Circular Walk in Dorset Thorncombe Beacon to West Bay

Finding new places to walk has been something most of us can relate to this year. From footpaths right on our doorstep that we’d not explored, to longer routes we’ve had time to plan.  One that had been on my list for some time to try is a circular walk in Dorset around Thorncombe Beacon near West Bay.

Perched on the edge of the South West Coast Path, Thorncombe Beacon makes a superb viewing point. For this very reason it was chosen as the site of one of the chain of beacons built along the South coast in the sixteenth century. These were lit as an early warning system to alert Queen Elizabeth of the arrival of the invading Spanish Armada 1588. Can you imagine explaining to a soldier in 1588 how now we’d use a mobile phone call someone or could watch the sea from space using satellites.

View of Thorncombe Beacon circular walk in Dorset

On a clear day there are fabulous views along the beaches from West Bay stretching all the way towards Portland. To the West you can see Lyme Bay, Golden Cap and inland to Langdon Woods and the patchwork of fields beyond Chideock. If you enjoy coast path walks then take a look at these other wonderful coast path walks in East Devon.

Circular Walk in Dorset along the South West Coast Path

It is possible to choose a few different circular options for reaching Thorncombe Beacon depending on how far you prefer to walk.

Short Walk to Thorncombe Beacon (1½ miles)

The shortest way to reach the beacon is to park near the seafront at Eype Mouth where there is a small private car park (DT6 6AL). From here head West on the coast path (right if you are looking out to sea). The beacon is 1km along the coast path. You can lengthen the walk to 3.5km (just over 2 miles) in total, by looping back inland via Down House Farm which has a café popular when open in the summer months.  This walk may be short bit there is a long steady hill to climb.


Flatest Route to Thorncombe Beacon

Although not completely flat you can avoid the step walk up to the Beacon from West Bay. My suggestion for parking is to use the truck stop car park  / café area just off the A35 on the Bridport bypass (signed for Eype) which is free.

Directions from the free car park

Bridport Rest Area, postcode DT6 6AA

Head out of the car park bearing left, slightly up the hill on the road. After 100 metres turn right on the lane towards Higher Eype,  this is a quiet country road.  Keep on this lane for about ½ mile going past some houses. After a road turning on the left go on straight for another 200 metres and you will see a footpath sign pointing left into the bank of the hedge.

Take this footpath up a few little steps (it may be a bit overgrown) and follow it into along the edge of the woods.   Bare left and there are views across to Bridport before the path goes into the woods.  In the spring these woods called Eype Down are a fabulous place for bluebells.

Circular Walk in Dorset Thorncombe Beacon Footpath  Beacon

The path brings you out at Down House Farm and from here there are a couple of routes to the Beacon with footpath signs pointing towards the South West Coast Path (don’t start heading down hill in front of the farm or you will miss the Beacon!) There is a seasonal café at Down House Farm but parking is limited for customers only.  

Sign post to Down House Farm Eype

Views from Thorncombe Beacon

Enjoy the views across to West Bay, Bruton Bradstock and beyond.  To keep the walk short from here you can head back inland.  Maybe choose a different route back though Eype Down Woods or stop and enjoy a break at the café.

Longer Circular Walks around West Bay

To extend the walk making it about 5 miles in total, from Thorncombe Beacon we went to West Bay. The walk down from the Beacon is a beautiful but steep grassy slope, the sort you feel you want to be brave enough just to run down like a fearless child. The path drops down to sea level at the beach at Lower Eype. From here it’s about 1km to West Bay, either along the beach or over the coast path on the cliff.

Return Route Option

After refreshments in West Bay you can return via Lower Eype by heading back up the road through the village to the carpark.

view from Eype Mouth to Thorncombe Beacon

Alternatively, there is a more direct but slightly less scenic route which heads up though a housing estate on the edge of West Bay (see the map below).

At the end of the Esplanade where the coast path leaves the town, there is a private road with a dead end sign called West Cliff Estate. Don’t worry this is an official footpath route. Walk up West Cliff Road and then turn off left onto Brit View Road. At the end of this dead end road there is a footpath that goes back up the hill. About 200 metres up the footpath it forks. Left takes you to Highlands End Holiday Park (also an option for refreshments) but for the carpark you want to go right.  Keep going on the footpath.

Finding a Bench Mark

Just before the footpath becomes a lane I spotted an old post with a bench mark.  This could be a whole new topic! According to Wikapedia this is  “the chiseled horizontal marks that surveyors made in stone structures, into which an angle-iron could be placed to form a “bench” for a levelling rod, thus ensuring that a levelling rod could be accurately repositioned in the same place in the future.

These marks were usually indicated with a chiselled arrow below the horizontal line”. Bench Marks were made by the Ordnance Survey as fixed points which were used to calculate a height above the mean sea level. Some date back to 1831. I’ll leave you to learn more if you’re interested.

Eype bench mark

After the bench mark post you are now on a lane,  head past a tall phone mast until you reach the road to Eype. Turn right and after a few hundred metres to you will come back the car park.

Being circular also means you can start or finish in a choice of location. If you don’t mind the paying car parks and want to end your walk with a cafe or proper lunch then West Bay has plenty of parking options.

Most footpaths are well marked and this area is popular with local walkers so you will be sure to find someone to ask for help if needed.

There are other variations of this walk and more ideas on the South West Coast Path website.


Thorncombe Beacon walks - pin for later

If you use the OS Maps online or the app here was our route which was the longest option. It was 7.2km and took 2 hours.  Route Eype Down to West Bay Even if you are not a confident map reader I can really recommend the OS app (the link here is an affiliate link).

Have great fun walking and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the routes.

Eype Down to West Bay Map

Finally,  thank you to my lovely walking companion Jane,  who on this walk told me all about the book she has written called Happy Anyway which you can buy on Amazon. It’s a book designed for young people (but useful for all ages) about understanding how the mind works and mental health.