This Cerne Abbas walk route is a short circular taking you up to the famous Giant, around Giant Hill, and past some of the prettiest sites in the village.
Visit Cerne Abbey and make a wish at St Augustine’s Well, shrouded in mystery. Spot falcons and other wildlife as you ramble along the backbone of Giant Hill. Wander the picturesque streets of one of the prettiest villages in Dorset. And, finally, stop by a viewpoint for the best view of the Cerne Abbas Giant.
This is an enormous hillside chalk carving of a nude giant with a prominent erection which has been amusing tourists and mystifying experts for centuries!
No one knows exactly how old it is or who built it. Historians have speculated that it could be a Celtic version of Hercules or a Saxon god. However, the earliest mention of the Giant dates from the 17th century, and many experts now think the carving may in fact be a 17th-century prank or political satire. Whatever it is, it’s certainly one of the most impressive (and giggle-worthy) sites in Dorset!
This a relatively straightforward circular walk around Cerne Abbas and Giant Hill. The route follows clear footpaths and bridleways, all signposted. There’s a bit of a climb up Giant Hill, but nothing too strenuous – and the views from the top make it all worth it. I’ve also included a couple of optional detours in case you have more time.
Cerne Abbas Walk – Details and Map
- Distance: 4.5km / 2.8 miles
- Time: 1 – 1.5 hours
- Elevation: 188m lowest – 262m highest
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Accessibility: A couple of stiles, a set of stone steps (unavoidable) and a few steep up and down paths. Mostly dirt tracks and grassy paths.
- Parking: Free parking at Cerne Abbas Village Hall carpark and picnic site (DT2 7GY)
To make following this walk easier, feel free to use my GPS trail route on Wikiloc. It’s a free app where people can share hiking, biking, and other routes! You’ll probably still find my instructions below helpful, though.
Cerne Abbas Giant and Village Walk
Step One – Carpark to Giant Hill
Turn left out of the car park and walk along Kettle Bridge Lane. Cross the bridge over the River Cerne, following the signpost for Giant Hill, then turn left along the footpath waymarked with a yellow arrow.
For a view of The Cerne Abbas Giant, walk to the end of the track and into the open field where you can see the giant ahead of you on the hill. Then return back to the path, following the Public Bridleway sign up the footpath between the trees.
At 55m (180ft) high, the Giant cuts a pretty impressive figure, wielding a club and very noticeably naked! His most famous feature is the large, erect phallus – an impressive 11m, almost as long as his head. Local folklore associates the Giant with fertility and many neopagans consider the site important.
Fun fact – evidence suggests that the Giant’s striking member might have been given a bit of extension in the Victorian era! Older depictions of the figure show a more average-sized appendage, below a belly button which is no longer visible.
At the foot of the hill, pass through a kissing gate and turn left. There is another left turn before the gate, so be sure to ignore this one and pass through the gate first. Follow the steps signposted Giant Hill.
Step Two – Climb Giant Hill
The Cerne Abbas Giant site is managed by the National Trust. In order to preserve the Giant and the Iron Age earthwork just above it, visitors are no longer allowed to walk onto the area. There’s a fence around the area so please respect this and stay off the Giant!
Although you can’t get up close, you should be able to see the Giant’s toes as you pass by on your climb up the hill. You will be able to get a better view of the earthwork later on, while the Giant is best seen from a layby which you can visit at the end of this walk.
Keeping the National Trust fence on your right, follow the dirt path along the contours of Giant Hill. Keep following the path straight along the side of the hill for exceptional views of the Cerne Valley.
The trail becomes quite narrow in places, and the drop to your left is steep, so do take care when passing others.
Eventually, the path will curve steeply uphill between patches of gorse into a small thicket of trees. This will then lead out to a wooden gate marked with a multi-way fingerpost at the top of the hill.
Look for the Cerne Abbas Giant Walk waymarker on this signpost, as this is the route you want to follow for now. Go over the wooden stile, and follow the track diagonally left across the field, following the waymarker and the sign for the Wessex Ridgeway.
About halfway across the field, you will come to another four-way fingerpost at the corner of a small copse of trees. For an extended walk you can continue straight here, following the Cerne Valley Trail waymarker to the far side of the field, then take three lefts to complete a loop back to this signpost, heading past a viewpoint of Minterne House & Gardens as you return.
For my walk, take the right turn following the Bridleway sign with the Giant Walk waymarker. This will lead you across the middle of the field to the eastern side.
At the gate, turn right following the blue arrow waymarker for the Public Bridleway. Follow the bridleway along the field, keeping the fence on your right, until you reach a second metal gate also waymarked with the blue Public Bridleway arrow.
For a gentler descent, you can veer left here instead of passing through the gate, and follow the track down the side of the hill into some trees. It will eventually come out in the same place as the route I am recommending. For my walk, pass through the gate and keep heading straight along the back of the hill.
NOTE – there may be cows in the field with the Public Bridleway. They should ignore you, but if you want to avoid them you can remain in the first field and follow the same route, keeping the fence on your left instead of your right. You will come to a wooden gate which you can go through to cross another field in order to meet back up with the Public Bridleway in the far corner.
Unless you have taken the left-hand gentle descent mentioned above, continue straight following a faint grassy track along the backbone of Giant Hill. In the far distance ahead of you should be able to see the tower of the Hardy Monument an a hilltop.
The views all around you at this stage are incredible, so take your time and enjoy. Keep your eyes peeled for falcons which may be hovering overhead in search of wildlife in the long grass.
The path will begin to descend gently, with the village of Cerne Abbas laid out ahead of you and a stunning view of the hills rolling away towards Dorchester.
Soon you will reach a wooden gate providing access for approved personnel to the Cerne Abbas Giant site. Beyond the gate, you can see the Trendle earthwork (also known as the Frying Pan) which sits at the top of the Giant’s head.
Continue straight very steeply downhill with the fence on your right hand side
At the bottom of the hill, you will see a metal gate with a wooden style. Go through this and follow the footpath left then right in an S-bend before sloping down towards the stone wall of the graveyard ahead of you.
Step Six – St Augustine’s Well
At the far end of the stone wall is an archway with an iron gate leading into the graveyard of Cerne Abbey. Go through and bear left diagonally across the graveyard towards a cluster of tall trees.
Here a path leads down to St Augustine’s Well, a very pretty spring of water shrouded in myth. According to legend, the spring gushed forth when St Augustine tapped the ground with his staff. Local tradition holds that the spring is both a wishing well and a place of healing waters. Drinking the well water is also supposed to help women become pregnant, so give it a go if you’re hoping to become a mother!
Head back up the path and follow it straight to the main gate of the graveyard. On your right as you come out you will see the entrance to Cerne Abbey. If it’s open go in and have a look around. There is a red honesty box on your right for the £2.50 entry fee.
Step Seven – Cerne Abbas Village Walk
Turn left down Abbey Street and walk past a very pretty pond beside a red brick cottage. Abbey Street is lined with crooked historic cottages and is one of the prettiest village streets in Dorset, so take your time here.
Continue past the 13th-century Church of St Mary the Virgin on your left – which is also worth a visit if you have time. At the end of Abbey Street turn right onto Long Street, walking past the Giant Inn on your left and the post office on your right.
If you have time, you may also wish to explore some more of the village, which is full of pretty cottages and picturesque streets. There are also several great pubs and tearooms if you’d like to get a bite to eat.
To get back to the carpark, turn right onto Duck Street and take an immediate right onto Mill Lane. At the end of this lane take another right onto a footpath running alongside the River Cerne. Cross a small footbridge, then continue straight along the path ignoring any turn-offs and keeping the river on your right-hand side.
Eventually, this will bring you back to the bridge and Kettle Bridge Lane, where you first started. Turn left and you will shortly see the car park on your right.
Best View of the Cerne Abbas Giant
For the best view of the Cerne Abbas Giant, before returning to your car continue straight past the carpark along Kettle Bridge Lane, then turn right at the T-junction. Continue for a short distance along the A35 – taking care of any oncoming traffic as there is no pavement or pathway.
You will shortly reach a small layby and picnic area marked on Google Maps as the Cerne Giant Viewpoint. This affords the clearest view of Giant Hill with the chalk figure on the side.
I hope you enjoyed my Cerne Abbas Giant and Village walk! If you have any questions please get in touch or leave a comment at the end of this post.