Top 10 things to do in Dorset
We’re starting to do more travel on Muddy, figuring that though you love Northants, you like to escape sometimes too (quick, dig the tunnels). Hero, over in Ox/Bucks, travelled down to Dorset recently, so I nabbed her review, just in case you’re off there on holly bobs, or are thinking of somewhere to lay your hat for a break away.
It’s that time of year where our minds turn to holidays (and our fingers turn to Google). I mentioned Perfect Stays a few days ago, a luxury self-catering company in Cornwall and Devon that looks *awesome* and is on my radar to try out over the summer, but if you’re into shorter traveling times and have your sights set on Dorset, I reckon Deans Court in Wimborne (above) will tick your boxes too.
Deans Court itself is a 500 year old estate that, like many grand old houses, is now paying for itself by diversifing into weddings and holiday accommodation. So far, so typical. But a big selling point for me with these cottages (below) is their position – literally two minutes from the centre of town and Wimborne Minster itself, meaning that you can walk to a lovely gastropub and have a few glasses of wine or mooch around the town without having to round up everyone and shove them in a car first. I think that’s quite unusual – often this kind of accommodation is out in the middle of nowhere.
Also, being central to Dorset in Wimborne, Deans Court makes it very easy to zip off to all the tourist attractions without having to choose ‘sides’ – you can get to Lyme Regis and the Studland coast, go inland and hit the beaches with equal ease.
This is Apple Cottage where we stayed – a 3 double bedroom, two bathroom job, attractively appointed and cleverly whitened up downstairs to provide a sense of light though apologies – some of these pictures are taken at night!
The kitchen was basic but fine (though matches and a corkscrew would have been useful – easily asked for I know, but sometimes you can’t quite be bothered can you). There was outdoor bistro furniture for a morning coffee, and a stonking view out over the fields behind and Wimborne minster steeple waving its English flag in the breeze.
At the end of the day we’d see the cows in the field literally sprinting past our windows to watch Country File or whatever it is cows do to relax after a hard day’s grass chewing.
The other cottage, Plum, is a three bed too, if you include the sweet ‘double’ of the shepherd’s hut in the garden, which would be a fun place to put your grunting teenager. It would work well to rent both with friends too – you’d have your own space but you’d still be very much on holiday together. Alternatively there’s also a 7 bedroom gatehouse that sleeps 14 and looks amazing.
We arrived late on the Friday night with no food organised so headed straight out to The Minster Arms, about 5 minutes away from the cottages – decent food, lovely busy vibe and relaxed enough for the kids. We were also recommended The Anchor Inn at Shapwick, a short 5 minute drive, if you wanted to go further afield (Sunday lunches particularly good apparently). Wimborne is very sedate, and probably the coolest cafe in the town is actually at Dean’s Court itself, where the old squash court has been turned into a gifty/antiquey/interiors shop and the courtyard into an attractive cafe space, catering to the increasing numbers of young families relocating to the area.
Obviously accommodation only takes you half way to a great holiday so I’ve collated my Top 10 Tips for what to see in Dorset. It’s eclectic and personal and you might have other ideas (in which case, be my guest and share them!) but I’ve tried all of these and can recommend them no probs.
THE MUDDY TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE IN DORSET
One of the most romantic castle ruins in the UK, perched dramatically high on the hillside (and photo truly taken by moi). My kids all loved it there (ages ranging from 7 to nearly 14!). We spent hours clambering over the rocks, having a go at archery and finding out about the Civil War. There is a sweet circular walk to and from the castle to the car park, and Corfe itself is well worth a wander around for half an hour. Chocolate box cute, and very geared up for tourists.
From Corfe it’s a 20 minute drive to reach the Studland coast, with three National Trust beaches (including a nuddy bit if you’re feeling brave). They’re white sand beaches though my favourite one was very seaweedy this time round so I hope they’ll do a clean up job soon. In summer there’s a lovely cafe right on the beach, plus you’re a few minutes away from…
The Pig on the Beach
A stupendously lovely addition to The Pig Hotel group. We couldn’t get in here to eat this time around but we had lunch here last time we were in Dorset and it was fab. They have a huge garden outside with views of the sea where you can play football with your kids, or just let them zip around and burn off some energy. It’s expensive here so actually staying somewhere like Deans Court and coming for lunch is a great way to experience The Pig without massive wallet pain.
Swanage sea front
It’s a bit kiss-me-quick in parts but Swanage has a massive promenade, proper sand, excellent fish and chips and some groovy beach huts.
The Tank Museum
I’m being serious! We spent about 5 hours here without any difficulty at all. After a while the tanks blur into one camouflage metalfest admittedly but the museum covers military history brilliantly, highlighting individuals and their stories, and there’s a very moving trench warfare exibition.
We ran out of time to see this National Trust estate but have been there before and it’s a stunner. It’s literally up the road from Wimborne where Deans Court is so more fool us really. You can explore the mansion itself, but it’s also a dog friendly estate with masses of parkland.
I can’t come to The Cob without thinking of that amazing BBC Production of Jane Austen’s Persuasionfilmed here (still one of my favourite films with Ciaran Hinds totally rocking a naval hat and tights). A very pretty, very famous harbour, white imported sandy beaches, some funky shops appearing in the town centre (Town Mill Bakery for very cool breakfasts/lunches/coffees, Found concept store for funky interiorsy bits, a slightly hippy vibe. Everything to like.
My go-to for lovely white sand beaches, a two minute chug across to the spit on a ferry, with a vastly superior fantastic cafe/bar/restaurant, The Beach House, open all week from 10am-6pm, and until 10pm on a Saturday night if you really can’t bear to leave. Next door is a small shop with the basics (wipes, nappies, sweets, cereal etc) if you’re planning on staying the night or need emergency child-bribing rations. Attractive, colourful, much-loved beach huts line the beach – if you have a spare £150k knocking around you can buy one. You can either park at Mudeford Quay and get the little boat, or start from Hengistbury Head(go to Christchurch and follow the signs) and walk/scoot/cycle the mile or so to the beach. There’s a little Noddy train that goes both ways if you want some help getting back to the car.
Daft money, enormous houses, neither of which are the reason for going here. There’s a lovely beach there n Poole – huge swathes of golden sand, plus the fab Sandbanks Beach Cafe, a BBQ facility on the beach and watersports facilities.
The home of the Scouts, with plenty of dib-dobbing to be seen on this lovely little island located in Poole Harbour, with spectacular views across to the Purbeck Hills. It’s a very sweet ferry ride across with loads of beautiful walking, a cafe and tourist shop, plus you can go for a swim in the sea off the south side of the island if it’s not feeling too nipply.
The Hive Beach Cafe and coastal walks
The coastal walks. OMG, they’re amazing. We stayed in a lovely place in West Bexington last year – a small village with Chesil beach majestically laid out at the bottom of the hill – and did some amazing treks both ways – one over the cliffs to Burton Bradstock and the Hive Beach Cafe (just go anyway even if you can’t bear the walk!, it’s amazing). The following day we went the other diretcion to the pretty village of Abbotsbury with some amazing Tropical Gardens.
Really the list goes on, but that will give you some ideas for starters. Please do send through your tips if I’ve missed something you think is superamazing and I’ll add it to the list!
Deans Court Cottages, 2 Deans Court Lane, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 1EE. Tel: deanscourt.org