A short circular walk to Golden Cap, Dorset

by Jan

In this post we share our guide to the short circular walk to Golden Cap, Dorset.  This popular  hike goes from Langdon Hill to Golden Cap viewpoint, the highest spot on the south coast of England.

This is a fantastic walk if you’re looking for some of the most amazing views over the Jurassic Coast.  We did it with the family during our recent stay in Dorset.  Golden Cap is one of of the must-see places on the Jurassic Coast as its lofty position provides such an incredible look out.

Our Golden Cap walk is well-marked and easy to follow, with stunning scenery along the way.  It will take you along the coastline, though some pretty woods and to an important historic site.

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  • Distance: 7 km (4.5 miles)
  • Time:  1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate (some steep hills, uneven terrain, stiles)
  • Facilities:  None
  • Parking:  Langdon Hill Car Park

What is Golden Cap?

Golden Cap, Jurassic Coast, Dorset, UK

At 191 metres (627 feet) above sea level, Golden Cap is the highest point on the South West Coast.  It is a fantastic viewpoint and on a sunny day you can see for miles over the Jurassic Coast.  The Jurassic Coast is a 95-mile long stretch of coastline in Dorset and Devon.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised for its unique landscape and geology.

Golden Cap is one of five Bronze Age burial mounds dating back 4,000 years.  Many excavations have been carried out in the area.  From a distance it looks a golden colour, thanks to the minerals in the rock.  This is where it got its name.

Start: Langdon Hill NT car park

Signpost to Golden Cap, Dorset, UK

Our Golden Cap walk starts at the Langdon Hill National Trust car park in Morecombelake.  The car park is just off the A35 between Bridport and Charmouth.  It’s fairly easy to find using the postcode DT6  6EP.

Parking is free for National Trust members, or you can pay by the hour.  There’s a machine at the top end of the car park, or you can ring.  You will need about 2 hours parking for the circular walk to Golden Cap, which currently costs £2.

Langdon, its name meaning “long down”, is a peaceful wooded hilltop just inland from Golden Cap.  The car park is halfway up Langdon Hill, which makes the walk shorter and easier.

You’ll see a map by the pay machine, so you can take a photo of the different routes.

Step 1 - Langdon Hill car park to Golden Cap

Langdon Hill car park to Golden Cap, Dorset, UK

At the top (southwestern end) of the car park, go through the gate, then follow the signpost for Golden Cap viewpoint.  The main path leads around the side of Langdon Hill.

The route is initially fairly flat, with trees either side.  As you continue along the path, you’ll find several gaps in the trees, where you can stop and admire the views.

Steps leading to the Golden Cap, Dorset, UK

At the end of the path, walk up the grassy field to the base of Golden Cap.  From here a steep set of steps will lead to the summit.

It’s a steep, but short climb.  At the very top of Golden Cap, you’ll find a trig point.

Views from Golden Cap, Dorset, UK

Once you reach the top, take a well-deserved rest and enjoy the dramatic coastal views.  In one direction you can look out over the English Channel towards Seatown and West Bay.

To the west, you can see Charmouth and Lyme Regis.  If you look inland, you can see for miles over the rolling Dorset countryside.

Don’t go too close to the edge.  The cliffs are eroding and it could be very dangerous.

Memorial to the Earl of Antrim, Dorset, UK

You’ll also see the memorial to the Earl of Antrim.  As Chairman of the National Trust, he led a campaign to protect unspoiled coastline from developers.

A short linear walk to Golden Cap

If you don’t have much time, you could do a very, easy short out-and-back walk to Golden Cap.  When you get to the top, just retrace your steps and return on the same path back to the car park.  This linear Golden Cap walk takes about an hour.

However, we were keen to explore more and do the Golden Cap circular walk.

Step 2 - Golden Cap to St Gabriel's Chapel

From the top of Golden Cap viewpoint turn right and follow the steps down the other side. You’ll see a stone marker showing the direction.

At the sign post you’ll leave the South West Coast Path and go down the hill towards St Gabriel’s Chapel.  You’ll be able to see the chapel from the signpost, so just head towards it.

If you want to extend our walk, you could continue here on the South West Coast Path to Stonebarrow Hill and Charmouth.

The South West Coast Path is a long-distance trail that follows the coast for 630 miles from Somerset to Poole in Dorset.

St Gabriel's Chapel

St Gabriel’s Chapel is all that remains of the medieval hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel, which lay on western slope of Golden Cap.  It was abandoned several centuries ago when the inhabitants moved to work in the new mills in nearby Bridport.

St Gabriel's Chapel, Dorset, UK

Folklore purports that the chapel was built after two newlyweds came ashore here in a storm.  The husband prayed to St Gabriel, promising he’d build a chapel if the couple were saved.  Unfortunately, his wife died in his arms, but he kept his promise and still built the chapel.

Later a new chapel was built further inland, but the original was used by smugglers for hiding contraband.

Today, just the ruins of St Gabriel’s Chapel remain, though occasionally services are still held there.

Step 3 - St Gabriel's Church to Langdon Woods

St Gabriel's Woods, Dorset, UK

From the church ruins, continue to the bottom of the hill, with the house in front of you.  Turn right  and then turn immediately right at the signpost. Go through a large gate and follow the path along the edge of St Gabriel’s Wood.

This is a beautiful stretch of the walk, which takes you through wild woodland.  A small stream flows either side of the path and bluebells and wild garlic carpeted the woodland floor.  I would love to have come back a few weeks later, when it was all in bloom.

Nevertheless, at the start of April, it was still extremely pretty.  It was also muddy on this section of the walk, so I’d recommend a good pair of walking boots.

As you leave the woods, pass through a gate, and enter an open field.  This final ascent up Langdon Hill is a tough climb, but only short.  If you need to catch your breath, look up to the right, as you can get some of the best views of the Golden Cap from here.

Step 4 - Return to car park

At the top of the field turn left and follow the gravel path back to the car park.

Other walks along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset

Group of White rocks in sea, Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, UK

We found plenty of other amazing walks along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.  You could take a short walk from Studland Bay to Old Harry Rocks or head inland to do the Cerne Abbas Giant walk.

Another of the best walks on the Jurassic Coast is the linear walk from the iconic Durdle Door to Lulworth Cove.  You’ll also find several good nature trails at RSPB Arne.

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