal for children, while the peninsula of Studland offers ample opportunities for exploring the amazing coast and countryside.
Distance: 3.8 miles
This impressive and historic house was built in the style of a Venetian Palace, and is set amongst a lovely 8,500-acre estate. The colourful walking route takes you and around the parkland, before following the spectacular Beech Avenue back to the start. This iconic mile-long stretch, first planted in 1835 by William John Barnes, is particularly special in the autumn, when the leaves turn beautiful shades of red, orange and gold. It’s not difficult to see why this road in Dorset is so popular among photographers.
Distance: 7 miles
This route offers a chance to experience the unique appeal of West Dorset’s beautiful undulating landscape. Wrapped around the River Brit, here you’ll discover wide rural views, lush green valleys and secret pathways – all made spectacular with the colours and textures of this amazing season. The walk begins in the centre of Netherbury village which was once an important centre of the flax-growing industry. From here walkers will explore the breathtaking Brit Valley Way, an 11-mile route that follows one of Dorset’s prettiest rivers from its source above Beaminster down to West Bay.
Distance: 4.3 miles
This walk follows a dynamic path between Eype to Seatown, featuring a lot of up- and downward stretches before taking you back to the start using the area’s many inland paths. Thorncombe Beacon is a hill owned by the National Trust, and was once part of a series of sites used to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It offers fantastic coastal views along Chesil Beach to the Isle of Portland in the distance. Meanwhile, Eypemouth beach is a great spot to dig up some fossils, and the pub at Seatown once hosted the infamous Chideock Gang, a group of 19th-Century smugglers.
Distance: 2.3 miles
Just south of historic Shaftesbury, Melbury Down was the setting of Thomas Hardy’s Blackmore Vale novels, and were purchased by the National Trust in order to protect this inspirational region. With spectacular landscapes, varied wildlife and much more to discover, this walk is fantastic for taking in the splendour of autumn in the Dorset countryside.
South Dorset Ridgeway
Distance: 17.7 miles
Despite being a fair distance from the sea, the South Dorset Ridgeway is the original part of the South West Coast Path National Trail. This is, in no small part, due to the amazing views of the Jurassic Coast. The route also gives walkers a glimpse into Dorset’s extensive past, From stone circles to ancient hill forts, you’ll take in millennia of history on your way. Make sure to stop and take in the iconic view over Fleet Lagoon, Britain’s largest tidal lagoon, and Dorset’s famous White Horse.
Walking in Dorset is a great way to spend a weekend or to enjoy a longer break. Whether you’re enjoying the many striking coastal paths or the peaceful country routes, you will never tire of the amazing autumnal scenery this part of the country has to offer. Take a look at our full selection of Dorset properties for walkers and start planning your perfect walking holiday in Dorset today.