Plan a trip to Dorset and there are common destinations people recommend… Weymouth and Portland for the impressive town and harbour, the Jurassic Coast, gigantic Poole Harbor or Sherborne Abbey.
These are just some of the examples we talk about, but what about smaller locations? Places that only locals know?
Based on a highly unscientific investigation by the team at Dorset Live, here are some of the hidden gems that deserve more attention.
Read more: Nine Dorset restaurants, cafes and takeaways with a one-star food hygiene rating
If you think there’s a place worth mentioning that we’ve missed, you can add a comment below or email [email protected]
While the village’s Swannery is well known, there’s more to this quaint suburb than meets the eye. Pretty cottages, lovely cream teas and some subtropical gardens too.
For those unfamiliar with the famous Swannery, the village is home to the only managed colony of swans in the world. The group of nesting mute swans have comfortable space and facilities. As a visitor you can walk around the Swannery and learn about the birds. Site rangers are often on hand to provide interesting information about the swans and other migratory birds in the area. As well as walkways, the Swannery has educational facilities, a cafe and a playground.
In Abbotsbury there are a number of shops, pubs, a gallery and a playground, with the village’s thatched stone cottages as a backdrop.
Minutes from Bridport, Burton Bradstock is easily a local favorite. With its adorable cottages, cafes and pubs, it has a charming beach bordered by the iconic sandstone cliffs of the Jurassic Coast.
From the seafront, you can also access the National Trust’s Hive Beach, which might be of interest to any foodie, as this is where you’ll find the popular and upscale Hive Beach Café.
Surrounded by Abbas
As the home of the Cerne Giant, people can often be distracted by this hillside silhouette, but Cerne Abbas is more than just that.
Minterne Gardens is a country house and garden close to the village. Although the house is not open to visitors (except for events), the gardens alone are worth a visit. Large rhododendrons and cherry trees are two examples of the lush vegetation, mature planted areas are interspersed with streams and small lakes. There is also an abbey, a brasserie and some good restaurants in the village.
Chideock often has a bad reputation as one of the most polluted villages in the UK, the A35 runs through its middle; but if you can get past this curious road placement, there’s plenty more to see and do.
Charming sandstone cottages sit in the center of the village and two charming pubs offer refreshments.
Chideock is minutes from Seatown, which is also a popular local spot. Seatown has a pebble beach, which can make the walk more strenuous, but if you’re prepared for a good kick, it’s worth it. There is also a lovely pub out front.
Visitors to Bournemouth head for the famous pier, but if you really want a treat, turn right when you get to the seafront. Dorset is home to three consecutive Chines racing between Bournemouth and Poole. Less publicized than the larger beaches, China’s beaches – Durley Chine, Alum Chine and Branksome Dene Chine – can often be quieter and easier to navigate.
The word Chine itself means a deep ravine cut by water and for the Chines of Dorset this has given rise to beautiful tree-lined paths that lead to the beaches.
There is also a China in Boscombe, but that’s advice for another day.
A charming mill, English heritage property and pub, Fiddleford is the epitome of a relaxed Sunday.
With just 25 houses, Fiddleford might be the smallest of our suggestions, but size isn’t everything and there’s plenty to see and do.
Fiddleford Manor is a small stone house with one of the finest timber roofs in Dorset. The mansion is also a mill, so you’ll have a great view of the machinery from the water’s edge.
Cliff of the Brothers
Friar’s Cliff is a beautiful area of the coast to the east of Christchurch. With its administrative boundary capturing Mudeford Quay, Avon Beach and Steamer Point, there is plenty to see and do.
Mudeford Quay is home to a beautiful harbour, a must for water sports enthusiasts. On land there is a wonderful foredeck, pubs, boat trips and a playground. The spot is a favorite for families bringing the kids crabbing and there is invariably a heated debate over what makes the best bait.
Avon Beach at Steamer Point is entirely pedestrianized on the waterfront and there are a number of popular food outlets along the way. Here, too, kitesurfers head out to sea.
If you’re looking to impress with a casual “did you know”, look no further than Iwerene Minster.
The site of the Only Fools and Horses chandelier that breaks in A Touch of Glass. It was Clayesmore School that was ultimately chosen to be the filming location for the Bolt Trotters fake unlock pars.
Away from Del Boy there is a lovely pub and a small main street in the village. We also recommend heading to nearby Compton Abbas Airfield to sit in the cafe and watch the planes land and take off.
A stunning hidden gem in West Dorset, Littlebredy is home to the waterfall that appeared in series three of Broadchurch.
The land in which the waterfall sits is the private estate of Bridehead, a mansion in the center of the village, and the fall is fed by the River Bride in spring.
In the walled gardens of Little Bredy you can also see a ‘lost’ Victorian walled kitchen and flower gardens.
Near Winterbourne Abbas and Portesham you will also find pubs.
If beautiful stone buildings and a bit of history are your bag, look no further than Marnhull.
The village, north of Sturminster Newton, has a number of restaurants and scenic walks. The Crown pub will be better known as the Pure Drop Inn, which is noted at the very beginning of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Marnhull was once one of the largest villages in England.
The village of Melbury Abbas in North Dorset is pleasant to drive through, but just as pleasant to stop in.
Ticking the Wiltshire border, it backs onto the hills of Cranborne Chase and Dorset life let’s say it’s the fifth highest point in the county.
Despite a relatively busy Route A that passes west of the village, it still has a country feel. The National Trust’s Fontmell and Melbury Downs site marks the focal point from which to walk. There are also some lovely campsites and a winery nearby.
It may have the appeal of a classic box of chocolates, but Milton Abbas has a captivating history, cited as the “first planned village in English history”.
The original Milton Abbas was a thriving neighborhood on the road from London to Exeter. It was then completely demolished in the 1770s and repositioned by the owner of the estate who wanted his workers out of sight. Capability Brown helped design the village we see today, one of the many reasons it is so appealing.
Far from historical references, Milton Abbas is a rural idyll with thatched cottages and pretty walks. A small teahouse, choose your own farm and hotel means there’s plenty to see and do.
On the outskirts of Dorchester, this is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy.
That of the Council touristic site claims that despite Hardy’s ashes being returned to Westminster Abbey, his heart is buried in Stinsford alongside his wives, Emma and Florence as well as other members of his family.
As a visitor you are also seconds away from Kingston Maurward Wildlife Park and Gardens which is a stunning house, gardens, farm and cafe where no one is ever disappointed.
A village to the east of Puddletown, Tolpuddle is the perfect place to party. Attracting thousands of people to their annual festival celebrating the martyrs of Tolpuddle, the area also has a large museum telling the story of trade unionists.
The village itself is very attractive, bordering the River Piddle. Take a walk away from the main road and you’ll come across pretty country lanes lined with hedges and a few churches you can go to.
The Christchurch/Southbourne border is plagued by one thing, the need to cross water, often leaving small villages like Tuckton as crossings for heavy traffic.
But step away from rush hour and Tuckton has some hidden gems. An upscale cafe serving the best local beans, bars, a pub and popular tea gardens that lead to Christchurch Harbour, there’s nothing to complain about in the area.
We recommend grabbing a coffee at BigWigs before taking a local boat ride from the waterfront.
The Dorset ghost town is relatively well known, but how to get there and what’s there is up for speculation.
The abandoned village is on the outskirts of East Lulworth. Some buildings are restored, while others are cordoned off for security reasons. When heading towards the site, however, you can get off at Worbarrow Bay, which is often a quieter and more secluded beach.
The main thing to remember if you visit the Dorset Ghost Village is that it is part of the Lulworth Rangers shooting range, so you should check in advance for shooting and follow designated paths when visiting.
While you’re here, tune in and let us know your top tip in the comments below.
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