phone mail2 facebook twitter play
A Cultural Guide to Dorset
Image Credit: Mark Towning

A Cultural Guide to Dorset

9 January 2017 | Marlene Verde

A gorgeous backdrop to many film and television productions (Broadchurch, anyone?), Dorset’s coast is a natural wonder. Discover more about the county’s natural beauty as well as its manifold ties to literature and history with our handy cultural guide.

Outdoors
 
Known for being a largely rural county, Dorset offers truly outstanding natural wonders. If you like the outdoors, then you’ll love the Jurassic Coast - a UNESCO world heritage site spanning 95 miles of coastline and 185 million years of history. The Jurassic Coast is also world famous for its fossils, of which there are an abundance.
 
Notable spots to visit along the coast include the Durdle Door, a fascinating limestone arch between St Oswald’s Bay and Man O’ War Cove. The quiet spot is a little secluded but can be reached by climbing down a series of cliffside steps. If mobility is an issue, Lulworth Cove is a little easier to reach and just as naturally beautiful.
 
Another sight that cannot be missed is Old Harry Rocks, a series of chalk formations on the Isle of Purbeck. Views of the coast from here are absolutely spectacular, and we suggest following one of the National Trust’s walking trails to make the most of it. In the same area, it’s worth visiting the nearby town of Swanage for its picturesque qualities. Also on the Isle of Purbeck, the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle are a must-visit for any history buff. The Corfe Castle also has a model building that will take you back in time to see how it looked in 1646.
 

The Jurassic Coast. Photo Credit: Kyle Taylor
 
Heritage
 
When it comes to heritage, Dorset has plenty to offer. The county is famously known for being the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, a poet and novelist whose many works are set in Wessex, the ancient kingdom that encompassed Dorset. You can visit Hardy’s Cottage where he was born and wrote many of his works, as well as Max Gate Thomas Hardy’s Victorian home in Dorchester, which he designed himself as a trained architect. Die-hard fans can walk the Hardy Way a long distance footpath that goes from Hardy’s birthplace to Stinsford, where his heart is buried.
 
Discover more of the local history at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. The museum houses many fascinating galleries, with subjects ranging from Jurassic and Ancient Dorset to archaeology, geology, wildlife and life in the Victorian era. Explore more local history and visit Badbury Rings, an Iron Age hill fort part of the Kingston Lacy estate - 8,500 acres of colourful countryside and a grand family home housing the UK’s largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts. Dorset is also home to the Cerne Abbas Giant an enormous chalk hill figure whose initial purpose and origin are shrouded in mystery.
 

Hardy's Cottage. Photo Credit: Tom Broster.
 
Family Fun
 
Where to begin? Between Monkey World, The Dinosaur Museum and Dorset Waterpark, there’s something for everyone! Young ones might enjoy The Teddy Bear Museum, the most adorable museum in the county. Older kids might favour The Tank Museum  instead, the world’s best collection of tanks that tells “the story of armoured warfare from World War One to the present day”.
 
For family fun en plain air,  the Abbotsbury Swannery is a truly unique experience, with the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans - established by Benedictine Monks in the 1040’s. If the place looks familiar, it’s because the Swannery was used as a location during the filming of Harry PotterBrownsea Island is also a great spot to visit to witness animals in their natural habitats, and if you’re lucky you might get to see a rare (and endangered) red squirrel. If you visit Dorset in Summer, try to schedule around the Great Dorset Steam Fair, the largest outdoor event in Europe with a sea of attractions for all the family.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Discover: The Verulamium Museum

Discover: The Verulamium Museum

We explore The Verulamium Museum in St. Albans and take a trip back to Britain in the time of the Romans.

A Visitor’s Guide to Oxford University

A Visitor’s Guide to Oxford University

Let’s be honest, Oxford is Oxford because of its university. Tourists don’t flock from around the world for the city’s wild nightlife ...

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, M Shed

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, M Shed

Until March, Bristol’s M-Shed will be showing the world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. We take a look at what’s being displayed...

A Weekend Away in ... Edinburgh

A Weekend Away in ... Edinburgh

With a wealth of gothic, renaissance and medieval architecture and an enviable mixture of city and countryside areas, Scotland’s capital is an exceptional choice...

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

Renaissance masterpieces and modern art teasers, historical tour-de-force and local pièce-de-résistance: 2017 looks set to have them all. Calendars at the ready, here is...

Bath for Book Lovers

Bath for Book Lovers

The elegant Georgian streets of Bath are full of historic and cultural sites, including plenty of literary gems that will bring a smile to the...

Top 5 Brunches in Bristol

Top 5 Brunches in Bristol

When you are lying in bed on a sleepy Sunday morning, there’s often only one good reason to lift yourself up and start the...

Slapstick Festival 2017

Slapstick Festival 2017

Welcome to Slapstick Festival, the festival that takes comedy seriously. Now in its thirteenth year this celebration of all things fun returns to Bristol with...

Discover: The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Discover: The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

“Tedious as it may appear to some to dwell on the discovery of odds and ends that have, no doubt, been thrown away by the...

How to Volunteer and Help the Homeless

How to Volunteer and Help the Homeless

Despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, England has one of the worst statistics for people sleeping rough. Culture Calling’s...

More inspiration...

Discover: The Verulamium Museum

Discover: The Verulamium Museum

We explore The Verulamium Museum in St. Albans and take a trip back to Britain in the time of the Romans.
A Visitor’s Guide to Oxford University

A Visitor’s Guide to Oxford University

We tell you how to explore one of the world's most celebrated universities.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year, M Shed

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, M Shed

Until March, Bristol’s M-Shed will be showing the world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. We take a look at what’s being displayed in the 52nd year of the competition.
A Weekend Away in ... Edinburgh

A Weekend Away in ... Edinburgh

We plan out a perfect weekend trip to Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh.
Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

We take a look at what will be gracing galleries in 2017.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!