Five places in Dorset to visit in the spring

Bluebell flower

There’s no shortage of amazing places to visit in Dorset. Many of them are worth visiting at any time of the year, and in almost any weather.

The likes of Chesil Beach, Durdle Door and Maiden Castle give you fabulous views on warm, sunny days. They’re perhaps even more exciting on dark, squally days when the wind’s whipping in from the Atlantic.

After all, there’s no such thing as the wrong weather for going out. Only the wrong choice of clothing.

That said, some places in Dorset are ideal for spring visits. Here are our recommendations.

Thorncombe Wood

Nothing says ‘springtime in England’ quite like bluebells. Their violet carpet of drooping flower heads decorates ancient woodland every year, providing a host of photo opportunities, along with habitat for a host of native creatures.

Thorncombe Wood is a local nature reserve near Dorchester. It’s also part of the landscape that a young Thomas Hardy explored, being close to Hardy’s Cottage, where the author grew up. The woodland also includes a well-preserved section of Roman road.

Thorncombe Wood is criss-crossed by lots of footpaths, giving you plenty of scope for exploring this historic section of Dorset countryside. It’s bursting with life in the spring, with a rich array of fresh greens as ferns, wildflowers and trees wake up from winter.

Park at Thorncombe Woods car park, near to Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre (note that this is different from Hardy’s Cottage, although that’s nearby). It’s less than a 20-minute drive from Upton Grange.

Kingston Lacy

Another area of popular woodland walks, where you can also explore more formal gardens, is Kingston Lacy near Wimborne Minster. In the spring you can see traditional woodland flowers such as bluebells, along with a host of other blooms in the more formal areas.

Kingston Lacy is a historic house now owned by the National Trust and they take great care of the gardens. These include both classic English gardens with a fernery and kitchen garden, along with areas inspired by Japanese planting.

As it’s a popular site with families, there are often activities laid on for the holiday periods.

The park areas around the great house are grazed by pedigree Red Ruby Devon cattle and Portland sheep, a rare breed. 

Kingston Lacy is less than 40 minutes from Upton Grange by car.

Spring blossom

Minterne Gardens

Another historic house with gorgeous spring gardens is found in the heart of Dorset, not too far from the giant hill figure at Cerne Abbas. 

The gardens of Minterne House were landscaped by Capability Brown, the famous Georgian landscape designer. Today the gardens are home to a wonderful collection of Himalayan rhododendrons and azaleas, along with cherries and maples.

These all make for a spectacular display, accompanied by a wide variety of spring bulbs and, of course, bluebells.

Minterne House and gardens is part of the Historic Houses Association. It’s a little closer to Upton Grange than Kingston Lacy, just over 30 minutes away by car.

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

The Isle of Portland is littered with old stone quarries that have been abandoned to wildlife. Every spring they burst into life with a profusion of wild flowers, giving a carpet of colour that attracts the bees and butterflies. 

Tout Quarry has the unique distinction of now being a sculpture park. It’s free entry, open all the time.  Being high on the cliffs overlooking the sea, the quarry is home to many plants that thrive in a coastal setting.

One of Dorset’s rarest butterflies, the silver-studded blue, has become established in the quarry. 

Tout Quarry is a 30-minute drive from Upton Grange. If you drive over to Portland when the thrift, or sea pinks, are in flower, the causeway from the mainland is a mass of colour.

Sandsfoot Castle Gardens

If you’re looking for somewhere a little off the beaten track, and that combines colourful planting with a clifftop setting, you should consider visiting Sandsfoot Castle Gardens.

They’re in Weymouth, to the south of the town. The castle itself is, unfortunately, closed to the public. Its clifftop location has made its condition too fragile for people to be allowed in.

However, this doesn’t stop the gardens from offering amazing views across Portland Harbour. While relatively small, the gardens are award-winning, having secured a Green Flag for the high standard of access and facilities. 

The gardens include a pond, tropical palms, shady areas and bright annual flower beds, bursting with colour in the spring.

Sandsfoot Castle Gardens are a 20-minute drive from Upton Grange.

Formal garden with palm tree, flowers, paved path. Sea and castle ruin in background.

More places to visit in Dorset