A trip to Bournemouth is one of the UK’s favorite summertime staycations, and with so much to do it is clear to see why. Days spent on the beaches and the Pier can be full of excitement and activity as can nights out on the town, but sometimes you just need to enjoy that salty sea air with some nice scenery and a good walk.
Located in Dorset, Bournemouth and its surrounding areas are renowned for their abundance of natural green landscape, as well as an impressive number of beautifully maintained gardens. Proof that the coast does not start and end at the beach, a trip to Bournemouth can take you beyond those simple sandy pleasures and closer to nature and history.
Whether you end up taking a trek through Hengistbury Head, or exploring the intricate pathways of the New Forest, this list will give you plenty of options for tranquil open spaces in which you can stretch your legs
Table of Contents
1. Hengistbury Head Trail
Hengistbury Head is a coastal area, a short distance east of central Bournemouth in Christchurch, that is home to both a peaceful beach, and a gorgeous hillside walk that is rich in wildlife and nature. Visitors of Hengistbury Head may come to enjoy the bountiful variety of plant life, or to try and brush up on their bird watching, but all of them will enjoy the stunning oceanic view on display at this site.
The trail at Hengistbury is the kind that the whole family can enjoy being set largely on a path, being an easily manageable distance, and with not too much intense elevation (so no need to dust off the sturdy old walking boots!). And what could be better after a sunny afternoon walking with the people that you love than kicking back and relaxing on one of the most picturesque beaches in the country? This is a great all-around walk with great options for before and after.
|1 – 1.5 Hours
|Easy / Family Friendly
2. Wareham Forest Way
Next, we have one of the lesser-known routes of the Dorset area, and also one of the longer walks on this list. Located a short drive west of Bournemouth, this woodland trail will show you a variety of landscapes, and likely take you all day. Covering 13 miles overall this walk will carry you all the way from Wareham Quay all the way to Sturminster Marshall, through some of the most beautiful scenery that Dorset has to offer. Taking you along the amusingly named River Piddle and through Wareham Common, you will be exposed to wooded glens, open farmland, and a cornucopia of wildlife along the way, not to mention the Iron Age hill fort that can be found on the track.
Being a partial riverside walk, and with varying terrain, this journey can be a little tough on the feet, so walking boots or Wellingtons are a definite recommendation when tackling this route. And with a number of local BnBs near the end of the trail, you can easily rest before moving from this walk to the next walk on this list! The perfect direction for a longer-term walking tour.
|5 – 6 Hours
|Intermediate/Challenging due to walk time
3. Stour Valley Way
Easily started from Sturminster Marshall, this walk works well with the Wareham Forest Walk as part of a longer walking expedition (overnight stays probably needed!). The Stour Valley Way is unique to this list as it is not simply one walk or trail, rather down the Stour River there are a number of walks and routes you can take covering around 60 miles in total.
The walks can be split up into sections, usually about 10-12 miles at a time, and making your way down the entire track could be a great project for the more avid walkers that are reading this. Otherwise, choose a pair of checkpoints and enjoy whatever slice of the Stour Valley Way suits your fancy the best. Whether taking in the more traditional riverside sights and stopping for a beer on the walk from Tuckton Bridge to Wick Ferry, or pushing on to Double Dykes through the back end of Hengistbury Head, there is no shortage of walks along this valley.
Our favorite trail along the Way is the Ferndown, Stour and Forest Trail, a 10-mile circular walk that will take you through forests, fields of heath, down the banks of the river, and then back across farmland to the start. This walk offers a variety of scenery, and its circular nature makes it an easier option to plan around.
|Variable over 60 miles
|2-4 Hours per walk
|Variable between easy to challenging
4. Alum Chine Beach/Tropical Gardens/Argyll Gardens
Our next recommendation is more of a manmade, family-friendly choice for those who are not as focused about braving the elements when going for a stroll. Located only a 25-minute walk from Bournemouth Pier, the Alum Chine Gardens are a lovely place to meander about and enjoy some gorgeous plant life. Overlooking the seafront, the Tropical and Argyll Gardens are essentially a collection of concrete pathways running through a garden full of exotic trees and plants. Something that could easily be integrated into a busy day, rather than the kinds of walks that require planning to made around them.
A perfect spot for a day out with your significant other, your kids, or both! A leisurely stroll down the coastline can take you to this little slice of tropical paradise, and you can be in and out in no time at all, leaving you with plenty of hours in the day to go for food, drinks, or to plan for other walks. And of course, once your exploration around the Gardens is complete, you can relax on Alum Chine beach to your hearts content. A slight, but pleasant option when visiting Bournemouth.
|1 mile (from Bournemouth Pier to Alum Chine gardens)
|20 – 25 minutes
5. Upton Country Park
The first of two manor house options on this list, this is another excellent choice for a day out with the family. This Green Heritage Site is located in Poole and is the home of over 160 acres of beautiful varying landscapes, that range from woodland, parkland, and shoreline, as well as stunningly maintained gardens. Centered by the grandeur of the historical Upton House, this site is open with free admission to the public from 8am-9pm seven days a week.
Featuring tearooms, a Walled Garden and a wonderful outdoor playpark on site, this is a no-brainer for a place to commit a long afternoon to. You can stroll to your hearts content through the Llewellin Wood, across the meadow, and down to Grove Lake and there’s still plenty to see. One can even visit the Upton Country Park when cycling along the 16.5-mile Castleman Trailway. It is also the site of various events including outdoor cinemas, children’s days, and a music festival. The circular walk around the grounds covers around 2.2 miles, which should take less than an hour, but with so much to do inside the grounds, we recommend staying for longer to have a look around.
6. Sherborne Castle + Circular Walk around the Abbey and Castle
Another option on the list that is punctuated with a gorgeous piece of historic architecture at its center. Sherborne Castle is another site in which one can enjoy a number of sights both natural and maintained by man. One can follow a circular path from Sherborne Abbey, through the nearby town center and into the grounds of the castle, before careening by the 50-acre lake and past the Sherborne Old Castle ruins.
The walk will take you through woodland, waterside paths, and indeed beautifully landscaped gardens complete with a rich wealth of varying trees and plant life. Again, this is not the kind of walk that will excite the grizzlier readers of the list, rather this is a lovely place to spend some time enjoying the scenery and leisurely strolling about. On the other hand, one can join the legendary Macmillan Way (a 290mile multiday trek from Dorset to Lincolnshire) from Sherborne Castle, so it could also serve as a pleasant start point for the more adventurous walkers out there.
Similar to Upton Country Park, the site is complete with a Tearoom, as well as a gift shop. This is the only site on the list which requires an admission fee for adults, however there are discounts available for those who are members of the Historic Houses or English Heritage Societies.
7. New Forest Trails
Now one could not create a list of the best countryside walks in and around Bournemouth without mentioning the New Forest. Because of the abundance of walks in the area, it is impossible to pick just one for this list, rather the entire area deserves a place to itself. With a bountiful multitude of trails that showcase ancient trees and plant life, as well as riverside walks, marshland routes, and village strolls, the New Forest is a must visit area if taking a slightly longer trip to Bournemouth and the surrounding areas.
Whether enjoying the tall trees of the Blackwater Arboretum Link, or marveling at deer along the Bolderwood trail, there are plenty of ways that one can get in touch with the great British countryside when in the New Forest. Walks vary from easy to intermediate in the forest, with some ranging between 1-3 miles, and others in the 5-10 mile range, meaning whatever the walking ability of you and your group, there is definitely a trail for you to enjoy.
One can even sample the joys of the Historic Routes currently being developed by the Heritage Lottery Fund from existing paths and rights of way. With so many paths to be walked The New Forest has so much to offer from the beauty of nature to the quaintness of village life. We think it might even be worth booking a separate trip away from Bournemouth to get the full experience of this legendary woodland.
|Variable between 1 – 10 miles
|Variable between 30 minutes – 4 hours
|Easy to challenging