Fancy attending a festival this year? Take a look at Dorset’s offering (www.visit-dorset.com/whats-on/ festivals). Spring kicks off the proceedings with food and drink festivals in Bournemouth and Abbotsbury; Lyme Regis holds a three-day fossil festival in May and Swanage holds a celebration of all things fishy in June. Camp Bestival puts on music and performance at Lulworth Castle in July and Lyme Regis takes up the folk music banner at the end of August. If you love aircraft, don’t miss the Bournemouth air show at the end of August, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Great Dorset Steam Fair at Blandford Forum in August. Dorset’s coast supports several nature reserves – Holton Heath, Hartland Moor, Studland and Godlingston Heath – and the 280-acre Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve in Swanage is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast. Farther west is Kimmeridge and The Etches Collection of fossils. One of the most fascinating coastal features is the 18-mile pebble bank known as Chesil Beach, and the Fleet lagoon – find out more at the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre. Tucked behind the West Fleet is the Abbotsbury Swannery where, in May, you can watch cygnets hatch. Inland, families will love the Donkey Walking Adventures at Beaminster, watching the goingson at Monkey World near Wareham, and Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park near Poole. And don’t miss the Tank Museum at Bovington Camp.
Dorchester is the county town, known for its association with author Thomas Hardy – you can visit two of his houses in the area. Dorchester museums include The Tutankhamun Exhibition, The Terracotta Warriors Museum, the Dinosaur Museum, the Teddy Bear Museum and the Mummies exhibition; pick up a Gold Saver Pass (https://worldheritage.nutickets.com/goldsaverpass). If you’re visiting in spring, don’t miss the Dorset County Museum, home to Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic Diplodocus, until 8 May. The county also has its share of grand houses: Forde Abbey, Mapperton, Kingston Lacy, Athelhampton, Sherborne Castle and Gardens, and Highcliffe Castle. Meanwhile, one of the most beautiful towns in the county is Sherborne. It’s home to an ancient abbey much admired for its superb fan-vaulted ceiling. ■ Turn to p73 of the Top 100 guide for site info
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Abbotsbury is home to the famous Swannery. Monkey World rescues primates from all over the world. Bestival at Lulworth