Our top attractions in Dorset and Hampshire
In the south of England the neighbouring counties of Dorset and Hampshire offer lots to satisfy the curious tourist. From heritage and history to unforgettable views and rare animals, there's plenty for the whole family to enjoy.
Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Portsmouth’s 170 metre landmark tower comes with a view guarantee. If you can’t see all three Solent forts on the day you visit, you can go again for free. There are three 350 degree viewing decks, a café in the clouds, 105 metres above sea level, and a Waterfront Café at ground level.
Cost: £8.95 (adults, £6.95 children aged 3-15).
T: 023 9285 7520
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire
The home of the Royal Navy has a new Mary Rose Museum, as of 31 May 2013. HMS Victory, the world’s oldest commissioned warship, is here. So is HMS Warrior – the first iron-hulled warship to use steam power. There are plenty of activities: one of the highest climbing towers in Europe, a Laser Quest, and interactive exhibits. We think you’re going to need more than a day here – maybe even a whole week!
Our tip: Great as it is, a good way to see the Historic Dockyard is to leave it – as ferries depart for France, Spain and the Isle of Wight you get an incredible view of the docks, from your elevated position on deck.
Cost: Historic Dockyard £26, or family ticket £72.
Hardy’s Cottage, Higher Bockhampton, Dorset
Thomas Hardy’s birthplace, the cob and thatch cottage at Higher Bockhampton, is also where he wrote his early novels. You can go inside five days a week in season (check the website). From the car park it is a 15-minute walk to the cottage via bridlepath or through woodland. Hardy was born here in 1840, the cottage built by his grandfather and little altered since the family left.
Our tip: Don’t just go there, read Under The Greenwood Tree to get yourself in the mood, and plan to explore the beautiful walks in Thorncombe Woods too, returning to the Cottage via a rhododendron walk.
Cost: £6.50 per person
Corfe Castle, Dorset
This thousand-year-old royal castle is a survivor of the English Civil War, partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians. A walk up to the castle ruins rewards you with breath-taking views across Purbeck. Children will enjoy running between fallen walls and exploring secret places, spotting the 'murder holes' and counting the arrow loops. Facilities include a car park, shop and tea room.
Brownsea Island, Poole, Dorset
Poole Harbour is one of the biggest natural harbours in the world, and this island is in the middle of it. Catch a ferry there and you’ll find yourself in a quite magical place, with peacocks, red squirrels, remote forested nature reserves and loads of scouts and guides (Lord Baden Powell started the scouting movement here). Amazing bird life, fascinating history, a lovely National Trust tea room and lots to explore including a climbing trail. The beaches are small but the need to take a ferry keeps them quiet. Unmissable.
Beaulieu National Motor Museum, Hampshire
A brilliant day out in the New Forest National Park; actually a brilliant several days if you plan to see it all. The museum is home to a stunning collection of cars, including the world’s largest collection of James Bond vehicles. The Palace House and historic Beaulieu Abbey are also amazing places to explore. The village itself is beautiful and on a sunny day why not enjoy an ice cream by the glistening river.
Cost: £20 (£52.50 family ticket)
T: 01590 612345
Monkey World, Wareham, Dorset
This ape rescue centre near Wareham is the real deal – well cared for animals and plenty to see. Learn the sometimes heart-breaking stories of the monkeys in their care (there are 240 primates). Many of them are victims of a legal but not always humane pet trade in Britain. It’s a fundraising and campaigning organisation, but with plenty to amuse even the youngest children.
Cost: £11.25 (family £35)
T: 01929 401005
Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset
Absolutely unmissable for any petrolheads in your life. Here is the best display of tanks in the world, with more than 200 on display. There’s also an exhibition on the Royal Armoured Corps and their experiences in Afghanistan, and a Trench Experience telling the story of one WWI soldier and how the tank was invented.
Cost: £12.50 (family tickets £28-£33)
T: 01929 462359
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