Colmers Hill and Quarry Hill

I have been wanting to hike up Colmers Hill ever since I saw it from a distance when I hiked from West Bay to Golden Cap last year, when I ran into a fellow hiker who told me the hill is so iconic that it has its own calendar, produced by photographer Doug Chalk!

The iconic Colmers Hill
Colmers Hill – iconic, bucolic, historic

Symondsbury Estate

Since then, lots of people have told me about Colmers Hill, but none of them mentioned the Symondsbury Estate – so I was in for a very pleasant surprise when I pulled into the car park. There isn’t just a free car park, there are various shops, a deli, a charming cafe, picnic areas and much more. You can also stay here and even get married here! And it is SO beautiful!

Symondsbury Estate
The beautiful Symondsbury Estate with St John the Baptist‘s church in the background

St John the Baptist’s church

As a more or less lifelong church chorister (from age 11 – and with a looong break when I was a student – does that count as lifelong?), I love exploring churches almost as much as the great outdoors, so curiosity got the better of me. I headed straight for the beautiful little church, St John the Baptist, which turned out to be open for visitors.

The Symondsbury parish church of St John the Baptist
The Symondsbury parish church of St John the Baptist
View of St John the Baptist's church from the side
It seems the date of when the church was built is unknown – but the first rector arrived here in 1325
St John the Baptist's church, the church door decorated with blue and yellow ribbons, a wood carving of a unicorn, and a signpost in Symondsbury
Some details from the church – I love the unicorn pew carving!

Colmers Hill

Once I had explored the Symondsbury Estate and the church, I retraced my steps to the car park, where the footpath to Colmers Hill starts.

The view of Colmers Hill from the Symondsbury Estate car park
You can’t miss it – this is the view of Colmers Hill from the car park!

The hill itself is only 127 metres high (417 feet), but it is very prominent in the landscape. The little knot of trees on top give it a very characteristic look, which unsurprisingly has inspired artists for a very long time. Legend has it that Colmers Hill is also sacred to the fairies – you can hear all about that here!

A map of Symondsbury Estate
‘Treasure maps’ of the area are available at Symondsbury Estate
A Colmers Hill signpost, two donkeys, a baby pygmy goat and three pigs
The walk is well signposted and starts just by the animal viewing area opposite the car park at the Symondsbury Estate
View from the footpath up to Colmers Hill
It isn’t just the hill that is beautiful, the path up there is just as breathtaking
Beautiful thatched house surrounded by old trees on the path up to Colmers Hill
This fairytale house on the path up to Colmers Hill is so beautiful that people were having picnics on the hill just to enjoy the view

Sigismund was here

Fun fact: Colmers Hill was originally called ‘Aeschere’, but after the Viking invasion of Dorset it became known as ‘Sigismunds Berg’, which is Norwegian for Sigismund’s Hill. Sigismund was a Viking Chief who landed near Bridport, saw the burning beacon on Colmers Hill, and according to legend announced that from then on it should be called Sigismunds Berg. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sigismund was an ancestor of mine – I do keep running into them on my hikes and explorations! With only a first name to go on, it’s hard to say, though. Anyway, over time, Sigismunds Berg morphed into Symondsbury, which the village is still called. The name of the hill changed to Colmer’s Tenement in the 1600s, when the Colmer family were tenants there. Then in the 1800s Reverend John Colmer moved there, which changed the name ever so slightly to Colmer’s Hill.

Colmers Hill seen from the top of Quarry Hill
Colmers Hill and a very photogenic sheep

The iconic trees on top of Colmers Hill were planted during WW1 and are Caledonian pines. In 2006 some Monterey pines were planted there by Sir John Colfox, The Colfox family have owned the Symondsbury Estate for over 100 years now.

Close-up of the bluebells growing on the hillside of Colmers Hill
Colmers Hill colmered, sorry, covered, in bluebells
The Ukrainian flag waving amidst the pine trees by the trig point on top of Colmers Hill
The blue and yellow flag of Ukraine blowing in the wind on top of Colmers Hill
Yours truly by the trig point on top of Colmers Hill
Compulsory trig point selfie
The view of Symondsbury from the top of Colmers Hill, with the church of St John the Baptist in the middle of the photo
The view down to Symondsbury village

Well worth the climb

The hike up the hill is a little steep, and most estimates say it takes about 40 minutes, but I was back down the hill after 30 minutes, despite constantly stopping to take photographs. In other words, it is not a particularly strenuous walk and you are never far from the car park. Unless, of course, you spot a beacon on the opposite hill and decide to check that one out as well. And then the ridge just behind the beacon. And then the ridge behind the ridge… You catch my drift.

Colmers Hill with the pine trees on top and the bluebells growing on the hillside
Bluetiful bluebells
View of the path down from Colmers Hill with the beacon on Quarry Hill in the far distance
I spy with my little eye – a beacon!
Collage of photos from Hell Lane, including a cliff carving from 1971
On my way to Quarry Hill I stumbled across this spooky sunken lane known as Hell Lane. I’m definitely going to have to come back here one day!

Quarry Hill

As far as I can tell – because no one I spoke to knew and there were no signposts and no names in my map apps – the beacon is on Quarry Hill. It is 163 metres high, covered with nettles and sheep and has a wonderful view of Colmers Hill.

Quarry Hill covered with sheep
Quarry Hill looking decidedly sheepish
Quarry Hill with the sea and Golden Cap in the distance
A sea glimpse from the foot of Quarry Hill – and Golden Cap to the right

I was a bit worried about going through the gate up to Quarry Hill, because the lack of signposts also meant I had no idea whether there was a permissive footpath or not. Fortunately I ran into a lovely local lady with perfect timing who told me it was absolutely fine.

The beacon on top of Quarry Hill
The beacon on Quarry Hill
Colmers Hill jutting out of the landscape as seen from Quarry Hill
The view of Colmers Hill from Quarry Hill
Colmers Hill and the bluebells framed by a sheep posing on top of Quarry Hill
Colmers Hill covered in bluebells and framed by a sheep with excellent posing skills
A collage of some of the sheep on Quarry Hill
Pretty little sheepies on Quarry Hill
The view inland from the beacon on top of Quarry Hill
The view to the west of Quarry Hill

Hang on, is that… Seatown? And Golden Cap?

Quarry Hill and the view from the beacon is stunning in itself, but if you climb the ridge just behind the beacon, and then the little ridge just behind that ridge… Well, then you will be rewarded with the most spectacular views of the West Dorset coast!

A gap between two ridges showing hills, hills and more hills to the east of Quarry Hill
The view to the east of Quarry Hill
Close up of a way marker with the text Dorset County Council - Public Footpath
Finally, a sign confirming this IS a public footpath! *deep sigh of relief*
The last ridge obscuring the view to the south-west of Quarry Hill
Just one more ridge…
The view to the south-west of Quarry Hill, with Seatown in the centre and Golden Cap to the right
And look! There’s Seatown! And Golden Cap! And all the other hills I hiked in September last year!
The footpath back to the beacon on top of Quarry Hill
Heading back to the beacon again
Yours truly on top of Quarry Hill, pointing to Colmers Hill in the background
The ‘point and smile’ hiking selfie
Colmers Hill again
Another view of the hill that looks good from every angle
Colmers Hill framed by a gorse bush
Like literally EVERY angle

I somehow managed to get lost on my way back to the car park and ended up on the outskirts of Symondsbury village instead. Quite impressive, considering how well signposted this part of the hike was! Anyway, this was no hardship as it led me past the stunning house below and back to the Symondsbury Estate via the deli. There I treated myself to some edible souvenirs in the form of baked goods, which I enjoyed in the picnic area before heading back home to Devon.

Shutes Farm in Symondsbury
The GPS overview of my hike from Symondsbury to Colmers Hill and Quarry Hill
This is what your GPS route looks like when you go for a 5.4 km hike but constantly stop to take pictures and also have a compulsive need to always find out what’s around the next bend and beyond the next hill

9 comments Add yours
  1. I loved your blog! it’s me that’s produced the (now famous) Colmer’s Hill Calendar, and the 2023 version will be available in June! Ive been walking everywhere you went for the past 20 or so years, and sad to say, you missed the best bit! Shutes Lane, 30 feet high sandstone walls each side of the Hollow Way, covered in carvings! Do it next time, i am retired and can show you if you like!