Cerne Abbas Giant from Minterne Magna round
Dorset is a county in the South West of England on the English Channel coast and borders with Devon to the west, Somerset to the north-west, Wiltshire to the north-east and Hampshire to the east. Dorset’s coast line, with some of Britain’s finest sandy beaches, stretches for about 90 miles from Lyme Regis in the west to Bournemouth in the east. Dorset has a varied landscape featuring broad elevated chalk downs, steep limestone ridges and low lying clay valleys. Over half of the county is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and three quarters of its coast line is a World Heritage Site. The heritage coast line, also part of the Jurassic Coast, begins in Poole Harbour and includes the Purbeck coastline which is the site of special nature reserves and marine parks. Travelling westwards to the coast line features some spectacular landforms such as the Isle of Portland, Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Chesil Beach which is a barren pebbled beach stretching 15½ miles from Weymouth to Bridport. Due to Dorset’s position on the coast and being the third most southerly county in the UK it has a climate of warm summers and mild winters. Behind the coastline lies a county rich in archaeology, unspoilt rural villages and countryside and a history from before the Roman times. The centre of Dorset is chalk downland with extensive rivers and streams. The north of Dorset is dominated by a plain known as the Blackmore Vale. The west of Dorset is a more hilly area with a rich landscape of woodland and small trees. The east of Dorset is mostly of low lying land with extensive heathlands most of which have SSSI status. To the south-east lie the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase of which both are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Downs provide panoramic views of the Isle of Wight, the Purbeck Hills in the south and the Mendips in the north and are a great place for walking, riding or picnicking and admiring the views from one of the many grassy areas. Cranborne Chase was formerly a royal hunting forest and has a history of smuggling and deer poaching, the latter being punishable by death. Deer can often be seen grazing along with native flowers, flourishing butterflies and the rare Stone Curlew still visits the Chase every spring. The views from the rim of this great ridge of chalk are outstanding and on a fine day seven counties may be seen from the top of Bulbarrow. Agriculture was traditionally the major industry of Dorset but is now in decline and tourism has become increasingly important to the economy. There is so much to see and do in Dorset with several new leisure centres and two dry-ski slopes, there’s plenty of sporting activity including sailing, diving, wind-surfing, golf, cricket, tennis, bowls, football, rugby, walking, cycling, horse riding and rambling. There are also many museums, country houses and historic sites to visit.
Minterne Magna is a village in the Cerne Valley, West Dorset between Dorchester and Sherborne. The village is close to the source of the River Cerne among the chalk hills of the Dorset Downs. It is probable best known for its grand Manor House in which many famous families have dwelled including Churchill, Napier and Digby. The house was rebuilt on the site of a Victorian house between 1903 and 1906 and is a mixture of architectural styles. The gardens of the house consist of a chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams, and over one and a half miles of walks. They also contain an important collection of Himalayan rhododendrons and azaleas which are combined with spring bulbs, cherries, maples and many fine mature and rare trees. The house attracts many visitors every year who come to marvel at the impressive and expansive gardens which are noted for their autumn colouring.
Cerne Abbas is a quaint historic village nestling in the valley of the River Cerne in the Dorset Downs, West Dorset. The village grew around the great Benedictine abbey, Cerne Abbey, which was founded in AD 987 but the abbey was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Remains of the abbey can still be seen today. After the dissolution the village thrived as a small market town largely due to the excellent quality of its underground water, which is filtered by the surrounding chalk hills. The water was used to make famous quality beer which was sold in London and even exported to the Americas. Cerne Abbas once had 14 public houses but only three remain today. The water was also used to power other industries including milling, tanning, silk weaving and glove and hat making. In the 19th century the coming of the railways bypassed Cerne Abbas and the village went into decline loosing half its population and thus many of the houses fell into disrepair. Today Cerne Abbas is a bustling community surviving from its tourist industry, attracting many tourists from all over the world especially to view the huge ‘Rude Giant’. Cerne Abbas hosts an annual four day classical music festival, an open garden event every year in June, an annual village fete, horticultural shows and the Wessex Morris Men often perform on Bank Holidays.
The Cerne Abbas Giant also known as the Rude Man is the largest hill figure in Britain and one of only two human representations. The 180 feet tall ancient figure is carved into the chalk hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas and the club he carries is 120 feet long. The origins of the Giant, now owned by the National Trust, are a mix of fact and speculation. There have been various theories as to who the man represents. Some believe that he represents the Roman god Hercules and is over 1500 years old or that he is a Pagan fertility symbol or carved by the Vikings representing one of their gods.
With the church behind us and the green and car park on our right we head forward to the trees then turn right then left following the footpath signs. We bear left and head forward along the track uphill to the tree line. We go into the trees and turn left following the blue arrow along a wooded track. We keep following the track as it bears right downhill to the road. We now turn left and as the road bears left we turn right uphill across the field to the trees. We turn left round the back of the trees to go through a gate. We cross straight over the tarmac track and head forward bearing slightly right to a clump of trees. We walk straight through the middle of the trees. At the tarmac road we keep heading forward along the road. At the t-junction with the main road we head forwards along the road to the Cerne Abbas Giant view point on the left. After viewing the giant we take the minor road on the left into Cerne Abbas village. At the t-junction we turn left through the village and turn left just in front of the Royal Oak. We head forward past the church on our right to the top of the road. We turn left at the footpath sign ‘To Mill Lane’ then cross over a little bridge and turn right. We follow the stream on our right until we come to another bridge. We turn right over the bridge and walk through the trees for a short way then turn left then right following the arrows. We soon go through a gate then up the steps and follow the path. When the path splits at the end of the fence on our right we turn right steeply uphill. At the end of the fence line at the top we turn left and keep ahead on the path passing between two trees with a fence on our left. We come to a gate and go straight through sign posted Giant walk. We head forward through the field to go through the next gate then turn left at the sign post through a third gate. We head forward slightly downhill with the trees on our right to go through another gate the turn right with a fence on our right. We keep heading forwards through another gate and through the trees until we come to a road. We do not go through the gate but turn left here and head forwards to the right of the trees ahead and keep forwards until we arrive at a track. We turn left along the track, ignoring a blue arrow on our right, until we come to a sign post on our left. We turn left here and bear slightly right making our way downhill to the church and car park at Minterne Magna.
This is an easy to moderate walk on grass and gravel footpaths and tracks and some minor tarmac road. There are some inclines and declines, one incline up to Giant Hill being very steep.
Elevation: approx lowest point 116.90m (383.53ft) approx highest point 254.10m (833.66ft) approx ascent 248.60m (815.62ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 6 miles allow 2½ – 3 hours using OS Explorer Map 117, Cerne Abbas and Bere Regis. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: Minterne Magna in the car park opposite the church.
Minterne Magna and Cerne Abbas, Dorset.
Directions and Parking
Travelling south on the A37, Bristol to Dorchester road, pass through Yeovil then take the minor road on the left opposite Holywell. Follow this road to the A352 and turn right to Minterne Magna. The car park is opposite the church.
Parking: Free car park in Minterne Magna opposite the church and also at the Giant viewing point.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in the village of Cerne Abbas. For refreshments in Cerne Abbas there is Abbots Tearoom and three pubs, The Giant Inn, Royal Oak and the New Inn. There is also a post office and several other shops.