Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset

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Discovering Abbotsbury Swannery while on a visit in Dorset was a very pleasant surprise – as was the fact that we were lucky enough to visit during the perfect time of year to see the cygnets hatching.

Take the scenic route

Although I’ve been to Dorset many times, I had never heard of Abbotsbury Swannery, but it sounded fascinating, so we took the coastal road from Bridport to Weymouth to find out more.

This is a wonderfully scenic route – the views of the hills gently rolling to the shore are stunning. When you are about halfway to Weymouth, you’ll reach Abbotsbury, a quintessentially English, picture-postcard village of thatched cottages. Go past the Subtropical Gardens, through the village until you see the Tithe Barn and Children’s Farm. You’ll see the Swannery signposted from there.

Your children will love the tractor and trailer ride

Tractor and trailer ride at Abbotsbury Swannery Dorset

From the main entrance, you can either walk down to the Swannery (about 5-10 minutes on the flat footpath) or take the tractor and trailer ride. Obviously, my children were thrilled at the prospect of going on a tractor and trailer ride, so we settled into our seats, and off we went.

Top tip: If you are visiting with children, make sure you use the loo at the entrance, as there isn’t one in the main Swannery!

See the cygnets hatching from May to June

Abbotsbury Swannery Dorset

Benedictine monks built the monastery here around 1040 and set up the Swannery to farm swans for their lavish feasts. A colony of nesting Mute Swans is still here to this day, and this is the only place in the world where you will be able to have this experience.

The best time to visit is during May and June, when the swans’ eggs hatch and huge numbers of fluffy grey cygnets emerge.

We walked through the woods and saw a couple of families of adult swans with their cygnets on the stream, and a single swan swimming elegantly on the pond. It was great to get up close (but not too close!) to the swans, but I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about.

We went a little further and found the nesting area. My daughter had fun spotting the enormous nests and we both loved looking into the rearing pens and seeing all the cute little cygnets.

And then I looked up…

Abbotsbury Swannery Dorset swans on the lagoon

….and realised what all the fuss was about! Nothing quite prepared me for the sight of 600 swans floating on the lagoon. It was absolutely amazing and something I will never forget. It was quite a misty day, and seeing all these swans emerging through the haze was just incredible.

Top tip: Join in the mass feeding at the lagoon and help feed the baby swans (twice daily, check the times when you arrive).

An inspirational place

Anna Pavlova at Abbotsbury Swannery Dorset

I am clearly not the only person to be awestruck. I discovered that Anna Pavlova studied the swans here while she rehearsed her legendary performance of Swan Lake in the late 1920s.

As we waited for the tractor to take us back to the main entrance, my children let off steam in the largest willow maze in Dorset, very thoughtfully placed by the tractor stop. All in all, we had a great time and I would definitely recommend it.

Practical details about Abbotsbury Swannery

Website | Opening times | Prices

Address: New Barn Road, Abbotsbury, Dorset DT3 4JG

5/10 minute walk from the car park to the Swannery or take the tractor and trailer ride (50p per journey).

Cafe on-site, baby changing and disabled toilets.

No dogs.

Top tip: Buy a ‘Passport Ticket’ and you’ll get discounted entry to Abbotsbury Swannery, Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens and Abbotsbury Children’s Farm.

by Emma Holcombe

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