Looking to discover the perfect staycation in Dorset, England? Then look no further, originally my home county, Dorset is the perfect location to visit for a quintessentially English country escape. Even when I return home, I am still in awe at its quaint beauty and love to explore. Intrigued to know what a local gets up to on their own staycation? I visited Dorset during August of this year in partnership with Visit Dorset – read on for the best tips and advice for your Dorset trip.
The Perfect Dorset Itinerary
We started off our Itinerary in Dorset stopping by a little secret spot on the way to our hotel.
Sturminster Marshall is located about 10 minutes drive away from the town of Wimborne Minster where I am originally from. I have driven through here on many occasions and always stored it away in my memories as a stunning picturesque location.
Home to the White Mill, a National Trust site you can visit. An 18th-century corn mill in a peaceful, riverside setting. Rebuilt in 1776 on a site marked in the Doomsday Book, this substantial mill was extensively repaired in 1994 and still retains its original elm and applewood machinery (now too fragile to be used).
Next to the mill is White Mill Bridge, a stunning old bridge over the River Stour. A popular place to wild swim and the perfect location for a riverside picnic. If you look closely you can see some wild swimmers cooling off from the hot summer sun below.
The area is perfect for long country walks as you can follow the public footpath trails and is a fantastic area for road cycling. Be sure to come and visit (even if the mill is closed) as it is such a beautiful location close to all the happenings of Dorset.
English Oak Vineyard
Our next activity took us to the English Oak Vineyard in Lytchett Matravers. Located only a 10 minute drive from the popular harbour town of Poole and only 20 minutes from our boutique hotel in Wareham. The vineyard is beautifully secluded but ideally located close to some top attractions in Dorset.
The stunning English Oak Vineyard is run by Andrew and Sarah and their two adorable dogs, Hamish and Bonnie. They specialise in sparkling wine, using grapes from Epernay in the Champagne region of France. What we particularly loved was their commitment to conserving the environment. Things like delivering their wine to the local businesses using electric vehicles and using solar panels on their visitor centre to power operations in the vineyard. Their efforts were awarded by winning the Dorset Environmental Business of the Year award.
Wandering through the vineyard nestled down a long winding road, you forget that you are in Dorset. Worlds away from the hustle and bustle yet so close, Sarah tells us how they often spot deer roaming in the vines. We enjoyed a tasting of the 3 delicious varieties they have on offer (we didn’t get to taste the newly corked 4th vintage they have on offer soon, often snapped up by repeat customers). What can I say, it is deliciously luxurious and I’m so glad to have discovered it. If you are feeling fancy, they offer picnics under their ancient oak tree prepared with local delicacies. Pure heaven!
Where to Stay in Dorset?
During our stay in Dorset we were lucky enough to be some of the first visitors to stay in the newly renovated 18th Century boutique hotel – The Bear in Wareham. Located on the high street, The Bear has the most ideal location. Within a couple of minutes walk you are by the quay overlooking the River Frome, watching the swans swim and waving to passersby on the boat trips and canoes.
There are just 6 boutique rooms in The Bear hotel and each one designed impeccably. We stayed in the Rupert room, named after Rupert the Bear. Inside the room you notice little touches that make the room feel luxurious and homely at the same time. Whether it’s the cut glass water glasses, or the Roberts Radio next to the bed. We particularly liked the window seat overlooking the highstreet. The ideal place to get cosy and curl up with a cup of tea and a book.
Breakfast was included in our stay, located downstairs in their cafe (which serves delicious cakes I hear). You received unlimited Juice, Tea, Coffee, Yoghurt, Toast and Fresh Fruit and then could choose one item from the hot menu. We chose the american pancakes with whipped marscapone and the smashed avo with poached egg and chilli jam on sour dough. Not only was the presentation beautiful (hello edible flowers!) but it tasted truly delicious too. What a treat!
Studland and Old Harrys Rocks
A visit to Dorset is not complete (in my opinion) without a stop at the Bankes Arms Pub beer garden in Studland and a visit to Old Harry Rocks.
Without a doubt one of my favourite beer gardens in the UK, mainly due to the size and view of the ocean. The food here is delicious and it’s only a short walk to Old Harry Rocks along the coastal path.
We stopped by the Banks Arms for a dinner of Scampi and Chips washed down with a pint of cider, making use of the Governments Eat Out to Help Out scheme that was running in August.
As the sun began to wind down we strolled along the coastal path to one of the most scenic viewpoints in the whole of Dorset. Old Harry Rocks at sunset is just incredible, even more so because the sun doesn’t actually even set on the ocean here. What you experience is the golden hour, reflecting on the deep blue ocean and the white rock cliff faces.
It is the ideal location to come for a picnic, coastal walk and to fly a drone. The birds eye view from here is infamous and we were lucky that the wind was on our side so we could use ours.
Old Harry Rocks is located in Studland, on the Isle of Purbeck. Quite easily one of the most picturesque areas in the whole of Dorset. Known for its long sandy beaches, sand dunes and nudist beach, Studland is an absolute must when visiting Dorset. In Summer it is a haven for holiday makers and is looked after by the National Trust. You can reach Studland via car ferry from Sandbanks in Poole. Also a notable place to visit and one of the most expensive real estate locations in the world per square meter. Or you can drive around via Wareham making a pitstop at The Bear on the way.
Where to park for Old Harry Rocks in Dorset?
The best place to park your car in order to see Old Harry Rocks at sunset is the National Trust car park next to the Bankes Arms pub. You either need a National Trust membership card to get free parking here or you can pay with coins. It costs about £8 for about 4 hours. From here you can stop and eat at the pub and then follow the coastal path to Old Harry Rocks. The entrance to the path is located just down the road from the pub. There are other car parks in Studland but this is the closest and the one that’s open the latest since the pub closes late.
Corfe Castle is located just 20 minutes drive from Studland beach and only 10 minutes from Wareham. It is hard to miss as the ancient ruin stands a top a grassy hill. The view can be seen for miles in the surrounding area with view points dotted along public footpaths and pub beer gardens.
Corfe Castle has been a Saxon stronghold, a Norman fortress, a royal palace and a family home in its ten centuries of dominating the Purbeck landscape.
Corfe Castle is a National Trust site and you either need a membership card in order to enter or can pay the entrance fee. It costs £10 per adult, £5 per child or £25 for a family ticket to enter. In my opinion getting a National Trust membership is much better value as there are lots of National Trust sites in Dorset. Especially in Studland where all the car parks are National Trust. At £8 a go to park for the day it’s a great idea to invest in the National Trust membership. It costs £126 a year for a family membership with 2 adults or £78 for 1 adult and all children/grand children 17 and under.
The village of Corfe Castle is quite honestly one of the most quintessentially British villages I’ve seen. Thatched roof cottages surround you and it’s absolutely picture perfect. Just taking a wander through the town and stopping for a cup of tea in the tea shops is a dream.
There is so much to see and do in Dorset – if you are looking for more activities and inspiration head to www.visit-dorset.com.