This delightful walk leads to Swyre Head with its amazing views of the Jurassic Coast before turning inland to explore Orchard Hill high downs, sheep pastures and associated farms, overlooking Corfe Stream Valley and the chalk ridges on the other side.

Kingston is a small village with an enormous cathedral-like parish church which, built as a private chapel by the third Earl Eldon between 1874 and 1880, displaced the original Norman church. Many of the old stone cottages were replaced in the 1770s by William Morton Pitt, cousin of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, who sold the estate and property to the first Lord Eldon in 1807. The first Encombe House, which we overlook enroute to Swyre Head, was built in the 17th century by Robert Culliford, afterwards being remodelled and extended by succeeding owners.

The Walk

Great British Life: Along the lane from Houns Tout car park at the start of the walk. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Along the lane from Houns Tout car park at the start of the walk. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

1. From the car park, walk back to West Street and turn left. Walk on, with a left stone wall and private woodland both sides. Past the left stone-pillared ‘Encombe’ entrance, there are now open fields both sides, although fenced. On the right, there are long views to Knowle Hill, Creech Hill and heather-clad Creech Barrow peeping over Ridgeway Hill. In 200 yards, Corfe Castle appears with Poole Harbour beyond Nine Barrow Down. Continue along the lane to left Encombe Estate’s Sheep Pens car park. The lane continues to Orchard Hill, the farm appearing over the right fields, but turn left through the half-gate left of the stone-pillared gateway locally still known as ‘London Doors’.

Great British Life: First sighting of Corfe Castle. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)First sighting of Corfe Castle. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

2. Cross the drive to 1½-gates. Through, follow the grass track up the field, with woodland to your right, to the facing wall’s 1½ gates. Through, follow the wide green path with right stone-walled Polar Wood and left, gorse-clad slopes which shelter Encombe House. Pass the World War II flying accident memorial bench with views back to Encombe House, opening up as you continue, and with distant St Aldhelm’s Head cliff-top appearing above Chapman’s Pool in the east. As Polar Wood ends, continue swinging left to Swyre Head’s Bronze Age barrow, heightened by Lord Eldon and now measuring 10ft high and 83ft diameter. ‘Swyre’ means a neck of land or depression between two hills, and the twin stone slabs on the heightened barrow offer what is arguably the best westerly sea view in Dorset with Smedmore House, Clavell’s Tower above Kimmeridge Bay (the village itself hidden from view) and the ridge from Creech Hill right to Worbarrow Bay left. Broad Bench is beyond Clavell’s Tower leading to Gad Cliff and Worbarrow Tout with Lulworth Cove still further west.

Great British Life: Path to Swyre Head alongside Polar Wood. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Path to Swyre Head alongside Polar Wood. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

3. Back down onto the greensward below the twin stone slab ‘seat’, cross it. Pass the left wall’s footpath-stile which is at the top of a truly exhausting climb starting at the Coast Path and increasing in steepness on the ¾ mile ascent to Swyre Head. Past the O.S. trig point, go through the facing bridleway half-gate into the field. Follow the left wall with those distant views framed by windswept bushes, and now with Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour again right. At the facing fence, go through the left ‘Heaven’s Gate’ half-gate with a milestone and bench on the other side. Turn right for ‘Kingston’. Through the gate, follow the fence-enclosed track with Nine Barrow Down ahead, then Corfe Castle ahead and Church Knowle below left. In 1/3 mile, at a right bend with a right gate and ‘Private Land’ left, go right and, through the nearby gate, leave the track and take the left fence’s footpath-stile. The 1937 O.S. Map 140 shows that this was also once a proper track between farms, and from quarries.

Great British Life: View over Swyre Head, take your time to enjoy this view. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)View over Swyre Head, take your time to enjoy this view. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

4. Over into the field corner, follow the left wall down and through the old track gateway-gap into the next field. Keep straight on past the left wood and meander down around left trees to the bottom left corner fence’s footpath-stile. Over, follow the field’s enclosed footpath (still the old track) to the far stile. Over, meander through the hedge and continue along the enclosed track/path up and over to another un-arrowed stile. Here, the old track forked. This fork and junctions with other tracks dictated the present footpath routes in this field, shown on the 1937 map as Orchard Hill scrubland. So, to keep to designated footpaths, walk half-right down the field to the fence’s footpath-stile, about 80 yards from the far end. Here was originally the crossing of two farm tracks, confirmed by two footpath arrows on the other side pointing into this field’s paths. Don’t go over it! Instead, turn around. With your back to the stile, walk half-left up to the now-left hedge’s farm gate and overgrown footpath-stile.

Great British Life: Kingston's cathedral-like St James' Church. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)Kingston's cathedral-like St James' Church. (Photo: Edward Griffiths)

5. Over, turn right and follow the right hedge, with long views left, up to the corner footpath-stile. All this was once track, too. Over into the sunken tree-sheltered old track/path, walk through and up onto right the field-edge grass track, above the overgrown old track, with recently planted trees. Keep straight on into the next field at an aerial-post and keep straight on with St James’ Church tower appearing ahead. At a left footpath-post, well before the track becomes enclosed at a right stone-wall, go down the bank track and turn right in the long field. Pass another footpath-post and follow the right bank with St James’ flagpole still ahead. On seeing the facing fence, bear slowly left down to the footpath-stile with Nine Barrow Down behind in line. Over, continue the same direction down, over ditches and banks, to a fence footpath-stile onto the track from Blashenwell Farm. Turn right. Through 1½ bridleway-gates, walk up the track with ‘Private Woodlands’ either side. Cross a private track and continue up with right pines, past a row of garages. Emerge at a footpath and bridleway signpost onto West Street opposite St James’ Church. Turn right back to Houns Tout car park where you started - but do visit the church before you go.


Distance: 4¼ miles/6.75 km

Time: 3 hours

Exertion: Not strenuous. Ascents and descents are slow and easy

Start: Encombe Estate’s Houns Tout Car Park, West Street, Kingston (Grid Ref: SY954794)

Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

Public Transport: Morebus Purbeck Breezer 40 between Poole and Swanage

Dogs: On leads in village and where requested. Abide by the Countryside Code.

Refreshments: Scott Arms, Kingston for good food, real ales and views to Corfe Castle, dog friendly.