One of Purbeck’s most famous landmarks sits just under the cliffs near the village of Langton Matravers.
Dancing Ledge is a natural shelf of flat rock jutting out into the sea, which once made it a prime spot for the quarrying of Purbeck stone in the past – as well as an easy target for smugglers. Now, it is popular with walkers, climbers and wildlife enthusiasts.
It has also become known as an unusual wild swimming location due to the tidal pool that was blasted out of the ledge by quarrymen for the use of local school children in the early 1900s.
Some say Dancing Ledge is so named because of the way the water seems to ‘dance’ over the flat rock at certain tides; others say it’s because the area is just the right size for a ballroom.
Note that the walk to the quarry area is accessible via steps, but there is a bit of a scramble down to Dancing Ledge itself, so may not be suitable for young children.
*Swimming in the sea off Dancing Ledge is not advisable. There is no shoreline and the currents can be extremely dangerous*
Walking routes to Dancing Ledge
Spyway – easy
The most family-friendly route to Dancing Ledge is from the Spyway car park in Langton Matravers (for your SatNav: BH19 3HG)
The walk itself is mostly flat, although once you reach Dancing Ledge there is a fairly steep hill to walk down.
The path is signposted and takes you through grazing fields and past Spyway Barn – stop at the National Trust information area where you can learn all about the history of this part of the Jurassic Coast, as well as what wildlife you can expect to see.
A tree with a dark past
Look out for this large sycamore tree as you walk from the car park.
Like many spots in Purbeck, it has an intriguing history attached to it – it’s believed it was once used as a hangman’s tree.
And the name of the area itself – Spyway – comes from this being a path used by smugglers.
Worth Matravers circular walk – moderate
A slightly more challenging walk that starts at the village of Worth Matravers (for your SatvNav: BH19 3LE)
The walk encompasses the South West Coast Path that will take you along the cliff via Seacombe.
From Durlston – more challenging
This circular walk is around six miles and includes a range of stunning coastal scenery. Park at Durlston Country Park (StatNav: BH19 2JL) and follow the coast path toward Anvil Point with its lighthouse.
Dancing Ledge is about two miles along the coast path beyond the park. You can return the way you came, or head toward Priest’s Way to make the walk circular.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore Dancing Ledge in a more exhilarating way, there are various local coasteering companies which can take you out:
Scramble across rocks, jump off cliff and explore caves with outdoor activities organiser Cumulus.
Fully qualified instructors offer morning or afternoon sessions complete with wetsuits and protective gear including buoyancy aids.
Here’s a taste of what to expect:
Cumulus also has dedicated toilet and change facilities.
Participants must be aged 10+.
Other actives with Cumulus include:
- Tag archery – paintball meets archery and dodgeball at Burnbake (near Corfe Castle)
- National Citizen Service (NCS) camping
- Bushcraft skills
- Ropes course
- Abseiling and climbing
- Mountain Biking
- Raft racing
- Urban orienteering
- Stag and hen parties as well as business team days
- Duke of Edinburgh award
Find out more and book: https://www.cumulusoutdoors.com/adventure/coasteering/
Land & Wave
Offering courses for young people (aged 8+), private and group sessions.
Protective equipment and wetsuits are provided. Old trainers, swimwear and a towel is advised.
Land & Wave also offer stag and hen packages, as well as a range of other outdoor activities:
- Paddle boarding and kayaking in Swanage and at Sandbanks
- Survival skills courses at Norden
- Raft building at Swanage Beach
- Duke of Edinburgh award
Book onto a course: https://www.landandwave.co.uk/coasteering-dorset
Dancing Ledge is a popular climbing spot and has over 100 climbs ranging from beginners’ to challenging ‘E6’ climbs.
Note that some climbs at Dancing Ledge are subject to seasonal restrictions:
- Safety precautions must be taken at all times and climbers should be aware that there may occasionally be large waves off Dancing Ledge, which itself may have loose rocks
- Phone signal can be poor here – the nearest public phone in in Langton Matravers. There is an emergency telephone at Durlston Country Park (at the lighthouse) and at St Aldhelm’s head.
The coastal landscape and cliffs around Dancing Ledge are rich with wildlife.
Horseshoe vetch – The pretty bursts of this yellow wildflower are common from May through to July
Early spider-orchid – This rare flowering gem can be found in the fields around Dancing Ledge and Winspit. The best time to to view these unique orchids is April and May
Cowslips – Often a rare sight now, Purbeck is lucky to be rich in areas with cowslips. You’ll spot this special little flower on the walk down to Dancing Ledge in early Spring
Adonis Blue butterfly – Lured by a landscape rich in wildflowers like the horseshoe vetch, the striking Adonis Blue is a common sight
Lulworth Skipper – Named after the nearby Jurassic Coast beauty spot Lulworth Cove, where it was first discovered in 1832 and can only be found here on the Dorset coast, the Lulworth Skipper is the smallest butterfly in the area, but if you look closely amongst the vetch and cowslips adorning the summer fields around Dancing Ledge you’re sure to spot one
Puffins – Very near to Dancing Ledge are puffin ‘burrows’ where these most-loved sea birds return to Purbeck each year. You may be lucky enough to see one, but they are now sadly in decline. Find out more about local initiatives to track and protect their habitats here in Dorset: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/spyway/features/purbeck-puffins
Guillemots – You may also spot guillemots around Dancing Ledge, but perhaps the best place to see these sea birds is at Durlston Country Park – home to the South Coast’s second largest guillemot colony.