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Smuggling at Church Ope Cove


My favourite place locally, is a hidden beach on Portland called Church Ope Cove, also known as ‘Smugglers Cove’.


To get there you take a stroll down a winding path next to Pennsylvania Castle admiring the wildlife as you go, (particularly lizards bathing in the warmth), go past the ‘Pirates Graveyard’, (complete with tombstones bearing skull and crossbones), and down onto the pebble beach. It’s beautiful.


It was named - Church- because the ruins of St. Andrews Church stand at the top, and Ope which means ‘opening down to the waterside’; hence it provided an excellent route for smugglers in previous centuries.


Dorset’s coast has a long history of smuggling, due to the many hidden passages perfect for concealing contraband. Dorset was once very rural, with much poverty, making importing goods under the cover of darkness, a lucrative side-line for many families.

Various goods have been smuggled in the past, mainly liquor and tobacco, but also coffee, salt, cocoa beans, silks, and other fine materials. There are visible tunnels leading from the path that make this walk interesting for adults and kids alike.


I highly recommend a visit and a dip in the sea there if you are on Portland.