Properties for sale in Dorset

Dorset has long been an important area, as it has played a large role in the history of the country. The first recorded Viking raid occurred in Dorset in the 8th century, and the black death came to England through Melcombe Regis.
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Dorset Area Guide

Durdle Door, Dorset Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Tomlin

Dorset has long been an important area, as it has played a large role in the history of the country. The first recorded Viking raid occurred in Dorset in the 8th century, and the black death came to England through Melcombe Regis. Shaftesbury was the site of a big victory for Cromwell's forces during the Civil War, and Lyme Regis saw the Duke of Monmouth launch the Monmouth rebellion. Farm workers in Tolpuddle helped kick start the trade union movement, and Portland and Poole were embarkation points for D-Day.

Before any of this, though, there were the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic periods when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. These eras are on display to anyone walking along the coastline of Dorset, which has been named the Jurassic coast because of its many fossil sites and geological features that span the ages.

The county town of Dorset is Dorchester, and though Poole and Bornemouth have their own separate councils, they are within the borders of the county. Much of the population of Dorset is concentrated in the south of the county because of this, keeping the rest of the area rural with a low population density.


In 2009 Dorset had an estimated population of 710,100, but over 60% of the people live in the South East Dorset conurbation of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. Dorset is not very ethnically diverse, with about 97% of the population describing their ethnicity as white.

The county has a higher proportion of older residents than the national average. Over one-quarter of the population of Dorset is at retirement age, compared to about 19% nationally. Moreover, the birth rate is lower in Dorset than the national average. Despite this, the county is growing, as people are moving into the area. Between 1991 and 2010, the population grew by 12.2%, and a further 12.7% is predicted to occur between 2008 and 2033.


Despite the rural nature of the county, there are a large number of schools that have been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Primary schools rated outstanding include St Mary the Virgin Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School in Gillingham and The Prince of Wales School in Dorchester. In the South East Dorset conurbation, outstanding primary schools include Queens Park Infant School and Mudeford Junior School.

There are fewer top-rated secondary schools, but there is still a large selection. Outstanding secondary schools in the more rural areas include The Gryphon School in Sherborne and All Saints' Church of England School, Weymouth. In the South East Dorset conurbation are Twynham School and Parkstone Grammar School, amongst others.

There are also a wide range of independent fee-paying schools in the county. Some of these, like Canford School, St Mary's School and Sherborne School are boarding schools that accept day pupils.

The county has two universities, Bournemouth University and The Arts University Bournemouth.


Dorset is one of the few counties to not have a motorway. It does have a large number of trunk roads and dual carriageways, and the main ones include the A31, A350 and A338.

The north of Dorset is linked to London via the West of England Main Line, which goes through Gillingham and Sherborne. Likewise, the southern part of the county is connected to the capital through South Western Main Line, which goes through Bournemouth, Poole and Dorchester and terminates in Weymouth. Dorset also has the Heart of Wessex Line, which goes from Bristol to Weymouth, and the Swanage Railway, a steam and diesel line that runs between Norden and Swanage.

Dorset is served by 14 independent bus services, many of which link rural areas with larger towns and villages. The South East Dorset conurbation is of course served by many buses linking the towns and cities there.

Dorset also benefits from two seaports and an airport. Ferries from Poole go to the Channel Islands and Cherbourg and St Malo in France. From Weymouth, ferries run to Guernsey, Jersey and St. Malo. Bournemouth Airport has flights to destinations including Dublin, Corfu and Gran Canaria, mostly through budget airlines.

Amenities and Shopping

The Coastline

The Dorset coast is renowned for its beauty and variety. Walkers can experience rolling hills, cliffs, beaches, coves and a fantastic view of the sea the whole time. Much of this coastline forms the Jurassic Coast, named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001. The cliffs by Lyme Regis, where famous palaeontologist Mary Anning found the first complete Ichthyosaur fossil, and Charmouth are particularly interesting for amateur and professional fossil hunters alike.

Museums and heritage sites

Dorset has around 30 museums and countless heritage sites throughout the county. The Dorset County Museum explores the history of the county. Maiden Castle is the largest, most complex Iron Age hill fort in the country, and the Dinosaur Museum takes advantage of its proximity of the Jurassic Coast to educate visitors about the age of dinosaurs. Thomas Hardy lived in Hardy Cottage in Higher Bockhampton, which is now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. The Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth is located in the house of Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Annie. It contains his extensive art collection and the house's original contents, which they donated to the city.

Music and festivals

Dorset is home to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, based in Poole. Venues in the county include Poole and Bournemouth's Lighthouse arts centre, the Bournemouth International Centre and O2 Academy, as well as the Weymouth Pavilion.

Dorset plays host to many internationally renowned music festivals, including Camp Bestival, End of the Road Festival and the Larmer Tree Festival. Many of the other festivals in the area focus on feats of engineering. These include the Bournemouth Air Festival, a free air show; The Spirit of the Seas maritime festival; and the Great Dorset Steam Fair, a five-day exhibition of steam-powered vehicles. There are also a great many village fetes and agricultural festivals, including the massive Dorset County Show.


Dorset has a selection of sports on offer, but it does lack many spectator sports. The only Football League club in the area is A.F.C. Bournemouth, and the Dorset County Cricket Club, part of the Minor Counties Cricket Championship, is based in Bournemouth, too. Poole is home to champion speedway team Poole Pirates, and Poole Stadium regularly has greyhound racing.

Dorset is well placed to host many water sports. The bays and harbours of Weymouth, Poole and Portland are very sheltered, making them ideal for sailing and other water sports. That is why the sailing events of the 2012 Olympics were held there.


Shopping in Dorset is mostly an exercise in seeking out small, independent shops run by local artisans and craftspeople. Sherborne and Sturminster Newton have a large number of independent shops selling unique gifts. Dorchester is great for antiques, and Bridport has a large selection of ceramic homewares. Farmer's markets are scattered across the county, with notable ones in Poundbury and Christchurch. The best selection of high street shops and department stores can be found in Bournemouth.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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