Top 10 family days out in West Dorset - 2

Seeing the sculptures at Tout Quarry, Portland

This abandoned quarry has been turned into an amazing sculpture park, with lots of carvings hidden around it, including a fish, a Viking boat and the famous "falling man" by Antony Gormley. It's a really atmospheric place, with lovely views out over Chesil Beach and Lyme Bay, and just great for children to explore.  Afterwards, head out to Portland Bill, the most southerly part of Dorset, to see the red and white lighthouse and watch the waves crashing around dramatic Pulpit Rock. Round off the adventure by driving along the coast to West Bexington – a road of twists and turns and glorious vistas, and enjoy afternoon tea in the garden of the Manor Hotel.

A day trip to Lyme Regis

No trip to the county is complete without a visit to the "Pearl of Dorset". Set on a hillside, the town is impossibly pretty from the vantage point of the Cobb, the historic harbour wall which took on iconic status in The French Lieutenant's Woman. There are echoes of St Paul's Cathedral's whispering gallery at one point – if you go just beyond the set of double steps where the wall starts to curve and get someone else to go a bit further along near the steps known as Granny's Teeth, you can have a secret conversation. Streetlamps with an ammonite design reflect the town's location on the Jurassic Coast. The town has a cinema, amusement arcade and crazy golf.

Getting back to nature at The Kingcombe Centre, near Dorchester

Nestling at the heart of a peaceful hamlet, the centre has an array of natural history, archaeology, craft and art courses throughout the year. It's surrounded by 457 acres of Dorset Wildlife Trust's Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve, a landscape untouched by modern agricultural practices. As well as offering weekly activity holidays, the centre also has activities, such as pond dipping and nature walks, for families and children. Among its charitable aims is to provide a safe space for children and young people, including those with learning difficulties, to explore and gain knowledge about the outdoor world. 

Visiting the animals at Kingston Maurward gardens and animal park, near Dorchester

This well-established tourist attraction welcomes more than 30,000 visitors a year. But there is so much space, it doesn't feel that busy. The grade II-listed gardens are set around a large Georgian English country house (now an agricultural college) and tended with help from students on horticultural courses. Children will especially love the animal park, with its pigs, alpacas, cows, ponies, sheep, ducks and hens and plenty of room to play and have a picnic. Watch out for the goats though, they might try to nibble your sandwiches. The park has recently become a member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and is extending its range of rare breeds and breeding programmes. 

Discovering the secrets of Sherborne Castle

Built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 and the stately home of the Digby family since 1617, Sherborne Castle captures 400 years of English history. There are no guided tours – you go around the castle on a "free flow" basis following from room to room in your own time, with stewards on hand to answer questions. The castle plays host to a variety of events, from country fairs to classic car rallies, throughout the year. After taking in the sumptuous old masters, suits of armour and tapestries, head for The Toy Barn and hire a pedal-powered go-kart at £5 per hour. Based on a farm, the go-karting track starts inside the barn and runs out into the farmyard. In poor weather it's possible to have a mini-race inside the barn.


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