A famous filming location, a millionaire’s playground and golden sand as far as the eye can see… Hollywood? No. Welcome to Dorset, England
Take a walk down millionaire’s mile at Sandbanks
You don’t have to jet off to Barbados or Monte Carlo to see the extraordinary beach houses overlooking pristine white sands. Sandbanks is the fourth most expensive place to buy a house in the world – it’s a shallow beach area that has been judged the best in the UK and a holder of the ‘European Blue Flag’ award for cleanliness and great water quality. You can stroll past the whopping beach houses and then take a dip in the stunning clean waters. Between 1 May and 30 September, a lifeguard watches over the sands, but the sea is so shallow you can wander almost 200 yards out without swimming, so it’s very family-friendly. The Boatyard Cafe Bar has a great spot on the beach, so after your day on the sand, you can enjoy a glass of wine overlooking this very exclusive bit of coastline.
Go investigating in the setting of Broadchurch
The BBC’s seaside crime drama Broadchurch has drawn a new wave of visitors to the pretty coastline of Broadstairs, the setting for all episodes of the TV show, and arguably its most compelling character. The dramatic cliffs and sandy beach of West Bay provide elements of the storyline as well as its backdrop, and you can quickly identify filming locations, from its blue beach huts to the town newsagent. The drama is an excuse to go to Broadstairs, but it shouldn’t be your only reason – it’s a spectacularly pretty place to spend a weekend visit in Dorset.
Take the family to get tanked up
The Tank Museum in Bovington is a surprisingly fun place to take the family and a great thing to do in Dorset. Its vast collection of trundling armoured vehicles is set in six neatly arranged halls, and as well as seeing these impressive beasts of war up close, you can take part in genuinely fun activities when you tire of the tank.
Visit Lawrence of Arabia’s tiny Dorset cottage
TE Lawrence might be more easily imagined against the backdrop of the Sinai desert, but he made his home in a tiny remote cottage in Dorset. Clouds Hill is the modest retreat that the writer bought while located at the nearby Bovington barracks. It is an ingenious and eccentric bolthole, featuring a reading chair specially made to fit Lawrence’s small frame, and a bathroom lined with cork for warmth. It was deliberately frugal and spare – Lawrence once said “Nothing in Clouds Hill is to be a care upon the world. While I have it there shall be nothing exquisite or unique in it. Nothing to anchor me.” A new object of interest is the recently restored sleeping bag stolen from the site in 1962. Lawrence kept two sleeping bags, one for visitors who stayed overnight marked “tuum” (‘yours’ in Latin) and one for himself marked “meum” (‘mine’ in Latin). The visitor’s bag was returned by post from Belgium in 2001, with a note saying ‘This is yours’. It has now been returned to the cottage.
Go ape at Monkey World
This monkey centre is home to more than 250 rescued and endangered monkeys, gibbons, orangutans and apes. Set over 65 acres, Monkey World is a family-run centre that carries out daring rescues of endangered animals from laboratories and dangerous habitats where the primates are smuggled for sale on the black market. Once you’ve learned about the habits and habitats of our closest living relatives, you can unleash your inner orangutan on the ropes and climbing frames of south England’s largest play area.
Have a freshly brewed beer at Bridport
There may have been a revival of interest in brewing beer, with new craft breweries springing up everywhere from London to Glasgow, but if you really want to learn about the making of the perfect pint, head to Palmers. Palmers Brewery is in Bridport, a pretty market town on the stunning Jurassic coast, and it has been making ale since 1794. You can take a tour of the brewery, taking in the historic buildings and learning this age-old process, as well as the making of the famous Palmers Golden Cap whisky. Tours run at 11am every weekday from Easter to the end of October, but you will need to pre-book as they are very popular. Be aware that children under 13 are not able to participate.
If a mixture of tanks and monkeys sound like your thing, then check out our hotel options in Dorset.