Top 10 Free Days Out in Dorset
Days out in Dorset needn’t cost the earth!
We’ve drawn up our own list of the ten best free days out in Dorset which are great for budget-friendly holidays. With so much to choose from, the hardest part was limiting it to ten!
Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve
Situated just a mile from Swanage, Durlston Country Park is a fabulous 320 acre countryside paradise which is set to feature on BBC Springwatch. With stunning views across Swanage Bay and the Jurassic Coast, walking trails to explore and fascinating wildlife to watch, it provides a marvellous day out for everyone. You might even be lucky enough to see dolphins and puffins from the top of the cliffs.
Be sure to go to the free Visitor Centre inside Durlston Castle and if you're feeling peckish, pop into SeventhWave cafe for some refreshments. Alternatively pack up a picnic and enjoy lunch on one of the stone seats surrounding the Great Globe.
Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre
Found on the world famous Chesil Beach, the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre run a number of exciting events, workshops and activities throughout the year. It is run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and gives a wonderful insight into local wildlife.
If you look south from the centre you will see the Isle of Portland and its cliffs just waiting to be explored! If you fancy a walk, you can follow the stone and shingle beach to Portland or follow the causeway alongside Portland Harbour.
Lyme Regis Beaches
Lyme Regis has lots of different beaches to choose from for a free day out by the sea.
Front Beach is the town’s sandy beach, perfect for sandcastles, swimming and paddling. The beach has RNLI patrols in the peak season, wheelchair beach access and refreshment kiosks just a short walk away, ideal for families.
Nearby Monmouth Beach is a pebble beach steeped in both modern and prehistoric history. As well as being where Mary Anning found the ichthyosaur, it’s the access point for the Undercliffs National Nature Reserve, a unique ‘jungle-esque’ environment that is intriguing to explore.
If you walk to the far end of the beach at low tide, you will find the ammonite graveyard, a layer of limestone rock famous for the large ammonite fossils that it contains. Be sure to always check the tide times before setting out as the beach can get cut off at high tide.
Church Cliff beach is popular for rockpooling with its extensive rock ledge at low tide and the fossil rich East Cliff Beach is one of the best beaches for fossil hunting in the world!
Scour the beach to find ammonites, belemnites, crinoids and more. If you are lucky, you may discover something even rarer! If you would like expert guidance, there are fossil walks running most months of the year from Lyme Regis Museum and by local guided tours (chargeable).
Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and architectural splendour of the past with a visit to Sherborne Abbey, known to many as the ‘Cathedral of Dorset’.
This magnificent, medieval building dates back over 1,300 years and has been a place of worship since Saxon times. The abbey’s impressive stained glass windows, intricate stone carvings, and soaring vaulted ceilings make it a visual delight for anyone who visits.
Sherborne Abbey offers free guided tours giving you the chance to find out where two Saxon Kings are buried, where Sir Walter Raleigh worshipped and to hear the heaviest peal of eight bells in the world.
Sherborne is a charming market town and visiting the abbey gives you an opportunity to explore its picturesque surroundings. You can wander through the town's quaint streets, visit other historical sites like Sherborne Castle, or enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby countryside.
Roman Town House
This is the only Roman Town House to be seen in its entirety in Britain. Dating from the 4th century AD, the remains show a number of architectural details and provides a look back in time to Dorchester’s Roman past.
The Roman Town House was discovered almost by chance in 1937 during an archaeological dig. The team from the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society found the remains of at least eight buildings, of which the Town House was the most important.
Visiting Tout Quarry is a captivating journey into a world of artistic wonder. Nestled on the Isle of Portland, this disused limestone quarry has been transformed into an outdoor sculpture park, showcasing a remarkable fusion of nature and creativity.
As you traverse the rugged paths, you'll encounter an array of sculptures crafted by talented artists, each one seamlessly blending with the quarry's natural surroundings.
The striking rock formations and breathtaking sea views add an enchanting backdrop to the experience. Whether you're an art enthusiast or a nature lover, a visit to Tout Quarry promises a unique and immersive encounter with art in its most awe-inspiring form.
Cerne Abbas Giant
It is not agreed how old the Cerne Abbas Giant is, but the most likely explanation is that he depicts Hercules, the god with super- human strength and was probably created as a pagan idol during the Iron Age period of Britain. The giant really needs to be seen to be believed!
There are some great rural walks to go on to view the Giant from. Why not finish off the walk with a refreshing drink or picnic afterwards?
Tyneham Village and Worbarrow Bay
The village was evacuated in 1943 during World War Two for military training and has been left deserted ever since. A visit to Tyneham is a window into the past of war-time Dorset and provides an insight into this troubling time in British history.
From the village, there is a one mile walk to Worbarrow Bay. A great place for a picnic or hike along the South West Coast Path.
North Dorset Trailway
Choose to walk or cycle along a section of the old Somerset and Dorset railway line and explore the heart of rural Dorset. With plenty of nature reserves and picnic spots along the way, as well as some notable attractions such as the Sturminster Newton Mill (chargeable), the trailway provides a lovely day out in the fresh air.
RSPB Nature Reserves
Located in Weymouth are RSPB’s Lodmoor and Radipole nature reserves. Nestled in the centre of town is Radipole Lake, an unlikely urban home to some fantastic wildlife, including birds like bearded reedlings and kingfishers, as well as elusive creatures such as otters and water voles.
Lodmoor has a combination of a large reedbed, open water, saltmarsh and wet grassland that attract a variety of birds. Look out for Cetti's warblers, ducks, gulls and winter waders.
See our full list of places to visit in Dorset for free, including nature reserves, iconic landmarks, museums, hillforts, castles, historic buildings and more.
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