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Golden Cap in Trust

Climb a fine top, owned by one of the country's most popular charities.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 1,007ft (307m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field tracks, country lanes, steep zig-zag gravel path, 7 stiles

Landscape Windswept coastline of lumps and bumps

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 116 Lyme Regis & Bridport

Start/finish SY 420917

Dog friendliness Some road walking

Parking Car park (charge) above gravel beach in Seatown; beware, can flood in stormy weather

Public toilets At end of road, Seatown

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1 Walk back up through Seatown. Cross a stile on the left, on to the footpath, signposted 'Coast Path Diversion'. Cross a stile at the end, bear left to cross a stile and footbridge into woodland. Cross a pair of stiles at the other side and bear right up the hill, signposted 'Golden Cap'.

2 Where the track forks keep left. Go through some trees and over a stile. Bear left, straight across the open hillside, with Golden Cap ahead of you. Pass through a line of trees and walk up the fence. Go up some steps, cross a stile and continue ahead. At the fingerpost go left through a gate to follow the path of shallow steps up through bracken, heather, bilberry and bramble to the top of Golden Cap.

3 Pass the trig point and turn right along the top. Pass the stone memorial to the Earl of Antrim. At a marker stone turn right and follow the zig-zag path steeply downhill, enjoying great views along the bay to Charmouth and Lyme Regis. Go through a gate and bear right over the field towards the ruined St Gabriel's Church. In the bottom corner turn down through a gate, passing the ruins on your right, then go through a second gate. Go down the track, passing cottages on the left, and bear right up the road, signed 'Morcombelake'. Follow this up between high banks and hedges which put the wild flowers conveniently at eye-level. Continue through a gateway.

4 At the road junction, turn right down Muddyford Lane, signed 'Langdon Hill' (or go straight on for Walk 49). Pass the gate of Shedbush Farm (Walk 49 rejoins) and continue straight up the hill. Turn right up a concreted lane towards Filcombe Farm. Follow blue markers through the farmyard, bearing left through two gates. Walk up the track, go through two more gates and bear left over the top of the green saddle between Langdon Hill and Golden Cap.

5 Go left through a gate in the corner and down a gravel lane (Pettycrate Lane) beside the woods, signed 'Seatown'. Ignore a footpath off to the right. At a junction of tracks keep right, downhill, with a delectable green patchwork of fields on the hillside ahead. Pass Seahill House on the left and turn right, on to a road. Continue down the road into Seatown village to return to your car.

Golden Cap is the rather obvious name for a high, flat-topped hill of deep orange sandstone on the cliffs between Charmouth and Bridport. It represents the tail end of a vein of the warm-coloured sandstone that stretches down from the Cotswolds. The Cap is the highest point on the south coast, at 627ft (191m), with views along the shore to the tip of Portland Bill in one direction and to Start Point in the other. Inland, you can see Pilsdon Pen and as far as the heights of Dartmoor.

Climbing towards the top, you pass from neat fields, through a line of wind-scoured oak trees, into an area of high heathland, walking up through bracken, heather, bilberry and blackberry, alive with songbirds. The loose undercliff on the seaward side creates a different habitat. In botanical and wildlife terms, Golden Cap is one of the richest properties in the National Trust's portfolio. Today we tend to associate the National Trust with the upkeep of grand houses but, in fact, its first acquisition, way back in 1896, was a stretch of coast in Wales. Today the charity is one of Britain's biggest private landowners.

On the very top of Golden Cap itself is a simple memorial to the Earl of Antrim, chairman of the Trust in the 1960s and 1970s. It was he who spearheaded its 1965 appeal campaign, named 'Enterprise Neptune', to purchase sections of unspoiled coastline before the developers moved in and it was all too late. Golden Cap was part of this and over the years the Trust has continued to buy up pockets of land all around, with the aim of preserving the traditional field pattern that exists in the area between Eype and Lyme Regis.

Its acquisition includes the ruined church of St Gabriel's (little more than a low shell with a porch to one side) and the neighbouring row of thatched cottages that have been smartly refurbished and are let out as visitor accommodation. They are all that remains of the fishing village of Stanton, sheltering in the valley behind the cliffs, which was largely abandoned after the coast road was rerouted inland in 1824.

Walk 49 continues inland to Morcombelake, and finally back over Langdon Hill, also owned by the National Trust. Seen from the speedy A35 coast road, Morcombelake is an unexciting ribbon development, to be hurried through on your way to somewhere else. On foot, however, you discover a network of narrow, winding lanes on the slopes of Langdon Hill that takes you into a different, tranquil world. Rambling houses with old bay windows have a confident, nautical air, as though this was a place for retired admirals.

Where to eat and drink

The Anchor Inn at Seatown promises an interesting selection of ales, food and wine. The terrace overlooking the beach fills up quickly in summer. The rusted anchor outside belonged to the Hope, which was wrecked on Chesil Beach during a storm in January 1748, while returning from Curaçao to Amsterdam. The crew escaped to safety on the beach, but the ship broke up, shedding £50,000 worth of gold, silver and other valuables, creating a mini gold-rush.

While you're there

The quay at West Bay in Bridport, was the setting for the Harbour Lights television drama series. It has the genuine, slightly seedy air of a working harbour and remains refreshingly unsophisticated. The harbour has a long, very narrow entrance and water surges through in a storm. Eat fish and chips from a kiosk while you admire the fishing boats and other craft.

What to look for

Moore's biscuit bakery in Morcombelake is a fascinating detour, worth it for the smell alone. Through a glass screen see the biscuits being hand-made - and sample as you watch. There's also a gallery of artwork associated with its packaging. The famous savoury Dorset knobs, thrice-baked and explosively crisp, are a post-Christmas speciality. Open weekdays, and Saturday mornings in summer.

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