The best of Dorset in words and pictures

The Dorset drive — The far west

Matt Wilkinson exchanges his walking shoes for four wheels. The photographs are by Colin Varndell.

View to South-West of Eggardon Hill
The view to the south-west of Eggardon Hill

Within the variety of landscapes that make up our county, West Dorset has its own variety.This drive tries to represent something of everything that West Dorset has to offer, from the broad views on the descent from Eggardon or over the Marshwood Vale, to the little lanes which explore the area’s valleys, to the more open country east of Beaminster.It also visits West Dorset’s three main towns: Bridport, Lyme Regis and Beaminster.

Distance – About 62½ miles

Start – The Top o’ Town roundabout in Dorchester (OS ref SY689907)

Maps – OS Landranger 194 (Dorchester & Weymouth) and 193 (Taunton & Lyme Regis)

Refreshments – The route passes, or runs close to, village pubs in Askerswell, Loders, Chideock, Charmouth, Marshwood, Broadwindsor, Corscombe, Benville, Cattistock, Maiden Newton, Grimstone and Stratton.There are also tearooms, cafés and restaurants in Bridport, Lyme Regis and Beaminster.

[Milometer readings are given in square brackets.They should be generally reliable but milometers do vary slightly.]

1. Head west from Top o’ Town on the A35, through Poundbury to the Monkeys Jump roundabout [1.4].Take the third exit, the A35 towards Bridport.On a left-hand bend, turn right, signed to Compton Valence [3.7].Where the road bends to the right, signed to Compton Valence and Maiden Newton [7.2], continue straight on, signed to Eggardon Hill, Askerswell and Bridport.Enjoy the views to the right over West Compton and, reaching a T-junction at the eastern end of Eggardon Hill [10.0], turn sharp left.There are more lovely views over West Dorset to the sea as the road descends.Go through the edge of Askerswell, pass the Spyway Inn and follow the road sharply round to the right and left [12.4].Continue on through Uploders and Loders to reach Bradpole.In Bradpole turn left, signed to Bridport [14.9].At the next T-junction [15.1], turn left.At the large roundabout [16.0], turn right and go straight through the centre of Bridport, across the traffic lights in the middle of town and the two roundabouts at the end of West Street, to reach the main A35 [17.6].Turn right and go through Chideock and Morcombelake.

Lyme Regisl
Lyme Regis

2. At the roundabout at the end of the Charmouth by-pass [23.7], turn left onto the A3052 to Lyme Regis [26.0].From Lyme Regis, retrace your steps along the A3052 to the Charmouth by-pass roundabout [28.3].This time take the fourth exit and drive through Charmouth.At the end of the village turn left, signed to Catherston Leweston and Wootton Fitzpaine [29.3].Follow the road into Wootton Fitzpaine and take the next turning on the left after the village [31.3] to climb up the side of Coney’s Castle.Just after going under the massive pylon line which disfigures this part of West Dorset, go across a cross-roads but almost immediately turn right, signed to Marshwood [33.1].The road runs along the flank of Lambert’s Castle with lovely views over the Marshwood Vale on the right.At the head of the vale, half-right ahead are the contrasting profiles of Dorset’s two highest hills: rounded, tree-clad Leweston Hill and the sharply outlined plateau of Pilsdon Pen. When the road bends sharply left by Hill Farm House [33.8], fork right, signed to Marshwood and Crewkerne.

Mist in the Marshwood Valel
Mist in the Marshwood Vale

3. At the T-junction [34.0] turn right and go through Marshwood to Birdsmoorgate, where turn right on the B3164, signed to Broadwindsor and Bridport [35.8].Pass under the southern end of Pilsdon Pen, with Lewesdon Hill ahead and slightly to the right.Reach the T-junction in the middle of Broadwindsor [39.0], turn right and follow the one-way system up through the village, bearing right and then left, signed to Beaminster.Pass the Broadwindsor Crafts & Design Centre on the right and continue to Beaminster.At the mini-roundabout at the start of the town centre [41.7], turn right and continue into the Square, where turn left into North Street alongside the Red Lion [42.0].Follow the road out of the town and up onto Beaminster Down.Go straight across the A356 [44.6] and down into Corscombe.


4. At the T-junction at the start of the village [45.5], turn right and go through the village to turn left by a bench and stone commemorating the Golden Jubilee in 2002 [46.1].At the end of this narrow lane turn left, then in front of the Fox, turn sharp right, signed to Benville and Evershot [46.3].At the first fork [47.0], fork left, signed to Evershot and Benville.At the T-junction [47.6], turn left.As the road bends left to cross Benville Bridge [48.7], turn right, signed to Rampisham and Maiden Newton.

Fields near Maiden Newtonl
Fields near Maiden Newton

5. At the cross-roads in the middle of Rampisham [50.1], go straight on, signed to Cattistock and Maiden Newton.Continue through Lower Wraxall [51.4] into Cattistock.Stay on this road through Cattistock, past the splendid church of St Peter and St Paul [52.8] and out of the village.Enter Maiden Newton, turn right at a T-junction [54.2] and at the next T-junction, with the stump of the village cross on the left, turn left [54.3].Follow the road out of the village and through Frampton to reach the A37 [57.7].Turn right and continue on the A37 to the roundabout on the edge of Dorchester where the A37 goes right to join the by-pass [61.2].Continue straight ahead on the B3147, enter Dorchester and go straight up the hill to Top o’ Town [62.3].

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