Trace the history of this county in England back to the Jurassic Coast via the novels of Thomas Hardy to age-old inns, restored manors and classic country-house hotels, bookable on Culture Trip.
Few stretches of England can boast such a roll call of charms as Dorset’s fossil-pitted, Unesco-listed Jurassic Coast, with its marbled cliffs, sweeping sandy bays and abundance of activities on both land and sea. Head inland and there’s even more to explore, from fairytale castles to family-friendly museums and countless quaint country pubs scattered around the gorgeous rolling landscape. But where are the best hotels on the Jurassic Coast? Well, that depends on you…
If your idea of a perfect evening is sat in front of a cracking fire sipping on a foamy local ale, then the Rose & Crown, just outside the shop-studded market town of Sherborne, is the place. Much loved by locals and visitors for generations, this authentic country inn has traditional character in spades. Rooms are in a converted cowshed with luxury double showers, top-quality bedding and patios with lovely views over the surrounding countryside.
High-end pampering your thing? The award-winning spa facilities at this riverfront hotel on the Jurassic Coast, near Christchurch, are just the ticket, with everything from hydrotherapy and a jacuzzi section to a sauna and sun terrace. They only use the best spa products, with treatments ranging from massage to beauty. To add to the indolence, all guest rooms feature views of River Stour through floor-to-ceiling windows. Sunny days also allow for lovely riverside dining.
Gourmands with a love of food and drink will find a lot to enjoy at this harbourfront hotel in Christchurch, close to the beach-hut-lined Mudeford Sandbank. The Jetty is their multi-award-winning restaurant, perched right on the water’s edge and featuring a menu of locally caught seafood and seasonal ingredients from the surrounding New Forest. The Upper Deck is their second gastronomic offering, fusing top views with British and round-the-world favourites. Return to your room and the indulgence needn’t end – all come with free gin and sherry.
English history buffs will be in their element at the Grosvenor Arms, set in the old market town of Shaftesbury. Rooted in Saxon times, it’s a great spot to immerse yourself in the region’s past with a visit to the town’s ancient abbey, museum and gardens. The Gold Hill Museum is close, too, on the picturesque cobbled street made famous by a certain Hovis ad. Return for top dining, before turning in to your room complete with a big comfy bed and quality linen.
One for wildlife lovers, the Fontmell is a wonderfully restored traditional pub with rooms just a few minutes’ walk from the Collyer’s Brook Nature Reserve. Once a medieval fishing pond, it’s now home to fauna that ranges from otters to kingfishers, dragonflies and bats. Continue walking and you’ll find yourself in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty – Cranborne Chase. Back at the pub, there’s excellent dining and drinks that include natural wines and beer brewed just for them.
Want to feel like the lord or lady of the manor? Then 10 Castle Street in the Hardy-penned village of Cranborne is the place to try on those aristocratic airs. It’s a superb, Grade II-listed Palladian mansion built in 1704, remodelled into a luxury hotel. Land your chopper on the lawn before a tour of the impressive art collection, with such stellar names as Damien Hirst and Banksy. Dine on lobster tortellini and oysters in the restaurant before turning in for the night on a bed fit for a king.
One for those with an appreciation of the artistic, the Ollerod is filled with paintings, glass, textiles and sculptures from the thriving local art community. The former clergy house in the boutique-lined village of Beaminster dates way back to the 14th century. Ancient-looking features attest to its past, but it’s mostly been stylishly updated with a mix of contemporary and vintage touches. One half of the husband-and-wife owners, Chris, held a Michelin star for nine years, so expect some pretty special food here, too.
Dedicated drinkers will certainly find the Bull Hotel in the thriving market town of Bridport to their taste, with a wide choice of tipples to choose from. For beer fans, there’s everything from cask ales and craft lagers, while at a separate bar – accessed through a secret door in the ballroom – mixologists whip up drinks for cocktail connoisseurs. Luckily, the 19 individually styled rooms are no further than a short amble away, with black-out blinds and fine Egyptian cotton linen for sound shut-eye.
Fancy discovering a place to stay in the stunning New Forest? Check out our guide to the best bed and breakfasts to book in the New Forest, England, bookable with Culture Trip.
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