This 2.5-mile coastal walk takes you over the cliffs from Bowleaze Cove in Weymouth to the historic Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills. A short walk ending at a fantastic pub with a huge beer garden and a beach next door – what more could you want?!
Crossing Red Cliff, Eweleaze Beach and Black Head, the walk from Bowleaze Cove to the Smugglers Inn provides stunning views of Weymouth and the Isle of Portland, as well as along the Jurassic Coast to the nose-like form of White Nothe beyond Ringstead Bay.
An area rich with fossils, local legends, and a dark smuggling history, this one-hour cliff walk is one of my personal favourites – and ideal for anyone holidaying in Weymouth.
The Smugglers Inn dates back to the thirteenth century and is packed with history. The name comes from the fact that this very pub was once a headquarters for local smuggling gangs.
This walk is 2.5 miles each way, but you can also take a bus back from Osmington Mills to Weymouth if you prefer a shorter walk. It’s also possible to extend the walk into a larger circular by connecting it with some other local walks. I’ve included a little more info at the end of this post.
First, though, here’s my route guide to the walk from Weymouth to the Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills. Enjoy…
- About the Smuggler’s Inn
- Weymouth to Osmington Mills Walk: Details And Map
- Bowleaze Cove Weymouth to Osmington Mills Walk Route
- Returning from Osmington Mills to Weymouth
About the Smuggler’s Inn
Smuggling was rife all along the Dorset coast for centuries, and the Smugglers Inn (then the Crown Inn) was one of the main landing places for goods smuggled in from the continent.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the inn was owned by Emmanuel Charles, leader of the notorious Charles Gang, one of the most ruthless and wanted smuggling gangs in the area.
There are numerous legends surrounding Osmington Mills and especially the historic inn – many of them centring on the Charles Gang, as well as a French smuggler named Pierre Latour. According to legend, “French Peter”, as he was known, once smoked out a customs officer hiding in the chimney by lighting a fire!
Today, the Smugglers Inn is a charming Engish pub on the cliffs, with stunning sea views from its large beer garden. Local brewery Hall and Woodhouse own the property, so you can expect great pub food and some local Badger Beers at the end of your walk to Osmington Mills from Weymouth.
Weymouth to Osmington Mills Walk: Details And Map
- Distance: 2.5 miles (each way)
- Time: 1 hour (each way)
- Elevation Gain: 141m
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Accessibility: Several sets of stairs, 1 stile, and a few kissing gates. Some fairly steep ascents and descents.
- Terrain: Grass, gravel paths, road.
- Parking: Paid parking at Bowleaze Cove Car Park (£1 per hour or £7 all day). There is free roadside parking all along Bowleaze Coveway but bear in mind this can be busy in summer. You can also park in Weymouth and take a bus to Bowleaze Cove or nearby Overcome Corner.
- Facilities: There are toilets and a cafe at Bowleaze Cove (as well as a small funfair and a beach), and public toilet facilities near the Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills. The Smugglers Inn is an ideal spot for refreshments at the end of your walk.
To make following this walk easier, use my GPS trail route on Wikiloc (it’s free). You’ll probably still find my instructions below helpful, though.
Bowleaze Cove Weymouth to Osmington Mills Walk Route
Step 1 – Bowleaze Cove to Eweleaze
Starting Point: Bowleaze Cove Car Park / Waterside Holiday Park
Leave the carpark and turn right to follow the road past Waterside Holiday Park and uphill until the end of the road. The South West Coast Path (SWCP) picks up from the end of the road. Follow this through the gap in the hedge and past a wooden fingerpost with the SWCP acorn marker.
At the split, take the grassy middle path to cut diagonally across the first field. As you climb the gentle hill over Red Cliff, you’ll have amazing views of Bowleze Cove and Weymouth behind you and across the bay towards the Isle of Portland on your right.
This cliff-edge path offers better views but has some sheer edges which may not be suitable for kids or dogs, while the SWCP keeps slightly inland (you can see it across the field to your left). Keep well clear of the edges as rockfalls are not uncommon, especially after rain – if you’re unsure, cross the field to join the main SWCP.
At the end of the second field, you’ll reach a stone marker for Osmington Mills (photo below). Pass through the gap in the hedge and the kissing gate and keep heading forward across the third field – the SWCP turns right here to reconnect with the path you are on. As you reach the crest of the hill, you can see Eweleaze Beach ahead and along the coast, the chalk headland of White Nothe.
Step 2 – Eweleaze to PGL Osmington Bay
Keep following the SWCP downhill. You’ll pass a wooden signpost (photo below), followed by steps that lead down between hedgerows to a wooden gate.
After this, the path snakes first left then right and across a small wooden footbridge before opening out along the cliff edge once again with a wide field to your left.
About two-thirds of the way along this field is a small turning on your right which leads down to the beach if you fancy stopping here.
(If you decide to return along the beach, you can climb up these steps to rejoin the path for the last leg of the walk.)
At the end of the field is a wooden gate marked with the SWCP acorn. Head through this and stay on the path as it undulates gently uphill, then more sharply downhill via some steps with a shingle beach below you and the PGL Osmington Bay holiday park on your right.
Pass through a wooden kissing gate and across a small footbridge, then follow the narrow path uphill (ignoring the steps down to the beach) to skirt around the back of the holiday park and head back uphill.
Step 3 – Walk over Black Head
At the far side of the holiday park, the path will veer slightly left and up some more steps. At the top of these, it will turn left and lead to a 3-way crossroad with a wooden signpost (photo below). Turn right to head through the metal kissing gate, sticking with the SWCP as it heads uphill across an open field.
You will climb uphill over Black Head – a fossil-rich headland named for its dark coloured cliffs. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous view of Osmington Mills and White Nothe beyond, as well as Portland across the sea.
Follow the path down the other side, bearing left at the bottom to pass through the metal kissing gate where an alternative inland route of the SWCP rejoins the cliff path.
Step 4 – Walk to Osmington Mills
Once through the kissing gate, turn right and follow the narrow dirt path as it undulates through some trees, through another wooden gate, and then opens out onto the cliff edge to the right of a fenced-off field.
Past the field, the path will head downhill through a small copse via steps, eventually crossing three long wooden footbridges which traverse the often-boggy ground.
After the 3rd bridge, head through the wooden gate and turn right to stay on the SWCP. Head uphill to reach the stile at the top.
Shortly afterwards, you’ll reach another stile on your left (photo below). It’s no longer part of a fence so you don’t need to cross it, so follow the path around it to head downhill between a hedge on the right and a fenced-off field on the left.
Head down the steps towards the first houses of Osmington Mills ahead of you. At the bottom, turn right to follow the path down between the houses to reach Mills Road. Turn right and follow the road downhill towards the sea.
At the end of this road, you will see Smugglers Inn below you to your left. The entrance is just next to the car park ahead.
Stop into the characterful inn for a well-earned drink or some top-notch pub grub after your walk.
You can follow the path through the inn to reach the beach at Osmington, where a small waterfall tumbles directly onto the shingle. You can hunt for fossils, and at low tide, it’s fun to spot wildlife in the rock pools.
READ MORE: 5 Waterfalls to Visit in Dorset
Returning from Osmington Mills to Weymouth
To head back, you can simply return along the cliff path the way you came, following the signs to Bowleaze Cove and Weymouth. But you do have some other options, too…
Bus: Walk up Mill’s Road to reach the inland village of Osmington. Turn left when you reach the A353 and you will see the bus stop. Take the number 5 bus back to Overcome Corner in Weymouth. From here it’s a 15-minute walk over Bowleaze Hill to the car park.
Back along the Beach: At low tide, you can also walk along the beach as far as Eweleaze – it can be hard work, with some rocky scrambles in places, but makes for a pleasant circular. Rejoin the SWCP using the steps at either the PGL or at Eweleaze Beach, then follow signs for Bowleaze Cove and Weymouth.
You could extend this walk into a large circular, in order to pay a visit to Weymouth’s iconic White Horse – a hill figure depicting King George III on his horse, Adonis.
Walk up Mill’s Road to the inland village of Osmington, then head up Church Lane to reach an inland branch of the SWCP which takes you uphill to the South Dorset Ridgeway.
You’ll pass over the top of the White Horse, then descend down to the village of Sutton Poyntz. From here you can head down into Preston and through the two holiday parks (there is a public footpath) to reach Bowleaze Cove.
If you enjoyed this walk from Weymouth to Osmington Mills, or have any feedback for me, please leave a comment below! Especially if any info needs updating.