A complete guide to Dorset: where to visit, stay, eat and walk

Explore the sweeping shoreline and fascinating geology of Dorset’s historic Jurassic Coast with our expert guide on the best places to visit in Dorset, places to stay and walking routes.

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Why you should visit Dorset 

While Dorset might not be as popular as its southwest siblings, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset’s beaches are just as golden, its rolling hills are just as alluring and its villages are just as idyllic.

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Why not explore this under-appreciated beauty for yourself? Lose yourself in the outskirts of the New Forest, gape at the landscapes of the Jurassic Coast and immerse yourself in its fascinating history with our guide to Dorset.

Days Out

Exploring the Jurassic Coast

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Man o’War bay near Lulworth Cove, Dorset | Credit: Getty Images

The Jurassic Coast is possibly the best example of Dorset’s under-appreciated beauty. With jagged cliffs, white sand and breathtaking views, Charlie House guides us through a perfect day on the Dorset coastline.

Horse riding in Dorset – Western style!

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Horse rider looks down at the coast of Seatown, Dorset | Credit: Getty Images

Horse rider and Wild West fan Rachael Stiles discovers a slice of pioneer life in the hidden byways and lost combes of Dorset.

Enid Blyton’s Dorset

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Corfe Castle, Dorset | Credit: Getty Images

Pack the cucumber sandwiches and ginger beer for a vintage adventure along the coastline that was beloved by the best-selling children’s writer, says Ali Wood.

Discover smugglers’ Dorset

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Thorncombe Beacon Hill, Eype, Dorset

Explore hidden coves, epic cliffs and deserted beaches as you follow in the footsteps of the ne’er-do-wells of the Dorset coast. Rodney Legg is your guide.

Thomas Hardy’s Cottage

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Hardy’s Cottage, Higher Bockhampton, the birthplace of Thomas Hardy | Credit: Getty Images

Explore the tree-shrouded home and surrounding Dorset woodland that inspired novelist and poet Thomas Hardy to pen many of his great works.

Stay

Yalbury Cottage, Lower Bockhampton

Lower Bockhampton is no more than a cluster of beautiful cottages – one of which is Yalbury Cottage, burrowed in the heart of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.

The Green House, Bournemouth

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The pier stretches out over the sea in sunny Bournemouth | Credit: Getty Images

Bournemouth is a wonderful Victorian seaside resort, with plenty of stuff going on to keep you entertained for a weekend. The Green House is just a short walk from the town centre and the beach, and a lovely place to stay.

The Crown, Blandford Forum

The Crown boasts that they’re the oldest inn in Dorset. This hotel is situated in the picturesque Georgian town of Blandford Forum.

Eat

The Anchor Inn, Seatown

Nestled in the coastal hamlet of Seatown, this rustic pub uses the best locally-sourced ingredients for a wonderful dining experience. Take a walk along the cliffs before your visit to work up an appetite.

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The Anchor Inn, Seatown | Credit: Getty Images

Square and Compass, Worth Matravers

Last year, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) unveiled their 45th edition of the Good Beer Guide. There are only five pubs in the UK that have made every single edition of the guide. The Square and Compass in Worth Matravers is one of them. This is due to their “consistent high standard of quality beers served in a fantastic setting.” Although they’re more known for their drinks than their food, this fantastic pub is certainly worth a visit.

La Fleur de Lys, Shaftesbury

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Shaftesbury’s Gold Hill, perhaps better known as the hill from the Hovis advert | Credit: Getty Images

Shaftesbury, a very agreeable small town, lies in North Dorset, about 20 miles west of Salisbury. The best food that this town has to offer is found at La Fleur de Lys, a restaurant and hotel overlooking the Blackmore Vale. 

Walks

Abbotsbury

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St Catherine’s Chapel overlooking the village of Abbotsbury, Dorset | Credit: Getty Images

Burrowed in Dorset’s Area of Natural Beauty with a chapel that overlooks the Jurassic Coast. Charlie House guides us through a walk in Abbotsbury, his favourite route in Dorset.

The Acorn Inn, Evershot

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Melbury Estate is home to sika deer | Credit: Getty Images

Explore a deer park in winter and follow magical woodland pathways before cosying up in a pub brimming with rustic charm that inspired the great Dorset writer (and even hosted a hangman).

Golden Cap

Follow the Jurassic Coast to conquer the highest point on Britain’s south shore, looking for fossils en route.

Charmouth

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Charmouth Beach, Dorset | Credit: Getty Images

Enjoy an ancient treasure hunt when you search for fossils along this rugged, ever-changing coastline.

Maiden Castle

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Maiden Castle, Dorset | Credit: Getty Images
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Explore Britain’s largest Iron Age fort; a magnificent monument where skylark song fills the skies.