24 Hours in Dorset
Few enclaves of the United Kingdom serve up charm of the achingly quaint variety quite like South West England. The foremost region is not all tidy hamlets of course but if you want it, the South West has cathedrals and throwback village architecture galore. What stands out most, however, are the contrasts. South West England is home, after all, to Stonehenge and Silbury Hill, Glastonbury and the Eden Project, Bristol Harbour and the Cornwall surf. From clotted cream to cheddar, stargazy pie to Cornish pastry, the South West elicits visitors to take a big bite.
Dorset is a perennial target for tourists in this desirable corner of England. The historic, rural and literary county is in the middle of the pack in total area (at 2,653 square km it ranks 20th in the country) and has less than 750,000 people. Think Luxembourg.
Jurassic Coast of Dorset – Photo credit
If you can spare 24 hours in Dorset, consider this top 10.
10. Dorset County Museum
Thomas Hardy fans especially enjoy the Dorset County Museum. The facility has a superb collection of personal documents and objects from the Dorset native and Tess of the d’Urbervilles novelist.
Where to stay: Best Western Kings Arms Hotel Dorchester
9. Highcliffe Castle
Highcliffe Castle is a gorgeous Georgian manor and a Grade I landmark in the borough of Christchurch.
Where to stay: The Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa
8. Keep Military Museum
The county town of Dorchester has many fine points of interest. The Keep Military Museum is most certainly one of them, even for non-admirers of military memorabilia.
Where to stay: The Wessex Royale Hotel Dorchester
The wee village of Yetminster is what trips to the English countryside are all about. A pretty gem.
Where to stay: Yeovil Court Hotel (Somerset)
6. Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis, “The Pearl of Dorset”, is a foremost coastal town and former muse to Jane Austen. Home to only 4,400 people, one can easily stroll through the handsome village in between lunch and tea.
Where to stay: Eypes Mouth Country Hotel
5. Kingston Maurward House
Stroll in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy on the spacious grounds of this extraordinary Georgian English country house in the Frome valley.
Where to stay: George Albert Hotel Dorchester
4. Forde Abbey
It may no longer resembles the Cistercian monastery it was some 900 years ago but Forde Abbey is sublime. The lush lawns and gardens, which cover 6.5 square km, are worth the visit alone.
3. Russell-Cotes Museum
One of the most conspicuous landmarks in Bournemouth, the Russell-Cotes Museum has a diverse collection of fine art.
Where to stay: Brooklands Hotel Bournemouth
2. Poole Museum
The Poole Museum has uncommon allure for a small town museum, with old warehouse digs and a Grade I medieval cellar annex.
Where to stay: Salterns Harbourside Hotel Poole
1. Jurassic Coast
The Dorset and East Devon Coast, the UNESCO World Heritage pride and joy of South West England, unfurls a magnificent ensemble of seaside landmarks. The Jurassic Coast refers not to a Steven Spielberg blockbuster but to the fossil beds in the cliffs and to a priceless geological legacy that eclipses 180 million years. One of the undeniable natural wonders of the UK, to be sure. For the bold, the South West Coast Path allows you to walk the entire span of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Where to stay: Best Western Hotel Prince Regent Weymouth