With so much to offer the discerning holidaymaker, you might find it difficult to know where to start when planning a short break in Dorset.
The area is perhaps most well-known for its wide range of brilliant beach spots to choose from, full of fascinating fossils, family-friendly sands and picturesque piers. But equally there are buzzing towns packed with bars and restaurants, award-winning attractions and charming countryside that all offer worthy bases for your stay.
Guided by cottages.com regional manager, David Vincent, we endeavour to experience as much of the region as we could in two (pretty full!) days.
We choose the delights of West Dorset for our minibreak, in an area stretching from Lyme Regis to Weymouth and Portland. This wonderful part of the world is home to some of Dorset’s finest unspoilt countryside, immortalised in part thanks to Thomas Hardy, who was inspired by his surroundings and celebrated the local scenery by using it as the setting for his works of classic literature. Fortunately,the vast expanses of countryside we encounter during our travels arelargely unchanged from the view he would have experienced as a resident ofDorset more than a century ago.
Predating Hardy’s day is the Jurassic Coast, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A huge draw for visitors with its jaw-dropping scenery and coastal views, the area is incredibly accessible thanks to the fantastic South West Coast Path long distance walking route which spans its length.
We’re looking forward to lacing up our walking boots as we arrive in Seatown, a small coastal hamlet close to Bridport and the starting point for our adventure. We park in the small carpark in the centre at the seafront and immediately feel at the heart of something very special with a glorious view looking out to sea. However, we don’t wait around for long, as we’re heading uphill to get an even better view from the top of Golden Cap, famous for being the highest point on the southern coast of England.
It’s an exhilarating walk to the top, and perhaps not one for the faint hearted, but we’d definitely recommend giving it a go. Your reward is superb panoramic views over the whole of Lyme Bay, and a feeling of accomplishment having become immersed in the region’s show stopping scenery. Savour the moment and a view you’ll never forget, before heading back down to Seatown, safe in the knowledge a delicious pub lunch is waiting for you!
Feeling invigorated and refreshed from your bracing sea walk, it’s time to pull up a pew at The Anchor Inn, a brilliant pub on the beach front in Seatown. Serving up delicious local produce, fresh fish and speciality dishes including foraged foods, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
After lunch we take a short, 20 minute drive to Lyme Regis. Lovingly referred to as the Pearl of Dorset, this is a picturesque and historic seaside spot no visit to West Dorset is complete without. As we wander the quaint streets and famous 13th century harbour wall, known as ‘The Cobb’, we take the chance to imagine slipping back in time. The landscape here was enjoyed by the likes of Jane Austen and John Fowles, with the latter featuring the cobb in the novel, ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, later made in to a film starring Meryl Streep.
Those interested in history can take the opportunity to visit the museum alongside the harbour, or otherwise a relaxing afternoon can be enjoyed simply browsing the many art and craft galleries, antiques and bric-a-brac shops.
After a couple of hours we decide to continue exploring the region, heading to the charming town of Beaminster just half an hour’s drive inland. Mapperton House and Gardens is worth a visit, which also featured on the big screen as a filming location for the 2015 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.
By the end of our busy day we are looking forward to a well-deserved rest. The Bridge House is a top choice for the evening’s wining and dining. An award-winning brasserie, this 13 th century bridge house in Beaminster offers an al fresco dining option overlooking a walled garden.
Alternatively, head south to West Bay and soak up the last of the evening sun. Famous as the scene of TV series, Broadchurch, you can enjoy fish and chips from one of ten little kiosks in the harbour, caught from the bay in front of you.