Lulworth Cove offers a tolerable anchorage in offshore and settled conditions where an overnight stay would be possible. But in any southerly component conditions that approach force 4 or above it is subject to a swell that makes it entirely untenable. Although its entrance is difficult to distinguish from seaward, once located, daylight access is straight forward. Apart from some foul ground which surrounds its entrance points and immediately within the cove, the northern head of the cove is free from outlying dangers.
Keyfacts for Lulworth Cove
Summary* Restrictions applyA tolerable location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 37.110' N, 002° 14.747' W
This is the anchoring area in the northeast end of the cove.
What are the key points of the approach?
- Locate the cove's entrance - it may be difficult to distinguish in the cliffs.
- Keeping between the middle and a ⅓ of a mile out from the eastern cliff when making an entrance.
- Continue northward on this track inside the entrance until fully halfway up the cove.
- Anchor in the northeast corner of the cove in around 2.5 metres.
Not what you need?
- Worbarrow Bay - 0.6 miles E
- Durdle Door - 0.8 miles W
- Ringstead Bay - 2.3 miles WNW
- Wareham - 4 miles NE
- Redclyffe Yacht Club - 4.1 miles NE
- Chapman's Pool - 4.4 miles ESE
- Ridge Wharf Yacht Centre - 4.5 miles NE
- Weymouth Harbour - 4.9 miles W
- Weymouth Marina - 5 miles W
- Portland Marina - 5.2 miles WSW
How to get in?
Lulworth Cove is located 8½ miles north-westward of Saint Alban’s Head, and 8 miles east of Weymouth. It is a small natural circular bay encompassed by high chalky cliffs with a narrow entrance. A small tourist focused village lies along the road that ascends from the west side of the cove.
Depths of at least 5 metres will be found in the centre of the entrance and it gradually shelves to 2 metres CD within 100 metres of the beach. 2.5 metres CD will be found in the anchoring area in the northeast corner of the bay.
The cove offers a good anchorage in offshore conditions or during moderate or settled conditions. Vessels anchoring here should maintain a vigilant weather watch and be prepared to leave at the slightest indication of strong southerly conditions. In strong southerlies the bay quickly becomes inescapable and a dangerous swell washes into the cove that can roll a boat from rail to rail. Vessels with good ground tackle may however comfortably ride out strong northerly conditions and may safely endure strong westerly or easterly conditions, albeit with little pleasure in these cases.
Vessels approaching from the west will find Lulworth Cove located 3 miles eastward of White Nothe where the coastal cliffs change from clay to chalk. Between White Nothe and Worbarrow Tout, a mile to the east of Lulworth Cove, the coast is generally bold.
Vessels approaching from the east should note that Lulworth Cove is situated close west of the Lulworth Gunnery Range that commences at the cove’s eastern point and extends eastward to Saint Alban’s Head and then southward for 12 miles to seaward – as best seen on a chart. Eastern approaching vessels should stay clear of the range when firing takes place. Details regarding Lulworth Gunnery Range are covered in the Worbarrow Bay entry.
When it is permissible to cross the Lulworth Gunnery Range, vessels should use the traditional clearing line of Arish Mell Gap, held open west of the small conical hill of Worbarrow Tout on 302° T, to avoid the Kimmeridge Ledges. Worbarrow Bay is identifiable by both these features and Lulworth Cove will be found a mile to the west of Worbarrow Bay’s westernmost promontory. A radar scanner installation stands on the western slopes of Bindon Hill, a ⅓ of a mile to the northeast of the cove.
The initial fix is set immediately outside of the entrance to Lulworth Cove, 80 metres south of the centre point and on the 10-metre contour.
The entrance may not be easily distinguished when first encountered. If there is any doubt it is advisable to pass east-west along the cliffs until the gap makes itself known. The shore is steep-to in the vicinity of Lulworth's entrance and all dangers are cleared by keeping 60 metres or more out from the cliffs.
Once identified the entrance channel will be found to be clear, 80 metres wide and with the least depth of 3 metres CD. Keep well clear of the points on approach as ledges of low water rocks run off each side. The longest and most obtrusive ledge extends from the entrance’s western side and is called The Rat. This may be avoided by keeping between the middle and a ⅓ of a mile out from the eastern cliff when making an entrance, making allowances for any cross tide on approach.
Continue northward on this track inside the entrance until fully halfway up the cove. This avoids rocky shoals in the cove’s south-eastern corner, off Pepler’s Point and inside East Point, and the shallows inside the south-west corner, off Little Beach and inside the West Point. There is an 8-knot speed limit in the cove.
Anchor in the northeast corner of the cove in around 2.5 metres CD. A good line of bearing is to bring the entrance’s East Point due south.
Keep clear of local moorings when anchoring and try not to impede the fairway used by pleasure boats to access the landing area at the foot of the road leading up to Lulworth village. It is advisable to thoroughly check ground tackle as holding is poor in sand and clay with some weed. Land on the beach at the west side of the cove.
Why visit here?Lulworth, first recorded in Doomsday 1086, derives its name from the combination of the personal name of a man called Lulla with worth. The Old English word worth, or worthy is often found in place names and it originally meant an enclosure, homestead or section of farmland surrounded by a protective ditch or fence. Hence Lulworth means ‘enclosure of a man called Lulla’.
The beautiful small embayment was formed through the different effects of marine erosion on the layers of coastal strata. The process commenced when wave action found a weakness in the 30-metre thick outer walls of Portland Limestone. In time the of 150-million-year-old sea walls were breached and the sea broke through to erode away the 300 to 350 metres wide band of much softer clays and greensands that lay behind. The erosion then slowed when it approached the next 250-metre-wide band of chalk that lies at the back of the cove. The result is the steeply dipping and near-completely circular enclosure experienced today.
Should the range be closed the roofless sea cave of Stair Hole, immediately west of the cove, also has examples of fossilised tree trunks. Early in the process of sea erosion that caused the embayment, Stair Hole amply demonstrates how the sea broke in to create Lulworth Cove. The outer limestone here can be seen to be riddled with eroded gaps, in the form of caves and arches. One of the arches, called Cathedral Cavern, is supported by pillars of rock that rise out of the water. The area’s folded limestone strata, known as the ‘Lulworth Crumple’, is also particularly visible in Stair Hole.
A couple of miles westward, along the marked pathway over Hambury Tout, is Man O'War Cove that is also known as St. Oswald's Bay. Much further eroded than Stair Hole the small bay manages to retain the vestiges of its band of Portland and Purbeck limestone. Once its outer sea wall, it can be seen above the waves in the form of the Man O'War Rocks. Immediately opposite Man O'War Bay’s western promontory is the pièce de résistance of this coast, Durdle Door which is separately covered as a day anchorage.
Lulworth village was built around a thriving lobster fishery, and several boats were moored in the cove up to the early days of the twentieth century. During the eighteenth, and early part of the nineteenth century, smugglers exploited the cove and its seclusion. In the early years of the 18th century there is an account of a dozen smugglers being stopped here, and at first light on a summer's morning, running wine and brandy. The ensuing battle with the Revenue Men went on for some twelve hours. It attracted people from four parishes who ran off with any barrels that had to be abandoned.
Smuggling was a rough ruthless trade and the men undertaking it in Lulworth could be pitiless as the inscription on a Weymouth's Bury Street cemetery tombstone makes patently clear. Sacred to the memory of Lieut Thos Edward Knight, RN, of Folkestone, Kent, Aged 42, who in the execution of his duty as Chief Officer of the Coastguard was wantonly attacked by a body of smugglers near Lulworth on the night of 28th of June 1832, by whom after being unmercifully beaten he was thrown over the cliff near Durdle Door from the effects of which he died the following day.
Today the almost landlocked Lulworth Cove, along with the perfectly sculpted Durdle Door, are very peaceful law-abiding locations and magnets for tourists. The area receives about half a million visitors a year with about a third of these visits taking place during July and August. As such the coastal cruising yachtsmen will have to contend with the hordes when the schools are out in the summer.
From a sailing point of view, Lulworth Cove will never be a described as a perfect anchorage. But it is perhaps one the most noteworthy of the many little bays indented in the fine cliffs of this coast, which are always beautiful and in some parts utterly magnificent. In an auspicious weather window, it makes an ideal base to explore this geological wonderland that is just awe-inspiring to the eye.
What facilities are available?Lulworth Village has a launching site at the beach at the end of the road. The concrete ramp is only suitable for light vessels that can be manually lifted in as the ramp it too short to reach the water, and the access road is mostly closed during summer. Driving a vehicle down to the water's edge to off-load is permitted early morning and during the winter months. There is a fresh water tap at the slip and another above in the car park. Public toilets may be found close alongside.
The small tourist village has a host of small shops, pubs and restaurants. The free Lulworth Heritage Centre details the local geology. There is a frequent bus service to and from the cove during summer.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur SY Whistler. Photography with thanks to Michael Harpur, Peter Barr, Martijn vdS, Kyle Taylor, Roman Hobler, Ben Cremin, Ian Capper, Richard Szwejkowski and Peter Eliott.
Various aerial views of Lulworth Cove
Add your review or comment:
Please log in to leave a review of this haven.
Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.