Explore history in Dorset this summer
09 June 2021
With travel restrictions still in place, this summer is the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy the vibrant and historic filled sites closer to home.
Here’s our guide of the best National Trust and English Heritage venues worth a visit in this ideal staycation hotspot:
Kingston Lacy is an iconic National Trust site in Wimborne Minster. The lavish home was redesigned by William John Bankes who inherited the estate in 1834 from his family and set out to shape the mansion to become a treasure house of extraordinary arts with interiors inspired by Venetian palaces from his previous travels. Despite a tumultuous lifestyle, William ensured his vision for Kingston Lacy came to life and is now home to one of the most important art collections which include works from Rubens, Titian and Sebastiano . Beyond the artistic treasure, Kingston Lacy is surrounded by 8,500 acres of unspoilt estate which includes Holt Heath Nature Reserve and Iron Age hillfort Badbury Rings which can be explored through the 72 miles of footpath, cycle trails and bridleways.
Booking is required for weekend visits.
Almost the size of 50 football pitches, English Heritage’s Maiden Castle in Dorchester was built in the early Iron Age, as the home for hundreds of people where they could trade with the continent. Recent excavations have also revealed a fascinating history behind the site where it was previously a Neolithic enclosure in 3500 BC and also a Roman temple built in 4th century AD.
Originally built in the reign of King Cnut in the 13th and 14th Century, Abbotsburry Abbey served as a monastery to up to 30 monks who followed an orderly routine of work, study and prayer laid down for them in St Benedicts’s rule until the abbey was dissolved in 1539 and the buildings were leased to Sir Giles Strangeways who turned them into residences.
Since then, the remains of the Abbey have come into the care of English Heritage and the public can visit them for free. There is also the Abbotsbury Swannery just down the road where visitors can walk through the heart of a mute swan colony which costs £10 for adults.
Known as a treasure within a treasure, Knowlton Church and Earthworks located in Wimborne is a 12th- century ruined church which sits in the middle of a Neolithic ritual site known as Church Henge. Associated with this group of henges is one of the greatest concentrations of round barrows, or burial mounds, in Dorset.The clump of trees 60 metres (200 feet) to the east of Church Henge marks the enormous Great Barrow, the largest individual barrow in the county.
Many other barrows and ring-ditches survive within a one-mile radius: stretching away to the north-west, for example, the Dorset Cursus, twin banks of chalk about 2 metres (6 feet) high running for over 9km (6 miles), defining another zone in this ceremonial landscape.
Entry to Knowlton Church is free during daylight hours.
Last but not least on the Dorset history guide are the ruins of Christchurch Castle, just off the High Street. Home to both a classic motte- and-bailey castle and a Norman house, the castle is a beautiful showcase of Norman architecture in the UK. The castle has a long history dating back to 1100 when Richard de Redvers, a baron who accompanied William the Conqueror to England, began building the great earthen mound which the ruins of the castle now sit on.
Entry is also free to this English Heritage site.
If you’d like to learn more about our collection of later living homes available in Wimborne and Poole which are available to buy or rent, then get in touch with our team [email protected] (01202 618564) or [email protected] (01202 618052).