Dating back more than 900 years, Forde Abbey House and Gardens is a family home as well as a working estate that welcomes visitors all year round. In more than 30 acres of grounds including lakes, the age and beauty of the property is something to experience in itself, with features including the famous Mortlake tapestries created from the cartoons Raphael painted for the Sistine Chapel. You can have lunch or tea in the Monastic Undercroft Tearoom, there’s a gift shop and plant centre for gifts to take home. The property also hosts guided tours and activities for families and children, and seasonal events are organized, so do keep an eye on the website before you visit. Prices start at £12.50 for adults while children under 15 go free.
Bridport is the oldest golf club in Dorset, celebrating their 125th anniversary in 2016 but enjoying modern facilities catering to the 21st century golfer. Located on the Jurassic coastline, the views stretch across Lyme Bay and along Chesil Beach to Portland. The 6213 yard, cliff top links style golf course is a challenging but fair test for all abilities and can be played on all year round. There’s a driving range and a putting green, clubhouse and pro shop, and green fees start at £40 in high season.
A small and friendly horse riding stables, Vineyard Stables in Wooton Fitzpane is beautifully set on the edge of a forest with sea views and wonderful riding opportunities on bridle paths and country lanes with no main roads for miles. There’s a sand school as well as a cross country course, which are available for private hire, as well as off-road hacking. Lessons start at £10 per hour depending on your requirements, and they also offer personalised classes in dressage and jumping, which can be discussed over the phone to cater to the individual.
A National Trust property, this former corn mill still houses original wooden machinery in its peaceful riverside setting. The mill was rebuilt in 1776 on a site marked in the Domesday Book, but these days it’s all a bit fragile to be a working mill, so it’s perfect for visitors looking to explore the gardens and take in the tranquil surroundings of the River Stour. Opening times vary so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the website before you visit. The property has limited facilities and no toilets, but you can book a tour, which is worthwhile. Prices start at £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for children.
Featuring beautiful fossil collections, guided fossil hunting walks, rock pooling walks along the local coastline and even the opportunity to meet the Charmouth Dinosaur, Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre is a small charity and is free to visit, although they do welcome donations. A charming family day out, it’s a chance to learn about the local coastal and marine wildlife with facilities including interactive computers, hands on displays, marine tanks and a video microscope. They also have Jurassic Theatre shows of a short film on The Jurassic coast and finding fossils at Charmouth (adults £1, children 50p), and of course there’s a souvenir shop.
Family-run, down-to-earth, 16th-century pub offering a superb selection of ever-changing real ales, as well as lagers, ciders and a modest, well-priced wine list. Home-cooked food on the premises by owner-chef, Dave. Often feature specially themed nights, BBQs, pub quizzes, pool, skittles and darts competitions, which all create a friendly atmosphere and community spirit.
Tippling Philosopher, High St, Milborne Port, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 5AQ (T: 01963 250999)
Chic country pub with a picturesque garden, stylish bar and elegant main restaurant, located in the pretty village of Charlton Horethorne, near Sherboune.
Serving traditional and modern British dishes prepared by classically trained chefs, everything is made on-site, including bread, pasta and ice creams. All food is locally sourced, seasonal and freshly cooked to order, accompanied by an extensive list of quality wines.
The Kings Arms, North Street, Charlton Horethorne, Sherborne DT9 4NL (T: 01963 220281)
A National Trust beach in Burton Bradstock, Hive Beach is part of an estate that forms one of the main gateways to the Jurassic Coast and the South West Coast Path. Around it are beautiful cliff top walks, and surrounded by the sandstone cliffs, Hive Beach perfect for visiting families. Made of shingle, it forms part of the larger Chesil Beach and is on a World Heritage Site that has the largest shingle ridge in the world. The nearby Burton Cliff is an example of extraordinary geology in the area, which appears to glow bright gold in the sunlight. Perfect for picnics, the beach has a car park and toilets nearby, linked to the Hove Beach Café which specializes in serving fish. From 1st June to the end of September there are restrictions for dogs on the beach, but they are welcome on at least part of it all year round.
A National Trust beach, Cogden is a little known, secluded sand and shingle beach that comes complete with a members’ car park. It has a wonderful sense of feeling remote but being surprisingly easy to access – the bus even stops there! There aren’t any facilities, but it’s a beautiful setting, and in truth, the lack of goings on is part of its charm. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round and it’s a haven for walkers looking to explore the area with the National Trust’s two mile/one-hour circular walk passing through it from flower-filled farmland, past ground nesting birds and along this striking section of the Jurassic Coast, known for having the largest shingle ridge in the world.
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There's a lovely 2 mile circular walk through the fields from the NT car park - through late spring and early summer orchids are to be found
Under the golden glow of the majestic sandstone cliffs and the Golden Cap, the highest cliff on the south coast, West Bay Beach (made famous by the popular drama series Broadchurch) is in the south of the historic market town of Bridport. At the western end of Chesil Beach, the area forms part of the Dorset Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site within Lyme Bay and is a wonderful location for family holidays. Bridport Town is a short bus ride away or a very pleasant 20-minute walk. The beach itself is shingle, sand and pebbles with steep shelving, a slipway and a harbour. There’s an auxiliary coastguard and lifeguards at your service, toilets, disabled toilets and a beachside refreshment kiosk. Nearby activities include kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, swimming surfing and jet skiing. There are also car parks close by and while dogs are banned from May to September, they are allowed out of the summer season.
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we loved West Bay very much did not eat at any of the restuarants there apart from the George Hotel (one night) as Gluten Free options were either poor choices or non existant.
A small pebble beach close to the historic market town of Bridport, Eype Beach is a steep shelved beach (Eype means ‘steep place’) with beautiful views of the West Dorset coast. Dogs are permitted all year round and refreshments are available at Lower Eype. The beach is part of one of the most beautiful little villages in the area, where buildings can be traced back to the late 18th century. Consisting of Lower Eype and Higher Eype, it’s the lower part of the village that has access to the beach, which also boasts the magnificent Golden Cap, the highest cliff on the south coast at 191-metres above sea level. The beach is favoured by swimmers and fishing fans as well as avid fossil hunters, and there is parking nearby for a few cars as well as toilets and a pub.
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Very narrow single track access road with limited passing places. Would not recommend purely due to access difficulties.
A shingle beach that shelves steeply, West Bexington Beach is in Bridport, and like many beaches in the area is popular with walkers with beautiful views in all directions. There’s parking close by so remember to bring cash, as well as toilets and facilities, shops, restaurants, a refreshment kiosks and a picnic area. Dogs are allowed on the beach but there are restrictions and seasonal bans, so keep that in mind before you visit. The village of West Bexington itself is a small coastal village surrounded by National Trust land, so as you can imagine, it’s all suitably scenic. The area is perfect for sea fishing off the beach, catching mackerel in the summer and bass in the autumn on a landscape that consists of the beach, a reed bed, wet meadow and scrub – it’s a birdwatchers paradise. The beach is also good for swimming, but only if you’re a strong swimmer, and the entire Jurassic coastline is ideal for budding adventurers to hunt for fossils.
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Always quiet, usually sunny and sometimes dramatic. Treat the pebbles like a beanbag and you can settle in for a sunbathe.