From Heaven to Hell and back again
The beautiful countryside of West Dorset is criss-crossed by hundreds of tracks and footpaths, almost all of which will reward you with grand views of fields, woods and sea.
This one explores a small area near the villages of Chideock and Symondsbury, and takes in views of the iconic tree-topped cone of Colmer’s Hill (which featured memorably in Julia Bradbury’s “Best Walks with a View”), as well as the hidden world of sandstone holloways which feature centrally in Geoffrey Household’s thriller “Rogue Male”.
Unless the weather has been very dry for days, best walked in wellies or walking boots. Depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop, allow about 1-1 ½ hours. I also recommend that you take a map, as the footpath signs are pretty poorly maintained or absent and it’s possible to miss your way.
Your route map
You can start in several places, but I usually park the car in the layby at the end of Quarr Lane on the A35 (1 on the map). Walking down Quarr Lane, take the second footpath – left up the track (2), which takes you in a loop up onto the grassy top of Quarry Hill, from where you get panoramic views of the sea all the way to Portland along Chesil Bank, Chideock village, Colmer’s Hill and the Marshwood Vale. The hill is the site of an old quarry, so there are lumps and bumps to explore, as well as wind-blasted hawthorn trees and, usually, lots of sheep.
(The actual footpath drops down by the wood, but it’s worth a detour to the second summit to the north for the views, especially of Colmer’s Hill and the Vale.)
Follow the path down the west side of the hill keeping the pine wood on your right (3 – look for the little post), and at the field edge (4), turn right to walk along the fenced track towards North Chideock, admiring the heavenly view as you go, and eventually you will come to Hell Lane – an ancient track or holloway worn into the soft sandstone by many hundreds of years of foot, hoof and cart traffic. Turn sharp right along the lane (5), and enter a world of hushed stillness even on a windy day, sheltered in places by canyon-like walls, carved with names and inscriptions, and overhung by trees with twisting roots gripping the rock. Follow the lane till you come to Quarry Cross (a staggered junction, 6), where you can bear right and go up Quarr Lane back to the car, with fine views of Colmer’s Hill and Bridport beyond (7).
(I wonder if Joe, Kitty, Polly, Lilly, Sunny, Luke, Pippi, Merlin, Jo-Jo, Kez, Flopsy or Manda still walk along here?)
If you want a longer walk, go straight on along Shutes Lane to Symondsbury (at 6), where you can get refreshments in the Manor Yard or at the Ilchester Arms. You’ll have to retrace your steps though, as there’s no easy way to get back to the car without walking up the A35, which is not a pleasant experience!
If you are still feeling energetic after all that, you can cross the main road and walk up onto Eype Down, with great views along the coast past Golden Cap to Lyme.
Less determined walkers can make a shorter walk by taking a right turn after the woodland walk down the hill (just past 4), which comes out at Quarry Cross. The most dramatic part of Hell Lane is just to your left at this point, and worth a small detour. I imagine it was what inspired Geoffrey Household’s tale of his unnamed protagonist’s hideaway, or perhaps the similar secret lengths on the way to Quarry Lane.
Here at Bridport Cottages, we have several lovely properties that will be handy starting points for this walk: the closest to the start of Hell Lane are Hell Lane Annexe and also 5 Barn Conversions at Hell Barn, one of which is Jasmine Cottage. We also have 11 properties in Chideock village not far away. Why not book a short stay and spend some time exploring this beautiful corner of Dorset? Remember that, unlike the major accommodation websites, you don’t pay a premium for bookings, but deal directly with the owners at their own rates.