On White Nothe.

I am sitting in my office this afternoon looking out of my window at the most amazing sunset……and I am frustrated!  You see, this week I have been unwell so have not been able to get out walking and one of Yarrow’s Laws states that, ‘When not walking, there shall be a blazing sunset, and when walking, there shall be grey skies only’ ;)!  Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Since I am at home, I thought I would catch up with another blog, and this one was sparked by a television programme that I watched earlier.  But more of that later!

The subject of this blog is White Nothe which is a fabulous headland on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.  Also known as White Nose because of its distinctive shape, it is an area that I love to walk as it seems to be filled with interest and intrigue, not to mention wild, windy weather at times.

The distinctive shape of White Nothe, AKA White Nose, at sunset

The chalk headland with its flat top juts out to sea and has amazing views all along the coast to the east and the west.  To the east, the views take in Bat’s Head, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

The view to the east

To the west, the views spread out across the beautiful Ringstead Bay and through to Weymouth.

The Dorset Cost Path and the view to the west

And looking directly South, the view takes in The Isle of Portland, which in reality is not an island as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway.

The view south to Portland

With the Dorset Coast Path running along this whole area, I am sure you can appreciate why I love walking it so much – well, who wouldn’t.  I mentioned that this area is intriguing, well it is to me, and one of the quirky things is the famous Smuggler’s Path which zig zags steeply down the end of the headland to the shore.  This path was made famous by J Meade Falkner in his book, ‘Moonfleet’ which is a tale of smuggling in Dorset.  In part of the book he wrote:

‘Forgive me, lad,’ he said, ‘if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now ’tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear’st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.’

(From Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – as young John Trenchard and Elzevir Block flee from the Excise Men)

The Smuggler’s Path

Actually, the path itself, whilst steep, is not that scary although when you reach the bottom there is a somewhat shaky and exposed ‘ladder’ that takes you the last 30 feet to the shore.  This is a path I always enjoy walking, especially down……well its tough going up it ;)!

One of the other quirky things is the ‘pill box’ which stands at the top of the zig zag.  It was in fact a communication post during the war, and I once scrambled up to the top to take some pictures.  These places always intrigue me because as I stand there, I find myself wondering about all the men that served there, and the legacy they left.  What also amuses me is that as I stand beside this communication post, I have no signal on my mobile phone!!


The communication post

The most intriguing thing about the headland is the row of cottages behind in the picture above.  These puzzled me for years until I got talking to a very pleasant lady who lives in one of them and she told me all about them.  This is another very quirky part of this wonderful county!

White Nothe Cottages

The cottages were built to house coastguards, with the nearest three story house being that of the captain and the other six cottages housing his men.  At one time, with wives and children, there were 44 people living in this short row of cottages.  They are well placed for the coastguards, simply because of the all round views.

The coastguards’ view

These days, the cottages are in private ownership, although they are nonetheless quirky for that.  These are the facts:

1. They have no road access.  The only way to reach then is along a muddy farm track.
2. They have no mains electricity.  Power comes from a number of sources, a) an LPG powered generator, b) a car battery charged by solar panels, or c) for lighting, gas mantles, oil lamps or candles.
3. They have no mains gas.  Gas is by LPG bottle and since there are no deliveries, the residents have to go and collect them.
4. There is no running water.  Water provision is simply rain water captured off the roofs and stored in underground tanks.  This then needs to be pumped up to the header tank as needed.
5. Heating is by log burners which feed a small number of radiators.
6. There is no telephone or Internet.
7. There is no mains drainage, just a septic tank.

Quirky?  I think so, but fantastic too, and I would love to live in one :)!  In the middle of nowhere, with those views and being able to walk straight out of you front door onto the coast path…..bliss!

Just down from the top of the headland stands another interesting feature of this amazing coast.  It is a tiny hamlet of Holworth with its beautiful wooden chapel.  I had thought that this was unused but in fact it has recently been extended.  It stands in the perfect position right on the cliff edge.


Holworth Church with its perfect view

I think it is fair to say that yet another quirky thing about this place is its weather!  Often windy, as you would expect, it also has frequent mists which blow across the headland and role down to the sea like water pouring off a hillside.  It is an awesome sight to stand and watch this phenomenon which frequently occurs when the lower coast is clear.

The mist covers White Nothe whilst Ringstead Bay stays clear


The mist roles across the headland

Ah yes, one more feature about White Nothe – it seems to have a lot of old, broken fence posts which I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity ;)!  The picture below, I called ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down’ – I wonder if you can see why?

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down

So that is White Nothe, with its amazing views and intrigue, a place I love.  Oh yes, and the programme that sparked this blog?  The cottages were featured on a property programme from which I discovered that three of them are on the market………now, where’s my cheque book?

Actually, according to the programme, the three story cottage is on at £575K.  Ah well, I’ll just dream on!

The sun fades over White Nothe

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.


  1. I’m intrigued by the cottages, but they seem to lack a lot of mod cons. I could see myself staying there for a short vacation, but I don’t know if I could become a permanent resident. Too attached to my Internet.

    I like the pill box and the Smuggler’s Path. Who needs gyms when you’ve got a path like this?

    I have to wonder if the cottage owners could benefit from solar power. Problem is, the panels would destroy the charm of the place.

    1. Totally agree about the gym – I’d much rather be outdoors, and the coast path is the perfect place. I think I could def live in these cottages but my wife couldn’t – far too remote for her!

  2. Having lived in Swanage I’ve seen Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and a fair bit of that coastline – I’ve not seen White Nothe though – I’m going to have to plan another trip back there because you are making me aware of so many places I nned to walk. 🙂

  3. Magnificent post, Terry. What a wonderful tour guide you are. I definitely think once retirement is complete, you MUST go into business for yourself with tours and a gift shop that offers all your magnificent photography on gift items.

    And I did not know until this post that you also have a photography website. How did I miss that? Will have to go visit.

  4. Just back from a weekend in Dorset. We stayed on the coastal path near Ringstead and walked along to White Nothe. A magnificent area to walk! We were really intrigued by the cottages so I did a google search and your site came up. Thank you for the information. St. Catherine’s church in Holsworth has a little graveyard with a few benches. The view is lovely and it’s a good place to rest your weary legs.

    1. Thanks Trish. Glad you liked the blog 🙂 Just as an update, the end cottage on White Nothe sold recently for £467K. It is a delightful area and I love the little church.

  5. Over a number of years I have walked several parts of the Dorset Coast and yesterday (15 August 2013) I caught a train from my Hampshire home to Wool and a bus from there to Lulworth Cove. I then set out on foot for Weymouth and enjoyed a most remarkable hike. This was my first visit to White Nothe. As with all walks, questions arose about features en-route but this blog has answered most of them and inspired me to revisit White Nothe. The coastguard cottages were cloaked in fog and presented an ideal setting for a John Buchan thriller. The blog is excellent and has now been added to my favourites. (but what is the obelisk type of monument east of White Nothe?) Thanks for an interesting blog and the superb photos.

    1. Hi Ken
      Thanks for your kind comments, I am glad you enjoyed my blog. I actually made a follow up blog entry on 6th December entitled ‘On White Nothe again’ and this one covers the two obelisks plus some other things that I could not fit in to the original entry without making it too long. The obelisks are to with with naval practice firing. All is explained on the 6th Dec entry.
      Best wishes

  6. Thanks for this entry. We walked here today and were intrigued too by all these little mysteries. LOVE the cottages.

  7. We love The Coastguards Cottages and the area. Been there this week and there is scaffolding up on end cottage. Roof repairs. Also saw inside cottage on Escape to the Country. Delightful. Wonder if they would do holiday lets!

  8. Love your write up and particularly the photos. I camped there in 1954 while in the Boy Scouts and became very familiar with “Smugglers Path” on my way for a daily dip in the freezing sea. Also took photos with a cardboard box camera and still have the prints. Have to admit that yours are better😊 We attended a Sunday service in that little wooden church. A few years later I went back there with my soon to be wife and hiked the coast path to Weymouth and enjoyed a delicious lobster lunch at a pub along the path where the lobsters were piled high outside. Still think about it in our Arizona 117F summer days!

  9. In 1892 my uncle T J M Smith was born in one of the Coast Guard cottages His father Thomas Smith my grandfather was in the Royal Navy and posted to White Nothe . He was married to Amelia Ann Daniels from Kent and got married 12 November 1888. Later he was posted back to Plymouth where my father F G H Smith was born in 1896. Extremely pleased to view your photos of the cottages as they can be placed in my family research records.
    Great research on Dorset keep up the excellent work
    Thanks Len

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s