Dorset Secret Travel Tip – Smugglers Inn, Osmington and Ringstead Bay

Smuggling is a fascinating part of Dorset’s history and the county’s World Heritage coastline is littered with smugglers coves. This travel tip article is about an exhilarating, yet undemanding coastal path walk. It starts in one such cove, hidden amongst some of England’s most magnificent coastal scenery. It then takes you to a pretty beach in a tranquil bay, before returning to a real smugglers inn which is one of the most picturesque traditional English pubs you’ll find anywhere.The walk starts at the pub which is unsurprisingly named, “The Smugglers Inn”. You will find it by driving westwards, along the A353, towards Weymouth. About six miles before Weymouth, and after passing a left hand turning, signposted Ringstead Bay, take the next left which is signposted Osmington Mills. There is also a helpful secondary signpost labeled “Smugglers Inn”. Continue along the lane as it meanders fairly steeply downhill for about three quarters of a mile. You will see the Smugglers Inn at the foot of the hillside on your left and the car park on higher ground to the right. You park here. At the time of writing it is a free car park but please understand that it is intended for pub patrons, so remember to have a drink or meal in the inn when you return later.Walk down the steps from the car park to the inn and look for a narrow path that leads along the left side of the building and goes to the rear where it becomes the start of the walk. When the walk opens up into a hilly field, head for the lower of the two styles and follow the footpath down to the cove. Here there is a very rocky and pebbly beach with a small waterfall that is fun to cross and makes an excellent backdrop for photographs.After spending some time exploring the smugglers cove, go back to the field and head for the other style, signposted Coastal Path and Ringstead. This path takes you to the cliff top and provides some superb views across the bay towards Portland and Weymouth Harbor. Look out for the wreck of a small ship that pokes through the surface at low tide but can also be seen under the waves at other times in the crystal clear, turquoise shallows at the foot of the cliff. Continue along the footpath until it descends to nearly sea level with a turn off right to the beach. This will bring you out onto the shingle and pebble, west end of Ringstead Bay. At this end you will find some interesting rock pools and an offshore reef that is uncovered by the tide.The bay stretches for about half a mile to where it ends at White Nothe, a dramatic, white cliff headland. It’s worth the walk to the far end of the beach because the further you go the less pebbly the beach gets and there is quite a bit of sand to be found once the tide goes out. About midway along the bay there are a few holiday homes, some permanent residences, a shop and a café about fifty yards inland and up a path from the beach. Swimming is safe for adults and children in the usually tranquil waters of the bay and there is plenty of grass above the beach for the kids to run around on. The beach is a great place to look for fossils, being part of the World Heritage site, aptly nicknamed, “The Jurassic Coast”. Unfortunately and despite its relatively isolated location, it is not used by naturists.When you have had enough time sunbathing, exploring the beach or swimming in the turquoise sea, return the same way as you came, remembering to stop off at the Smugglers Inn for drinks or a bite to eat. The locals call the inn, “Smugs” and it dates back to the 13th century. Its situation in the ravine between sheer cliffs has always made it a perfect retreat and landing spot for smugglers. When you go inside to order your drinks or food, you will find plenty of information to read up on about the famous smugglers who once frequented the place. Watch your head under the low roof beams and try to imagine the atmosphere in the days that a gang of notorious smugglers huddled around the huge fireplaces and secret alcoves, plotting their next run across the channel.As you sit back to enjoy a meal, you might pick up one of the many tourist leaflets that provide further travel tips and information about the Dorset coast and countryside. There is so much to see and do in this area. For naturists, Studland Bay, the UK’s most popular naturist beach lies only half an hour away.The weather is usually the fairest you will find in the U.K. but if you do strike it unlucky or don’t want to go to the beach, Dorset also offers plenty of indoor attractions too.

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