Seaside hamlet & close by chalk hill figure

Nestled along the rugged Jurassic Coast, east of Weymouth is  Osmington Mills – a seaside hamlet with a fascinating geology and past in smuggling to discover. Then head inland to view the iconic chalk horse carved into the South Dorset Ridgeway – the aptly named ‘Land of Bone and Stone.’


Osmington Mills

This seaside hamlet has a pretty approach and magnificent views across Weymouth Bay to Portland. The shore is rocky and wild and it’s not safe for swimming.

It’s an important geological site where a small waterfall tumbles straight onto the beach. The boulders are full of fossils and the limestone points fingers of rock into the sea.  Fossil hunting is a 200 year old activity and has helped us in our understanding of Earth and prehistoric life, but please remember when fossil hunting to stay safe and fossil responsibly. The Jurassic Coast Trust has plenty of advice.

This is a rugged and rarely visited beach, more one for exploring rather than sunbathing! It’s littered with boulders and pebbles of all sizes which are great for rock hopping. At low tide rock pools are revealed which are fascinating to explore. Search for sea urchins, crabs and starfish in these micro ocean environments.

Tide times and local weather can be found on the met office website.

Dorset smugglers

In days gone by, this wild rugged landscape made it the perfect haunt for smugglers!  In the 1700s it was rife along this coastline as contraband goods such as wine, brandy and lace were smuggled in from France to avoid customs officials!

There are plenty of myths and legends from the time. Have lunch in the Smugglers Inn, above the beach, where ‘French Peter’ smoked out a customs officer hiding in the chimney.

Discover more stories about smuggling in Dorset HERE

“Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark,
Brandy for the Parson,
Baccy for the Clark,
Laces for a Lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Smugglers go by”

Osmington Mills sunset

From here you can take an easy walk along the South West Coast Path to Osmington and admire the iconic white horse chalked into the landscape.

Osmington White Horse

The chalk hill figure of horse and rider was created in 1808. The rider represents King George III, a regular visitor to Weymouth.

You can see the White Horse (well, actually off white!), cut in 1808 to commemorate the visits of King George III to Weymouth from the town itself, or pull into the viewing layby for a closer look. You can also follow the South Dorset Ridgeway National Trail along the top of the White Horse ridge, see Map 6 in our free Field Guide series.

Walking paths zigzag this area and you’ll be rewarded with a fascinating mix of wildlife, geology and outstanding views for your efforts . Plan a route along the South West Coast Path or the Hardy Way.

The White Horse is one of two chalk figures in Dorset – the other being the Cerne Giant, in the Cerne Valley near Dorchester.

Osmington White Horse (c) Tony Gill

Ancient Landscape

The Osmington White Horse lies within the South Dorset Ridgeway ancient landscape, a ridge of high land that has attracted people for thousands of years – a special place to celebrate life and bury their dead.

Experts tell us that this ridge of land is as important as Stonehenge and Avebury for the scale of monuments and what they tell us of life in the past. But without a stone henge, this vast ceremonial landscape remains one of the UK’s best kept secrets!

Hell Stone (c) Paul Haynes

The Land of Bone & Stone

The reason the South Dorset Ridgeway has been so popular for so many thousands of years could be the STONE beneath our feet. In Dorset the geology of the coast has been given world heritage status but away from the coast these same rocks create the rolling hills, green vales and dramatic ridge of the South Dorset Ridgeway.

The character of the South Dorset Ridgeway comes from the chalk – an almost pure limestone which was formed between 100 and 65 million years ago when this area would have been submerged in a warm tropical sea teeming with life. Over time, countless microscopic skeletons accumulated on the seabed and eventually turned into chalk. Other creatures such as sponges provided the raw material to form the strange nodules in the chalk which we know as flint.

Download our Explorer’s Guide to the great sights, walks and days out in this most ancient landscape.