Discover the delights of Dorset

Attractions

Abbotsbury Tourism

Abbotsbury Tourism consists of the Swannery, a Subtropical Gardens and a children’s Farm. Abbotsbury Swannery is the only place in the world where you are able to walk through a colony of nesting Mute Swans. The Swannery was also used as a filming location for the Harry Potter films. Described as “one of the finest Gardens I have every visited” by Alan Titchmarsh the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens is a ‘must see’ for all plant lovers. The Abbotsbury Children’s Farm is a great place for families; with lots of different animals and a large undercover play area, this is a very popular part of the Abbotsbury Tourism attractions.

http://abbotsbury-tourism.co.uk/

Dorset Waterpark

Dorset Waterpark is an inflatable park set across 2 lakes overlooking Corfe Castle. The inflatable course includes slides, a trampoline, jumps and hurdles and everything that would make for a great day out with the whole family. If you are one of our guests you can benefit from our Delights of Dorset offer for a free wetsuit hire.

https://www.dorsetwaterpark.co.uk/

Langham Wine Estate

The Langham vineyard was originally established by John Langham on a very small scale. In 2009 John’s son, Justin Langham, decided to develop his father’s rudimental vineyard into a commercial venture, and planted 30 acres of land at their Crawthorne farm.With a south-facing aspect, chalk soils and a unique microclimate, Crawthorne Vineyard is ideally situated for ripening the classic Champagne varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier. Established hedgerows provide natural wind breaks and habitat for a large variety of beneficial organisms. With everything grown and produced at the single Dorset site, the Langham team are free from the shackles of contract purchasing and have complete control from grape to glass. Diligence and dedication is a hallmark of this estate and is reflected in the string of national and international awards that adorn the tasting room walls. Now offering guided and self-guided tours around the estate with a tasting at the end it really is a special place to visit. 

https://langhamwine.co.uk/ 

Mapperton Gardens

Just outside Beaminster, this beautiful House and its Gardens always make for a wonderful day out. The House was voted “The Nations’ Finest Manor House” by Country Life magazine and was used as a location for the 2015 version of Far From a Madding Crowd. The gardens are set in beautiful countryside with an Italianate valley.

http://mapperton.com/

Wimborne Model Town

Built over 60 years ago this small town is a 1/10th scale model of the town of Wimborne as it was in the 1950s. You can get up close and touch the buildings and peer into many of the different shops as well as the Minister Church. http://www.wimborne-modeltown.com/

Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island is famous for red squirrels, wildlife and Scouting and is the largest island in Poole Harbour.  You can take the Brownsea ferry from Poole or Sandbanks and perhaps have a sneaky peek into the homes of the rich and famous who live on the Sandbanks peninsula.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea-island

Swanage Railway

The 12 mile return trip between Corfe Castle and Swanage takes you through the beautiful Purbeck countryside and includes stunning views of the Castle. As well as the regular timetable Swanage railway also runs special galas and themed events. And 2017 will see the first trails linking the line to Wareham and the national rail network.

http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/

Dorchester Museums

Dorset’s County Museum is a treasure trove of exhibitions and galleries, including permanent exhibitions Jurassic Dorset, the writers of Dorset and rural Dorset.  2017 sees the 140 million year old Swanage crocodile making an appearance, alongside clothing from the Thomas Hardy family.

http://www.dorsetcountymuseum.org/

Dorchester also has five other museums who link together so that you can see them all for the price of 2 with their gold saver pass:

The Dinosaur Museum combines life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs with fossils and skeletons to create an exciting hands-on experience. 

The Tutankhamun Exhibition is a recreation of Tutankhamun’s tomb and treasures and was the first exhibition outside of Egypt to feature an exact anatomical recreation of Tutankhamun’s Mummy. 

The Teddy Bear Museum is home to over 100 years of teddy bears and is a unique family fun museum that would delight teddy bear lovers of all ages.

The Terracotta Warriors Museum shows inspiration from the treasures of ancient China,  including the famous Terracotta Warriors.

The Mummies Exhibition is a superb collection of Unwrapped Royal Mummies displayed amongst death-masks and other exciting treasures. Discover the secrets of the kings of ancient Egypt and the magic that protected their amazing bodies. 

http://goldsaverpass.com/

Arne

On the edge of Poole Harbour, the Arne Peninsula is most familiar to the wider world as the enticing backdrop for recent BBC Autumnwatch and Winterwatch broadcasts. The small village is attractive, as is the largely 13th century Church of St Nicholas, but it’s the carefully managed RSPB reserve that attracts most visitors.

A Site of Special Scientific Interest, the reserve opened 50 years ago and is largely lowland heath, home to the rare Dorset heath heather and breeding Dartford warblers. Ospreys can be seen on migration in late summer and the reserve boasts significant populations of nightjars, woodlarks, stonechats and spoonbills, as well as a sizeable herd of sika deer.

For those new to nature watching or wanting to learn more about the environment, RSPB rangers act as guides on a variety of themed walks throughout the year to highlight different aspects of the reserve’s flora and fauna.

As well as the lowland heath, the RSPB also manages woodland, salt marsh and reed bed habitats at Arne to protect them for the benefit of a wide variety of wildlife. Arne Farm adheres to the principles of conservation management, planting hedgerows, producing winter food crops and keeping rough pasture to encourage farmland birds such as house sparrows, yellowhammers and finches, as well as barn owls, which are now breeding on the site.

The reserve brings in around 90,000 visitors a year and makes a major contribution to the local economy.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/arne/

Corfe Castle

Built by William the Conqueror to command a gap in the Purbeck Hills, Corfe is one of England’s oldest stone castles and replaced a Saxon fort where the boy King Edward the Martyr was assassinated in 978 on the orders of his stepmother Ælfthryth. Buried with great ceremony at Shaftesbury Abbey his tomb became a site of pilgrimage long before his canonisation in 1008.

The castle withstood a siege by King Stephen in 1139 and King John had 22 French knights starved to death there. He also stored his treasure at Corfe including the Saxon crown used at the coronation of his successor Henry III.

It’s widely held that Edward II was imprisoned at Corfe in 1327 before meeting his grisly fate at the end of a red-hot poker, but other theories have Edward escaping and making his way to Corfe until he could leave the country.

Two successive owners – Dukes of Somerset and Clarence – were executed, the latter in a vat of Malmsey wine, as Corfe reverted to the Crown until sold by Elizabeth I to Sir Christopher Hatton. In 1635, Charles I’s Attorney General Sir John Bankes bought the castle and his wife Lady Mary had already defended one siege when he died in 1644. Corfe finally fell a year later after which Parliament voted to demolish it.

A Scheduled Ancient Monument, Corfe Castle was bequeathed to the National Trust with the Bankes Estate in 1982 and has since been substantially conserved. It now hosts a range of living history events attracting nearly 200,000 visitors a year.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle

Abbotsbury Swannery

Home to the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans, Abbotsbury Swannery is thought to date back to the 11th century when it was established by Benedictine monks, probably to provide meat for their lavish banquets.

It serves a very different purpose today and with around 600 free-flying birds, it is a perennially popular attraction, particularly in May and June when the cygnets hatch. Over time the swans have become very used to having human beings in close proximity and are content for people to come to a close, but respectful, distance from them even during the nesting season when mute swans are notoriously territorial. The swans become flightless at the end of July for around six weeks as their feathers moult.

The attraction is open from March to October with mass feeding at noon and 4pm when children are invited to help.

The Swannery sits on the edge of the Fleet, Europe’s largest lagoon, sheltered from the open sea by Chesil Beach. Some 300 varieties of waterfowl have ben recorded in the area, a large part of the reason it is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The scenic village of Abbotsbury also attracts visitors to its Abbey ruins, the 14th century St Catherine’s Chapel and its 20-acres of Grade I Listed subtropical gardens, some of which date back to 1765. With woodland walks, walled gardens, formal and informal planting, the gardens benefit from a warm microclimate produced by their a sheltered valley setting.  

https://abbotsbury-tourism.co.uk/swannery/

Monkey World

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Monkey World is a 65-acre ape and monkey sanctuary, rescue and rehabilitation centre near the village of Wool that is home to 250 rescued monkeys, among them the stars of TV shows Monkey Life and Monkey Business, as well as Europe’s only orang-utan crèche.

The daily keepers’ talks shed light on what the organisation is all about as well as help educate the public about the different creatures and some of the personalities in each enclosure.

Not surprisingly given their media profile, the chimpanzees are what every visitor wants to see. Monkey World is home to the largest group of chimpanzees outside Africa, living in four social groups lead by Hananya, Sally, Butch and Paddy.

There are three groups of Bornean and Sumatran orang-utans some of which have been at the park since it opened in 1987.  Tuan and Gordon lead two of the groups while the third is a nursery group, partly the result of successfully breeding Bornean orang-utans under the European Endangered Species Programme.

Add to these headline-grabbers the five species of gibbons and 11 species of monkeys and pro-simians, including lemurs and macaques, and it’s easy to see why Monkey World’s adoption programme is so popular with visitors keen to stay in touch long after their trip has ended.

As well as providing a home for refugees from abuse or neglect, Monkey World works with governments around the world to stop the illegal smuggling of primates from the wild.

http://www.monkeyworld.org/

Cerne Abbas Giant

Nothing if not noticeable, the Cerne Abbas Giant, or Rude Man of Cerne, has baffled scientists and archaeologists as much as he has amused locals and visitors for more than 250 years since the first known drawing of it appeared, appropriately enough, in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

He is routinely attributed a great age and some think he may be a depiction of Hercules that dates back as far as Roman times; while others believe him to be a Celtic deity. In 1996 it was found that the Giant had originally held a cloak over his left arm, adding weight to the theory of Hercules as he was often shown holding a lion skin.

According to local lore he may also have been a Danish giant beheaded on the hillside while he slept, but perhaps predictably most folk tales relate to the fertility-granting properties of his most prominent bodily feature.

However, as there is no recorded mention of the Giant before the 17th century, most contemporary theories point to it having appeared around that time, possibly as a satirical representation of Oliver Cromwell who was sometimes lambasted as England’s Hercules by his enemies and visited Cerne in person in 1645 to ensure its loyalty to his cause.

Whatever his purpose he does a fine job of attracting people to the undoubted charms of Cerne Abbas, once voted Britain’s Most Desirable Village, with its abbey ruins, the mysterious St Augustine’s Well, the timber-framed Tudor Pitchmarket buildings, Market Square and excellent locally-brewed beer.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cerne-giant 

Swanage Railway

A victim of Dr Beeching’s notorious axe, when the passenger service from Swanage to Wareham closed in January 1972 it took barely four months for a group – the Swanage Railway Society – to be formed with the express intention of reopening it.

Such was its energy and commitment that within just seven years it had a section of track up and running as a heritage railway in Swanage with the first steam engine returning in 1980. Two years later the carefully restored Swanage station reopened and the project has taken giant strides ever since, gradually relaying track until it reconnected with the sidings at Furzebrook that had remained open to freight.

In 2009 the Purbeck Pioneer became the first passenger train from London to Swanage and back again since 1972, much to the pride and joy of the largely volunteer-run Swanage Railway. It’s an incredible story that cannot fail to fire the imagination.

Today, although there is no regular timetabled service between Swanage and Wareham, Swanage Railway runs as an intensive year-round service to Norden that includes many special events, from experience days and transport rallies to themed music, food and seasonal trains.

Project Wareham is the culmination of Swanage Railway’s efforts to permanently reinstate the Purbeck Line by working with Network Rail to deliver the infrastructure necessary to enable regular trains to run to Wareham. At the time of going to press it was hoped trains would begin running later this year.

http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/