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When geology starts showing off


The Cove
West Lulworth
Durdle Door
Man o' War Beach
There aren't many coves like this. It looks like an artist's idle daydream. Two arms of rock curl round the entrance, protecting the shore from harm. Waves burst against these barriers, before flowing past in calm arcs. Inside, the bay forms a near-perfect circle. Its surface is dotted with fishing boats and pleasure craft.
Just next to the water's edge, a Heritage Centre explains the geology that led to Lulworth's formation. It took the sea many centuries of hard graft to carve out the cove we see today.
A little to the west is an example of a work in progress. Stair Hole is going to look like Lulworth one day, but that day is probably a hundred thousand years in the future. For now, you can just see how the water has started eroding its way through the rock. Together, the two coves provide a wonderful illustration of the sea's persistent power.
A little further along the coast is a natural rock arch called Durdle Door. It's another example of the various shapes which can appear over time. It looks a little strange though, like a giant dinosaur drinking from the sea. This is quite an appropriate image, as this entire section of shoreline is part of Dorset's Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile stretch of ancient cliffs, rocks and fossils. In 2001, it became a World Heritage Site.
Next to Durdle Door is the Man O' War beach, which is nearly as sheltered as Lulworth. It's a good spot for safe swimming, sunbathing and picnics. If you keep an eye on the water, there's even a small chance you might spot a dolphin.
In the opposite direction, east along the coast, is an area that's restricted by the Ministry of Defence. Most of the time it's used for military training, but on certain weekend's it's open to the public. If you time it right, you can get access to beaches like Mupe Bay, that most tourists will never find.
Inland from the cove is the village of West Lulworth. Despite its tiny population of 800 people, there are quite a few places to stay, eat and drink. Castle Inn is a particular landmark; there are few older pubs in the entire county. It still has some of the original woodwork, from way back in the 16th century.
The west village is paired with East Lulworth, an even smaller settlement full of 17th century thatched cottages. It's home to Lulworth Castle - once a Lord's hunting lodge, now a popular museum and tourist attraction.
In days gone by, Lulworth Cove's pretty landscape acted as an unassuming cover for the criminal activities taking place in its nooks and crannies. For decades the bay was used by smugglers, hoping to get rich by importing cargoes of contraband. Thanks to the patrolling coastguard this was dangerous work, but the views were surely a perk of the job. Nowadays you can hop on board a boat trip at Lulworth Harbour, and have the same experience without the risk of getting arrested.

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