You'd be hard-pressed to find a more under-stated and modest county with so much to offer
Things To Do
Go in search of fossils along the Jurassic Coast. If you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be looking for, join a fossil hunting walk and talk from Charmouth or Lyme Regis with an expert guide.
See if you can spot a red squirrel on Brownsea Island, the only place in the south of England where you’ll be able. Located in Poole Harbour, the island is also important to the Scouts – it’s where the movement was founded. You can get to the island for nature walks by ferry from Poole Quay and Sandbanks.
Don’t miss the Cerne Abbas Giant, a burly chalk figure of a naked man on the hills above the village of Cerne Abbas. At 180 feet tall, and considered as a symbol of fertility, suffice to say he is well endowed! The best place from which to see him is the viewing area on the main A352.
For fans of slightly morose but beautifully written literature, Hardy’s Cottage is a must. This evocative thatched and cob building is the birthplace of author Thomas Hardy and was built by his grandfather. Hardy wrote some of his first novels and poems here.
Visit Abbotsbury Swannery, the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans. Established by Benedictine monks in the 11th century, you can watch the adorable cygnets, born between May and June, or help to feed the swans – all 600 of them!
When To Visit
Dorset’s main annual events tend to be during the summer months. In May, The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is a great one for fossil hunters, while you could also participate in the quirky Dorset Knob Throwing Festival (for the uninitiated, a Dorset Knob is a kind of dry, savoury biscuit unique to the county)! June brings the Bridport Food Festival, followed in July by music celebrations, the Larmer Tree Festival near Tollard Royal and the huge Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle.
Bournemouth is the place to be on the August Bank Holiday for the giant (and free) Bournemouth Air Festival, with spectacular displays from the likes of the Red Arrows above the beach. And to celebrate all that’s great about the county, the Dorset County Show comes to Dorchester in September.
From the west, access Dorset off the M5 followed by the A30 and A35. From the east, take the M3, the M27 and the A31, which provides a picturesque route through Hampshire’s New Forest before arriving in Dorset. From the north, use the A37, the A36 and the A338, all spurs off the A303.