Secret Places to Visit in Dorset

Dorset is rich with hidden gems of places to explore. Arguably the entire county is the ‘hidden gem’ of the South West of England. So many visitors head for Cornwall and Devon, by-passing Dorset entirely.

Having discovered our cottages at Upton Grange, many of our guests acknowledge they don’t know Dorset that well. They’re keen to visit the popular attractions – Weymouth beach, Durdle Door and Corfe Castle.

These are all wonderful places, and yet Dorset has so much more to offer. Which is one reason why so many of our guests keep coming back to us.

Here are our suggestions for some of the secret places in Dorset that you may want to discover for yourself.

Dorset's Deserted Village at Tyneham

How about a day out to an abandoned village in the middle of a military firing range? This location perhaps explains why Tyneham is one of Dorset’s secret places. Yet it’s also the gateway to the most unspoilt stretch of coast in the county.

The entire population of Tyneham was told to move out during the Second World War, because the military wanted to use the area to train troops in preparation for D-Day. The villagers never went back, and their homes fell into ruin.

Today Tyneham, derelict for 80 years, is open to the public. There’s no charge to visit. Because it’s still in a firing range, the nearby Warbarrow Bay is entirely undeveloped.

Tyneham is sometimes closed to the public – check this website for details.

Free Sculpture Park on Dorset's Mysterious Island

The Isle of Portland is home to many of the county’s hidden gems. Accessed by a single road, across the causeway behind Chesil Beach, Portland’s remote location requires a little extra effort to reach.

The journey is worth it. One of its secrets is the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park, a nature reserve and massive outdoor art gallery. It’s free, making it a great place to explore with children, who’ll love to find the many creatures and shapes hidden among the rocks.

Climb up out of the quarry and you’re rewarded with glorious views across the sea towards West Dorset and even, in the far distance, Devon.

Learn more about Tout Quarry from Dorset Wildlife Trust.

The Secret Garden in the Heart of Dorset

Re-opened just a few years ago, Moreton Walled Garden is a 5-acre marvel that you can visit for free (although you’re encouraged to make a donation to its upkeep). It has a cafe, shop and a children’s play area.

There’s a wide variety of areas inside high walls, including a rose garden, Mediterranean garden, bog garden and a secret jungle garden. You find tall hedges, fountains, bold displays of colour and examples of sculpture.

The team at Moreton work hard to provide plenty for visitors to talk about and experience while they visit. More information is available from the Walled Garden Moreton website.

Ancient Chapel Hidden in Plain Sight

If you drive the scenic coast road from Weymouth through Abbotsbury and beyond, you can’t miss St Catherine’s Chapel. It’s been sitting boldly on a hilltop overlooking the village for hundreds of years, catching the eye of millions of visitors.

Yet very few stop to make the climb up the hill, to explore the chapel itself, and admire the views.

To be fair, the chapel is small and it won’t take long to look around it. When you do, take a moment to find the ‘wishing holes’, where local women would pray to St Catherine, asking her to help them find a husband.

Visiting the chapel makes for an exhilarating adventure. Find the footpath up and enjoy the scenery as you climb. Once part of the abbey at Abbotsbury (now demolished), the chapel is now in the care of English Heritage.

Blandford's Secret Museum of What Everyone Talks About

Fashion has always been a popular topic of conversation, particularly when it’s about clothes. The Blandford Fashion Museum is all about the excitement, exuberance and variety in clothing through the ages.

It’s a small museum, housed in a beautiful Georgian house in the town. Beginning as a personal costume collection, it went on to become a museum with a collection that continues to grow. The museum seeks to help visitors discover the connections between fashion and social history.

The exhibitions change over time and the museum often runs special events. There’s more information on the Blandford Fashion Museum website.

Visit Dorset to Discover More Secret Places

Dorset has a rich natural history, hosting many nature reserves and areas of outstanding natural beauty. It’s also rich in human history, with many local museums and sites associated with major historical events.Our guests can’t get enough of what the area has to offer. You can join them – learn more about our self-catering cottages hidden away in the Dorset countryside, not far from the sea.