Lazy summer days in Dorset have an ageless appeal, beyond time, tradition and fashion. Your children will enjoy a break here as much as you would have done a generation ago, or your parents or grandparents before you. We have come to expect an exotic, foreign element to our holidays but with small children that other-worldliness, that time apart from life can be achieved in so much more of a simpler way. Dorset has castles galore, beaches, hills to walk, valleys to explore, pretty market towns to potter through and cream teas to be devoured. It’s so close (no ‘are we nearly there yet’ from the back of the car!) and yet it feels so far from the busy commuter world we inhabit in the south east. With less traffic, winding lanes, thatched cottages and chocolate box villages, the pace of life seems automatically slower. We’re sending up a battle cry to bring back the English family holiday and Dorset; from Bournemouth to Lyme Regis, from Sherborne to Dorchester, has plenty to fill a break full with memories.
Dorset is a county of contrasts. The north eastern part of the county is a mix of rolling chalk downland and heaths. This part of Dorset is peppered with charming towns and villages. Shaftesbury, Wimborne Minster and Blandford Forum are beautiful little towns and well worth a visit. The south eastern part is largely taken up by the Isle of Purbeck (not really an island but a peninsular) with some of Dorset’s most iconic landscapes and historic sights. On the coast Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and the chalk cliffs around Studland , as well as Studland’s superb sandy beaches, are all superb places to visit. We’ve recommended trips to Lulworth Castle and Corfe Castle and we think they both make a fantastic day out. East Dorset is a largely rural part of Dorset where you’ll find plenty of walking routes and abounding tranquility.
West Dorset has the twin draws of the Jurassic Coast (see our feature on toddler fossil hunting!) and the lovely ‘Hardy Country’ around Dorchester. The seaside resorts of Charmouth, Lyme Regis and West Bay have lots to offer and Lyme Regis with its winding lanes and historic Cobb is particularly charming. Away from the coast you’ll find acres of rural paradise. The inspiration for Hardy’s Wessex, this idyllic part of England still inspires artists, writers and craftspeople. There are stacks of places to walk and cycle so you can really explore rural Dorset, and the West Dorset Tourist Information board (www.westdorset.com) has some great walking and cycling routes for families.
We’ve put together a really comprehensive family guide to Dorset which highlights some great days out, fab places to eat with babies and toddlers some of Dorset’s best animal attractions and some of our favourite places to stay, from luxury hotels to a night under canvas, as well as a toddler guide to fossil hunting!. “If one wanted to show a foreigner England,” said E. M. Forster in Howards End, “perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills, and stand him on their summit, a few miles to the east of Corfe… How many villages appear in his view! How many castles!” A century on and Dorset still holds so such within its county borders of what we love most about England. Whether you fancy a weekend away, a few days break or even a lovely long holiday we think you’ll love Dorset, and we know your little ones will!