DATE(S) OF TRIP: We've done this many times.

WHERE?: It's on the Dorset Coast, effectively being the southern edge of the 'Isle of Purbeck'. Map.

LAUNCH SPOTS: You can only get to the sea by road at the beginning and end, and there are few landing spots inbetween.

Swanage - various parking possibilities, perhaps best to park at and launch near the carpark on the hill just past the Peveril Pub, the far right of Swanage's seafront if looking out to sea.

Kimmeridge - the Bay is accessed via a toll road, although if you are early or late it isn't manned. In winter, you can drive right down and park at the water's edge, otherwise you are forced to use the carpark on the cliffs - quite a carry down, maybe dump the boats and then park.

DISTANCE/ TIME: 12 miles. This can take not much over two hours if 'straightlined' at spring tide flows, but assume at least twice as long if exploring.

LOCAL TIDES: There is a very strong flow going east on the flow, and west on the ebb. The flow is less noticeable in the last few miles to Kimmeridge.

HAZARDS/ PROBLEMS: This is a difficult and exposed trip, pick your weather carefully. Once past Durlston Head there is no stopping and often no landing until Chapman's Pool.

There are several tide races. Peveril Point flows over two ledges and can be good fun to play in.

St Alban's tide race can form a huge wave train, not for the faint hearted. On the ebb (Swanage to Kimmeridge direction) this takes you some way offshore. The worst of it can be avoided by staying close to the shore, but then you have a strong eddy flow to paddle against.

Kimmeridge Ledges are a great surf spot. If they are working, then this trip is almost certainly a pretty bad idea.

ROUTE TAKEN: This is simple enough, keep the land to your right if leaving Swanage and vice versa. You first pass the tide race at Peveril Point, then a smaller race as you round the corner at Durlston Head under Durlston Castle; which is the point of no return.

The coast between Durlston and St Alban's head is fascinating, sheer cliffs with caves and a number of rock platforms formed by past quarrying. You'll see plenty of climbers on a good day. The best hope for landing (in calm conditions) is at Dancing Ledge. Other possibilities exist but don't count on any of them unless the sea is smooth and there is no swell.

St Alban's Head has a huge tide race and then if you stay inshore, you hit a powerful eddy flowing against you. Go against or around this and you reach Chapman's Pool, a lovely cove with hills towering around. look out for fossils. In most weather conditions, this will be your first chance to land. Discreet wild camping is tolerated here.

The last stretch to Kimmeridge is across the shallow ledges which make the area a great surf spot. The cliffs on the right are now black Kimmeridge shale.

When you see the Clavell Tower crumbling on the cliffs, you've reached the Bay.

Photos from this trip

EVENTS/ OBSERVATIONS: We've seen Puffins along the cliffs past Dancing Ledge. Dolphins are a common sight at Durlston Head, not that we've ever seen them.


CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley,

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