Steeped in history and surrounded by verdant rolling countryside, Dorchester is Dorset’s county town.

Once a successful Roman settlement, the market town now bustles with history buffs and holidaymakers.

It’s also the perfect base for exploring south Dorset and is just eight miles from the sandy stretches of Weymouth’s coast.

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Where to stay for a tour to Dorchester

Dorset as a whole is a region with plenty to see, from the picturesque Jurassic Coast to Bournemouth. Pitch up at one of the best caravan parks in Dorset to enjoy a great base for exploring this part of the UK.

For Dorchester in particular, Moreton C&CC Site is a great spot. The 120-pitch site sits in the heart of Wessex, within easy reach of Dorchester, Lulworth and Dorset AONB.

Alternatively, there’s Giants Head Caravan & Camping Park. Based near the village of Cerne Abbas, this family-friendly campsite makes a great base for exploring the iconic Jurassic Coast.

What to do in Dorchester on Day 1

10am – Roman rooms

Kick off a day of discovering Dorchester’s history with a trip to the Roman Town House. This ancient site was once part of the Roman settlement of Durnovaria and is still home
to mosaics, hypocausts and excavated rooms.

Then, if you wander across the road, you’ll pass Hangman’s Cottage, a 13th-century house that was formerly home to the Bloody Assizes executioner.

Here you’ll encounter the charming River Frome and you can trace the scenic footpath into the town centre.

12pm – Keep walking

Housed in a Norman-inspired fortress, The Keep Military Museum offers a fascinating insight into the town’s history and beyond. The artefacts and exhibitions span centuries and visitors can also enjoy a superb bird’s eye view of Dorchester from the roof of the barracks. Adults £7.50, children £3.

2pm – Lunch break

Further along the town’s charming high street, you’ll find The Posh Partridge Café. This family-run, dog-friendly café serves an excellent menu of homemade breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, all using locally sourced ingredients.

4pm – Ancient mysteries

In the heart of the town, you can step even further back in time at the Maumbury Rings. This mysterious monument has been used as a Neolithic henge, a Roman amphitheatre and a Civil War artillery fort.

Stroll around the circular earthwork and learn about the 5000-year lifespan of the site. If you’re there in the summer, make sure you also check out HengeFest, a family-friendly day of events and performances.

6pm – Dine à la carte

With a mouthwatering menu of Italian dishes, Al Molo restaurant is the perfect spot for dinner. Set in a 17th-century building, the award-winning eatery offers an extensive à la carte selection, along with a three-course set dinner option or an excellent tasting menu.

What to do on Day 2

10am – Literary connection

Before becoming a famous novelist, Thomas Hardy spent his childhood on the heathlands to the east of Dorchester.

Today, you can learn more about him by visiting Hardy’s Cottage, where he wrote Far from the Madding Crowd. The atmospheric cottage and its pretty gardens are managed by the National Trust, and have been preserved as they would have appeared during Hardy’s time there. The house is open from March to October; adult tickets £9, children £4.50.

Tom Hardy's Cottage
Image: Dorset Council – Hardy’s Cottage is tucked away in pretty gardens


12pm – Refreshments

Just down the road from the cottage is Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre, home to a cosy café. Neighbouring the ethereal Thorncombe Wood, the rustic Under the Greenwood Tree Café serves simple, wholesome lunches, hot drinks and cakes.

2pm – To the manor born

A short drive from the centre is another architectural gem, Athelhampton House. Built in 1465, the historic manor house is exquisitely preserved, with over 20 finely furnished rooms. As well as the house, there are 12 acres of riverside gardens to explore, and a charming café.

Athelhampton House
Image: Visit Dorset – beautiful Athelhampton House was originally built in 1645 and has been exquisitely preserved

4pm – By the lakes

Among the waterways to the east of Dorchester, you can find Sculpture by the Lakes. Set against Pallington Lakes, the 26-acre sculpture park hosts over 120 artworks. Visitors can also explore the botanical gardens, brimming with rare plants and wildlife.

Sculpture by the Lakes
Image: Getty – eye-catching artworks at Sculpture by the Lakes

6pm – Off to the pub

Head for dinner at the Yalbury Cottage, a cosy pub halfway back to Dorchester town centre. This traditional pub serves a fine menu blending gourmet elements with classic favourites.

Get more travel ideas by taking a look at what to do when spending 48 hours in the Norfolk Broads. Alternatively, see how Janette Sykes got on when she set off on a tour to Anglesey.

Lead image: Getty

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