Old Harry Rocks

Aerial views of Old Harry Rocks in Dorset on the South West Coast of England

Explore Old Harry Rocks on the Dorset Coast

Stunning Old Harry Rocks is probably the most famous natural landmark on the South Coast of England.

Old Harry lies on the eastern edge of the Isle of Purbeck, at Handfast Point in Dorset and is the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast.

It is made up of three towering chalk formations, including a stack, and a stump. The chalk ridge, full of calcium deposits from prehistoric sea creatures formed around 65 million years ago.

Originally, Old Harry Rocks formed part of the long chalk ridge that connected to the Needles on the Isle of Wight.

Managed by the National Trust, this marks Eastern most point of the Jurassic Coast, also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Jurassic Coast is England’s only natural World Heritage site which stretches from to Studland in Dorset to Exmouth in East Devon.

Why is it called Old Harry Rocks?

As with most coastal spots there are local legends and stories. Old Harry is the name given to the single chalk stack that stands the furthest from the coastline.

It is said that the name “Old Harry” refers to the devil, who, according to legend, slept here. “Old Harry” was a medieval name for the devil.

In fact, area leading South towards Ballard Point from Old Harry known as Old Nick’s Ground, is another reference to the devil.

The other origin of the name is that the rocks refer to the infamous smuggler and pirate, Harry Paye from Poole. The story goes that he used to hide his ships in beteween the rocks.

The small stump next to Old Harry is known as ‘Old Harry’s Wife’. Once a stack which collapsed into the sea over a hundred years ago.

The area leading South towards Ballard Point from Old Harry known as No Man’s Land is where you will see caves caused by erosion.

Even the gap caused by erosion has a name! St Lucas Leap, which is the gap between the mainland and the first stack. So named after a beloved greyhound fell to his death, chasing a rabbit.

Can you walk to Old Harry Rocks?

Walking this part of the coast has breathtaking views and can get there from Studland or Swanage. Put on some comfortable walking boots and follow the footpath from Stutland to Old Harry Rocks.  

A popular route is from Studland. Here there is the National Trust South Beach Car Park, which is pay & display or free for National Trust members, next to the Bankes Arms Pub. The pub has a lovely menu and rooms to stay the night.

From here, it is about a mile long walk along the fields and and Studland Woods to reach the clifftop. A over Studland Bay.

Walk the length of the headland to Ballard point and round back to the pub.

Alternatively park at Victoria Avenue Car Park in Swanage. 

Stay on the well-worn footpath and keep a safe distance from the cliff edge. 

View from the sea of Old Harry Rocks in Dorset

Photo by jade miave on Unsplash

Exploring Old Harry Rocks from the sea

For the more adventurous, explore Old Harry Rocks from the sea. Kayaking around the rocks is a great way to really get a feel for their sheer size and get a closer look at the caves.

You can hire a kayak or join a tour get a closer look.

Boat trips are also popular. Take a boat trip along the Jurassic Coast between Poole Quay and Swanage Pier. There are a number of trips that take you around the rocks.

This iconic location is well worth a visit whether it is for a day out or a weeknd away and there are plenty of places to stay nearby.

If you want to explore the coast use our guide to find a beach near you. Choose your county and click on ‘start here’ and follow the coast, by following the next beach along.

Header Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash