From peas to fists - 180 million pebbles in 18 miles
The Chesil Beach is a glorious 18 miles of pebbles stretching along the Dorset coast from Portland to West Bay. The isle of Portland juts into the sea off the end of Weymouth, and from here you can see the beach roll away from you toward Devon. It's rightly known as one of England's most beautiful beaches, and is well worth a visit at any time of year. The largest tombolo in the UK, it is made up over around 180 million pebbles ranging in size from pea to fist. One unusual feature is the Fleet Lagoon which separates the beach from the mainland. You can walk along the shingle with water either side.
Part of England's Jurassic Coast, the Chesil Beach also forms part of a World Heritage Site. This southern coast of England is extraordinary, with sheer cliffs, rolling hills, and at their bases, stunning beaches meandering gently along the coast.
The pebbles form a ridge along the beach, so you do have to scramble to reach the sea, but it is well worth it for the beautiful, sweeping views around the bays. Bear in mind that walking on shingle is very tiring, so visitors might want to plan shorter walks than normal.
A particularly popular access point is Abbotsbury. Here there is a manned car park, where parking will cost you at least £4. There is a boardwalk going up to the crest of the beach so that wheelchairs and buggies, for example, can get as far as the sea view.
Abbotsbury also provides entertainment for when you come off the beach, in the shape of a famous swannery, alongside a children's farm and subtropical garden. Built by Benedictine monks in the 11th century, the swannery is unique in the world, as the only place where you can wander among colonies of nesting Mute Swans. The village itself is small and picturesque, but visitors flock in for these natural wonders.
Fishing is possible, with some limitation, which anglers should check on the website.
Boating is allowed in various areas, again with some restrictions which should be checked according to the season.
Swimming is not allowed at Abbotsbury. Keen swimmers should check local regulations according to the season.