Dorset Attractions

Dorset offers visitors a choice of local attractions in the county, visitors can see a range of interesting and charming places to discover. Dorset has long been a favourite holiday destination in England the county includes a number of historic houses and buildings, world heritage sites, scenic beaches and coastline, gardens and parks, galleries, theatre, concerts and events. Dorset’s location in south west England means the tranquil English countryside and the great outdoors are all within reach located close to local towns and villages with a range of things to see and do in the county.

We have outlined a number of interesting attractions and places to visit for visitors to Dorset, these include:

The Dorset & East Devon Coast also referred to as the Jurassic Coast has been part of the world heritage site since 2001 and offers visitors with some stunning natural scenery to see along with picturesque towns and villages along the 95 mile coastal route. The coast offers visitors the opportunity to see some wonderful natural coastal scenery, visit a number of gateway towns and villages that are full of history and character and see a number of visitor attractions along the way. The coast and its surrounding areas are rich in culture and history; there are plenty of scenic beaches to enjoy from larger ones to smaller hidden treasures away from the crowds. The area benefits from above average sunshine for the UK making the area a great one to explore.

Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I listed castle, located in Highcliffe, Dorset. It was built back in the 19th century, on the site of a Georgian mansion. The castle ended up being a unique building in the Romantic Picturesque style, which remained in the Stuart family until 1950 when most of the estate was sold separately from the castle. Visitors can enjoy strolling through the grounds, enjoy some tea in the tearoom and visit the castle, home to a program of evolving exhibitions within the stateroom galleries. The castle has a gift shop for those souvenirs.

Mapperton House and Gardens is located in the unspoilt Dorset countryside. The lovely gardens at Mapperton descend from the great lawn, down to the valley garden. The manor house has a church, stable block and coach house makes for a wonderful countryside site. The house and gardens make for an enchanting visit in this pleasant countryside environment. The house is thought to be a great example of how a manor can fit in to its surroundings so effortlessly. It manor is the home Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton is still a family home.

Visitors with an interest in the arts are likely to appreciate the Swan Gallery, established back in 1982, it is located in the town of Sherborne, Dorset. This historic town also boasts a medieval Abbey and two castles. The gallery contains a diverse range of art works; these include prints, watercolours and oil paintings attracting the attention of collectors from around the world. There are watercolour and oil painting galleries, print shops, framing and restoration studios, all housed under one roof.

The Dorset County Museum is located in Dorchester, the museum tells the many stories of Dorset's history. The Museum was founded in 1846 aimed at protecting and preserving the county's unique historical and natural environment. Visitors to the museum can discover more about local history, archaeology, geology and the natural sciences in the many galleries the museum has. There are activity carts for children and an audio-guide to take you round the exhibits. The museum is located inside a gothic-style building dating back to 1884. There is a diverse collection on show here including Roman mosaics and original Thomas Hardy manuscripts among others. The museum makes to an interesting and educational visit.

The Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Garden is located in Shaftesbury in Dorset. The abbey was founded in 888AD by King Alfred, the abbey acted as the catalyst for the prosperity of the town and surrounding area for 100s of years. The excavated foundations of this once influential Abbey lie in a peaceful walled garden, a lasting reminder of the Abbey's eventful past. The museum brings to life the stories behind the abbey for visitors to experience. The garden has a wide range of plants and flowers to enjoy.

Monkey World is located close by to the village of Wool in Dorset; 12 miles from Dorchester. Monkey World is a monkey and ape sanctuary located on a 65 acres site. Originally set up back in 1987 the centre gives a home for a number of different species of primates including monkeys, orang-utans and chimpanzees with over 240 rescued and endangered primates. Guided tours are available with knowledgeable education officers that will show visitors around the site and explain more about the sanctuary and its inhabitants. There are a number of keeper talks on the different primates that visitors can attend to learn more. There is a woodland walk and a play area for children on site. There is a café serving a choice of hot and cold foods and drinks and a gift shop for souvenirs.

Sherborne Abbey is located in the town centre in Sherborne. The historic building dates back to AD 705; over the years the abbey has been a Saxon cathedral, a Benedictine abbey and is a parish church. The church is known for its range of architectural styles with evidence of Saxon, Norman and gothic styles. Other notable features include the stained galls and a number of tombs and memorials. Regular guided tours are available usually from April to September where visitors can learn more about the fascinating history of the church.

Moors Valley Country Park & Forest is located in Ringwood in Dorset. The park is 1,000 acres in size and includes a number of walking trails and paths. There are a number of tarmac and gravel cycling paths including easier and more challenging routes. The Go Ape Tree Top Adventure walk ways, bridge, high wires and more offering a fun and active way to enjoy a challenge in the great outdoors. Visitors can enjoy sitting on the authentic steam railway that goes round areas of the park; a return journey takes 20 minutes. Visitors can enjoy picnics and BBQs in the park and there is a restaurant on site serving a choice of hot and cold food and drinks. The park has something for the whole family offering a fun filled day out in scenic surroundings.

The Lighthouse Arts Centre in Poole is the largest arts centre outside London with close to a 700 seat theatre and 1,500 seat concert hall. There is also a studio, cinema, Image Lab/media suite, a large gallery for photography and digital art, a restaurant and function rooms. Formerly the Poole Arts Centre, the centre has been refurbished and modernised and is now the Lighthouse. There is plenty going on here and arts fans are sure to find something of interest to them. The Lighthouse is home to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, a major UK orchestra who play across the whole of the south and south west and London.

It is recommended that prior to visiting Dorset; visitors do their research and ensure any sights and attractions they plan on visiting are actually open on the days you intend on coming. The transport is also worth checking as maintenance and engineering works can mean a restricted service on public transport and the road network.

Dorset is a county that offers visitors with a mix of towns, historic market villages and seaside resorts including a number of picturesque locations in the rural Dorset countryside. The town of Bournemouth along with Poole and Dorchester offer an ideal place from which to explore the county, local attractions and charming market towns and villages ensuring visitors can enjoy both the urban and rural when visiting the county.

The county includes a number of well known attractions including the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site Highcliffe Castle and family attractions such as the Moors Valley Country Park & Forest. Dorset’s attractions ensure visitors can enjoy a short break, weekend away or a longer stay here.

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