Ringstead Bay, White Nothe, and the Smuggler's Path Walking

Perhaps one of the lesser known stretches of Dorset's famous Jurassic Coast, the chalk headland of White Nothe may lack the out-and-out spectacle of nearby attractions such as Durdle Door, but it's also far less mobbed. This scenic coastal and clifftop walk includes an optional leg on a 'Smuggler's Path', a precipitous trail with an exploratory feel, which is best left to sure-footed walkers with a head for heights. If you've read the children's adventure story Moonfleet then this may ring a bell.

Ringstead Bay and the Undercliff from the Whitenothe cliffs  © Dan Bailey -
Ringstead Bay and the Undercliff from the Whitenothe cliffs
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Detailed description

SY7236782814 From the main road in the village of Osmington take Shortlake Drive south, past houses and then through fields towards the PGL adventure centre. Look out for a footpath on the left, the England Coast Path, heading east up a grassy hill to a headland overlooking the sea. Carry on east past fields used as a campsite in summer, to enter some woods. A boardwalk leads over a boggy section before the path follows field edges downhill to Osmington Mills.

SY7355182038 Head south along the road, go left through the beer garden of the Smuggler's Inn, then rejoin the coastal path for a climb up steps back to the clifftop. The path continues east-southeast, with nice coastal views, soon beginning a gradual descent to a small wooded dell before carrying on east past some houses. Turn left to reach the car park and toilets at Ringstead Bay.

SY7510381442 Following signs for the England Coast Path, go east along a track behind a row of houses, then gradually uphill through fields and woods, some way inland. Beyond Holworth House a steeper ascent brings you up to the clifftop, where a delightful grassy path leads along the edge to the old coastguard cottages at Whitenothe.

SY7725280940 Go south to a WWII lookout post at the top of the cliffs, from where the views both east and west along the Jurassic Coast are spectacular. Look for a little marker stone indicating the top of the Smuggler's Path. If you're not feeling adventurous, or if conditions are wet or windy, then it would be sensible to avoid the following leg and instead go back home the way you came. If you're up for an adventure, then stage 5 is for you:
The surprisingly fun Smuggler's Path on White Nothe    © Dan Bailey -
The surprisingly fun Smuggler's Path on White Nothe
© Dan Bailey -, Aug 2021

SY7724280837 Clearly trodden, but narrow and exposed, the Smuggler's Path makes an unlikely zigzagging descent, following steep grass slopes between bands of chalk cliffs. Once the initial big descent is safely negotiated, the trail continues west along the 'Undercliff', landslip terrain cloaked in a dense and thorny undergrowth. Pass a secluded boulder-tumbled cove (presumably where smugglers once beached their boats), and bushwhack onward to emerge onto Ringstead Beach via a steep wooden staircase.

SY7658681095 The quiet eastern end of the bay is a nudist beach, while the busier western end looks to have safer swimming. Follow the shingle to the main access point, and make your way to the beach car park. Retrace your steps back along the route to Osmington Mills. From here you can either take an inland route on an obvious track, for variety, or carry on reversing the England Coast Path to the PGL centre.

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