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About Dorset

It's Dorset's seaside that many people are here for, both the wildly fascinating Jurassic Coast and the pretty seaside towns with their piers and arcades. And many of the best places to stay in Dorset are along the coastline.

Criss-crossed with sunken lanes, dotted with gentle hills and unspoilt villages, Dorset has so far escaped the brutality - yet convenience - of a motorway. So the landscape of Thomas Hardy's novels has retained much of its lush, pastoral look.

Dorset is far enough from London to feel properly rural, and the incredible coastline has a bevy of beaches which will be irresistible to walkers, runners and sitters alike. Rich both in fossils and iconic coastal locations, three quarters of Dorset's coast is a World Heritage Site, and over half the county is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Lyme Regis is right in the heart of the Juassic Coast, so the perfect place to stay.

Lulworth Cove, the Isle of Portland, Chesil Beach and the impressive 150 million year old Portland stone arch, Durdle Door are all well worth a visit. You might want to pack a copy of Ian McEwan’s short elegant novel On Chesil Beach to read during your stay.

If you plan to do more than eat, drink, sleep, relax and enjoy your surroundings, then you can stick to the Jurassic Coast and hike, sail, kayak, swim or fossil hunt to your heart's content.

Inland you'll find the iron age forts, stately homes and pretty pastoral villages of Hardy, and Shaftesbury is the ideal base - a charming market town with superb views. The Dorset County Museum has the world's largest collection of Hardy artefacts if you're interested in the great man. Dorset is also home to Clouds Hill, the home of T.E. Lawrence, which is much as he left it, when he was tragically killed at 46, in a motorbike accident just down the road.

The Roman Town House in Dorchester sits atop many sightseeing lists. The only example of a fully exposed Roman town house in the UK, it is free to visit and open all the year round. Other highlights are Corfe Castle, Sherborne Old Castle, once home to Sir Walter Raleigh, and Kingston Lacy, the stately home which housed the Bankes family after the Roundheads turfed them out of Corfe Castle.

If you want to stay somewhere with a little more action, then we recommend you book a room in Bournemouth. It has an enormous sandy beach (it stretches some 7miles) and there's a wide range of evening entertainment on offer from cafes and restaurants to pubs and clubs.

The coastal stretch is hugely popular during the summer months and school holidays, so if you want to guarantee a bed in one of the best places to stay in Dorset, you'll have to get organised and plan ahead. Alternatively visit the county off season when you can truly appreciate the stunning countryside without the crowds. For those looking for self catering check out our online partner, booking.com.

For a special occasion

  • Summer Lodge is a luxurious country house hotel just outside Evershot. Built in the 18th Century, then enlarged, the hotel today is a riot of fabrics and plush detailing in the public rooms and grand comfort in the spacious bedrooms. There are a lot of tartan cushions, brass and fringing, but it's super-comfortable with a fulsome cream tea laid on every afternoon.
  • The Priory Hotel is historic and romantic. Hidden behind a church, just off a lovely market square, the16th Century, family-run hotel is surrounded by dreamy English country gardens. The food is supremely satisfying, served in a stone vaulted cellar dining room.
  • The Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa is a stylish white building right on the harbour and easily one of the best places to stay in Dorset if you want to be right on the coast. Everything is designed to make the most of the views, from the rather glamorous bar to a choice of restaurants - including one outdoors. On the other side of the hotel are lovely gardens. The decor is pale and chic and a bit nautique.

For a seaside jaunt

  • On the Weymouth seafront, B+B Weymouth is part of a chain of concept B&Bs which offer superb value for money. Pale, minimalist and clean with no frills, metaphorical or otherwise, it has an open plan kitchen/breakfast room which serves cheery breakfasts.
  • The Pig On The Beach is chic, cosy and right beside about four miles of unspoilt South Dorset coastline. The stunning views outside are complemented by the shabby chic decor of the 23 rooms and public areas. The food is good and locally sourced - some comes direct from the hotel's garden!

For families

  • Popular with shooting parties for its eclectic, but traditional design, the Castleman Hotel, near Blandford Forum, is a charming eight room 'restaurant with rooms'. The bedrooms are big and the food is good, served in a long functional dining room. And the beautiful gardens mean guests can start enjoying the truly great outdoors of Dorset from the moment they step out of the hotel.
  • The Captain's Club Hotel & Spa is a modern seaside hotel on the banks of the River Stour at Christchurch. There are rooms and suites, plus self-catering apartments, with all the mod. cons - kitchen and otherwise. Many rooms have a lovely balcony, and there's a good restaurant and an even better spa.

For a quick break

  • The Alexandra Hotel in Lyme Regis is a cliff-top boutique hotel, with panoramic views of the harbour and the Jurassic Coast. The rooms are luxurious, and of course they have private balconies, and there's a gourmet restaurant and an excellent spa. Great for a weekend away - think lobster and a sea breeze.
  • Tudor Cottage is a pretty thatched cottage turned B&B just outside Dorchester. Artwork adorns the walls and the property oozes character. Book ahead and enjoy one of Louise's relaxed dinners - as an ex professional cook she provides delicious home cooking.
  • Part thatched and low ceilinged, the Museum Inn is an award-winning country pub in a postcard perfect village in rural north Dorset. Just the thing you crave after a muddy walk, and one of the best places to stay in Dorset for a weekend escape.

To escape

  • The Bridge House Hotel in Beaminster, run by London escapees, blends traditional bedrooms with more modern though still country style public areas. Lovely light dining room and friendly efficient service in a building with real character. Low ceilings, big fireplaces and comfy sofas ensure cosy relaxation.
  • Plumber Manor, outside Sturminster Newton, in the heart of Thomas Hardy country, is a charmingly fading Jacobean house which has been owned by the same family since it was built. This extremely homely and welcoming hotel is run by three members of that family who look after guests like friends, helped by a few laconic labradors.

For a country cottage or seaside apartment

  • For a wide range of self catering accommodation, we recommend you visit our online partner, booking.com.

    Still not sure which to book? Browse though our list of all the best places to stay in Dorset, or contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice. Alternatively widen your search and take a look at our recommendations in Devon and Cornwall.

    Best Hotels in Dorset

    • Holyleas House 3 rooms from $104

      Dorchester, Dorset

      A delightful B&B located in the quaint village of Buckland. Decorated in calming magnolias and blues. Comfy beds and immaculate bathrooms. Enjoy a full English breakfast in the smart dining room: a combined effort between Tia and the local farmer's market. Children of all ages are welcome.

      Sights nearby  -  This is Thomas Hardy county: visit his cottage in nearby Dorchester.
      Great walks  -  Traverse the dramatic Dorset Downs.
      Local markets  -  Dorchester, Sherborne & Bridport
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays
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    • B+B Weymouth 26 rooms from $111

      Weymouth, Dorset

      Smart B&B - part of a new b+b concept chain - offering modern design on Weymouth's seafront. Simple light and airy rooms with crisp white linen. Comfortable beds with duck down pillows and duvets. Serves delicious Dorset breakfasts. Affordable price in a convenient and central location.

      Local exploring  -  Well situated for exploring Weymouth on foot or two wheels, right on the seafront and only five minutes from the town centre.
      Fishing  -  For all the fanatics, Sea Angling on the Dorset coast is an absolute must!
      Great walks  -  The B&B offers guided walking tours of West Dorset.
      Views  -  From some rooms facing the beach
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    • The Bull Hotel 14 rooms from $117

      Bridport, Dorset

      An 18th century coaching inn, yet full of fun from within. Rooms are decorated with individual touches like ornate mirrors, brass beds to antique dressers complete with floral Cole & Son wallpapers. There are two restaurants, with an emphasis on locally sourced seafood and the popular Venner bar.

      Local markets  -  Bridport market, open Wednesdays and Saturdays is perfect for hidden gems and bric-a-brac.
      Great walks  -  This is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast with all its dramatic coastal paths.
      Sailing  -  Lyme Regis is a sailing mecca and a quaint town to spend an afternoon.
      Sights nearby  -  Country house lovers will appreciate Mapperton House.
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Mr & Mrs Smith, Good Hotel Guide
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    • Tudor Cottage 2 rooms from $124

      Frampton, Dorset

      Thatched tudor cottage turned B&B just outside Dorchester. Period features and walls crammed with art. Only two bedrooms ensure an intimate atmosphere. Great bolthole for exploring the Jurassic coast and surrounding area.

      Sights nearby  -  Explore Dorchester, Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast
      Four poster beds  -  One room has an antique four poster
      Restrictions on children  -  No children under 12
      Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays
      Hotel Website
    • Urban Beach Hotel 12 rooms from $126

      Bournemouth,, Dorset

      Attractive boutique hotel in Bournemouth just five minutes from the beach and not far from the New Forest. Contemporary chic rooms have paintings, luscious fabrics, and all the mod cons. A lively bar and bistro is a focal point. Family friendly, stylish, and surrounded by easily found attractions.

      Sights nearby  -  Visit the magnificent Durdle Door or Kimmeridge ledges.
      Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
      Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
      Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide
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    • Acorn Inn 10 rooms from $129


      The Acorn Inn oozes historic charm. Built in the 16th century from local honey coloured stone, the decor maintains much of the original features; exposed beams, oak panelling and flagstone floors are in abundance. Award winning food in the restaurant. A stylish base for exploring Hardy country.

      Lively  -  The Hardy Bar is very popular with the locals with quiz nights, skittles competitions and yard of ale drinking challenges
      Great walks  -  Guests have access to the adjacent 600 acres Melburg Estate and Deer Park with walking and artistic opportunities
      Full of character  -  Each of the rooms is named after an aspect of Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'
      Sights nearby  -  Manor houses and their gardens are in abundance in this area
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays
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    • Castleman Hotel 8 rooms from $130

      Blandford Forum, Dorset

      Stunning country house in beautiful parkland. Excellent restaurant priding itself on using local produce. Traditional interiors with dark woods, warm coloured walls and chintz fabrics. A handful of rooms some featuring roll top baths and antique four poster beds. The ideal country escape.

      Exclusive offer  -  Midweek Offer
      Total relaxation  -  Sipping Champagne in your claw footed tub, feasting on traditional English delights, and bracing walks through the countryside.
      Great walks  -  Bring your wellies, there are beautiful walks from the village to sandy beaches, chalk downlands and ancient heathlands.
      Fishing  -  Anglers will be kept busy with fantastic fishing on the river Stour, Allen and Avon.
      Secluded setting  -  For escaping.
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide
      Hotel Website
    • Arty B+B by the Sea 2 rooms from $130

      Lyme Regis, Dorset

      Quirky and stylish artists house and studio - Georgian villa with sloping lawn and seaviews in charming seaside town. Five minute walk to the beach, and right in the middle of town.

      Sights nearby  -  In the middle of the Jurassic Coast
      Fishing  -  Sea fishing can be arranged
      Views  -  Great views from hotel
      Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
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    • Grosvenor Arms 16 rooms from $130

      Shaftesbury, Dorset

      After a makeover, this former Georgian inn in the middle of Hardy country oozes casual elegance. Retire to stylish rooms upstairs after dinner in the first-rate revamped restaurant. Great service and classy accommodation without the high price tag.

      Sights nearby  -  Walking distance to all Shaftesbury's sights
      Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
      Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
      Check prices
    • Stapleton Arms 4 rooms from $143

      Buckhorn Weston, Dorset

      A reinvention of the English country pub, boutique style. Original highlights - wooden beams, inglenook fireplaces - retained, with addition of stylish, freshly designed rooms. The gourmet pub food has gained a reputation for Sunday Roasts, inspired menus and a breakfast fit for a king.

      Foodies  -  Locally sourced, responsibly reared meats, veggies from the back garden, homemade pork pies, scotch eggs and relish- heaven!
      Families  -  Child and dog friendly, with kids menu, highchairs, crayons, and plenty of fun countryside activities.
      Great walks  -  They will show you where to go, supply you with wellies, umbrellas and picnics- so get out there and explore!
      Local markets  -  Towns of Shaftesbury and Gillingham both have markets to explore.
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Sawdays
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    • Museum Inn 8 rooms from $143

      Blandford Forum, Dorset

      The Museum Inn is an award-winning country pub located in a picture-postcard village in rural north Dorset. Eight individually designed rooms either in the main house or converted stables feature plush decor with Bramley bathroom accessories. Plus a separate large cottage for families or groups.

      Foodies  -  Both gastropub and fine dining options at the Museum Inn offer locally sourced, wholesome food, expect game from nearby shoots.
      Groups  -  Moles cottage sleeps up to 16 and is popular with shooting parties in the season and families in the summer.
      Fishing  -  Damerham Fisheries offers Trout fishing and Gorcombe Farm boasts fishing, clay pigeon shooting and archery.
      Great walks  -  Explore the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty, Cranborne Chase.
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays
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    • Wooden Cabbage 3 rooms from $150

      near Dorchester, Dorset

      Superb private country house with stunning views. Cosy and stylish decor with oh so comfy beds. Enjoy the very local produce for breakfast whilst surrounded by lovely countryside. Ideally situated for walkers in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A charming spot for a country escape.

      Country Escape  -  A country house with charming hosts, sweeping views of the Dorset countryside and fragrant flower filled gardens.
      Sights nearby  -  Visit any one of the many local stately homes including Mapperton House and Gardens, Forde Abbey & Gardens or Montacute House.
      Great walks  -  Take your pick of rolling hills or stunning coastal walks on the beach or headlands (20 minutes drive).
      Local markets  -  Shop in the local market towns of Sherborne, Beaminster, Crewkerne and Bridport.
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays
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    • The Pig On The Beach from $155

      South Dorset

      Chic, cosy hotel for a weekend break in Dorset. 23 rooms are ultimate shabby chic with four-posters, wooden floors, stand alone bath tubs. Gourmet restaurant uses produce fresh from the kitchen garden. Miles of English coastline to explore and stunning views. The perfect getaway.

      Exclusive offer  -  Complimentary Upgrade
      Restaurant  -  James Golding prepares delicious food from the kitchen garden
      Full of character  -  Shabby chic rooms with vintage touches
      Garden  -  Kitchen garden, terrace and huge lawn
      On the beach  -  Four miles of unspoilt beaches
      Hotel Website
    • The Kings Arms 20 rooms from $176

      Christchurch, Dorset

      This grand Georgian property provides a stylish stay. Inside it is a sympathetic blend of traditional architecture with modern furnishings. Rooms are decorated with velvet headboards, sumptuous armchairs and luxurious bathrooms. The gourmet restaurant has a seasonal delicious locally sourced menu.

      Sights nearby  -  The historic Christchurch Priory Church, Christchurch Castle and Highcliffe Castle are within walking distance or very close.
      Great walks  -  The many pathways of the Jurassic Coast are on your doorstep.
      Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
      Check prices
    • BridgeHouse Hotel 14 rooms from $208

      Beaminster, Dorset

      Renovated country town hotel. Cosy atmosphere with wooden beams and open fireplaces. Traditional and romantic rooms with dark hues and four poster beds. Award winning restaurant and some of the most picturesque countryside in the UK. Ideal for a country weekend away.

      Country Escape  -  A perfect country house hideaway, with cosy fires, excellent food, old oak beams, Georgian panelling, and wonderful walking.
      Great walks  -  The Jurassic Coast on your doorstep, throw on the wellies and head out rambling- don't forget your packed lunch.
      Sailing  -  The hotel arranges RIB rides along the Jurassic coast from West Bay to Lyme Regis.
      House party feel  -  Be prepared to meet people.
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
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    • Plumber Manor Hotel 16 rooms from $208

      Sturminster Newton, Dorset

      Characterful, family-run Jacobean manor house in glorious Thomas Hardy country. This quintessentially English manor has been in the same family for centuries, with portraits to match. An air of faded grandeur. The real deal.

      Country Escape  -  A perfect base for exploring the Dorset countryside- gardens, National Trust Houses, villages and walks.
      Great walks  -  Bring your dog and enjoy the 20 acres of well kept grounds, with a river running through.
      Birdwatching  -  Take a deckchair and plonk it down by the river, sit, relax and listen to the birdsong.
      Full of character
      Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
      Hotel Website
    • The Green House 32 rooms from $208

      Bournemouth, Dorset

      Eco hotel a few hundred yards from the beach. Contemporary rooms with designer wallpaper and some with free standing baths. Award winning restaurant uses produce from the local area. Well placed for exploring Dorset and the New Forest.

      Sailing  -  Bournmouth Cruises offers both cruises and rides on their speedboat.
      Great walks  -  Within easy access of the New Forest - a paradise for walkers.
      Sights nearby  -  Visit Christchurch Castle ruins.
      Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
      Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, Johansens
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    • Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa 64 rooms from $208

      Christchurch, Dorset

      Style and exceptional service on the Dorset coast. The newly refurbished Christchurch Harbour Hotel offers smart bedrooms, excellent food, pampering spa and wonderful views. Perfect for an indulgent break by the sea.

      Kayaking  -  Complimentary single and double kayaks available for the guests to use.
      Great walks  -  Plenty of coastal walks for all abilities
      Views  -  Superb views over Christchurch harbour
      Swimming Pool  -  Indoor/outdoor
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    • Alexandra Hotel 24 rooms from $234

      Lyme Regis, Dorset

      Panoramic views over the ocean and the harbour from this cliff top boutique hotel. Luxurious bedrooms, gourmet restaurant and sea-facing terrace, and an excellent spa too. Great for a weekend away, think lobster and sea breeze.

      Views  -  Fabulous views over Lyme Bay and the Jurassic Coast
      Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
      Diving  -  Good diving nearby.
      Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
      Recommended by  -  Johansens, Sawdays
      Hotel Website
    • Priory Hotel 18 rooms from $287

      Wareham, Dorset

      A slice of old England served with China tea. A peaceful and romantic hotel in lovely Wareham on the edge of the Isle of Purbeck. Classically styled rooms and a beautiful garden. Plenty of great excursions for adults and older kids.

      Local exploring  -  From the Saxon town walls of the ancient market town of Wareham to the rolling Dorset countryside there is plenty to see.
      Great walks  -  The lovely gardens slope down to the River Frome, a perfect starting point for an afternoon stroll.
      Sights nearby  -  Check out nearby Corfe village with the spectacular ruins of Corfe Castle, only a few miles away.
      Restrictions on children  -  Not under 14
      Recommended by  -  Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Johansens, Sawdays
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    • Captain's Club Hotel & Spa 17 rooms from $298

      Christchurch, Dorset

      A modern seaside hotel on the banks of the River Stour in Christchurch. Self-catering rooms and suites have fully equipped kitchens, modern furnishings, and balconies with views. Top of the range spa and therapies, terraces, good restaurant, and plenty of local activities. Very family oriented.

      Riverside  -  Perfectly set on the banks of the River Stour.
      Sights nearby  -  Poole Harbour, one of the world's largest natural harbours, is 15km away.
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Sawdays
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    • Summer Lodge 24 rooms from $345

      Evershot, Dorset

      A Hardy-esque country house turned hotel, surrounded by lovely gardens and spectacular countryside. Luxurious rooms boasts elaborate floral fabrics and plush furnishings. The gourmet restaurant is not to be missed, nor the extensive bar. A cosy countryside base, complete with pool, spa and tennis.

      Foodies  -  The dream team of Head Chef Steven Titman and world-renowned Sommelier Eric Zwiebel make dinner an unforgettable experience.
      Romantic Break  -  Let your romantic side out with candlelit jacuzzi sessions, in room champagne and rose petals on the bed.
      Great walks  -  Borrow wellies for strolls around the English garden or the adjoining deer park teeming with wildlife and natural beauty.
      Private Hot Tub  -  Ivy Cottage features a private outdoor hot tub.
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Johansens, Kiwi Collection, Relais & Chateaux, Michelin Travel
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    More Hotels in Dorset