Although Dorset gets a lot more sunshine than the rest of the country, the unpredictability of the UK weather means that sometimes, there will be rainy days. But don’t let the grey clouds dampen your spirit – there are still plenty of things you can do in this beautiful county. Here is our guide to rainy day activities in Dorset.
A trip to a brewery can be a fun rainy day activity. Luckily, Dorset is home to two outstanding breweries.
Palmers Brewery dates back to 1794, and is located in the market town of Bridport. It is the only thatched brewery in the UK, and its water wheel, which was made in 1879, is still in use today. You can go behind the scenes on a brewery tour to learn how the award winning Palmers ales are made. The tours start at the brewery’s Malt Loft which overlooks the river that once powered the brewery. The guides take you through the whole production process, one which has barely changed in the last 200 years. The tour finishes at the Palmers Wine Store where you can sample a few halves of the final product.
The Hall & Woodhouse Brewery is another fantastic brewery to visit. This is an independent, family run brewery that specialises in a wide range of Badger beers. The tour of the brewery will take you through the production process where you can take in the aroma of the hops and the taste of the malts, and listen to the stories of the people behind the Badger brand. You can also visit the Brewery Shop which has a wide range of Badger beers and limited edition ales, as well as merchandise. Head to the Brewery Tap Bar & Restaurant for a beer and a bite to eat.
Exploring grand old houses and mansions is one of the most exciting things to do when it’s raining in Dorset.
Athelhampton House and Gardens is a gorgeous 15th century manor house in Dorchester. Make your way around the exquisitely decorated rooms, including the Great Hall, Great Chamber and King’s bedroom. Admire the artwork in the Gallery, some of which was created by the Russian artist Marevna who lived in the house. The Grade I listed garden is beautifully kept, although if it’s raining, then you’re better off sampling the food at the restaurant which is cooked using the garden’s fresh produce.
Another place worth visiting is Lulworth Estate, which is located within an AONB on the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. The estate covers 20 square miles of stunning countryside, and is most notable for the world-famous Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove which lie on the stretch of coastline within the estate. If the weather isn’t great, then head to Lulworth Castle which lies at the centre of the estate. Originally built as a hunting lodge in the 17th century, the castle and its grounds are open to visitors. Discover the memorabilia in the basement rooms, or enjoy the panoramic views from the tower. Kids will enjoy looking out for the 10 bats that are hidden around the castle.
As the name suggests, Highcliffe Castle is perched on the cliffs with picturesque vistas out to sea. Built in 1835, the castle has many fascinating rooms to explore, including the Great Hall, the Octagon Room and the Libraries. You can even take a look at the Victorian kitchen where banquets were prepared. The castle has a full calendar of events and exhibitions, including artwork and photography displays, health and wellbeing workshops and music events. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained, with craft activities, indoor and outdoor trails and dressing up in period costumes. Set on 14 acres of land, the gardens were laid out by the famed Capability Brown.
Museums and art galleries
What better way to spend a rainy day than getting lost amongst precious artefacts and artwork. Dorset has numerous museums and art galleries that are sure to entertain and educate all ages.
The Tank Museum is an interactive, engaging museum that’s a great day out for the whole family. It’s home to the largest collection of tanks, and third largest collection of armoured vehicles in the world. It has almost 300 vehicles on display spread over nine incredible exhibitions. The exhibits take you back to WWI to the first tanks that were ever used. They span WWII and the Afghan War, and you can hear stories from veterans about their experiences.
Highlights of the museum include the world’s very first tank, the famed German Tiger tank and the recent Challenger 2 tank. You’ll also get the chance to witness a tank production and build your own tank! The museum has a range of events throughout the year, including the Tanks in Action display during the school holidays.
Head to Bournemouth to visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, one of the most intriguing historic houses in the country. In 1897, collector and travel enthusiast Merton Russell-Cotes wanted to build a clifftop house as a present for his wife Annie. The couple filled the house with items they had acquired from their travels, as well as their extensive collection of British art. The house was eventually donated to the town of Bournemouth, and today, visitors can make their way around the house and take in the artwork and the stunning sea views. There is also a garden and cafe to relax in.
When visiting the home of the Jurassic Coast, make sure you visit the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum. The museum has over 12,000 specimens on display, ranging from the largest recorded dinosaurs to the smallest microfossils. Learn more about the history of the earth and how the continents have changed in the Time Gallery. Make your way to the Natural History Room to see a collection of taxidermy and present day skeletons to understand how past and present are related in the natural world. The museum also has a fossil shop where you can buy over 500 types of fossil and mineral rocks.
Also in Dorset
Hall & Woodhouse Brewery Visitor Centre
The Brewery, Blandford St Mary, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 9LS
Athelhampton House & Gardens
Athelhampton House & Gardens, Athelhampton Road, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 7LG