There is so much to see and do in West Dorset and the surrounding area, beautiful beaches, the old town and castles of Sherborne, a short drive to the City of Bath or Longleat Safari park.
There are also lots of attractions if you get a rainy day, the Fleet Air Arm or Haynes Motor Museums both keep you busy for a full day and are just a few minutes drive. Nearby Yeovil also offers a multi-screen cinema, bowling and shopping.
Set in the midst of stunning, unspoilt countryside, the picturesque buildings, ancient inns and quaint shops of the ancient town of Sherborne, line the banks of the River Yeo. This charming, rural settlement is probably best known for its beautiful abbey and two imposing castles - the newer of which dates back to 1594 and boasts incredible Tudor landscaped gardens. Sherborne is a great place for sightseeing, or simply having an afternoon stroll along the riverbank, though if you're looking for more activities, a short drive will take you the stunning Stourhead house and gardens.
Other attractions include:
Spa City of Bath (by car or train from the local station)
The World Heritage City of Bath in the English unitary authority of Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) positioned at the southern extremeties of the Cotswolds is a spectacularly beautiful city. The city’s compactness and striking architecture - Roman baths, majestic Abbey and sweeping Georgian terraces - combine to produce one of the most elegant sights in Europe.
The city, however, is far more than museums and old buildings. It has a lively cultural scene with several festivals and all kinds of shows, concerts and exhibitions filling up the events calendar. Being a university town, it also has a vibrant nightlife, and the dining scene equals that of almost any other British city.
Despite the fact that Bath is a sprawling city, the center is compact and easy to navigate on foot.
Bath is known for its Georgian classical architecture and its development as a Roman city called 'Aquae Sullis'. The presence of hot springs and easily worked limestone made it attractive to the Romans who built the original town which flourished for 400 years.
Dorchester, the county town of Dorset sits on the banks of the River Frome and the between the towns Bridport and Weymouth. Dorchester is an historic market town and is probably best known for being the home and birthplace of the nineteenth century novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. While he lived in Dorchester Hardy wrote his famous book ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’, but many people remember him for ‘Tess of the Durbervilles’ and his presentation of Dorchester as the town of Casterbridge. Visitors to Dorset can visit the place where he lived until he was thirty four years old.
The town of Dorchester offers great shops and restaurants plus several museums such as the Teddy Bear Museum, the Dinosaur Museum, the Terracotta Warriors and the Tutankhamun Exhibition.
Weymouth (by car or train from the local station)
Weymouth offers great beaches and many other attractions, the town has seen many upgrades following selection for the 2012 Olympic sailing centre including a new road making it much quicker to get to.
Weymouth's award-winning beach retains many of the traditions associated with the British seaside family holiday, including Punch and Judy, donkey rides, a merry go round and pedaloes. Deckchairs can also be hired from several places along the beach.
Weymouth beach is also home to a more unusual attraction - sand sculptures. Fred Darrington started the Weymouth sand sculpture attraction just after the First World War in the early 1920s. When Fred finally retired in 1996, at the age of 86, his grandson Mark Anderson took over. Mark carries on what has become a family tradition, working in Weymouth during the English summer and then in various locations around the world out of season.
Throughout the year the beach is the setting for many events including the International Beach Kite Festival, firework displays, the Beach Motocross, the Beach Volleyball Championships and much, much more.
Many visitors to Weymouth are often surprised by what else the town has to offer apart from its fantastic beach. The historic harbour, restored Victorian fort, RSPB nature reserves, museums and other visitor attractions now mix harmoniously with the new town centre shopping complex, bowling alley, multiplex cinema and numerous pubs, clubs and restaurants. There is even a high-speed ferry service to the Channel Islands and St Malo for those who want a day trip experience to remember
Weymouth's Top Visitor Attractions
It is easy to get around Weymouth on foot and all the attractions are within walking distance of the town centre. Many attractions are located along the Old Harbour and there's plenty to interest the whole family.
The Deep Sea Adventure features an exhibition about the Titanic whilst Sharky's is an all action children's play zone - two attractions under the one roof.
Just off the harbourside in Hope Square are the impressive Victorian brewery buildings, which have been redeveloped into an award-winning family attraction. Brewers Quay is a labyrinth of courtyards and cobbled alleys and around every corner you will discover arts, crafts and specialist shops. The Timewalk attraction, which was inspired by Weymouth's turbulent past; Brewery Days, which explores our brewing heritage; Discovery, with a wide range of stimulating experiences plus Weymouth Museum are all worth a visit.
Just yards away from the Brewers Quay complex is the Tudor House, although this does have fairly restricted opening hours.
The Nothe Fort and gardens are also close by and the fort is yet another top family attraction. Its numerous displays, the maze of tunnels, the restored guns, plus fantastic views from the ramparts provide a memorable visit. Radipole Lake Swannery and Radipole RSPB Nature Reserve are located right in the centre of Weymouth, just a few minutes walk from the beach. The unique wildlife reserve is one of the most popular in England and many of the birds are rare or exotic visitors from overseas.
On the eastern side of the town is the Lodmoor RSPB Nature Reserve and Country Park, with the Sea Life Centre, Pirate Adventure Golf and many other indoor and outdoor attractions.
The Cerne Abbas Giant
The Cerne Abbas Giant or the 'Rude Man' is one of the largest hillfigures in Britain, he (the figure's gender is beyond doubt) is one of two representations of the human form, the other being the Long Man of Wilmington in East Sussex. The giant, carved in solid lines from the chalk bedrock measures in at 180 feet high, and carries a huge knobbled club, which measures 120 feet in length.
For an unforgettable family day out, visit the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge. Located near Salisbury in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, it is a highlight of the South West.
The true meaning of this ancient, awe-inspiring creation has been lost in the mists of time. Was Stonehenge a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar? How did our ancestors manage to carry the mighty stones from so far away and then, using only the most primitive of tools, build this amazing structure? Surrounded by mystery, Stonehenge never fails to impress.
Longleat Safari park
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park has been one of the UK’s best-loved attractions for over 60 years. It features an extensive Safari Park, is home to BBC Animal Park and CBBC Roar and also has over 15 fabulous attractions, including the new multi million pound Jungle Kingdom and Longleat House, one of the most stunning stately homes in Britain.
The UK’s no. 1 Safari Park first opened its gates to the public in April 1966; the first of its kind outside Africa. It was the beginning of a revolution in zoological collections that has spread all over the globe.
For the very first time, animals were able to move freely across hundreds of acres of land and interact naturally with each other.
Today it is difficult to imagine the furore aroused when Longleat’s plans for an initial 100-acre lion reserve were made public. There were dire warnings of big cats running amok in the Wiltshire countryside, local clergymen were up in arms, and there were even questions asked in the Houses of Parliament.
In spite of these fears, the ground-breaking concept of the drive through safari park proved a hugely popular draw for visitors. Over forty years on, Longleat Safari Park remains one of the country’s leading wildlife attractions.