Five Dorset places to visit in autumn

Discover another Dorset as golden summer days mellow into the reds, browns and yellows of autumn. It may be getting a little chilly for sunbathing on the beach, but there’s still plenty to do across the county.

Here are some of our suggestions for you to explore as the days grow a little cooler.

Sherborne Castle and Gardens

Open until the end of October, Sherborne Castle and Gardens deliver a rich variety of autumn shades. They’re so proud of the display that they host an annual Autumn Colour Weekend towards the end of October.

Sherborne Castle, in north Dorset, makes a wonderful day out. Technically, the four-hundred-year-old house is the ‘new’ castle, built by the Elizabethan explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.

He bought the nearby medieval castle with a view to modernising it in 1592. That proved too tricky, so he put up the new place instead.

There’s plenty for today’s visitors to explore, including the lake walk, cascade and Raleigh’s Seat. The gardens were landscaped by Capability Brown and the castle museum contains an exhibition telling the story of the project.

Corfe Castle

Tyneham Lost Village

Autumn is a season of endings, making a visit to Tyneham at this time of year particularly poignant. November is the anniversary of the village becoming ‘lost’.

The village is usually open at weekends during the autumn, although it’s best to check in advance before visiting. Tyneham is located inside military firing ranges, which is why access is restricted.

In 1943, as war raged in Europe, the residents of this tiny, quiet village received shocking news. They had just 28 days to pack up their belongings and leave, with no prospect of coming back. The entire area was to become a military training ground, in preparation for the invasion of France.

The village includes a church, a schoolhouse and the ruins of several houses. It’s also a short walk from Warbarrow Bay, a stretch of Dorset coast untouched by modern development.

Thorncombe Wood

Thorncombe Wood

One of many nature reserves in Dorset, Thorncombe Wood comprises 26 acres of ancient woodland. The oaks, chestnuts and beech trees colour beautifully in autumn, making it a wonderful space to explore.

Thorncombe Wood is rich in nature and history. It’s beside Black Heath, home to a herd of Dartmoor ponies, and also Rushy Pond, made famous by novelist and poet Thomas Hardy.

Hardy’s birthplace cottage is nearby. He roamed the woods and heath as a child.

Corfe Castle

A great way to enjoy autumn in Dorset is to climb a hill and enjoy a ‘big picture’ view. There are plenty to choose from, but those around Corfe Castle are a favourite.

The jagged grey ruins of the medieval fortress add drama to what’s already an exciting landscape. There’s a further touch of action when a steam engine puffs its way through, from Swanage to Wareham.

The low sun of autumn makes for dramatic shadows around the castle. If you’re up for it, climbing the hills around the castle early on a frosty, misty morning gives some amazing views.

The National Trust, who manages the castle, often arranges fun activities during the autumn half-term break. They find ways to thrill children with history while keeping them entertained with things like a teddy bear zip line, medieval dressing up and various forms of treasure hunt.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Spectacular at any time of year, Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens make a special effort to brighten up the darker days of late autumn – with illuminations.

During the day there’s plenty of autumn colour to enjoy, with so many varieties of plant adopting their end of year shades: red, gold, yellow, orange, silver and many more.

Established over 200 years ago, the gardens became a haven for exotic plant species collected from all over the world. In 1899 there were over 5,000 different varieties and the number has continued to grow.

The autumn illuminations have become a popular attraction, transforming the dark lawns and groves into a blaze of fresh colours. You’ll see the gardens in an entirely new light – literally.