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Homing in... 15.11.2017

The Fast Track to Becoming a Local in… Dorset


Thinking of moving to Dorset? Here’s the Master Remover’s guide to all the best bits and hidden gems that make it such a great place to live. It’s your fast track to becoming a local…

Beautiful landscapes and coastlines, sandy beaches, top restaurants and lively towns – Dorset has something for everyone. No wonder it’s become such a desirable location for Londoners, young families and many others.

If you’re considering moving to Dorset, here’s the lowdown on how to settle in straight away and enjoy the area like a local…

 

Coast and country

Old Harry Rocks

 

Over half of the county of Dorset consists of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so if you love the great outdoors, you’ve come to the right place.

Of course Dorset is internationally famous for the Jurassic Coast, the World Heritage Site stretching almost 100 miles from Exmouth to Studland Bay. You’ll already know the iconic Durdle Door natural arch at Lulworth (top), and perhaps Old Harry Rocks on the Isle of Purbeck. You’re likely to be familiar with  the shifting pebbles of Chesil Beach, and the opportunities for fossil-hunting around Lyme Regis.

But there are plenty of lesser-known spots along the Jurassic Coast that are just as amazing. Kimmeridge Bay on the Isle of Purbeck has some of the best rockpools in the country, while Dancing Ledge is a stunning spot for sea views and strange optical illusions.

Meanwhile, inland there are heaths, vales and forests to explore, teeming with wildlife including otters and kingfishers. The Dorset countryside is famous as the heart of novelist Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. It’s peppered with Iron Age hillforts, stone circles and beautiful villages and towns, such as Sherbourne with its Abbey and two castles, or Shaftesbury with its instantly-recognisable steep cobbled street Gold Hill.

The famous Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. Image: Robert Powell via Wikimedia Commons

 

And there’s much, much more besides…

 

Beach life

The giant deckchair on Bournemouth beach

 

Best for a traditional family day at the seaside:

There are ten miles of sandy beaches at Bournemouth and Poole, while perfect swimming and sandcastle conditions make Weymouth and Swanage ever-popular seaside holiday destinations.

 

Best for beachside strolling:

A local summer treat is to hop on the Mudeford Ferry in Christchurch and cross to the unspoilt Mudeford Sandbank and Beach (home of the extraordinarily expensive beach huts). The Beach House Café serves seafood with great views over Christchurch, while the nearby Hengistbury Head is a special nature reserve with lots to explore. Start at the Visitor Centre.

Windsurfing at Kimmeridge Bay

 

 

Best for watersports:

For surfers and windsurfers Kimmeridge Bay ( ‘K-Bay’) is a local legend. Surf Steps is a great surf school at Bournemouth beach (near Boscombe pier). If you fancy trying windsurfing or paddle-boarding, head to The OTC, a purpose-built centre at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, which was the sailing venue at the 2012 Olympics.

If surfing isn’t thrilling enough for you, you can try coasteering (jumping off cliffs into the sea, basically) at several locations including Dancing Ledge with Land and Wave.

 

 

Eating out

Dorset foodies really are spoilt for choice. At the top end of the market in Sandbanks (reportedly Britain’s most expensive seaside town) is Rick Stein’s latest world-class seafood restaurant.

Lyme Regis has a fantastic dining scene and is home to HIX Oyster and Fish House. Over at Studland there’s the Pig on the Beach, which as well as being a very trendy boutique hotel is a superb restaurant. And another great, hidden away hotel with a restaurant (and a spa where you can swim under the stars) is Summer Lodge Hotel in the village of Evershot.

For an unbeatable fish soup, head to the brilliant Hive Beach Café at Burton Bradstock.

 

Best for knickerbocker glories:

The Bramble Café and Deli in Poundbury is the current venture of superb local chef Mat Follas (he won Masterchef in 2009) and is already becoming famous for brilliant seasonal food and that signature dessert.

 

Best for afternoon tea:

Moreton Tea Rooms in Dorchester is a local teatime legend (booking advised at weekends). Traditional Dorset cream teas in grand surroundings can be had at the Royal Bath hotel in Bournemouth and the lovely Knoll House in Studland.

 

Best fish and chips:

You can’t go wrong with a long-established, family-run chippy. Try the Marlboro Restaurant in Weymouth, Chez Fred in Westbourne, Bournemouth or the Fish Plaice in Swanage.

 

Best pubs:

The Anchor Inn at Seatown (below) regularly wins prizes as a top gastropub, while the Scott Arms at Kingston near Corfe Castle is delightfully cosy.

 

There are hundreds more, of course. The Square and Compass at Worth Matravers is a hidden gem. Try following the Dorset Pubs Facebook page for more pub crawl tips.

 

 

Shopping

 

Castlepoint just outside Bournemouth is a huge out-of-town retail park with all the national stores you need. Poole has the Dolphin Shopping Centre if you prefer to walk around indoors.

High end brands (plus good lunchtime eating) can be found in Dorchester’s Brewery Square and Westover Road in Bournemouth.

But there are also lots of great independent stores throughout the county. Sherborne, Wareham, Swanage and Lyme Regis in particular have plenty for those who like boutique shops, handmade gifts and so on.

For books, there are such venerable institutions as Gullivers in Wimborne Minster, The Bookshop in Bridport and Bookends in Christchurch.  Replayed Records in Swanage is great for second hand music.

 

Best local food shopping:

For quality local produce try The Salt Pig farm shops in Wareham and now Swanage. There are farmers’ markets all over the county – see a list here.

Other local independent food shops well worth a visit include the Dorset Chilli Shop in Bournemouth and the very long-running old-fashioned grocers Dike and Son in Stalbridge.

 

Best markets:

Dorchester Market has been running on Wednesdays since the 1860s, and there’s a car boot variant on Sundays too.

Even better is Wimborne Market and Antiques Bazaar –  a huge covered market with over 200 stalls selling something for everyone.

 

 

10 fantastic things you can only do in Dorset

 

1. Go dolphin-spotting at Durlston

Durlston Country Park is a huge National Nature Reserve with all kinds of habitats, and is one of the best places in the UK to see dolphins. Sign up to receive Dolphin Alerts here and you’ll be told when there are dolphins visiting Dorset (and whales, basking sharks and seals too!)

 

2. Gaze at Midsummer in Bournemouth

Russell-Cotes is an English Victorian gem – a house, museum and art gallery. The best-known and loved picture in the collection is the 1887 ‘Midsummer’ by Albert Joseph Moore – guaranteed to warm the cockles.

 

 

3. Discover the Blue Pool

The Blue Pool at Furzebrook near Wareham, hidden away in acres of woods and heathland, is one of Dorset’s most beautiful secrets. Great for dog walking, and there’s a nice tea room too.

 

4. Search for red squirrels at Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island is in the middle of Poole Harbour, but once you step off the ferry you feel like you’re a million miles away from civilisation. Now a National Trust property, the island is full of wildlife including a healthy population of red squirrels.

 

5. Have an ice cream at Barford Farmhouse Garden

A real summertime Dorset treat is to visit Barford Farm Farmhouse Garden, close to the River Stour at White Mill and enjoy a local Barford Farm ice cream. Heaven!

 

6. Make a pilgrimage to St Mary’s Chapel

In the grounds of Lulworth Castle is St Mary’s, a Georgian chapel that’s of the most beautiful little buildings in England. And while you’re at Lulworth, head for the Doll’s House shop for some homemade fudge.

St Mary’s Chapel at Lulworth. Photo © Jo Turner (cc-by-sa/2.0)

 

7. Catch a film with at the Castle

On the subject of Lulworth Castle, a few times a year Luna Cinema show classic movies on a big outdoor screen right in front of the battlements.

 

8. A night at the theatre in Lyme Regis

The Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis is a charming, vibrant venue with gorgeous décor including a fantastic bar. Always a good night out.

 

9. Stroll amongst sculptures

Sculpture By the Lakes is a tranquil haven for art and nature lovers: a beautiful sculpture park created by Simon Gudgeon set in 26 acres of Dorset countryside.

 

10. Have breakfast with a view at Chesil Beach

The Taste Café is fast becoming one of Dorset’s favourite eateries. Go for a full English complete with Dorset black pudding – and stunning views over Chesil Beach.

The Taste Cafe at Chesil Beach. Image: Taste Cafe

 

What’s your favourite ‘local knowledge’ about Dorset? What have we missed? Let us know in the comments.
And if you’re moving to Dorset – or moving within Dorset – contact the Master Removers for a quote.

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