For some off-grid grandeur, there’s no county quite like Dorset. This is Thomas Hardy country and with beach, rolling hills, and imposing estates aplenty, this rural haven is the perfect place to spend a day or two far from the madding crowd.
No trip to Dorset would be complete without a visit to Mapperton House – listed as Country Life’s ‘finest manor in Britain’. Naturally, we called upon the lady of the manor, Julie Montagu (aka Viscountess Hinchingbrooke), to get her insider take on the best things to see and do in the area.
Essential items to pack for a trip to Dorset…
Wellies, wellies, wellies. A hat, hot water bottle, scarf, and your warmest coat.
The best time to visit is…
Summer obviously (see above).
Our first pitstop should be…
Mapperton House and Gardens. Not only is Mapperton, Country Life’s Britain’s finest manor house, but we were awarded Historic Houses’ ‘Garden of the Year 2020’.
The Ollerod in Beaminster.
For an early morning workout head to…
My online yoga channel – www.wholeself.yoga – where I host live virtual classes from Mapperton on a weekly basis.
Where should we go for breakfast?
Rise Bakery in Bridport.
How about for a long, lazy lunch?
The Anchor Inn at Seatown – the views are spectacular! (And so are the fish and chips.)
And for dinner with friends?
Brassica in Beaminster.
Your favourite restaurant in town?
Budget: Any of the food vendors at West Bay – you can then picnic on the beach.
Blow Out: The Ollerod.
The drink to order at the bar…
I’m a beer girl, so I’ll go with our local Piddle Beer, near Dorchester.
The best place for people watching…
West Bay where Broadchurch was filmed.
The best place to treat yourself is…
Seaside Boarding House.
For great shopping head to…
The Alleyways Antiques Centre in Bridport for unbelievable treasures!
Favourite towns to explore…
Lyme Regis for the best fossil hunting in the country.
The one place only locals know about…
Antiques Bazaar in Crewkerne.
For the best views head to…
Burton Bradstock, which is right along the Jurassic Coast.
For a change of pace try…
A walk along the ancient Maiden Castle.
Great day trips include…
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens and Forde Abbey.
A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?
Anything by Thomas Hardy – this is Hardy country after all. I recommend Far From the Madding Crowd to read, and [then] watch on the big screen – the latest feature starred Carey Mulligan and was filmed at Mapperton.
How should we spend the final day of our trip?
Head to Durdle Door, one of Dorset’s most photographed and iconic landmarks. It is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
What’s your Dorset secret?
Swimming in the sea along the Jurassic Coast.
In a word, Dorset is…
To learn more about life at Mapperton, and partake in live tours and experiences, visit Mapperton Live.