One of the most iconic landforms on the South Coast – Old Harry Rocks – is just a stone’s throw from Swanage and an important feature of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

There are various walking routes from both Swanage and Studland, each offering breathtaking views of this unique rock formation.

Wildflowers at Old Harry Rocks Kayakers at Old Harry Rocks Old Harry Rocks National Trust sign Chalk stacks The Pinnacles in Studland Wildflowers and people on Old Harry Rocks Old Harry Rocks sea view

The white chalk ‘stacks’ that make up Old Harry rise from the sea between Swanage Bay and Studland Bay at Handfast Point and were once part of a chalk ridge that connected to The Needles on the Isle of Wight. 

On a clear day you can stand up on the cliff and see across to The Needles – and back in time when 65 million years ago these incredible landforms were created.

The Pinnacles at Old Harry Rocks

You can also see the equally dramatic Pinnacle stacks from up here

Legends in the landscape – who was Old Harry?

If you’ve been to see the Agglestone, you’ll be familiar with the local legend associated with the devil – and Old Harry

Rocks has its own. ‘Old Harry’ is in fact an old name for the devil himself and one story claims that he used the rocks as a place to sit and have a snooze.

Blow hole at Old Harry Rocks

Sunset behind tallship

Another fable tells of a shipwrecked Viking who, during a fierce storm, was cast into the sea and turned into a pillar of chalk.

Or perhaps it’s named after someone a little more local – a pirate from nearby Poole named Harry Paye. It’s said he used the
rocks to conceal his ship before catching passing merchants to plunder their vessels for gold and treasure.

How to get to Old Harry Rocks

However you get there, once you’re up on the cliff and looking down onto Old Harry Rocks, and across healthand, over sandy bays and out to sea, these are some of the finest views you will find on the South Coast.

Coast path sign at Old Harry Rocks

  • From South Beach car park – There is a waymarked route as you head past the Bankes Arms pub and follow the
    signs up on to the coastal path and back along Ballard Down. This circular walk takes around an hour
  • From Shell Bay – If you want more of a challenge, or are perhaps coming as a foot passenger across the Sandbanks Ferry from Poole or Bournemouth, you can walk the entire stretch of the Studland Bay coastline to include Old Harry Rocks. Factor in around four or five hours. (Note that this walk does encompass Studland’s Naturist Beach.)
  • To include the Agglestone – Better the devil you know? Why not do the ‘double legend’ and visit both Old Harry and the Agglestone in this circular walk. Parking at Knoll Beach would be a good starting point.

Top tip

  • Keep away from the cliff edge at all times – children should be supervised and dogs kept on a long lead