Chesil Beach (also known as Chesil Bank) stretches for 17 miles from Portland to West Bay. The beach is a shingle ridge which connects the Isle of Portland to the mainland. The stones are naturally graded, getting smaller in size the further west you head, and it is said that locals can tell their location by the size of the stones.
How To Get Here
Chiswell / Chesil Cove is on the northern end of Portland, just where Chesil Beach joins onto the island. From Weymouth, take the A354 to Portland. On Portland Beach Road, at the third roundabout, instead of taking the first exit onto Victory Road and up through Fortuneswell to Portland Heights, turn right into the entrance to the pay and display car park.
- Parking Lat/Long: 50.563496, -2.450785
- Parking Postcode: DT5 1AL
- Parking OS Map grid ref: SY 681 738
West Bexington beach is halfway between Abbotsbury and Burton Bradstock, about five miles from each village. From Weymouth, take the B157 coast road for 22 miles and turn left into Beach Road. Continue along Beach Road for about 4 miles until you reach the car park. From Dorchester, follow the A35 west towards Bridport. Turn left into the B3159, going down the hill just before the road bend right into Winterbourne Abbas (signposted towards Winterbourne Steepleton). Turn right to stay on the B3159 and then left onto Coombe Road. Go through Portesham and turn right onto Goose Hill, the B3157. Stay on the B3157, through Abbotsbury. About 4 miles past Abbotsbury, turn left into Beach Road and down to the car park at West Bexington Beach.
- Parking Lat/Long: 50.676008, -2.665040
- Parking Postcode: DT2 9DG
- Parking OS Map grid ref: SY 530 864
- Map: OS Explorer Map OL15 (1:25 000) Purbeck and South Dorset Accessibility
What To Shoot and Viewpoints
There are several spots along Chesil Beach where it’s worth stopping to take photos including Chiswell on Portland, at the very start of the Beach and West Bexington, just west of Abbotsbury. There is a brackish lagoon known as The Fleet behind Chesil Beach between Portland and Abbotsbury. There is plenty of bird life along the beach, including herons, little egrets and warblers. There are good views of Chesil Beach and The Fleet from Portland Heights and Abbotsbury Hill.
Viewpoint 1 – Chiswell / Chesil Cove
From the car park just off the roundabout where Portland Beach Road meets Victory Road, you will see the shingle ridge of Chesil Cove right in front of you. Climb up the ridge and to your left you will see the cliffs of West Weare and to your right, Chesil Beach stretches out into the distance. There are often boats here at Chesil Cove, which make good foreground interest for shots in either direction along the beach, or you can go for a more minimalist approach; this location is excellent for layered compositions comprising simply bands of shingle, sea and sky.
Viewpoint 2 – West Bexington
The car park is right on the beach at West Bexington, making this one of the least taxing locations in the book. There are views west towards the cliffs at Burton Bradstock, so this is a great option for sunset. It is popular with anglers, and the shingle shelves steeply down to the sea here, so one possible composition is to shoot from the bottom of the slope and silhouette fishermen standing on the ridge at sunset.
Chiswell/Chesil Cove: It is a steepish but short walk from the car park up over the ridge onto the beach at Chesil Cove. Walking any distance on the shingle can be tiring. Wheelchair access is not possible up the shingle slope.
West Bexington: Step off the car park onto the beach. Access is possible for all levels of fitness, though again, walking on the shingle can be heavy going and wheelchair access across the stony beach is not really possible. Some shots are possible from the car park itself.
Best Time of Year/Day
Chiswell/Chesil Cove: Shooting long exposures and minimalist black and white works well at any time of day or year in the right conditions, i.e. overcast with textured skies. For colour images, sunset shots are possible from mid-October to mid-February, but best from November to the end of January.
West Bexington: The sun never quite rises or sets completely over the sea here, but good sunsets are possible from early October to late February. From mid-November to mid-January there are also opportunities for sunrise shots.