HOME TO BOTTLENOSE, BALEARICS AND CRUISE SHIPS
MEETING POINT: OUTSIDE BENNET'S FISH AND CHIP SHOP TD4 8TJ
Wildlife trips running May to October.
2 Hour, 4 Hour, 8 Hour and BIG 3 Trips. Departure point for Alderney trips.
For many visitors Weymouth’s historic Old Harbour and pristine sandy beach are reason enough to visit the town but it is also a superb base from which to discover both the spectacular coastal scenery of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast as well as the counties rural charms made so popular in the novels of Thomas Hardy.
Weymouth is about three and a half hours on the train from London, and it’s completely worth a visit. It’s not only a great value destination, it’s also surrounded by beauty spots. Golden sands, fish n’ chips, and a picturesque harbour… Weymouth in Dorset is the perfect place for a quintessentially British beach holiday. In fact, there’s really nowhere better, because Weymouth is one of the places where the very idea of the British beach holiday was born.
When King George III’s doctors recommended he try taking the waters at Weymouth to help with his “madness”, swimming in the sea suddenly became popular amongst the UK’s elite, where once it had been something that only the lower classes would do. The Dorset town grew a roaring tourist trade as a result, becoming the popular seaside destination it is today.
George III lived in Weymouth on and off, at Gloucester House (now a hotel) that he bought from his brother Prince William Henry. Reminders of the monarch are not hard to find; his likeness is cut into the turf of a hill outside the town, and a large statue stands on the busy seafront near the Tourist Information Centre.
Seated on a beautiful bay, Weymouth boasts one of the finest beaches in Dorset. There’s a pretty seafront lined with Georgian buildings, a traditional fishing harbour surrounded by pastel-painted houses, and a sandy beach lined with attractions and food stalls, making it perfect for families.
Weymouth is set right in the middle of the Jurassic coast, between two Heritage Coasts (Purbeck and West Dorset Heritage Coast), and inland from the sea the entire surrounding region has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Unesco world heritage site with 185 million years of history.
Dinosaur fans of all ages should head down to Chesil Beach to hunt for fossils and ammonites and there are plenty of guides in local shops to help you hunt for fossils safely and without harming the environment.
Its small size means you can sit by the harbour and watch the bridge rise and fall as boats pass through, then walk to the beach within minutes. It’s surrounded by beauty spots, which are reachable by car or by bike for the keen cyclists. Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, The White Horse and The Cerne Abbas Giant are all well worth a visit. Alternatively stay local and enjoy an easy walk to Sandsfoot Castle or the RSPB bird sanctuary.
Weymouth's heritage as a seaport and fishing centre is overshadowed by its 18th-century renaissance as a watering-place and its more recent revival as a popular seaside resort. Most of the finest buildings are remnants of the town's glory days as a Georgian resort, but there are even earlier houses to be found, including the converted Tudor cottages on Trinity Street.
The seafront is the hub of activity in Weymouth, a stretch of golden sand bestrewn with deckchairs and crowded with sun-seekers in summer. More relaxing perhaps are the opportunities for wildlife watching, fishing and boating in the area.
Within walking distance of the town centre are two nature reserves. Radipole Lake is home to many of the usual birds you'd expect to find that love open water, reedbeds and scrubby bushes, and Lodmore offers flood meadows, rough pasture and saltmarsh habitat.
The town is just north-east of the Isle of Portland, a wonderfully isolated coastal area tenuously joined to the mainland by the narrow sweep of Chesil Beach. Portland is an excellent bird-watching territory, with Pulpit Rock a good spot to observe puffins during the early summer. On the north-east coast of the Isle is Portland Castle, one of the best-preserved of Henry VIII's coastal defences.
A more modern defensive structure is Nothe Fort, built on a headland jutting into Portland Harbour in 1860. It was in service until 1956 and has since been transformed into a living museum, tracing the history of the fort, and in particular the role of Weymouth in the Second World War. High-speed ferries leave Weymouth harbour for the Channel Islands and St. Malo, in France.
Have a little look at some of our favourite walks in and around Weymouth, rich in both wildlife and scenery.
Durdle Door & White Nothe
A walk to take your breath away in every sense of the word! There are spectacular coastal views from the high paths trodden by people since Stone Age times, with tremendous vistas over the chalk stacks and arches carved by the sea in Jurassic times. A good walk in late Spring and early summer, when the limestone grassland beside the path is full of flowers and butterflies. A good walk, too, for dogs, which are allowed on the beaches at Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove throughout the year.
A breathtaking walk high above the famously beautiful Lulworth Cove, giving spectacular views over land and sea. In Mupe Cove, to the east, chalk cliffs rear dramatically from limestone ledges and the waves lap around a chain of tiny islands before curling in around Lulworth to lick along its shingle beach. Just a few metres to the west, the sea has carved caves and arches in the softer rock. Children old enough for the distance and hills will love the rocks and beach. A good walk for dogs too, as it passes a beach and a pub where dogs are welcome, and a pleasure in autumn, when the gorse and late flowers of the heathland and grasslands still make a colourful display.
A rewarding walk through 5000 years of history, travelling high above the coastline along the South Dorset Ridgeway, a Stone Age route peppered with archaeological remains. Below, St Peter's Abbey was a fifth-century holy site. Subtropical gardens, a swannery and a fourteenth-century chapel add to the many charms of the picturesque village of Abbotsbury. Older children able to cope with the rigours of the route will love exploring the rambling remains of the hillfort.
Lorton Nature Reserve Trail
At Lorton Meadows as the first morning light filters through the woodland and mist blankets the ponds, the night time cry of the barn owl has given way to the vibrant chirp of the song thrush. This wildlife haven to the north-west of Weymouth is a patchwork of unimproved meadows enclosed by thick hedgerows and small copses nestling in the Lorton Valley. The multiple trails and pathways provide an opportunity to explore and experience a wonderful variety of wildlife just a stones’ throw from the residential areas of Littlemoor, Upwey and Weymouth. Stunning walks from dusk to dawn.
BUT... what we are here for is Weymouth and Portland's wildlife... And there's tonnes of it!!
While not directly in Weymouth itself, the Jurassic Coast cliff from Portland's West Cliffs through to St.Aldhelms and down to Dancing Ledges brings a mass of breeding Pelagic birds. Colonies of Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins can all be found along with the usual suspects, Cormorants, Shags, Fulmars and many of the Gull species... while the Puffins aren't hugely neuromeres but certainly more than enough to observe both on the water and at the nesting sites, they start returning in earnest around late March and then head back out to sea with their young in July and August. Offshore its easy to find many species such as Gannets, Shearwaters (including Manx, Balearic and Sooty, I'm sure if we looked hard enough and long enough we hard enough we'd find the odd Great as well) Lyme Bay might well be one of the most important areas of interest for the The Balearic Shearwaters given the huge numbers that turn up every year in this area during there passage to and from there breeding Islands, and considering they are one of Europe's rarest seabirds (as rare as Polar Bears), we regularly encounter flocks of 2-300 but numbers of 20+ are far more common and are seen most days during the all day tips throughout the season once they start turning up. Other inshore species and land to look out for especially in the Portland Race are Turns; Common, Artic and Sandwich, Oyster Catchers, Kittiwakes, Storm Petrels and later in the season Skuas; Artic, Great (Bonxie), Long-Tailed and Pomarine to name just a few.
Now we have the Marine Life, and Lyme bay is stuffed with it from Bottlenose, Common and White Beaked Dolphins through to Grey Seals, Sharks and Tuna. We are very lucky at the moment to have a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins the have set up camp around the cruise ships in the bay, these are frequently seen as are the much larger inshore pod that roam freely between Bridport and the Isles of White along with a few offshore pods that also frequent the area. As is the same as Brixham from May to the end of September large amounts of Common dolphins move from the warm waters of Bay of Biscay along the south coast of the U.K and into Lyme bay. Some of these pod are truly massive with sightings of over 200 animals at a time and it being nothing to encounter several hundred animals in a day.
Lyme bay also holds a resident population of around 150 White Beaked dolphins, this is about the furthest south they are recorded and make them quite a rarity and unique along the south coast, we usually find some of these pods several times a year and run special days trips looking for them further offshore. These large and playful animals truly are one of my favourites.
Risso are regularly encountered and although these are normally in offshore encounters we actively search for them on our ALDERNEY TRIPS that we run from Weymouth. Harbour Porpoise the found most trips both in the Portland Race an in Lyme Bay.
Take a look at the photos below of some more of Weymouth and our BEAUTIFUL wildlife we've seen on trips...