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Mapperton House

Dorset is full of beautiful sights and scenery, but you may not be familiar with these lesser known spots. On your next visit, why not venture from the beaten track to explore our top 11 wonders.

Walk the cobbles of the famous Hovis advert in Shaftesbury, enjoy a swim in the pool which is said to have inspired Enid Blyton, explore Dorset’s lost village of Tyneham or visit the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich.

Mapperton House

1. Eype Beach

Eype Beach feels like a little secret beach, known only by the locals. Sat in between Lyme Regis to the west and West Bay to the east, this little wonder of a beach is perfectly secluded and the pebbles are large enough and smooth enough to perch your bottom on, for a nice summer picnic.


2. Fossil Foraging

Fossil foraging on the Jurassic Coast really captures the magic of Dorset and is a fun and exciting day out for children and adults alike. Dorset’s natural wonders are what makes it such a magnificent county; the fact that anyone can forage for and find relics of the fascinating history and geology of the area, means you can take away some fantastic souvenirs from your stay. We recommend Kimmeridge bay and Charmouth as two of the most fossil-rich spots to hunt!

3. The Blue Pool

The Blue Pool, situated in between Corfe Castle and Wareham is a natural pool in a chalk pit dating back to the 17th century and was named as such due to the very fine clay in the water which diffracts light in different ways producing the most magnificent blue colour. This beautiful and tranquil hidden spot in Dorset is surrounded by glorious woodland and natural wildlife. It is not for swimming in, since it is deep and dangerous but it is a beautiful pool to walk around on the sandy paths, followed by a cream tea at the Blue Pool Tea Rooms.

4. Mapperton House and Gardens

Home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton House is a stunning Tudor-Jacobean Manor House which was re-modelled in 1660, and has remained unchanged ever since. The gardens were used in the film adaptation of ‘Emma’ starring Gwyneth Paltrow and the house and gardens were used as the principal location for the film ‘Far From The Maddening Crowd’, an adaption of Thomas Hardy’s novel.

Mapperton House is described by Country Life Magazine as being ‘The Nation’s Finest Manor House’ so is well worth a visit. The tiered gardens include a perfectly manicured croquet lawn, formal topiary and a romantic valley garden.

5. Mupe Bay

Mupe Bay is a lovely hidden cove, just East of Durdle Door. Visit on a summer’s day and the pleasant, shallow waters and stunning views will feel more reminiscent of a Mediterranean holiday than a beach day in Dorset! It isn’t accessible by road, which makes it all the more special. This beach of sand and small pebbles isn’t the easiest to reach; be prepared to clamber down the 150 steps which provide access, but once you make it to the bottom you won’t be disappointed!

6. Durdle Door

Durdle Door is the symbol of Dorset on many a postcard. It is a majestic limestone sea arch that stands beautifully in the sea. The surrounding area offers some stunning walks and snorkelling, coasteering and kayaking are also popular in the area. Why not see the famous Durdle Door in a whole new way, by taking a kayak tour right through the centre of the carved out stone!

7. Dancing Ledge

This man-made swimming pool is reputed to be the one which Enid Blyton based the pool in Malory Towers on. The hole for the pool was blasted into the rocks over a hundred years ago so that local school children could use it for swimming. Although the pool isn’t huge, it’s big enough for a few people to enjoy and a good place for a picnic spot with rocks around to sit on so that you can keep an eye on the children.

8. The lost village of Tyneham

The villagers were cleared out of this village just before Christmas in 1943, so that the army could test weapons. It is a beautiful village and you feel very moved when you visit. The school has been kept in good condition as has the church and you are free to roam through. The houses are as they were left. Look out for the poignant sign left by the villagers, which reads ‘Please treat the church and houses with care. We have given up our homes, where many of us have lived for generations, to help win the war and keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.’ Sadly, the villagers didn’t get to return and the village is still owned by the Ministry of Defence, but it is open for walking around and makes for a thought provoking place to spend the afternoon.

9. Gold Hill

Visit Gold Hill in Shaftesbury and even cycle down it, to recreate the famous Hovis ad in 1973, where the boy cycles down the cobbles after delivering bread. The ad was directed by Sir Ridley Scott and has become one of the most famous adverts ever to be made.

10. Church Ope Cove, Portland

Close to the village of Wakeham, the secluded Church Ope Cove’s colourful history is enough to ignite the imagination of visitors of all ages. Tales of vicious Viking attacks, wealthy Governors and ruthless smugglers all feel tangible when visiting this pretty, but rugged cove.

The beach is a local favourite – being sheltered from the wind by the cliffs that surround the beach on three sides, it is a popular spot for snorkelling and swimming, although visitors must be wary of the strong current once you swim beyond the cove limits. The edges of the beach are now adorned with colourful beach huts, something the cove is well known for.

11. Pirate’s Graveyard

The ruins of Portland’s first parish church, St Andrews Church, are located above Church Ope Cove. Lookout for some ominous looking smugglers’ gravestones, as you make your way to the beach via the steep steps.

If we’ve inspired you to visit one of Dorset’s wonders, then check out our Dorset holiday cottages to find for the perfect home away from home. Or why not take  a look at our favourite rainy day activities to make sure you have the best Dorset getaway come rain or shine!