Scattered with ancient royal hunting forests and edged by glittering coastline, Dorset is a trove of picturesque hiking trails. A stroll through centuries-old bucolic cottages, through tranquil woodlands or along the top of soaring cliffs makes for an invigorating outing during the cooler months. Guests staying at The Acorn Inn can easily enjoy the county’s best hiking routes, before returning to a toasty aperitif by the fire. Here are Dorset’s top winter walks, all within an hour’s drive of the hotel.
For hiking the chalk cliffs: Studland village to Old Harry
Take in the deep blue sea spilling out around Dorset’s most impressive natural attraction, Old Harry. This scenic route navigates a famed corner of Dorset, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 185 million years of natural history. Pass dazzling chalk white cliffs and headlands banded with flint from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods before returning for a warming refreshment in the charming village of Studland.
Distance: 6.2 km
For quiet contemplation: Gore Hill and Up Cerne
The only sound to accompany this beautiful nature walk is birdsong punctuated by the cheery cackle of pheasants. Enjoy a tranquil, moderately challenging route through Hilfield Hill Nature Reserve, skirting Gore Hill and dipping into the sleepy 17th-century hamlet of Up Cerne along the way. Efforts are rewarded with panoramas of Blackmore Vale’s rolling pastures and a refreshment in cosy surrounds at the 16th-century Royal Oak pub in Cerne Abbas.
Distance: 6.75 km
For history buffs: Corfe Common History Walk
Farming furrows from the Middle Ages, creaking kissing gates and the might of Corfe Castle are all features on the Corfe Common History Walk. Start and finish beside the ruins of the tumble-down castle; a truly dramatic sight to encounter in winter against clear blue or clouded lilac skies.
For fossil hunting: Lulworth Cove & The Fossil Forest
Dig deep into Dorset’s past and discover the Fossil Forest. This fascinating sea-cliff ledge is imprinted with the petrified swirls of an ancient cypress forest. The pretty shingle beach below, where this walk starts, is a great spot to let dogs off the lead while children hunt for shark’s teeth and fossils on the shore.
Distance: 3.6 km
For sea views: Durlston Country Park's Woodland Trail
A hilltop Victorian estate, teeming with wildlife and towering above the sea, Durlston Country Park is a spectacular landscape for a walk, whatever the season. Look out for Shakespearean quotes and biblical inscriptions on plaques marking the way. Just remember to look up now and again to admire the breath-taking views along this pleasant coastal route.
Distance: 1.7 km
For hill climbers: Martinstown
There are 118 tumuli – grassy, domed mounds that have, over time, risen above historic burial chambers – located in Martinstown. The most pronounced of these, known as the Bronkham Hill Group, are heaped atop a cemetery that was established around 1,000 BC. Scale undulating chalk valleys and ancient downs on this eerie walk.
Distance: 8.75 km
Enjoy Dorset’s scenic winter walks when staying at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Acorn Inn.
Image credits: lead image © iStock/urbancow. Dorset coastline © iStock/antonyspencer. Corfe Castle © iStock/Matt_Gibson. Durdle Door © iStock/Matt_Gibson.