Pair of impressive chalk sea stacks located off the end of Handfast Point near Swanage. Named after local pirate, Harry Paye
Old Harry Rocks is the name given to two chalk sea stacks at Handfast Point, close to Studland Bay on the Isle of Purbeck. The stacks represent the eastern extremity of the Jurassic Coast. Handfast Point is part of an area of chalk and flint known as Ballard Downs, which formed around sixty five million years ago. Centuries of erosion caused arches to occur in the bands of stone, which eventually collapsed to form the much-photographed stacks and stumps this stretch of coastline is famous for. A few thousand years ago, Ballard Downs would have been connected to the Isle of Wight, whose famous Needles are usually clearly visible across the water.
The rocks, known locally as Old Harry and Old Harry's Wife (although Old Harry's original wife collapsed in 1896) are currently threatened by erosion, although due to their iconic status, teams from UNESCO are working to save them.
One story says that the rocks were named after an infamous pirate from Poole called Harry Paye, who stored his contraband nearby. Another holds that the rocks were named after the devil, known locally as 'Old Harry.'
Ballard Downs are managed by the National Trust. The stacks can clearly be seen from the coast path.