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Ringstead Walks - Along the Cliffs to White Nothe

Signpost to White Nothe

Enjoy one of the best viewpoints in Dorset.

Don't trust any list of the best views in Dorset that doesn't include White Nothe.

Okay, perhaps that's a little unfair. Our county enjoys a wealth of fabulous viewpoints, many of which can be a contender for the top spot.

But White Nothe is special, because it's so close to us.

The top of White Nothe is about a one-hour walk from the cottages at Upton Grange. Some of that walk is along a narrow road, so you may prefer to drive to Ringstead National Trust car park, from which it's about a thirty-minute walk (1.6 miles).

 White Nothe or White Nose

Nothe means nose and it's a word associated with a couple of places in Dorset - White Nothe and Nothe Point in Weymouth.

The 'nose' at White Nothe is a chalk feature on the cliff that sticks out like a nose.

The summit is around 160m (520ft) above the sea.

Part of the cliffs just to the west of White Nothe is known as Burning Cliff. The name comes from a natural oil-shale fire that burned in the late 1820s. Oil shale is flammable and somehow a landslip ignited some of this rock, and it burned for three years.

Burning Cliff became something of a tourist attraction but there's nothing to see now. 

 Directions for walking to White Nothe  

These directions begin from the Ringstead National Trust car park. This is a PayByPhone car park, free to National Trust members.

Getting to the car park:

Postcode: DT2 8NQ

Map reference: SY757825

The car park is on rough ground. There are no facilities of any kind.

The car park itself offers wonderful views over Ringstead Bay. Even if you don't want to walk to White Nothe, you may want to spend some time in the car park enjoying the views.

If you're taking a dog, be aware that there may be livestock in the car park area, or in the fields you may cross as you walk.

 The walk to White Nothe

Exit the car park from the gate at the top - which is at the far end from where you drove into the car park (unless you walked there).

Follow the track that soon starts to drop down, from which you can see White Nothe in the distance. There are signs to Falcon Barn on the left - this is a farm building that offers no facilities.

Be aware that this track is the access route to several homes, so you may encounter one or two vehicles.

Choose your route 

Where the track turns sharp right, by the postbox, you have a choice.

Route 1

You can follow the track, which will continue to drop down until you reach the South West Coast Path. The path then climbs back up, and is relatively steep and includes a series of rough steps.

Before you join the South West Coast Path and begin the climb up towards White Nothe, you may want to walk a short distance in the opposite direction to visit St Catherine's by the Sea (see below). It is just a two- or three-minute walk to the church.

Route 2

Alternatively, you can continue forwards, through the small gate that leads into a field. You'll see a house to the right and a barn to the left. You can walk across the field, between the house and the barn. The path turns gently to the right and you walk up the slope to the gate at the top of the field.

This gate is where you meet up with the South West Coast Path and Route 1.

Detour to St Catherine's by the Sea 

St Catherine's is a small wooden church built in 1906 and it may well be open. It contains an etched window by Simon Whistler, son of Sir Laurence Whistler, installed as part of the 2010 renovations.

The small cemetery beside the church has benches that offer views of the coast.

Continuing to White Nothe 

From the gate at the top of the field, follow the footpath along the top of the cliffs. The path is quite wide, with plenty of space to pass other walkers. While there's plenty of space, you should take care as in some places there are steep drops nearby.

The path takes you to the Coastguard cottages, which you pass, keeping them on your left.

At this point the South West Coast Path continues straight ahead, but you'll want to turn right, onto the summit of White Nothe. It's marked by a small brick structure, a Second World War pillbox with an observation post on top of it. This unremarkable construction is a relic of the invasion threat that Britain faced eighty years ago.

The views from White Nothe 

It's obvious why an observation post was constructed up here. The spot offers commanding views of the coastline, for miles in either direction.

The view along the white cliffs is spectacular. To the east you can see Bat's Hole, the small hole that cuts through Bat's Head. Beyond that, although not visible from White Nothe, is the famous arch of Durdle Door.

South west of White Nothe lies the Isle of Portland. On a good day you can see it clearly, other times it's blurred by haze or hiding in the mist.

If you've never visited Portland, you should pay it a visit. While a lot of the island has been removed (much of it to London as building stone), what's left is a haven for nature, rock climbers and the inhabitants who enjoy an almost disconnected status from the mainland.

Turning further to the west, on a sunny day the Georgian seafront of Weymouth sparkles like a string of pearls. From there, you'll see the coast turning back towards White Nothe, approaching with the sand and pebbles of Ringstead Bay.

Between the beach and the summit where you're standing are the humps and slumps of at least one ancient landslide. The sea continues to nibble at this coast. The white of this headland is only possible because of its crumble into the sea - sometimes dramatically but usually almost invisibly.

Places to visit in Dorset  

There are loads of places to walk and explore around Upton Grange. If you're not sure where to go next, take a look at our guides to places to visit in Dorset.