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Durdle Door

Coordinates: 50°37′16″N 2°16′37″W / 50.62114°N 2.27699°W / 50.62114; -2.27699
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Durdle Door
Durdle Door in Dorset
Map showing the location of Durdle Door
Map showing the location of Durdle Door
Durdle Door
Location in the UK
Map showing the location of Durdle Door
Map showing the location of Durdle Door
Durdle Door
Durdle Door (the United Kingdom)
LocationJurassic Coast
Nearest townWest Lulworth
Coordinates50°37′16″N 2°16′37″W / 50.62114°N 2.27699°W / 50.62114; -2.27699
Width100 ft (30 m)
Elevation200 ft (61 m)

Durdle Door (sometimes written Durdle Dor[1]) is a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset, England.[2] It is privately owned by the Weld family, who own the Lulworth Estate,[3][4] but it is also open to the public.


The form of the coastline around Durdle Door is controlled by its geology—both by the contrasting hardnesses of the rocks, and by the local patterns of faults and folds.[5] The arch has formed on a concordant coastline where bands of rock run parallel to the shoreline. The rock strata are almost vertical, and the bands of rock are quite narrow. Originally a band of resistant Portland limestone ran along the shore, the same band that appears one mile along the coast forming the narrow entrance to Lulworth Cove.[6] Behind this is a 120-metre (390 ft) band of weaker, easily eroded rocks, and behind this is a stronger and much thicker band of chalk, which forms the Purbeck Hills.[5] These steeply dipping rocks are part of the Lulworth crumple, itself part of the broader Purbeck Monocline, produced by the building of the Alps during the mid-Cenozoic.[5][7]

A 'back view' of the Durdle Door promontory from the east, showing the remnants of the more resistant strata in Man O'War Bay

The limestone and chalk are in closer proximity at Durdle Door than at Swanage, 10 miles (16 km) to the east, where the distance is over 2 miles (3 km).[8] Around this part of the coast, nearly all of the limestone has been removed by sea erosion, whilst the remainder forms the small headland which includes the arch. Erosion at the western end of the limestone band has resulted in the arch formation.[5] UNESCO teams monitor the condition of both the arch and adjacent beach.[9]

The 120-metre (390 ft) isthmus that joins the limestone to the chalk is made of a 50-metre (160 ft) band of Portland limestone, a narrow and compressed band of Cretaceous Wealden clays and sands, and then narrow bands of greensand and sandstone.[7]

In Man O' War Bay, the small bay immediately east of Durdle Door, the band of Portland and Purbeck limestone has not been entirely eroded and is visible above the waves as Man O'War Rocks.[10] Similarly, offshore to the west, the eroded limestone outcrop forms a line of small rocky islets called (from east to west) The Bull, The Blind Cow, The Cow, and The Calf.[10]

As the coastline in this area is generally an eroding landscape, the cliffs are subject to occasional rockfalls and landslides; a particularly large slide occurred just to the east of Durdle Door in April 2013, destroying a part of the South West Coast Path.[11]


There is a dearth of early written records about the arch,[12] though it has kept a name given to it probably over a thousand years ago.[10] In the late 18th century there is a description of the "magnificent arch of Durdle-rock Door",[10] and early 19th-century maps called it "Duddledoor" and "Durdle" or "Dudde Door". In 1811 the first Ordnance Survey map of the area named it "Dirdale Door".[12] Durdle is derived from the Old English thirl, meaning to pierce,[10] bore or drill,[13] which in turn derives from thyrel, meaning hole.[14] Similar names in the region include Durlston Bay and Durlston Head further east, where a coastal stack suggests the existence of an earlier arch, and the Thurlestone, an arched rock in the neighbouring county of Devon to the west.[10] The Door part of the name probably maintains its modern meaning, referring to the arched shape of the rock;[12] in the late 19th century there is a reference to it being called the "Barn-door", and it is described as being "sufficiently high for a good-sized sailing boat to pass through it."[10]

People on the beach show the scale of the arch. The Isle of Portland can be seen on the horizon.

In literature and popular culture[edit]

Music videos have been filmed at Durdle Door, including parts of Tears for Fears' "Shout", Billy Ocean's "Loverboy", Cliff Richard's "Saviour's Day"[13] and Bruce Dickinson's "Tears of the Dragon".

The landscape around Durdle Door has been used in scenes in several films, including Wilde (1997) starring Stephen Fry,[3][13] Nanny McPhee[3] starring Emma Thompson, the 1967 production of Far From The Madding Crowd[13] (the latter also filmed around nearby Scratchy Bottom),[15] and the Bollywood film Housefull 3.[16] In 2022, Durdle Door was where the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) regenerated into the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant), in the Doctor Who episode "The Power of the Doctor".[17] Ron Dawson's children's story Scary Bones meets the Dinosaurs of the Jurassic Coast creates a myth of how Durdle Door came to be, as an 'undiscovered' dinosaur called Durdle Doorus is magically transformed into rock.[18]

Dorset-born Arthur Moule, a friend of Thomas Hardy and missionary to China wrote these lines about Durdle Door for his 1879 book of poetry Songs of Heaven and home, written in a foreign Land:[19]

Shall the tide thus ebb and flow forever?
and for evermore
Rave the wave and glance the ripple through the
rocks at Durdle Door?

View from cliffs above Durdle Door at dusk with rain approaching over the sea

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crane, Nicholas (2010). Coast: Our Island Story: A Journey of Discovery Around Britain's Coastline. BBC Books.
  2. ^ West, I.W., 2003. "Durdle Door; Geology of the Dorset Coast Archived 7 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine". Southampton University, UK. Version H.07.09.03.
  3. ^ a b c Aislinn Simpson (13 August 2009). "UAE hotel draws condemnation over use of Durdle Door image on website". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 7 May 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  4. ^ "The Purbeck Gazette". Archived from the original on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d Nowell, D. A. G. "The geology of Lulworth Cove, Dorset." Geology Today 14 (1998): 71–74.
  6. ^ "Lulworth Cove & Crumple – a geography pilgrimage". jurassiccoast.org. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  7. ^ a b Phillips, W. J. (1964). "The structures in the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks on the Dorset coast between White Nothe and Mupe Bay". Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. 75 (4). 373-IN1. doi:10.1016/S0016-7878(64)80019-5.
  8. ^ Arkell, W. J., 1947. The geology of the country around Weymouth, Swanage, Corfe, and Lulworth. Mem. geol. Surv. UK
  9. ^ "Monitoring the coast". jurassiccoast.org. Archived from the original on 8 November 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Ian West. "Durdle Door, West of Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Geology of the Wessex Coast of Southern England". Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Dorset coast path collapse: 'Massive' cliff fall near Durdle Door". BBC News. 30 April 2013. Archived from the original on 16 October 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  12. ^ a b c "Locations: Durdle Door". the dorsetpage.com. 2000. Archived from the original on 5 January 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d "Durdle Door". worldheritagecoast.net. Archived from the original on 5 July 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  14. ^ Patrick Hanks, ed. (1985). Collins English Dictionary. William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0 00 433078-1.
  15. ^ "Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) — Filming locations". IMDb. Archived from the original on 1 June 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  16. ^ "IDWLF on Twitter". Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  17. ^ Taylor, Mike (23 October 2022). "Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker regenerates on Durdle Door in shock ending". Dorset Live. Archived from the original on 23 October 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  18. ^ Book Description on Amazon.co.uk. ASIN 0956173241.
  19. ^ Moule, Arthur Evans (1879). Songs of Heaven and Home, Written in a Foreign Land. p. 22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Arkell, W.J., 1978. The Geology of the Country around Weymouth, Swanage, Corfe and Lulworth, 4th pr.. London: Geological Survey of Great Britain, HMSO.
  • Davies, G.M., 1956. A Geological Guide to the Dorset Coast, 2nd ed.. London: Adam & Charles Black.
  • Perkins, J.W., 1977. Geology Explained in Dorset. London: David & Charles.

External links[edit]