Dorset 330 bikepacking challenge

Ride level Experienced cyclist
Distance 206 mi / 331 km
Type of bicycle Mountain bike
Traffic free
Circular route
Gravel track heading towards blue sea

Keen off-road rider and author of Freewheel blog Harry Griffiths challenges you to an epic ride exploring the best that Dorset has to offer.

Rolling out of Dorchester, the sun shining, I quickly left the suburbs and onto the farm tracks leading towards the coast. Swapping dusty tracks for country roads and back again, I wound my way along the coast, stopping to take in the views over Weymouth Harbour and onwards to the Purbecks. This section of the route was constantly up and down, making sure I earned each of the descents.

Gravel track through the countryside by the coast

Into the Purbecks, the views just got better and the climbing kept on coming. Leaving Lulworth and climbing up over Whiteways hill, the only thing to distract me from the climb was the tank targets that sit right next to the road. Make sure you check the firing range status before riding this section! Up onto Swyre head, it’s easy to get distracted by the 360 views, but flying down the descent will tear your eyes away from the views and onto the trail.

Corfe gives you the first opportunity to refuel and it's worth taking, as the climbing doesn’t relent. Up onto the Nine Barrow Down ridge line, I got my first view of Swanage before tackling the descent. This descent is a brilliant bit of riding - chopping from singletrack sections to wide fast tracks, it deposited me at the bottom of the last climb of the Purbecks. This took me up, over and down past Old Harry rocks to Studland. This marks the last of the climbing for now, and sandy tracks that took me across Rempstone Heath to Wareham served as a welcome respite.

Leaving Wareham through the forest, the route winds onwards towards Wimborne Minister on a variety of gravel tracks, small roads and cycle paths. Wimborne serves as a good rest point, but in my case, I was trying to complete the route in two days, so I pressed on.

The next few sections were easy going on gravel tracks through Moors Valley and Ringwood Forest, before turning and starting to head West across North Dorset. Cranborne served as the end of the road my first day, heading to the pub before camping in a friend's garden.

Bike resting on a gravel track with hills in the background

Waking up to another beautiful day, the first challenge was navigating the plains that characterise this part of Dorset, before the climbing started again. Shillingstone serves as a good place to restock before heading back into the hills. The climbing comes thick and fast from here, up Ibberton Hill and the Dorsetshire Gap, before dropping into Minterne Magna and Up Cerne. From here, looking back at Cerne Abbas, I could see the famous giant that is cut into the hillside.

The gravel tracks continue to thread their way through the farms and parks, passing through the village of Halstock and onwards to the town of Beaminister. This serves as another ideal rest spot, although the climb of White Sheet hill out of Beaminster will reduce almost anyone to crawling speed. At this point, the effects of my two-day attempt were becoming apparent, and my knee was complaining. Not wanting to injure myself, I called it a day.

Despite this set back, I had already ridden the next part of the route, and knew what awaited me. Having battled with White Sheet Hill, the route takes you over Lewesdon hill and onto some fantastic lanes towards Charmouth. Turning back east at Charmouth marks the last major change of direction, and all that is left is to traverse the coastline back to Dorchester. Passing under Golden Cap, the route twists and turns through country lanes and farms. As you pass the Hardy Monument, the views of Dorchester give you a true sense of achievement and it's down all the way past Madien Castle to the finish.

This route is not to be underestimated: there is a lot of climbing and being about 60% off road, the going can be slow. That said, the rewards are; stunning views, a sense of being ‘out there’ that is often hard to find in Dorset, and great riding.

So if you're looking for a challenge, this would be perfect.

Find out more about the Dorset 330.

Gravel track heading towards blue sea