Car-free adventures aroundWeymouthDorset

book trains

Here's our round up of five Weymouth car-free adventures. There are royal connections in this iconic Dorset town: when George III went famously mad, his doctor sent him to Weymouth as “the Resort of many people of the first Distinction”. But there’s no need to go mad or get stuck in traffic to enjoy these long sandy beaches and chalk-white cliffs; travel via picturesque paths or scenic railways, open-top buses or coastal bike rides. Scroll to the end to find more tips for Weymouth-based staycations.

  • County: Dorset
  • Great for: good cafés | literary connections | scenic bus | sculpture | seaside | wildlife |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and more
  • Please note: researched/updated in May 2021. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 3. Sandsfoot Castle and the Rodwell Trail

    From the causeway that links Portland to Weymouth, there’s an interesting three-mile walk (or bike ride along the parallel Rodwell Trail) along the iconic South West Coast Path back into town. Hop of bus 1 at Ferrybridge near the celebrated Crab House cafe.

    • Follow signs for the Rodwell Trail, with great sea views on your right. Leave the tarmac path when a sign points right to Sandsfoot Gardens café to explore Sandsfoot castle, a picturesque ruin in palm-treed gardens, overlooking Portland harbour. Henry VIII built it in 1542 to protect against French invasion.
    • On foot, follow the Coast Path (with acorn way marks) along winding Belle Vue Road and later around Nothe Point past the towering fort at the end. Finally, stroll along the road beside the harbour, stopping off at Bennet’s fish and chip shop for a local speciality – crispy mackerel bap.
  1. 4. Bus to Abbotsbury

    The scenic X53 bus, which also leaves from the stops near Weymouth’s King’s statue, is one of Britain’s most beautiful bus routes. You can ride all the way through West Bay and Bridport to Lyme Regis or hop off and explore pretty towns like Abbotsbury along the way.

    • With great views of the coast and the undulating green hills above it, the X53 has some stupendous scenery.
    • One of the highlights of the route is the view towards Abbotsbury, with St Catherine’s chapel perched atmospherically on a hill above the sea.
    • The bus then winds past the gold-stoned shops and cottages and out into fields again. A pretty path, fringed with pampas grasses, leads from the next bus stop towards Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, a third of a mile away.
    • Visiting the gardens is a leafy adventure, through palm trees and jungle glades: a Burmese-style rope bridge under Japanese maples and winding paths past ginger lilies or bright blue agapanthus.
    • Look out for the kookaburras in a cage near the Colonial cafe in the walled garden, lined with palm trees.
    • To visit Abbotsbury Swannery, hop off two stops earlier outside the Swan Inn. Walk past Abbotsbury Abbey and down Grove Lane towards the coast.
  1. 5. Hardy’s Wessex and more

    If you arrive in Weymouth by train, you will pass through Dorchester first. The railway runs south, past Maiden Castle, to Weymouth and the rolling countryside has inspired generations of writers, from Thomas Hardy, who lived near Dorchester, to Ian McEwan, whose novella On Chesil Beach became a 2017 film.

    • Look out of the right hand window as you leave Dorchester. Maiden Castle, the earthworks visible beyond the main road, features in novels by John Cooper Powys and in Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge.
    • Soon afterwards, the train stops at the village of Upwey, now a suburb of Weymouth. The Old Ship Inn here appears in Under the Greenwood Tree; Dick Dewy and Fancy Day stop here for tea and kissing!
    • Upwey is a useful base for two longs distance paths: the Dorset Ridegway and the Jubilee Trail. Both routes lead up to Hardy’s monument, about five miles west; this 70-foot, telescope-shaped tower is not dedicated to the novelist, but the Victorian vice-Admiral (of “Kiss me, Hardy” fame). The monument is a 40 minute walk from the Kings Arms in Portesham village, where the X53 bus will take you back to Weymouth.
    • From Dorchester station, it’s a mile’s walk to Thomas Hardy’s house at Max Gate. See map below. Buses 2 or 5 or a £5 taxi from the station will also get you there.
    • The novelist designed this Victorian villa himself and wrote Tess of the d’Urbevilles and Jude the Obscure while he lived there.
    • Look out for references to Wessex, Hardy’s naughty pet dog. He bit visitors (guests at Max gate included WB Yeats and Rudyard Kipling) and stole their food. He’s now memorialised in the sitting room by an innocent-looking life-sized toy.
    • And don’t miss the gardens, managing to feel peaceful despite the noisy nearness of the Dorchester ring road, with vegetable beds and woodland walks laid out as in Hardy’s day.
  1. Buses, bikes and places to stay

    Here are some more tips if you’re planning a staycation in the area.

    • If you are planning to hop on the bus on the day you arrive in Weymouth, the Plusbus tickets are unbeatable value and are even valid on the open-topped bus 501 to Portland Bill.
    • First buses offer a range of tickets that let you explore the area, including Day Tickets valid throughout Dorset.
    • If you’d like to explore the area by bike, and don’t have your own, Weymouth Bike Hire offer all-year bike hire with free delivery and collection.
    • There are lots of places to stay in Weymouth. One of our favourites is the Seafront Premier Inn, which is a very pleasant half hour’s stroll left along the seafront from the station and is close to a stretch of sandy beach that is quieter than the areas near the harbour.
    • If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, the No 98 Boutique Hotel on Weymouth’s Esplanade, very near the station, which has seaside-themed bedrooms, complimentary sherry in the lounge and a fresh fruit-nuts-granola buffet at breakfast alongside full English fry-ups, of course. For supper, try cheerful Enzo’s, almost next door, or Rockfish, five minutes along the seafront, for seafood and beach views.
  • Sandsfoot Castle - Weymouth car-free adventures
  • Red clock at Weymouth beach - Weymouth car-free adventures
  • Abbotsbury Gardens - Weymouth car-free adventures
  • Swans - Weymouth car-free adventures
  • Bridport Coast Bus - Weymouth car-free adventures
  • Wessex the dog - Weymouth car-free adventures