Things to Do in Wimborne and North Dorset

Wimborne Minster – routinely shortened to Wimborne – is a pretty town that grew up around the Saxon abbey that was remodeled by the Normans in the 12th century. A place of pilgrimage for more than 1300 years, the Minster is home to many treasures including the tomb of Alfred the Great’s elder brother King Ethelred, a 700-year-old clock that chimes on the quarter hour and, next door in Church House, a rare chained library that was one of Britain’s first public libraries. The charming Wimborne Model Town provides a fascinating glimpse into how the town looked in 1951 – there’s even a singing choir in the Minster and public loos that flush!

True to its roots Blandford Forum still hosts a weekly market but is widely known for its stunning Georgian buildings, mostly designed by local architects John and William Bastard following the great fire of 1731 and partly paid for by King George II. Nearby, Shillingstone boasts one of the best-preserved railway stations on the old Somerset & Dorset line and has been extensively restored, while the magnificent views richly reward climbing Hambledon Hill, Okeford Hill or Bulbarrow Hill.

Shaftesbury is perhaps best known for Gold Hill, the steep cobbled street that provided the setting for Ridley Scott’s classic 1973 advert for Hovis bread, but the town owes its existence to the important abbey founded by Alfred the Great in 888.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, Sturminster Newton was once home to Britain’s largest weekly cattle market as well as, at different times, both Thomas Hardy and his mentor Dorset dialect poet William Barnes. The Blackmore Vale town of Stalbridge has a fine market cross – dating from the late 15th century it’s 30-feet high and made of yellow Ham stone. Almost as striking is Giles Gilbert Scott’s Arts and Crafts-inspired war memorial in Iwerne Minster.

The area is well served by all manner of festivals, fairs and special events all year round that draw many visitors from near and far. Among the many highlights are the Snowdrop Festival (February) in Shaftesbury, Wimborne Literary Festival and the binennial Waistcoat Festival in Sixpenny Handley (both in May), Wimborne Minster Folk Festival and the pagan celebration of Filly Loo in Ashmore (both in June), Dorset Opera Festival at Bryanston School (July), Sting in the Tale an annual festival of storytelling at various venues (August) and Gillingham Walking Festival (September).

Take a little time to browse through our selection of holiday cottages in Wimbourne Minister and it's neighbouring villages. We’re certain you’ll find something just right for a truly special Dorset holiday