Visit Dorchester Dorset's county town

Dorchester is not only Dorset’s county town but also the birthplace of famous author and poet Thomas Hardy.

The town enjoys a rich history dating back as far as the Iron Age and is home to the Roman Town House, the finest example of its kind in Britain.

Attractions aplenty

Dorchester provides the location for many of the county’s leading museums, including the Dorset Museum and the Keep Military Museum.

Dorset Museum has recently undergone a £16.4 million redevelopment and the magnificent museum is now established as the major cultural destination within Dorset - a place for people to connect with 250 million years of Dorset's history.

Learn more of Dorchester’s grizzly history and the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs with a visit to the newly refurbish Shire Hall Museum. Learn more of the birth of trade unions and the harsh judgements passed down by the notorious Judge Jeffrey during the Bloody Assizes.

For little ones there are some fabulous family-friendly attractions including the Dinosaur Museum and Teddy Bear Museum. You can even delve into the past of ancient Egypt at the Tutankhamun Exhibition.

Just 15 minutes drive from Dorchester you will find the opulent Athelhampton House. This Grade I listed 15th Century manor house boasts an award winning garden that is certainly worth exploring, plus their café is perfect for a light lunch or tea and cake.

Nature on your doorstep

In the countryside surrounding Dorchester you can find plenty of opportunities to get closer to nature. Try your hand at bushcraft skills with Insight Activities or admire the stunning sculptures as you wander round Sculpture By the Lakes.

Explore the mile upon mile of cycling trails and walking routes that surround the town and take in the stunning wildlife and nature. You’ll enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery while being just moments from the town centre on routes including Hardy's Cottage and the Dorset Jubilee Trail.

The Hardy connection

Lovers of the acclaimed poet and writer Thomas Hardy will be aware of the significance of Dorchester.

Dorchester is of course the ‘Casterbridge’ featured in many of his novels and references of the great man can be found in and around the town.

Hardy’s birthplace can be found on the outskirts of Dorchester in Higher Bockhampton. Hardy’s Cottage is now managed by the National Trust alongside his Victorian townhouse Max Gate

You can learn more of Hardy’s time in Dorchester by following our Hardy Trail.

Shopping and Markets

When it's time for some retail therapy, there are many well-known high street brands alongside small, independent shops. They sell everything from Dorset's local produce to clothing, jewellery, antiques, art and unusual gifts.

There is a central pedestrianised area with three arcades - Hardye, Tudor and Antelope Walk. There also shops along High Street, Durngate Street and Trinity Street. And you won't want to miss the big named brands at Brewery Square next to Dorchester South Station.

On the outskirts of Dorchester, you'll find Poundbury with its eclectic mix of independent retailers and cute coffee shops.

Dorchester Market takes place every Wednesday and features an outdoor and covered market with a large variety of stalls.

Dine in style

Dorset's county town has a huge variety of places to eat out. You might also want to grab a picnic for your day trip or order a tasty takeaway for delivery to your holiday accommodation.

Brewery Square provides a wonderfully vibrant location with an abundance of places to eat and drink. A number of the leading chain restaurants and independent eateries are available giving you plenty to get your taste buds going. The alfresco setting brings a Covent Garden feel and provides the perfect location to enjoy a meal with friends while watching the world go by. Its location played a significant role in the town’s history being home to the Eldridge Pope Brewery creating local ale from 1880 to the late 1990s. Alongside the wonderful food, there is also a multiscreen cinema and a parade of shops providing the opportunity to purchase the latest fashions and accessories. The fountains in the middle of the Square offer great enjoyment for children, splashing through the jets of water on warmer days.

King Charles’ Poundbury

The mid 90s brainchild of King Charles III has become a stylish, eco-friendly village quite unlike anywhere else in Dorset. Built on the principle of giving priority to people rather than cars, it provides an alternative community feel.

Wander the winding streets of Poundbury and take in the wonderful mix of architecture, independent shops, cafés and local businesses that hark back to times gone by.

Events for everyone

Dorchester plays host to a fantastic year round events calendar.

The towns Borough Gardens and Maumbury Rings provide wonderful locations for summer and spring time festivals and events. With live music, performances and open air theatre regularly hosted, they provide a delightful setting for revellers to enjoy.

Find further details of events happening in and around Dorchester for the upcoming months within our Dorchester events page.

Make a break of it

With so much to see and do in Dorchester, why not book a short break or holiday? Accommodation is available to suit all tastes and budgets from hotels, bed & breakfasts and self catering options to choose from - you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay.

Why not book your stay online? We have a wonderful choice of places to stay that can be booked with a click or a tap. Don't forget to mention Visit Dorset when making your enquiry.

Find out more about Dorchester

We’ve only just scratched the surface!

You can find out more about Dorchester with the free Discover Dorchester app. As well as events, attractions, shops and cafes the App also has up to date useful information on parking, electric vehicle charging, toilets and local offers and discounts. The App is available in Apple and android versions and can be downloaded at www.discoverdorchester.co.uk

You can also download our Dorchester Visitor Guide for further information (please contact us for an accessible version of this Guide).

We handrawn heart Dorchester Walking Festival

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DiscoverDorchester

Hotels & B&Bs

Stay in stay at a country house hotel or choose a B&B in the centre of town.

Self catering

Whatever your style, modern sustainable holiday home or a traditional stone farm cottage.

Camping

Choose a campsite or holiday park close to Dorchester for your perfect basecamp.

Things to do

Museums, historic sites, riverside walks and park.

Events & festivals

Festivals, fairs, country shows, carnivals and concerts, plenty of entertainment here.

Eating out

Country pubs, cafes and fine dining experiences.

Shops & markets

Shop and dine in Brewery Square, there's shops galore in Dorchester.

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Thomas Hardy Trail

Follow in Thomas Hardy's footsteps as you visit the towns and villages which gave him inspiration.

Dorchester Map

Map of Dorchester town centre including places of interest, parking, coach parking and toilets.