From the country to the coast
orset is certainly the coast with the most: you can relax on award-winning beaches at Bournemouth and Studland or discover your own secluded stretch of sand, enjoy the fresh flavours of local seafood, and hunt for fossils along the Jurassic Coast. Of course there is more to Dorset than just where the sea meets the sand; head inland and you’ll discover sweeping countryside, ancient sites and quirky ‘Wessex’ villages. If variety is the spice of life, Dorset is an exotic vindaloo.
History and Heritage
Enjoy a whopping 200 million years of history along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast with some fossil-hunting and a trip to Dinosaurland in Lyme Regis. Tick off Europe’s largest hill fort, Maiden Castle Iron Age fort from your historical wish list, before exploring Roman Dorchester and Saxon Shaftesbury. For quiet reflection visit Dorset’s churches and abbeys.
Arts and Culture
With exhibits and events that aim to inspire as much as entertain, The Lighthouse is a vibrant hub of artistic activity in Poole. Another bright beacon in Dorset’s art scene is the impressive 17th Century Kingston Lacy country house which houses work by Rubens and Titian. And The Bridport Arts Centre has an excellent programme of live music, exhibitions and contemporary dance.
Must See Attractions
Discover over 700 years of turbulent history at the majestic ruins of Corfe Castle then travel further back in time along the photogenic Jurassic Coast with Chesil Beach , Lulworth Cove and the best named beach in the UK, Durdle Door. Salute scouting history and enjoy the wildlife at Brownsea Island before trying your best not to blush when you meet the naked Cerne Abbas Giant.
Dorset is Thomas Hardy country so take time to explore the ancient Wessex that inspired some of his most famous novels. Another author with a fondness for Dorset is Enid Blyton who used Corfe Castle as the inspiration for Kirren Castle in the Famous Five adventures. And see just how Lawrence of Arabia lived at his Clouds Hill cottage retreat.
Food and Drink
A super rural county on the coast – Dorset’s geography practically screams fresh food. And thankfully there’s no shortage of places making the most out of it. Visit the Riverside Restaurant in Bridport’s West Bay for seafood and views. Or take in fish and chips on the Cobb in Lyme Regis and if there’s a storm brewing head for Splinters on the cobbled street leading up to Christchurch's Priory.
To feel the full force of those coastal winds try a spot of kite, wind surfing or sailing in Weymouth Bay (the sailing site for the 2012 Olympics) or Poole Harbour. For leg-pumping climbs and exhilarating descents, The Purbeck Hills area is a must for mountain bikers. Intrepid rock climbers are spoilt for choice on the Isle of Portland which has over 900 routes.
On the 11th of August, Enyd Blyton’s birthday is celebrated in style at Corfe Castle with activities and lashings of Ginger Beer. From the cerebral world of the Bridport Prize and Literature Festival to the down-right silly contest that is the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship in Marshwood where contestants have to eat as many 2ft long stalks as they can in an hour, Dorset has it all.
Music and Nightlife
Thanks to Bournemouth and Poole, you don’t have to look far for a party in Dorset. Poole quay comes alive in the summer with great pubs and live music whereas the Old Town is home to older boozers. Bournemouth has more bars than you can shake a martini at and when it comes to clubbing the Opera House provides banging beats in opulent surroundings.
Let the little ones experience the wonders of the deep at Sea Life Centre in Weymouth or to make the day go off with a bang then head to the Tank Museum in Bovington on a battle day. And there’s plenty of opportunity to pull faces at primates at Monkey World Dorset which is a chimpanzee rescue centre.
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Things to do
From events and attractions to fine dining and nights out; discover things to do in Dorset.