Dorset is one of the most beautiful counties in the UK, with miles of sandy beaches and plenty of fun days out to keep the family occupied.
You may have heard of the more famous attractions, but here’s my pick of the hidden gems of Dorset in Bournemouth, Poole and the surrounding areas.
Mary Shelley’s Grave
Famous for her Gothic novel Frankenstein, writer Mary Shelley was born in London in the late 1700s. Despite never living in Bournemouth, one of her last requests was to be buried there, and her grave can be visited at St Peter’s Church. Rather strangely, the family plot also contains the remains of her husband’s heart.
Located just a few minutes from Bournemouth town centre is Westbourne, a busy shopping area where you can find a quirky mix of cafes, boutiques, home interior shops and much more. The Victorian shopping arcade is home to a variety of independent shops including Les Enfants Boutique, which sells designer clothes for children.
A good place to eat is Geneve, a family-owned American-style diner who’s handmade burgers are out of this world. Also recommended is Dot. Teas Vintage Tea Boutique for scrummy cakes and wonderful afternoon teas. There is plenty of on street parking at Westbourne but it does get very busy, so consider getting a bus instead.
If you follow the South West Coastal Path alongside Bournemouth Beach and head east you will eventually reach Hengisbury Head, a Local Nature Reserve with breathtaking views across to Christchurch Harbour.
Popular with families, you can take the ‘noddy train’ (or the land train to non-locals) and visit Mudeford Beach. Mudeford hit the news a few years ago when one of the beach huts went on the market for £225,000!
The Pie House, Tuckton
Not far from Hengisbury Head is The Pie House, the only place in Bournemouth where you can eat handmade pies, mash, liquor and jellied eels! All pies are handmade by the owner Matt and the ingredients sourced locally. This is one spot that is very popular with locals.
Boscombe Chine Gardens
Located just a few minutes walk from Boscombe Pier, Boscombe Chine Gardens provides a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the beach front. There is a great play area for kids which includes an interactive water feature and mini golf for the budding Tiger Woods. The best part of the gardens though is The Clock Cafe – home made cakes, fresh coffee, amazing roasts on a Sunday and child and dog friendly.
Situated in Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is one of the few places in Southern England where you can spot red squirrels, not to mention peacocks, ski deer and a variety of other wildlife. The island, which is owned by the National Trust, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Much of it is open to the public and can be accessed by ferries running from Poole Quay.
Brownsea Island was also home to the very first scouting movement back in 1907. Robert Baden-Powell held an experimental camp on the island with boys from mixed social backgrounds and they took part in activities such as camping, wood craft and lifesaving. From this first successful camp, Baden-Powell went on to publish his book Scouting for Boys, and the international scouting movement grew rapidly.
Moors Valley Country Park
1,000 acres of forest and country park, Moors Valley has something for everyone. Forest walks are interspersed with wooden play sculptures and you can walk the Tree Top Trail high above the ground. You can hire bikes and segways to explore and, if heights are your thing, then you can do the Go Ape Tree Top Adventure – not for the faint hearted!
Moors Valley Country Park has it’s own narrow-gauge steam train and even a golf course. There are also two large play areas. The first one – designed for older kids – features a zip line, a fortress of towers and much more, while the junior play area features sand pits, slides and swings. You can even meet the Gruffalo and his child – Moors Valley is one of only a few places in the UK to feature these life size sculptures.
Alum Chine Beach
Bournemouth Beach can get really overcrowded during the summer so it’s well worth travelling a few minutes down the road to Alum Chine instead. There is plenty to do for all ages including a Treasure Island themed playground, cafes, tropical gardens, paddling pool and bowls.
Located just a few miles from Poole Town Centre, Broadstone is a bustling little suburb that has some great independent shops which you won’t find on the High Street:
- Hintons is a gift shop featuring gorgeous homewares, stylish stationary and much more. The eye catching and innovative window displays are sure to tempt you in!
- The Little Sweetie Shop sell every kind of sweet imaginable, including a large range of sugar free items.
- Diana’s Patisserie is an old fashioned style cake shop selling yummy pastries, filled rolls, freshly baked bread and amazing children’s biscuits that my son is always begging for when we go in! It’s great value too – where else can you get a filled roll and a large slice of quiche for under £2.50?
Bournemouth Brewing Company
This fab little brewery, located just along the coast in Poole, offer tours for £15 so you can see how they make their traditional cask beer, plus 90 minutes at the free bar to sample their wares!
By blogger Elaine Betteridge, Entertaining Elliot