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The local area guide to living in Dorset

Dorset has a rich and exciting history, the remnants of its past are still a big part of the county today. The high number of fossils from the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic periods has made the aptly-named ‘Jurassic Coast’ famous, particularly among palaeontologists, it also provides a popular walking route for tourists.

Dorset was the reported location of the first ever Viking raid, the site of one of Cromwell’s major victories and the launch pad for the Monmouth Rebellion, as well as the home of two important D-Day embarkation points – Portland and Poole.

Today, it is best known for its stunning scenery and tranquil atmosphere. With much of the population focused in the south and in the county town of Dorchester, the remainder of the county is rural and sparsely populated.

Information about the local residents

The population of Dorset was recorded at approximately 710,100 in a 2009 census, with more than 60% of residents gathered in the major cities of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. An exceptionally high 97% of the population in the county described their ethnicity as White in the same year.

More than 25% of the population have reached the age of retirement, well above the national average, and the birth rate is lower than other areas of the UK. However, the population is still rising due to a lot of migration to the county. A rise of 12.7% is expected between 2008 and 2033.

Nearby schools

There’s a number of primary and secondary state-funded schools in the area that have achieved Ofsted’s highest ‘Outstanding’ rating in recent reports, including The Prince of Wales School in Dorchester and The Gryphon School in the rural area of Sherborne. There’s also a grammar school, Parstone, in Southeast Dorset, and the highly rated infant schools Queen’s Park and Mudeford Junior School.

There are also high quality independent schools to choose from, often accepting both boarding and day pupils. Canford School, Sherborne School and St Mary’s School are all popular choices for private pupils.

For higher education, students can choose to attend Bournemouth University or the nearby Arts University of Bournemouth.

Getting around

While there is no motorway running through Dorset, access to surrounding cities is available from several dual carriageways. The most popular of these are the A31, the A350 and the A338. There are also a number of bus services available, with 14 regular lines running from central towns to more rural areas.

There are also convenient rail links throughout the county, with the West of England Main Line connecting North Dorset to London, via Gillingham and Sherborne. Cities in the south, including Bournemouth, Pool, and Dorchester link to the capital via the South Western Main Line. The Heart of Wessex line runs from Bristol to Weymouth, while the smaller Swanage Railway operates a steam and diesel service from Norden to Swanage.

International travel is also easily accessible, with the county housing two seaports and an airport. Regular ferries connect St Malo in France with Poole, via the Channel Islands, and Weymouth, via Guernsey and Jersey. For destinations across the rest of Europe, Bournemouth Airport offers regular flights, often with low-cost airlines.

Local shops

There are a lot of independent boutiques in the area, specialising in artisan and handmade products. Dorchester is particularly famed for its antiques, while Poundbury and Christchurch are home to some of the best farmer’s markets. For high street shopping, the most popular destination is the busy town of Bournemouth.

Dorset is famed for its music festivals, with Camp Bestival among one of the most internationally renowned in the area. It’s also home to the Bournemouth International Centre, O2 Academy Bournemouth, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, so there’s no shortage of entertainment.

The county’s coastline also makes it a popular water-sport destination. In fact, the 2012 Olympic sailing events were held in the county’s sheltered bays. Other sports in the area include speedway, greyhound racing, cricket and, of course, the A.F.C. Bournemouth football club.

Other attractions in the area include a wide range of museums and heritage sites, including the Dorset County Museum, the Dinosaur Museum, and Maiden Castle – the largest hill fort remaining from the Iron Age. There’s also an extensive art collection on display in the Russell-Cotes Museum, and a National Trust museum hosted in Hardy Cottage, the former residence of Thomas Hardy.

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.