A walk around Hengistbury Head, Dorset

Hengistbury Head is a dramatic headland located close to Bournemouth and to the south of Christchurch harbour.  It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a local nature reserve.

Hiker Cafe, Hengistbury Head
Hiker Cafe, Hengistbury Head

There are two large car parks near to the start of the walk situated next to the popular Hiker Cafe.  For the less energetic, a land train usually operates from outside the cafe along the access path to the Mudeford Spit but is out of action for the foreseeable future.

Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre
Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre

At the entrance to the trail there’s a modern visitor centre which explores the area, its history, wildlife and geology.  The centre is free to visit but sadly only the gift shop was open on the day we were there.

Walking path at Hengistbury Head
Walking path at Hengistbury Head

We chose to take a looped trail which followed a level path along to the spit taking us around 20 minutes.  No vehicles are allowed on the nature reserve and we just shared the path with other walkers, cyclists and numerous children on scooters.  From the footpath there are some splendid views of Christchurch harbour.  It’s shallow waters are ideal for water sports and we found it amusing to notice a dog happily sprawled out on one of those Stand Up Paddle boats.

Dog paddle boarding in Christchurch Harbour
A dog taking it easy in Christchurch harbour

The trail hugs the coast and passes meadows and goes through shaded woodland before continuing towards Mudeford Spit.  In this absolutely beautiful location there are 348 of the most sought after beach huts in the country with a 12ft x 10ft wooden hut selling for a whopping £330,000 three months ago.  To put this into perspective, one could buy a five bedroom house in some parts of the country for this!

Beach huts, Mudeford Spit
Beach huts, Mudeford Spit

The Mudeford Spit beach huts really are in an idyllic spot between the sea on one side and the sheltered harbour on the other.  Although it’s more like glamping as there is no mains water, WC or electricity supply in the huts.

Expensive beach huts at Mudeford, Dorset
Costly beach huts line the spit

It was fun to take a glance at the way the owners had imaginatively designed the interiors with no expense spared for internal furnishings and equipment.  Several owners have had solar roof panels installed to provide electric lighting whilst in their small kitchens, stoves run on bottled gas and have battery operated fridges.

Beach huts at Hengistbury Head
Beach huts with their outdoor seating

We could see that extra sleeping areas had been built into the loft space creating a mezzanine floor with ladder attachments and small windows installed on some of the huts.  Large decking areas for alfresco dining and to watch the world go by complete the picture.  Not quite so luxurious is the fact that water has to be collected from standpipes where communal shower blocks and WC facilities are also to be found.

Beach House Cafe, Mudeford Spit
Beach House Cafe, Mudeford Spit

Facing the harbour is the Beach House cafe which is the hub of life along the Spit.  This attractive large cafe has a sheltered terrace overlooking the water and alongside it, an ice cream kiosk which had a long, snaking queue.  There’s also a small grocery store from where the beach hut community can buy fresh milk, bread and other daily necessities.

The Mudeford Ferry
The Mudeford Ferry

A small ferry runs from near the cafe and operates at regular intervals between the Sand Spit and Mudeford Quay.  There are also frequent ferries along to Christchurch Quay slightly further away.

Mudeford Quay
Looking across to Mudeford Quay

We followed the path along to the end of the spit from where we had views of Mudeford Quay which lies just across the water and is another local beauty spot.  Leaving the sheltered harbour we wandered over to the sandy beach on the eastern side facing the sea.  Another row of beach huts sit on the sand dunes there with views across to the Isle of Wight.

Beach huts at Mudeford Spit
Beach huts overlooking the Solent

After walking along the beach front passing the last of the pastel coloured beach huts we followed a steep path up the Warren Hill steps that brought us out at the top of Hengistbury Head.

Views from the top of Hengistbury Head
Stunning views from the hilltop

Do remember to turn around after reaching the top of these steps as the view of the spit with the harbour to one side and the sea to the other is one of the best around and definitely worth the effort of climbing up the hilltop for.

Christchurch harbour viewed from Hengistbury Head
Christchurch harbour viewed from Hengistbury Head

Once up on the headland, the path follows a gently undulating trail through heathland with stunning clifftop views.  Five cruise liners could be seen anchored in the bay with a board outside the old coastguard listing their names.  I wonder for how much longer they will be marooned off shore.

Walking over the headland at Hengistbury Head
Walking over the headland at Hengistbury Head

Continuing slightly further still and we had reached the Rotary Club viewpoint.  Another spectacular hilltop view, this time of the coastline stretching west to Bournemouth and beyond and in the other direction across the harbour to Christchurch with its beautiful priory church in the distance.

Views of Bournemouth's beaches from Hengistbury Head
Views of Bournemouth’s beaches from Hengistbury Head

After taking lots of photos we made our way down the hill by means of a steep path interspersed with flights of stone steps.  Back along the shoreline we watched people enjoying an afternoon on the beach before making a right turn through some meadows returning us to our starting point by the Hiker Cafe.

Christchurch Priory from Hengistbury Head
Christchurch Priory from Hengistbury Head

Our 3 mile (4.8km) walk had taken around 90 minutes including several short stops, making a lovely place for a stroll on bright, sunny day.  It’s an easy walk but if you don’t fancy the uphill stretches you can just retrace your steps on reaching the spit along the level access track or take the land train if it’s running.

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39 thoughts on “A walk around Hengistbury Head, Dorset

  1. Heavens, this takes me back, Marion! I spent a caravan holiday in the neighbourhood when my, soon to be 50, daughter was a tot. We remember Mudeford for a host of black flies and there was no nature reserve and definitely no upmarket beach huts. Times have undoubtedly improved the place. Was this in August- I think I spy heather? 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you know how much I like Hengistbury Head, Marion! The cost of those Mudeford beach huts is unbelievable but what a location! I didn’t know or I’d forgotten about the ferries – thanks for the reminder and for the fab photos.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You were very lucky with the weather! I think Zeph would love Hengistbury Head. We are working hard on Zeph’s recall and have certain places where we know we can safely let him off the lead. He ‘graduated’ from puppy school last week and we are now hoping to find a class for adolescent dogs!!

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  3. This place looks adorable! I’ve been wanting to travel back to England so much recently. And I especially want to see some of the seaside locations! I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award! I apologize if you’ve already been nominated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words Kelly. I hope it won’t be too much longer for you to wait to travel back to England. I’m sure our lovely seaside resorts will still be just as nice then and waiting for you to return. Thanks for the nomination, it’s much appreciated.

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  4. Hello, I really enjoyed this post. What a wonderful breath of fresh air to travel with you to this soothing nature reserve! Some of the photos remind me of a trip I did to Wijk an Zee in Holland, about an hour from Amsterdam. The charming beach houses looked very similar and just delightful! All the best, Maria Elena

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  5. I wish we had beach huts here in Australia. I think they are a great idea. We were bought up living in town, having farms and a glorious home by the ocean which we used on weekends and holidays and now I live in retirement in proximity to the ocean. This particular blog with its uncluttered Christchurch reminds me of my growing up days. These days beach villages are becoming commercialized city tourist traps with large populations and the quiet restfulness of those bygone years is passing too rapidly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a shame when seaside resorts become too tourists as they lose their charm. I realise that tourism is vital to the local economies but we don’t want attractive beach fronts surrounded by high rise monstrosities. Thank you for your welcome thoughts Ian and I hope you have enjoyed a good weekend.

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  6. Lovely. I particularly like the huts. Aren’t they cute. Christchurch is specifically interesting for me as we have old friends who live there now, but we still haven’t managed to visit them yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. The beach huts at Hengistbury Head are really nice but you need to be super rich to buy one. Christchurch is a lovely small town so I hope you get an opportunity to visit there sometime.

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    1. Yes, that train normally runs but alas not in these social distancing times. They could easily run it for those unable to walk far and just limit numbers! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m glad this post brought back some fond memories.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated! The views along this walk are gorgeous and the beach huts are really cute. Autumn has arrived so it’s much cooler now so I think that’s why not many people are wearing hats or caps.

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