How to Photograph Durdle Door

By Ian Middleton

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How to get great photos of Durdle Door

Durdle Door is a natural limestone rock arch that was carved out 10,000 years ago by the rough seas of the English Channel. It’s one of the many, and possibly the most famous sights to see on the Jurassic Coast. It’s likely one of the most photographed places on the Jurassic Coast. In this article I’m going to show you how and from where to get great photos of this great photography location.

The Jurassic Coast

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Stretching 95 miles along the Dorset and Devon coast, the Jurassic Coast is a stunning piece of land that is a natural museum literally recording 185 million years of the planet’s history within its geology. It’s so precious that it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many great locations along this coast for photography, but for today we are going to look at Durdle Door and the best places and times to get pictures of it.

The rock is 200 feet tall and part of the Lulworth Estate, and is not only a world famous landmark, but also a popular holiday resort. The Durdle Door Holiday Park lies at the top of the cliff. In order to visit the rock you need to drive through the holiday park to the pay and display car park behind it. From there it’s a ten-minute walk to the beach. Or you can park at Lulworth Cove and walk the coastal hiking path from there.

Man O' War Cove

The rising moon casting beautiful moonlight over Man of War Bay, near Durdle Door, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
The rising moon casting beautiful moonlight over Man of War Bay.
Durdle Door beach, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
View from the path above of the rock arch and beach as the afternoon cloud breaks up.

From the car park you have to walk down to the cliffs where you will join the southwest coast path. You can also follow this path from Lulworth Cove. Although the terrain is easy, it can be a bit steep in places. It’s not too far to walk but you need to give yourself a good 15 minutes from the car park, so make sure you take that into consideration if arriving late to catch the sunset or early for the sunrise.

As you approach, the first sight you will see is the Man O’ War Cove on your left. The rock sits between here and St Oswald’s Bay. As you can see by the photo above, the Man O’ War Cove also makes a great photo, especially from above.

Steps lead down the cliffsides to each beach. The steps to Durdle Door beach were washed away many years ago during a massive storm, but have since been repaired and restored.

The first good viewpoint is from the southwest coast path here, where looking west you get a great perspective of the rock arch, the beach and across to Bat’s Head. And looking east you get a wide view of Man O’ War Cove.

great pictures anytime of year

Durdle Door is a great place to photograph at any time of the year, but the prime time is from September to March, when the sun moves further south and sets out at sea. Throughout the summer the sun sets over the land. But there are still photography possibilities.

At the right time of year and from the right angle on the cliffside you can capture the sun as it sets over the chalk cliffs at Bat’s Head. I took this photo end of July.

Durdle Door beach as the sun disappears over the cliffs, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
View across the beach as the sun sets over the chalk cliffs

Durdle Door under the moonlight

Also at the right time of year, you can capture the full moon rising over the arch itself. Move yourself around to find the right viewpoint and you’ll get it sitting right in the dip on the top of the arch. I took these photos on the same evening as the one above. I was actually caught by surprise. After the sunset I was planning to leave because there were no clouds, and so I figured the blue hour wouldn’t be very interesting. I took a walk along the beach for a bit and as I turned spotted the full moon rising behind the arch. It just goes to show you never know what you might miss if you leave too soon.

Durdle Door in the moonlight, Dorset, England. Captured late evening as the moonlight flooded through the rock's archway. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
Durdle Door in the moonlight.
Durdle Door in the moonlight, Dorset, England. Captured late evening as the moonlight flooded through the rock's archway. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
Moon rising over the rock arch

Best moment for soft light on the arch

There is a small window of opportunity when the setting sun is in just the right position to cast soft warm light on the front of the arch as it hits the sea. This happens in spring and autumn. You have to catch it in autumn just as it moves south from setting over the land. But this only lasts a couple of weeks, then it moves too far south and the light falls on the back of the rock. In spring when it comes back northwards there is another short opportunity before it begins to set over the land. To work out when this happens, use the photographers ephemeris (TPE).

The late afternoon sun casts a warm glow over Durdle Door rock arch and beach, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
There is a small window when the sun sets out at sea in just the right place to cast warm soft light on the front of the rock face.
The late afternoon sun casts a warm glow over Durdle Door rock arch and beach at sunset, Dorset, England.
Durdle Door rock arch and beach at sunset, Dorset, England.

It's not all about the arch though

As I said, this entire coastline is stunning, so don’t forget to look around you because there are great photos to be taken everywhere.

The view west towards Bat’s Head is also beautiful either from the beach or the clifftop.

View across the cliffs to Bats Head from the cliffs above Durdle Door beach as the sun goes down for the evening, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
View across the cliffs to Bats Head from the cliffs above Durdle Door beach as the sun goes down for the evening, Dorset, England.

Great for blue hour shots too

The arch makes a great silhouette during the twilight, also known as the blue hour. The light on the horizon is that of the lighthouse at Portland Bill.

Close up of Durdle Door as the last wisp of light disappears over the horizon at dusk, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
View across Durdle Door, Bat's Head towards Portland Bill as the last wisp of light disappears over the horizon at dusk.
Close up of Durdle Door as the last wisp of light disappears over the horizon at dusk, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
Close up of the rock arch at twilight.
The Big dipper (Ursa Major) constellation on a moonlit light at Durdle Door beach, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
The Big dipper (Ursa Major) constellation on a moonlit light at Durdle Door beach.

Try some close ups

A view through the Durdle Door arch as a cargo ship sails by in the distance, Dorset, England. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
A view through the Durdle Door arch as a cargo ship sails by in the distance.
Durdle Door in the moonlight, Dorset, England. Captured late evening as the moonlight flooded through the rock's archway. Durdle door is one of the many stunning locations to visit on the Jurassic coast in southern England.
Durdle Door in the moonlight.

Views from the other side

If you continue to walk west along the cliffs you’ll get great views from the other side like this.

View from the cliffs further down

Road Directions

Durdle Door is just west of West Lulworth on the B3070 which leaves the A352 (Wareham to Dorchester road) at Holmbridge.

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Subscribe and receive my regular newsletter to get the latest information about my workshops, new tutorials, videos, new photos and more.

All new subscribers get an exclusive 25% discount code off prints of my photos from my online shop plus a free download of my ebook: A Practical Guide to Photography. Code and download link will be emailed to you upon successful signup

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