Dinosaur Country

Known as the Jurassic Coast, the whole of the Dorset coast is packed with history, and still fossils are found by children just as often as by the professionals.  The best place to search for fossils is Charmouth, but dotted along the coast from Weymouth to Bournemouth you will find attractions devoted to the discovery and explanation of the fossils found on our shores.  Activites are available for all ages, and all abilities.  Local museums are a good place to start your own exploration, or join a guided fossil hunting walk from Lyme Regis or Charmouth.

From some angles, even the rocks resemble dinosaurs - especially Durdle Door, which is found at Lulworth Cove, a fine example of the many secluded beaches to be found along Dorset's coastline.  Dorchester, the county town, is home to a museum devoted to dinosaurs.  Children especially will find the exhibits fascinating.

There are many ways of exploring the coastal area - by car, bike or even on horseback.  There are several stables in the area who offer pony trekking and horse riding options.

Cyclists will find a great selection of cycle routes along the winding country lanes or following the coastline.  There are many signed routes which will take you on a circular tour through the picturesque villages of this area.  Bring your bike, or hire one locally.

Of the many coastal resorts, Swanage is one of the most popular.  Right in the heart of the town, you will find the historic steam railway which takes you through the Purbeck countryside to Corfe Castle.  Fares are very reasonable, and dogs and bicycles are accepted on the trains which run throughout the year.  Take a little time to explore the village of Corfe where you will find many olde worlde shops.  Try the ginger beer at the Ginger Pop shop and take a trip back in time to enjoy the childhood passtimes of the 1950's and 1960's including many Enid Blyton storybooks.

Swanage itself is a traditional Victorian seaside town which boasts a blue flag beach and a recently restored pier.  Boat trips run along the coast giving a new perspective on the Jurassic Coast, and when you return there are plenty of places to enjoy a traditional meal of fish and chips. 

Why not take the ferry along the River Frome to Wareham where you can spend an interesting few hours exploring this historic town exploring its shops and riverfront, or why not walk the mile-long remains of the roman wall?

Children will love Monkey World, a short drive from Wareham.  This ape rescue centre is home to a wide variety of apes large and small.

Head away from the coast and you will find picture post-card villages.  This area was the inspiration for Thomas Hardy who referred to the area as "Wessex".  Hardy was not the only author to be inspired by the beauty and drams of Dorset.  The most recent drama to be inspired by the area was Broadchurch, created by local writer, Chris Chibnell.

There are plenty of attractions in the area including a tank museum at Bovington is well worth a day out.  The museum is open all year and has hundreds of examples which tell the story of the tank from its inception to the present day.

Travel east along the coast and you will soon come to the town of Poole which boasts the largest natural harbour in the country.  The town is home to the famous Poole Pottery where all the latest designs can be seen at the visitor centre and the studio on the quay where you can watch potters at work.

Wander around the harbour where you will find craft of all varieties, and options for taking to the water youself.  If you feel that a day trip to the Channel Islands, or taking the ferry to Cherbourg is not on your agenda, why not try a shorter cruise to Brownsea Island or a trip around the harbour to see Old Harry's Rocks.  There is plenty of choice, and bookings can be made on the day.  Just check sailing times as some excursions leave early.

New to the harbour skyline is the 'Twin Sails' bridge.  This is the world's first triangular lifting bridge, taking road traffic across the harbour.  When fully open, the bridge is taller than Nelson's Column.

Call in at the tourist information centre and ask for a map of the Cockle Trail which will take you on a walk around the old town and the quayside, interspersed with information points linked with the new interactive heritage trail.  Away from the harbour you will find a bustling town with a number of shopping areas for all tastes.

Dorset is proud of its heritage from the dinosaurs to the present.  Why not take time to find out why.

 

Last updated on 22/07/2013 2:47pm by Sharon Eason
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