Old Harry Rocks is the name given to the spectacular chalk stack formation at The Foreland or Handfast Point, one mile east of Studland, on the Isle of Purbeck. It can be reached by the South West Coast Path from Studland. Parking is available at the National Trust car park and the footpath begins close to the Bankes Arms Country Inn. The rocks were originally part of a chalk ridge created 65 million years ago, which extended to the Needles on the Isle of Wight. Thousands of years of erosion by the sea have formed the chalk stacks. The small stack next to Old Harry, is known 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. The cliffs here are constantly eroding, with frequent cliff falls along the coastline between here and Swanage. There are more stacks, the Pinnacles, west of Old Harry Rocks off the cliffs of Ballard Down.
The origin of the name “Old Harry” is not certain. Some believe it refers to the devil, who, legend says, had a sleep on the rocks, but it is more likely it refers to Harry Paye, a Dorset smuggler and pirate, who died in 1419. The views from here across Poole Bay, extend to the Isle of Wight and beyond Bournemouth, to Christchurch. Old Harry Rocks are situated at the start of the Jurassic Coast, England’s Natural World Heritage Site, listed by Unesco in 2001, as one of the most significant Earth Science locations in the world.