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National Trust Dorset

National Trust Dorset Attractions which are perfect for a Family Day Out

Want to learn about National Trust Dorset attractions? we have you covered!

Whether you’re looking for a beach that offers spectacular views of the sea or attractive gardens, Dorset has got you covered. Here are National Trust attractions perfect for a family day’s out.

1. New Forest Northern Commons

Location: Ellingham Drove, Ringwood, New Forest, Hampshire BH24 3NF

Opening times: Open 24 hours

New Forest Northern Commons is a boundary less area full of rare reptiles, diverse plant life and more. The unique landscape also features heathland, grassland, mire, woodland. As one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed land, it’s the perfect place for a family day out.

There are plenty of things adults and kids can do. At the Rockford Common, you can stroll through the open landscape or climb to the top of the hill. Bramshaw Common offers spectacular views of the lowland heathland where cattle, and sheep graze. You can also go for bike rides, scenic walks or have a picnic.

2. Ringstead Bay

Location: Ringstead, near Weymouth

Opening times: Open 24 hours

Enjoy beachfront views of the sea at Ringstead Bay. The shingle beach stretches for 700 m and lies on the Jurassic Coast. Popular for its fossils, the beach has been a favourite with families looking for a quiet day at the beach.

Ringstead beach is one of the few places where the coast path stretches along the beach. Since it’s all pebbles and shingles, you’ll come across ramblers trudging along as they make their way to their destination.

There is a car park close to the beach, and they charge around £5 to park your car. This allows visitors to bring along windsurfers, inflatables, kayaks and other sea-going crafts. You’ll also find a beach cafe, and shop where you can stop for snacks and refreshments.

3. Hod Hill

Location: Stourpaine, Nr Blandford Forum

Opening times: Open 24 hours

Hod Hill is a large fort three miles northwest of Blandford Forum in Dorset. In the fifth century BC, they fortified it due to its increasing status as a trading post. By the first century AD, it was densely populated.

Today, this Iron Age fort is the perfect place for a family day out. You and your kids can explore the earthworks from the Iron Age and Romans. There are five entrances through the ramparts. One of the entrances is medieval, two are Iron Age, and two are Roman.

Once inside the fort, you’ll find remains of buildings in the form of ridges and circular hollows. You’ll also come across butterflies which are usually attracted by the flowers that grow on the thin chalk soils.

4. Studland Bay

Location: Isle of Purbeck

Opening times: Open 24 hours

In Purbeck, there is a slice of coastline stretching four miles with gently shelving bathing water. Also called Studland Bay, it’s one of the most popular naturist beaches in Great Britain.

The sheltered beach is the perfect place for your little ones to swim for their first time in the sea. After swimming, they can play on the beach so don’t forget to take the spades and buckets with you. For snacks and refreshments, there is a café at Knoll beach with everything you need.

5. Brownsea Island

Location: Poole Harbour, Poole

Opening times: Open 24 hours

As the largest island in Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island provides a safe haven for overwintering birds. Owned and managed by the National Trust, you can find birds such as kingfishers, sandwich terns, oystercatchers and more. The island is also home to a variety of small animals, including the red squirrel.

There are trails that allow you to explore the island and wonder at its thriving natural habitat that includes woodland. As you explore the island, you’ll have spectacular views of the Purbeck Hills and the harbour. Sadly, the island is currently closed for winter but will re-open in late March 2022.

6. Corfe Castle

Location: Corfe village

Opening times: 10am – 5pm in summer, 10am – 4pm in the winter

Explore the Corfe Castle, one of Britain’s most iconic survivors of the English civil war and learn over 1,000 of history. A favourite for families, the castle was once a fortress and royal palace. But today, only the secret places and fallen walls remain.

As you explore the castle, you’ll hear tales of treason and treachery in every corner. You will also get a chance to spot the murder holes and wildlife that made the castle their home. Corfe Castle opens daily, but you must book your visit in advance. Family tickets go for £25, and it’s free for those under 5.

7. Kingston Lacy

Location: Wimborne Minster

Opening times: 10:30am – 3:30pm daily

Kingston Lacy is an elegant country mansion located on an 8,500-acre estate. Set on extensive parkland and attractive gardens, the estate is part of the 16,000 acre Bankes estate and a National Trust property. The country mansion is a majestic Italian Palazzo that has been in the Bankes family since the 18th century.

Inside, there is plenty to see from beautifully detailed carvings to family souvenirs. It has several rooms teeming with paintings by Brueghel, Titian, Van Dyck and others. In the Egyptian Room, there is a private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Besides the mansion, the gardens offer a place for kids to run wild or for families to have a picnic. Entrance is free to National Trust members.

8. Cerne Giant

Location: Cerne Abbas

Opening times: Open 24 hours

Cerne Giant is an ancient naked figure sculpted into a hillside. Created during the Saxon period, the naked figure stands at 180 ft tall. As Britain’s largest chalk figure, its origins and identity is a mystery. However, historians think it has the likeness of the Greek hero Hercules.

Above the chalk figure is a rectangular earthwork enclosure. Also known as the Trendle, it dates back to the iron age and used by local Morris Dancers for May Day celebrations.

9. Spyway

Location: Langton Matravers, near Swanage

Opening times: 9am to 8pm

With its grasslands rich in wildflowers, Spyway is an ideal place for a family day out. The isolated property consists of farmland. It stretches from Langton Matravers to the South Purbeck coast.

Characterised by sea cliffs, the area is perfect for adventure sports and picnics. You can also watch birds such as guillemots, shags and puffins or see peregrine falcons as they fly overhead. Don’t forget to try the cool waters at the Dancing ledge or your luck at fishing. You could catch a sea bass or a mackerel.

10. Max Gate

Location: Alington Ave

Opening times: 10am- 4pm

Max Gate is a townhouse and the home of Thomas Hardy, Dorset’s famous author and poet. It’s in this house that Hardy wrote most of his memorable poetry and novels. Designed in 1885, the house is named after Mack, a nearby tollgate keeper.

The original house was much smaller than the present one, but it’s furnished for you to enjoy the spaces. Around the house, you’ll find a garden with large trees and high walls. There is also a sundial dial erected in the memory of Thomas Hardy.

You and your family can stroll through the walled garden as you soak up the scents, sounds and sights.

11. Clouds Hill

Location: King George V Road, Bovington

Opening times: 10am – 4pm 

Near Wareham in Dorset is an isolated cottage called Clouds Hill. Owned and managed by the National Trust, it’s the former home of T. E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). The cottage has colour-washed brick walls, a tiled roof and a lintel over the door.

The now Grade II listed building has a reading room lined with books, a custom made reading chair, a music room and much more. As you step into the house, you’ll uncover the story of a celebrity who turned his back on fame and found solace in music and books.

12. White Mill

Location: Sturminster Marshall, near Wimborne Minster

Opening times: Temporarily closed till April 2022

White Mill is an 18th-century corn mill next to the River Stour. This lovely spot along the river offers an opportunity for you and your family to stroll and see otters, swans, kingfishers and more. While strolling, you’ll enjoy the tranquillity of the River Stour.

Around the mill, there is a children’s trail and a 4-mile circular walk along the river where you can take in the natural beauty. The trail passes through Shapwick, a picturesque village before returning to White Mill.

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