Abbotsbury to St Catherines Chapel and Chesil Beach Circular Walk

The Abbotsbury walk described below is an easy 3.2 mile circular walk taking in the highlights of Abbotsbury Village as well and St Catherines Chapel and Chesil Beach. Returning from Chesil Beach the route takes you past the entrance to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens which is worth a visit (Allow at least 1 hr 30 mins to explore the gardens, check website link above for prices). Even if you don’t want to visit the Gardens you can still access the coffee shop/restaurant and toilet facilities.

Abbotsbury is a picturesque village situated approximately 10 miles south-west of Dorchester and 9 miles north-west of Weymouth. The village is home to several art galleries and craft shops, tea rooms and a good pub – The Ilchester Arms.

Google map of Abbotsbury

The main attraction is the nearby Abbotsbury Swannery, housing the world’s largest managed colony of nesting mute swans ( and Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Another popular attraction is St Catherine’s Chapel, a 14th-century pilgrimage chapel that stands on a hill between the village and the coast, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside and Chesil Beach.

Distance: 3.2 miles Circular
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1 hour 25 mins
Total ascent: 299ft, Highest Point 276ft
OS Map: Explorer OL15 Purbeck & South Dorset
Starting Point: Main village car park DT3 4JL
Date of Walk: 18 April 2023

Abbotsbury to St Catherines Chapel and Chesil Beach Walk 3.2 miles circular
Abbotsbury to St Catherines Chapel and Chesil Beach Walk 3.2 miles circular
Base map © OpenStreetMap

Route Map & GPS Navigation
(external link to Outdooractive interactive map where route GPX file can be downloaded if required)

Abbotsbury Walk Route Description and Photo Gallery

The starting point for this circular walk is the Abbotsbury Village Car Park 
Postcode DT3 4JL

Abbotsbury Car Park DT3 4JL

Turn left outside Abbotsbury car park walking along Rodden Row towards the village centre

Stone corttages along Rodden Row
The Dansel Gallery

At the end of the road turn right into Market Street. Market Street is the main high street where you can find tea shops, coffee shops, the Ilchester Arms Pub, some craft shops. There are public toilets to the rights of the Old School House.

The Ilchester Arms

Turn left just before the Spar shop and follow the lane

You will see St Catherines Chapel up on the hill

At the end of the lane pass through the gate and follow the dirt track up the hill

St Catherines Chapel, Abbotsbury
View back towards Abbotsbury village.
St. Catherine’s Chapel

You can walk around the outside of the chapel but you can’t enter.

Continue along the path and down the other side of the hill.

View looking back towards the chapel
View from the top of the hill towards Abbotsbury Swannery

At the bottom of the hill the path turns right (west). There are signs of recent cows in this field but I didn’t see any. Follow the path until you reach a stile and a dirt track.

Once over the stile turn left along the dirt track which heads towards the beach.

This track was quite muddy in places (April)

Chesil Beach

The path enters Chesil Beach. Turn right along the beach until you come to the Chesil Beach car park.

View west along Chesil Beach towards Lyme Regis
View looking east along Chesil Beach towards Portland and Weymouth

At the car park follow the road up hill. This road goes back to Abbotsbury Village. The road was quite quiet and felt safe walking along it since visibility was good with no sharp bends. Normally I don’t like walking along roads with no pavement but this seemed ok.

The road passes the entrance to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. There is a large free car park for visitors to the gardens. For opening hours and entrance tickets prices see We paid £12.50 each for an adult entrance ticket (April 2023).

You can visit the Coffee Shop and toilets without having to buy an entrance ticket.

The Coffee Shop at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Mid-April was a good time to visit the gardens since the Rhododendrons were in flower and several other spring flowers. The camellias and magnolias were ok but just past their best. Their website has a gallery of photos taken at each month of the year so you can see if you think it worth visiting.

Rope suspension bridge across the lily pond

Once past the entrance to the Subtropical Gardens continue along the road for about 200m. On the right is a permissive path running parallel to the road that avoids you having to walk on the road.

Follow the permissive footpath
Hawthorn hedge beside the path

Hawthorn is also known as the May tree since its flowers blossom in May (May blossom)

The path takes you back onto the road leading through the village but there’s a pavement now making it safer.

You will go back through the village centre and maybe stop off at the pub or go for a cream tea. You can easily find your way back to the car park. Instead of returning via Rodden Row you could follow Church Lane and visit St Nicholas’ Church and the Abbotsbury Abbey Ruins opposite. The lane past the Abbey Ruins and Abbey House take you into the back of the car park.