There are dozens of pretty villages to explore in Dorset! Here’s our local’s guide to some of the best…
From beautiful parishes steeped in history, to postcard-perfect towns nestled amongst some of the county’s most stunning countryside, there are plenty of idyllic spots to enjoy in Dorset.
If you’re looking for a few picturesque spots to visit for pub lunches and countryside feels, these charming villages are ideal. They can also make for a lovely, quiet setting to base yourself in while you explore Dorset as an alternative to the bigger towns.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the prettiest and best villages in the county. There’s also a quick summary of some other must-visit spots at the end of the post. Enjoy…
11 of the Prettiest Villages in Dorset
Technically a small town, but it has such a village-y feel and is so seriously pretty that Shaftesbury deserves to make this list of pretty villages in Dorset. Especially because it’s home to Gold Hill, which has been described as “one of the most romantic sights in England”. Easy to see why this is one of the most popular small towns in Dorset.
Gold Hill is a steep, cobbled street lined with picturesque old cottages. Many Brits will recognise it as the setting for the 1973 “Boy on Bike” Hovis advert – regularly voted Britain’s favourite TV ad of all time! Looking down the street from the top of the hill offers a view of idyllic British countryside, framed by stone cottages clad in climbing plants.
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Briantspuddle won “best small village” in the Dorset Village Awards a few years ago. A quick look around gives you an idea as to why! This small village near Dorchester sits on the banks of the River Piddle. It’s filled with historic, thatched-roof cottages that look as though they’ve been lifted straight from a postcard.
Abbotsbury is an extremely attractive little village, made up of a long street of thatched-roof houses built from a beautiful honey-coloured stone. Many of the buildings date from the 16th century, and several were built using stones from the 11th-century abbey which gives the village its name.
The remains of this abbey can still be seen on the edge of Abbotsbury, while the 14th-century St. Catherine’s Chapel – built by the monks as a place of pilgrimage and retreat – stands on a hill nearby. The church offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and nearby coastline. Abbotsbury is also filled with tourist attractions, making it one of the most popular villages to visit in Dorset. Don’t miss Abbotsbury Swannery, the Children’s Farm, and the famous Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.
The pretty village of Upwey sits just on the outskirts of Weymouth, on the mouth of the river which gives both locations their names. It is literally “up” the River Wey.
At the source of the river stands a historic, moss-covered Wishing Well, built in the early 20th century. It’s said that if you take a sip of well water from a glass, then throw the rest backwards over your left shoulder while making a wish, it will come true! The surrounding Water Gardens and nearby Wishing Well Tearooms are both must-visits in this beautiful Dorset village.
Named for the ancient, ruined castle which has stood amongst the Purbeck Hills since the 11th century, the village of the same name is one of the nicest in Dorset. The 11th-century Corfe Castle, now owned by the National Trust, is the area’s biggest draw. But the charming village, constructed almost entirely from local grey Purbeck limestone, likes to boast that there “is more to Corfe than a great castle”. And they’re right!
As well as a long and fascinating history, which stretches as far back the burial mounds dating from 6000BC, Corfe Castle village is full of attractions. There are plenty of amazing pubs, cafes, and charming tearooms to enjoy. The Model Village is a must, especially for families with young children. Combine a trip to Corfe with a visit to the nearby seaside town of Swanage, and ride there in vintage steam train style on board the Swanage Railway!
Move over, Cotswolds! North Dorset’s Yetminster is built almost entirely from honey-coloured limestone, giving it the same attractive appearance as some of the Cotswold’s most popular villages. Situated on the brilliantly named River Wriggle, a tributary of the River Yeo, this charming village has a sleepy, old-fashioned atmosphere. Yetminster Fair (11th July 2020) has been running almost continuously since the 13th Century, making it one of the oldest fairs in the county.
Kimmeridge is a small village near the coast of the Isle of Purbeck. Nearby Kimmeridge Bay features some of the most important geology of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, so the area is a popular spot with visitors. Dating from medieval times and boasting a rich history, the village itself is lovely; filled with stone cottages and thatched roofs.
Kimmeridge Village is also home to the Etches Collection, a museum filled with fossils found in the Bay by Dr Steve Etches MBE. So if you want to learn more about the coast and its Jurassic history, this is a must-visit!
The village of Cerne Abbas is best known for its notorious giant. The Cerne Abbas Giant is a 55m high hill figure of a nude male figure sporting a prominent erection and wielding a club. Although no one knows when or why it was built, the giant is an important part of local culture and folklore.
As well as the towering Giant, Cerne Abbas village has plenty to entice visitors. In particular, its many pubs – because Cerne Abbas was once the centre of a highly successful local brewing trade.
On the coast of west Dorset lies the village of Burton Bradstock. This is a beautiful little seaside spot, famed for the spectacular golden sandstone cliffs running along the coast. Fans of the BBC show Broadchurch will recognise these very cliffs, as the show was filmed in neighbouring West Bay. This is one of the best places in Dorset for a coast walk!
As well as a stunning coastal setting, Burton Bradstock also features one of the best seafood restaurants in the area. Overlooking the sea, the Hive Beach Cafe has won numerous awards – largely thanks to the quality of its local produce. Don’t miss the annual Spring Tide Food Festival (17th May 2020). It’s a celebration of local produce, but you’ll also find arts, crafts, and local music.
Nestled amongst the gorgeous landscapes of Cranborne Chase, an Area of National Beauty situated on a vast chalk plateau known as a Chase, lies Ashmore. At 700ft above sea level it is the highest village in Dorset, so walking in the surrounding countryside affords some wonderful views. The village itself is small and spectacularly pretty, with historic cottages and thatched-roofed buildings centred around a large, circular pond.
A village of red brick cottages on the edge of the Chase, Cranborne was once a large, thriving town with a similar population to England’s major cities of the day. During the Middle Ages, King John was a regular guest at the Manor House, when he visited for hunting trips on the Cranborne Chase.
Today, the manor still stands. It dates from the early 13th century, although it was remodelled in 1608, and is a Grade I listed building. The stunning Manor Gardens are open to the public and are some of the most beautiful gardens in Dorset.
Other Dorset Villages Worth a Visit
- Mintern Magna
- Osmington Mills
- Milton Abbas
- Okeford Fitzpaine
- Winterbourne Steepleton
Is there anywhere you’d add to this list of the prettiest villages in Dorset? Let us know in the comments!