Outdoors in Dorset - our favourite places.
As we are given the green light to explore a little more widely, I thought I would share our favourite outdoor places in Dorset, in no particular order, and explain why we love them! In fact, all of Dorset is beautiful, so choosing a few spots is tricky... so I might have cheated a bit! Do you have any outdoor favourites in Dorset. Please add them to the comments section below!
Hengistbury Head and Wick in East Dorest. So close to town and yet you are in another world with iron age remains, heather heathland and amazing views of the coast, Christchurch Harbour and lovely Mudeford Quay. The head, and Wick fields are great spots for Bird watching and wildlife spotting, with great sunrise and sunset photograph opportunities too. Kite flying is popular here! If you seek tranquillity, avoid holidays and weekends as it is understandably a popular place!
Durlston Head to Dancing Ledge. In the Purbecks, this is a stunning coastal walk that always lifts our spirits. At Durlston Castle Estate there is a great little wildlife centre, and also The famous Purbeck stone globe and other Victorian artefacts relating to navigation and sea travel. The walk takes you past Anvil Point lighthouse, and on to Dancing Ledge, a flat slab of rock, formerly used as a dock for ships transporting purbeck stone. In the early 1900's a rough swimming pool was blasted into it for the use of local schools! Popular with climbers.
Cranborne Chase. Cheating slightly, as the chase runs into Hampshire and Wiltshire as well as Dorset, but it is a beautiful area of rolling hills, crossed by ancient tracks and greenways dating back to the era when Stonehenge was built. Quieter than the coast, the unspoilt scenery and many viewpoints offer great walks, pretty villages and some excellent pubs!
Sculpture by the Lakes. Pallington Lakes near Dorchester. A beautiful creation which offers a tranquil lakeside setting in which to walk, picnic and admire the sculptures of the owner, Simon Gudgeon, and also from special exhibitions. Check opening times, admission charge. No children under 14 admitted.
Dorset Coastal Path - anywhere! The SW Coast path starts at Poole, and almost anywhere along it's Dorset stretch is stunning, as it follows the Jurassic coast. Particular favourite sections are Chapmans
Pool and St Alban's Head; Golden Cap; Old Harry Rocks near Swanage (pictured), and the Portland circuit.
Tyneham village. This abandoned village is fascinating to explore and discover how the residents were forced to leave during World War 2, and have never been able to return. Today it is surrounded by the Lulworth Military firing ranges, so can only be visited when they are closed. The walk from here to beautiful Worbarrow Bay is well worth doing, and a great place for a picnic and a rock scramble.
Lyme Regis and the Undercliff walk. Full of charm, Lyme Regis is a seaside town, where victorian fossil hunter Mary Anning lived, and found fame... eventually! It is surrounded by cliffs which still contain many fossils. The harbour wall, or Cobb is known for appearances in both Jane Austen's Persuasion (one of my more enjoyable A level English texts!), and The French Lieutenant's Woman... think Meryl Streep dressed as the Scottish Widow lady! West of the town is the almost primeval Undercliff walk, formed when the cliffs slipped and created a microclimate, suited to ferns and lush vegetation.
Cerne Valley. Walks here take in scenic chalk downland and river valleys, picturesque villages and the famous Cerne Abbas Giant, cut into the chalk. Cerne Valley Trail.
National Trust gardens at Stourhead and Kingston Lacy, and Abbotsbury subtropical gardens (HHA). Lovely walks at any time of year, but Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne, is especially good in Spring; Abbotsbury, above Chesil beach, in Summer, and Stourhead in North Dorset, has amazing Autumn colours.
Bulbarrow, Hod and Hambledon Hills, east of Blandford Forum. All good walks individually, or can be combined. Great views, quaint villages and nice pubs!
Maiden Castle near Dorchester. An incredible iron age hill fort, one of the largest in Europe. Great to wander around, pretending you are a settler keeping watch for invaders!
Brownsea Island (NT) and Arne RSPB nature reserve, both bordering Poole Harbour. Brownsea is accessed by ferry from Poole or Sandbanks. Check times. Lovely walks and possible red squirrel sightings, especially in autumn. Arne reserve is near Wareham, and has woodland walks leading to hides overlooking Poole harbour channels. Possibility of seeing deer, a good range of woodland, heathland and water birds, and even Osprey in summer.
As always, check times, parking arrangements and, in some cases, admission costs and rules! Have fun!