Old Harry Rocks are a pair of chalk stacks close to Handfast Point about 2 miles north east of Swanage and 1 miles east of Studland. Old Harry lies at the eastern edge of the Isle of Purbeck and is the start of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The headland is a part of Ballard Down which is owned by the National Trust.
A bridleway along the cliff edge between Studland and Swanage gives stunning views of Old Harry and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see east towards Dorchester and west to the Isle of Wight and Christchurch. A National Trust car park next to the Bankes Arms Country Inn in Studland makes a good starting point for walkers and cyclists wanting to visit Old Harry Rocks.
Old Harry Rocks were created through thousands of years of erosion by the sea and were originally a part of the chalk ridge-line that runs across the south coast joining up with the Needles on the Isle of Wight. The chalk ridge was formed approximately 65 million years ago when the area was under a shallow sea. Calcium deposits from sea creatures dying and falling to the sea bed slowly built up over millions of years to create the chalk ridge and plate tectonics brought the chalk up above the sea level before the last ice age. Rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age combined with erosion channelled out the chalk ridge creating the Solent and Old Harry in the process.
The chalk stacks and surrounding cliffs are constantly eroding with regular cliff falls along the coastline between Studland and Swanage. The small stack next to old Harry is often referred to as Old Harry’s Wife. Old Harry’s original wife fell into the sea in 1896 but erosion has since formed a new small stack which has become known as Old Harry’s Wife. The outcrop of land next to Old Harry is known as No Man’s Land. The name Old Harry is believed to refer to the devil who legend says once had a sleep on the rocks.