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Rural Market Towns

Visit the rural market towns of Dorset and enjoy the historic buildings, beautiful countryside and wonderful local produce.

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Dorchester – Every Wednesday

Known as “Hardy Country” Dorchester is the county town of Dorset. It is set in the landscape that novelist Thomas Hardy used time and again as a backdrop for his tales of love and tragedy. Dorchester market was founded in 1860 by Thomas Ensor and is now a large indoor and outdoor undercover market with a superb range of products. Dorchester Market is one of Dorset’s biggest and best markets!

Poundbury – The 1st Saturday of the month

Poundbury is on the western edge of Dorchester on Duchy land. It is unique and was designed by the Prince of Wales who outlined his pioneering ideas in his 1989 book, ‘A Vision of Britain’. The Farmers’ Market takes place in Queen Mother’s Square, overlooked by Maiden Castle Iron Age Hillfort. Here there is a wide variety of superb local produce for you to choose from.

Bridport – Every Wednesday and Saturday

Bridport is a charming, pretty town with lots of antique shops. In addition to the weekly markets a Vintage and Antique market takes place on the last Sunday of the month from March – October. The weekly markets take place all year round in Bridport’s three main streets. Offering a wide variety of goods from many long established traders it is a real treat.

Sherborne – Every Thursday and Saturday

One of the most beautiful towns in England, Sherborne has an abundance of fine Medieval and Georgian buildings. They are built from the eye catching honey coloured Hamstone, quarried at Ham Hill, Somerset. This Dorset gem has a reputation for art and antiques. A magnificent Abbey, two castles and unique shopping makes a visit to Sherborne a cultural must. The Pannier Market takes place on The Parade in Sherborne. Shopping is perfect in this centre of town market.

Weymouth – Every Thursday

The world was introduced to the Olympic Georgian grandeur of Weymouth during the 2012 games. The golden sands and safe shallow waters are the perfect place to enjoy a day by the seaside. Follow this with supper at the buzzing, waterfront harbour to complete your day out. This bustling town market is set in The Swannery Car Park and offers everything from clothes to fresh produce and much, much more.

Portland – Every Tuesday

Rugged, relaxed and famous for its National Sailing Academy, Portland offers many activities, including rock climbing, abseiling, diving and kayaking. Our Heritage coastline is perfect for the sporty. Portland Market has been running for over 30 years and is a large market. With stalls ranging from hats and clothes to jams and preserves there is something for everyone. This busy market runs from May to September.

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Local Attractions

Fun and interesting places to visit for all the family to enjoy throughout the county.

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Abbotsbury Swannery A unique habitat for swans. This is also the only colony of nesting mute swans you can visit in the world.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens Established in 1765 by the first Countess of Ilchester as a kitchen garden for her nearby castle. This is a unique walled garden surrounded by a woodland garden. The palm trees in the kitchen garden give it a sub-tropical feel. In addition it has some of the most extensive Gunnera plantings in England.

Abbotsbury Children’s Farm Here you will find lots of animals for the children to meet, greet and also feed.

Dorset County Museum A world-class contemporary museum and exhibition space. We now also have new galleries, a learning centre, collections storage and library. Our visitor facilities include a café and shop for you to relax in.

Teddy Bear Museum From the earliest antique teddy bears together with today’s TV favourites. They are all waiting to greet you in this enchanting Teddy Bear Museum.

Tutankhamun Exhibition This is a spectacular recreation of Tutankhamun’s tomb and treasures.

Monkey World Monkey World works alongside governments around the world to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild. Some residents are now part of international breeding programmes for endangered species including Europe’s official orang-utan crèche.

Bovington Tank Museum This unique collection of over 300 vehicles is regarded as the best in the world. In fact it includes the world’s first ever tank – Little Willie. The feared German Tiger tank and the modern Challenger 2 are also part of the collection.

Corfe Castle Model Village Set in an acre of landscaped gardens. This is an ideal place for a lazy few hours for both young and old alike.

Fleet Air Arm Museum Representing the flying arm of the Royal Navy. This museum is Europe’s largest naval aviation collection of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Sealife Centre Family-friendly exhibits and also a variety of sea creatures. Taking you on a fascinating journey from the coast to the ocean depths beyond, through 16 themed zones.

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Gardens

Formal and elegant gardens to explore in Dorset from Water to Sub Tropical Gardens there is plenty of variety and unique collection.

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Beautiful gardens to visit in Dorset

Minterne House Gardensis a heritage house in an unequalled setting. Come and visit the unique Himalayan gardens boasting many exotic plants.  Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Azaleas from all over the world. Take your time and wander through Minterne’s horseshoe shaped wild woodland gardens. The gardens also boast many other picturesque features for you to enjoy. So, with it’s chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams it is the perfect antidote for life’s stresses.

Athelhampton House and Gardens  is a spectacular 15th century manor house and grounds 5 miles east of Dorchester. Athelhampton provides an excellent historical experience. With both an on-site shop and restaurants it is the perfect day out for all ages. The Grade I Listed garden also has the River Piddle flowing through it. The walled garden also include the world famous topiary pyramids. Additionally there are collections of tulips, roses, magnolias, clematis and lilies.

Mapperton House and Gardens Mapperton Gardens are deep in a lost Dorset among tumbling hills and unspoiled countryside. The valley gardens reflect at least three periods of history. These include an Italianate garden from the 1920’s as well as a more recent orangery. Beyond the wall and summer house are fish ponds. Nearby, find the wild garden with its wonderful specimen shrubs and trees. Most noteworthy for 2018 Mapperton Estate is converting a seventeenth century stable block into a new cafe and events space.

Kingston Maurward Gardens & Animal Park  This is a well established tourist attraction. They have over 30,000 visitors annually. Relax in the gardens or enjoy a walk alongside the lake which are situated in undulating Dorset countryside. The Hanburys created the beautiful 35 acre formal gardens between 1915 and 1922. Consequently, each garden has a distinct character of its own. Uniquely designed to give colour throughout the year they also blend the formal with the informal.

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Walking

Walk the famous South West Coast Path National Trail during your holiday

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The South West Coast Path Come to the beach anywhere in Dorset and turn left or right and you will be on the South West Coast Path. The path is just as good for short walks and gentle strolls as it is for long-distance walking. Along the way immerse yourself in the heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery.

Cerne Abbas Giant Carved into the chalk hills is a giant, priapic club-wielding, fertility symbol that has been attracting sightseers for centuries. Once crowned the most “most desirable village in Britain” Cerne owes its existence to the establishment of the Benedictine Abbey in 987AD. The pitchmarket – a faded row of Tudor timber framed buildings is a favourite location for movie-makers. Take a gentle stroll up to the Giant from Cerne Abbas and enjoy the view.

Maiden Castle Maiden Castle in Dorset is one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe. The hillfort encompasses 47 acres. You will be impressed by its immense size and also its construction. Grab a backpack with some lunch and water and you are ready to do some exploring.

Hardy Monument Monument to Vice-Admiral Hardy, Flag Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The Hardy Monument stands high above the village of Portesham and has stunning views across the Dorset countryside and coastline. There is a circular walk starting at the National Trust car park next to the monument. This will take you over Black Down and through Benecke Wood. Walk further and you will also visit Portesham Hill and the nearby village of Portesham.

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Cycling

Bring your bike or hire one for your holiday. Dorset offers a wide range of stunning cycle routes that appeal to all fitness levels.

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There are many cycle paths in Dorset. There are also national cycle network routes that run through Dorset. They provide a brilliant opportunity to enjoy all that the county has to offer.

If you do not bring your own bikes they can be hired from Dorset Cyclelife in Dorchester Tel 01305 753737 (electric bikes) or Bridport Cycles on 01308 808595.

You can also go on guided tours using electric bikes. These depart from locations close to Bridport, Dorchester, Weymouth and Portland. For further information contact Jurassic Electric Bikes on 0800 024 8872.

Wessex Ridgeway Path The Wessex Ridgeway Trail is a magnificent ridge-top route crossing Dorset’s rural heartland. The trail offers views across the county and breathtaking views far beyond. The majority of the route straddles a long chalk ridge.  In places it is broken up by small rounded hills and secluded valleys. Each section of the trail has its own unique identity and its delights to explore. The surface of the trail varies from hard-surfaced track ways and sunken lanes to grassy or arable fields. There are also a few sections on the road.

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Eating Out

Great food and wonderful locations to eat out in beautiful Dorset

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Local Pubs

Saxon Arms This is a true Dorset village pub which is great for families. It is dog friendly with wholesome pub food and real ales.

The Greyhound  In Sydling St Nicholas is an award winning pub with excellent food. It is situated in one of the prettiest small villages in Dorset.

Restaurants/Cafes

Hix Oyster and Fish House Is perched on the hillside in Lyme Regis overlooking the Cobb. It also has panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast. Mark Hix uses local suppliers and only responsibly produced, carefully sourced and simply served British seasonal ingredients.

The Hive Beach Café This Café at Burton Bradstock sits on the shingle beach of Chesil Bank with wonderful views of the Dorset coastline. It is the perfect location to enjoy fresh, local seafood. Or you could sample homemade cakes and a cup of tea or some delicious ice cream.

Riverside Restaurant On the riverside at West Bay this is a two level waterside seafood restaurant. You will be able to sample locally caught fish, farmed meats and fresh vegetables all under one roof. This menu changes daily according to what is available from the market and local landings.

Crab House Café  This eatery looks out over Chesil beach. The Crab House Café have their own Portland Oyster beds just a stone’s throw from the restaurant. Set in a rustic seaside hut with outside tables there is a menu which changes daily.

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Beaches and the coast

Amazing views, blue seas, soft sands or pebbly beaches to enjoy relaxing times or action filled watersports

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Which Beach?

Fossil Hunting, Charmouth Situated at the mouth of the river Char, Charmouth is a delightful unspoilt seaside village. For those that would like to learn more about the fossils why not visit the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. They will show you how to search for your own fossils and have displays and even guided fossil hunting on the beach. Charmouth Beach is great for the family with lots of sand especially at low tide. Ideal for swimming there are also picnic areas, cafes and beach shops.

Weymouth Beach A traditional Victorian seaside Weymouth has a long sandy beach dotted with colourful beach huts. There are safe, shallow waters so the beach is ideal for all the family.  Enjoy Donkey rides and various beach activities as well as the picturesque harbour. For those feeling more adventurous sailing, fishing and diving are also available.

Ringstead Bay A pretty harbour with a pebbly beach this is an ideal beach for old and young alike. Ringstead Bay is a sheltered beach with clear water that is great for swimming. A peaceful alternative to the busy resort of Weymouth. It boasts a fantastic view of the Isle of Portland to admire as you swim.

Hive Beach – Burton Bradstock This beach acts as one of the main gateways to the Jurassic Coast which is a World Heritage Site. The beach is shingle and is surrounded by spectacular sandstone cliffs.

Sea Fishing Trips at West Bay Nestled in the heart of the Jurassic Coast, Dorset, lies the beautiful fishing harbour of West Bay. West Bay offers the family outstanding beaches to roam and the space to play. Or why not try mackerel fishing for all the family on the Dawn Mist. Done the traditional way with purpose made hand lines it is suitable for everyone. Tel: 07967944781

Jurassic Coast Kayak Tours Enjoy quality Kayak tours along Dorset’s World Heritage coastline under the supervision of local qualified guides. Take in the natural wonders of this dramatic landscape from safe and stable double sit on top kayaks. See Durdle Door in all its glory.

Studland Bay The National Trust’s Studland Beach is a continuous four mile stretch of sandy beaches and heathland. There are spectacular views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight. For those wishing to explore, designated trails will take you through the sand dunes and woodlands. This nature reserve is ideal for spotting deer, insects and bird life as well as a wealth of wild flowers. The golden, sandy beach with gently shelving bathing waters is suitable for all the family. From sailing and windsurfing to canoes and stand-up paddleboards there are also plenty of water sports to keep you busy.

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National Trust

Exploring National Trust properties in Dorset may be just what is needed for your holiday in the South West with many gems within a short distance of Wrackleford.

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A selection of local properties

Hardy’s Cottage This evocative cob and thatch cottage is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy. Hardy is an English novelist and poet. His novels includ Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891).

Cloud’s Hill This is the rural retreat of T. E. Lawrence. Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO (1888 – 1935) was a British archaeologist, military officer, diplomat, and writer.

Lawrence is renowned for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. He is also known for his role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. His earned international fame from the film Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 film based on his wartime activities.

Kingston Lacey A lavish family home built to resemble an Italian Palace in the rural Dorset countryside near Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

It was for many years the family seat of the Bankes family. They lived nearby at Corfe Castle until its destruction in the English Civil War. It was destroyed after its incumbent owners, Sir John Bankes and Dame Mary, had remained loyal to Charles I.

Brownsea Island Famous for red squirrels, wildlife and Scouting. Brownsea Island is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour in Dorset.

The island is owned by the National Trust. The island is open to the public. Areas of woodland and heath have a wide variety of wildlife. Cliff top views include Poole Harbour and the Isle of Purbeck. The island is the location of the first camp in 1907 that led to the formation of the Scout movement.

Montecute House A masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. With its towering walls of glass, glow of ham stone, and its gardens it is a place of beauty. Its Long Gallery is the longest in England. The Long Gallery serves as a South-West outpost of the National Portrait Gallery displaying a range of oils and watercolours.

Barrington Court Discover the echoes of history in the heart of Somerset. Breathtaking gardens and working orchards to enjoy during your visit.

Barrington Court is a Tudor manor house begun around 1538 and completed in the late 1550s. The house was originally surrounded by a medieval deer park and in the 17th century a formal garden was constructed. This had largely disappeared until a new garden was laid out by Gertrude Jekyll in an Arts and Crafts-style. It now contains walled kitchen gardens, fruit orchards and ornamental gardens.

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Golf

Dorset has a great range of golf clubs to suit all levels of ability. Many of them can be found in some of the most dramatic settings to be found anywhere in the UK.

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Dorchester

Came Down Golf Club is situated close to the county town of Dorchester and also close to Weymouth. This Golf Club offers the ideal location for the regular local player together with the visiting golfer. It is a very friendly, inclusive club and visitors are more than welcome.

The Golf Club was founded in 1896 and boasts an excellent golfing experience, suitable for all skill levels. The course sits on chalk downland. A stunning 360 degree view takes in Weymouth, Portland, Dorchester, Isle of Wight, Maiden Castle and more.

The current layout was designed by HS Colt, similarly of Muirfield, Royal Lytham, Pine Valley, St Andrews, Wentworth and Sunningdale fame.

Golf World magazine names the course among their 100 ‘Hidden Gems’, placing them in illustrious company.

Sherborne

Sherborne Golf Club is set on a Dorset hilltop with stunning views over Somerset and the Blackmore Vale. The Golf Club welcomes visitors every day of the week, subject to course availability. This is a beautiful golf course in a peaceful location.

The Club has a beautiful, mature 18-hole parkland course with specimen trees. Just over 6,400 yards from the white tees and set out over undulating terrain, the course will test all departments of your game. Good course management combined with sound club selection are the secrets of success at Sherborne.

Much of the course was designed by the renowned Open winner and inter-war course architect James Braid. The Club is also a member of the Braid Association. The bush in the middle of the 5th fairway is known as “Braid’s Bush”.

Bridport

Bridport Golf Club,  on the Jurassic coastline has stunning views across Lyme Bay and Chesil Beach. The course abounds with wildlife and the singing of a skylark is a regular sound.

Over its long history the course has seen many changes. For 20 years it was situated on West Cliff before moving to its current site on East Cliff in 1911. It became a 18 hole course in 1921 and since then has witnessed further alterations. The last major alteration being in 1989 with the acquisition of additional land. Today’s 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th holes and the new Clubhouse were built on this land.

An outstandingly beautiful vista awaits all who play the course with scenic views over the sea and shore. Inland to the two highest points in Dorset, Pilsdon Pen and Lewesdon Hill can be seen.

The signature hole, the 6th, is only 133 yards long but has a drop of over 90 feet. One commentator rated it in the top 100 holes in the world.

A dry stone wall features on four of the holes, one of which is the 371 yard 13th. The legendary Max Faulkener drove the green (365 yards at the time) in an exhibition match in 1952.

With a variable wind, changing weather and a challenging course, a round at Bridport is a test for all levels of golfer.

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Dry Fly Fishing

The Estate offers both chalkstream dry fly fishing on the River Frome and on our own Langford Lake. Suitable for a levels - we can even provide instructors and equipment.

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The River Frome is the most western of the famous English chalkstreams, with the Estate waters sitting on the finest stretches of the river just north of Dorchester in the historic county of Dorset. The Frome rises in the chalk downs of west Dorset, maturing into a fine trout river by the time it reaches Wrackleford. It is fed by a number of gin clear tributaries along its course, before flowing into Poole harbour.

At Wrackleford we offer eight fishing beats suitable for one or two rods on the river, and a stillwater lake. The beats are offered on a day ticket basis or to a small number of season rods. Each beat is well tended, regularly stocked and will have a fishing hut in case of inclement weather.Day tickets can be booked online on the reservations page and enable you to fish one of our beats from dawn till dusk on that particular day. We offer a complete range of services to compliment your day from accommodation and equipment rental to instructions and guiding. If you unsure of exactly what you would like then please call and we are always very happy to chat through the options. Prices start from £100 per person per day.

For full details please view our Fishery Pages.

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