Kimmeridge Bay – My favourite place on the Jurassic Coast

By Ian Middleton


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In a previous blog article, I told you how in April I headed off down the Dorset coast for a few days to scout locations for my upcoming workshop, and try out my new Canon R5. Well, one of the places I just had to visit was the wonderful Kimmeridge Bay, by far my absolute favourite place on this beautiful stretch of coast.

About Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay is a picturesque half moon bay located approximately 7 miles south of the town of Wareham and 11 miles west of Swanage.

The bay is renowned for its geological significance. It is part of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which spans 95 miles of coastline and reveals 185 million years of Earth’s history. Kimmeridge Bay is particularly known for its exposures of Kimmeridge Clay, a dark, oil-rich shale formation that dates back to the Jurassic period. It is a popular spot for fossil hunting due to the abundance of marine fossils found in the Kimmeridge Clay. Fossil collectors can find ammonites, belemnites, bivalves, and other ancient marine creatures embedded in the rocks.

Great coastal landscape

Kimmeridge Bay is a fantastic setting for photography with its stunning coastal landscape, unique geological features, and diverse wildlife. What I particularly love about this place is how, as the tide goes out, the landscape changes dramatically and reveals a whole new world under the surface. 

The bay is flanked by cliffs all around and on the east side Clavell Tower stands on the clifftop. It is perched on Hen Cliff, and is a great focal point for your composition. The tower was originally built in 1830 as a folly, a decorative structure, by Reverend John Richards Clavell. Its purpose was to serve as a viewing tower and a place of solitude. Over the years, the tower has undergone restoration to preserve its historic character.

High tide at Kimmeridge Bay

At high tide you can focus on the rugged cliffs and waves lapping along the rocky shoreline. Even on an overcast day there are some potentially great shots. I often compose these shots with the tower in the background, and use a moderately long exposure to capture the waves breaking over the rocks. Overcast days can be great for black and white shots too.

Low tide at Kimmeridge Bay

Low tide is the best time to go however. At low tide you can photograph the numerous rocky ledges and wave cut platforms, and the rock pools within. You can also walk further around to the west side which brings on a whole different look entirely.

Kimmeridge Bay can be photographed at both sunrise and sunset. Below are some images of the west side taken a few years ago at sunset, and also some others of the wave cut platforms taken a little later in the morning. 


Naturally, I made it a priority to visit Kimmeridge Bay again. So on my second day I headed there for sunrise. Kimmeridge is relatively easy to get to, but there is one section after the main village which is a toll road.

In summer this is usually manned and you need to pay a fee. But early in the morning or out of season, if no one is present, you can just go through without paying. For sunrise the gate here is usually closed. First time I saw this I turned back, but a local told me to just open the gate, drive through and just make sure to close it afterwards. So I did that from then onwards. 

Parking in the main car park here is free.

Map of Kimmeridge Bay on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.

When I arrived at dusk the sky was completely overcast. I had already checked the tide times so knew the tide would be out and on its way in.

As you descend the cliffs from the car park the first interesting feature you come to is this lovely long ledge jutting out into the bay.

Resist the urge to go back to bed

It can be tempting to just pack up and go back to bed when the conditions are not that good. The thick cloud was not letting any good light or colour through. However, I’ve learned over the years that you never know what is going to happen, and that you are there anyway so you might as well hang around and see.

Because the ground was still deep in the shade, I decided to hang around the main ledge here because it was completely covered in thick green moss. I’d never seen it so green in all my visits here. I moved further to the right a bit and shot a few from a distance.

As sunrise approached the cloud began to break up a bit around where the sun was coming up. This let some wispy rays of light through and some lovely, subtle colour began to appear in the sky and a shaft of warm, soft light fell over the hillside and Clavell Tower.

I cracked off a few shots from this viewpoint and then quickly moved back over to the ledge, and composed a shot with that rock pool in the foreground, along with a few others.

Amazing Transformation After Sunrise

After sunrise the cloud continued to break and soon it was almost completely clear. An amazing transformation. This was not the first time I’d experienced this at Kimmeridge Bay and many other locations. Therefore I stuck around and shot some more of this scene. Amazing how different it all looks in just a short time.

I shot a variety of images, some capturing the waves breaking near the ledge, and a couple of other long exposures using the Kase 10 stop ND filter.

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