Dorset is a beautiful county famed for its stunning Jurassic coastline which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, bucolic rolling countryside, natural beauty spots Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, Thomas Hardy, postcard-pretty cottages, Corfe Castle, chalk figures such as the Cerne Abbas Giant, and the beautiful sandy beaches of Poole and Bournemouth.
It is a county with a huge diversity and families relocating to Dorset have an abundance of locations to consider. Moving with a family will undoubtedly mean that there are additional factors to consider such as schools and whether an area will work for family life as well as a commute to work.
Quality of Life in Dorset
One of the best reasons to live or move to Dorset is the quality of life. We know British people like to talk about the weather, well in Dorset there is more reason for this to be a positive chat – Dorset has 24% more sunshine than the UK average and 28 days less rain. Life expectancy in the county is the best in the UK, with residents expected to live on average 4 years longer.
The quality of leisure activities available to families is fantastic, whether it be on the glorious beaches, sailing, surfing, or paddle-boarding in the sea, walking or cycling on the hills and valleys, visiting the numerous traditional pubs, or enjoying the many festivals from the award-winning, family-orientated Camp Bestival to the quirky Bridport Hat Festival.
Dorset is a happy place to live and this has previously been reflected in ‘Happiest Places to Live’ Surveys, where towns such as Poole, Bridport, Christchurch and Dorchester often feature highly.
Dorset Villages and Countryside
If it’s the charm of rural life you’re after you can find idyllic cottages and houses in the many beautiful villages across Dorset.
Whilst houses in the villages on the coast from Wareham to Lyme Regis offer fantastic access to the coast and an attractive lifestyle they also come at a premium and tend to suffer from increased traffic in the height of summer. These may be ideal for those looking for second homes, but not necessarily for a family home.
Families can find better locations and value inland in areas such as in the chalk escarpments of the Blackmore Vale in North Dorset, in the charmingly named Piddle Valley with its clear stream running through the villages, or the picture-perfect villages surrounding Evershot, such as Sydling Saint Nicholas, Chedington, and Toller Porcorum.
Towns in Dorset
The south-east corner of Dorset is the populous and urban part of the county. Nominally Bournemouth and Poole are separate towns, but in reality, they conjoin with Southbourne and Boscombe to make one large conurbation.
There is a real variety in this area from the glitz and glamour of Sandbanks to the large character properties of Talbot Heath, from the family-friendly beachside neighbourhood of Southbourne to the student hub in Winton. Nowhere in Dorset is the knowledge of communities, areas, streets, and valuation more important.
There is something for everyone in this broad conjoined collection of towns, but knowing where to find the best home for your budget is paramount in an area where prices vary from circa £2,750 per sqm in Poole’s northern suburbs to around £12,500 per sqm in the most desirable sea view locations of Canford Cliffs and Sandbanks (price guide as of Jan 2020).
There are many other noteworthy towns in Dorset – the ancient and peaceful town of Wareham; Shaftesbury, one of the highest towns in England with its iconic steep cobbled streets such as Gold Hill, which has been dubbed ‘one of England’s most romantic sights and was the setting for the famous ‘Boy on Bike’ Hovis advert, voted Britain’s favourite advert of all time; the county town of Dorchester with its ancient and Roman history; the charming seaside town of Lyme Regis which tumbles down to its famous Cobb and offers staggering views of the Jurassic coastline; and I haven’t mentioned Christchurch, Swanage, Blandford Forum, Sherborne – there are a great many that could be included.
Top schools in Dorset
Dorset has a number of the UK’s top independent senior schools which rank highly in any national list, such as Canford School – winner of the Tatler Public School of the Year 2019 award, Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls and Bryanston which have all won similar coveted awards over the years.
There is also a great selection of less known schools that are well worth exploring such as Milton Abbey which has great learning support and vocational focus, Bournemouth Collegiate a much sought after day school with a strong academic and extra-curricular focus. For families with younger children, there is also a broad network of prep schools which feed these senior schools, such as Sunninghill Prep, Clayesmore Prep, Sherborne Prep, Knighton House, and more.
The choice in the state or private sector is abundant, and perhaps a little daunting for families relocating to Dorset, a property finder will have years of experience sourcing properties near to these schools so if you have specific requirements or would like to discuss the options more broadly we are happy to help.
Despite being largely rural with just over 40% of the county designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and being one of few counties without a motorway, Dorset still has good transport links.
London is approximately two hours by road from the east of Dorset and approx. 3 hours from the west. Trains to London from the likes of Dorchester, Poole, Sherborne are direct and take between 2-3 hours.
There are ferries to France and the Channel Islands from Poole and Weymouth and to the Isle of Wight from Lymington which is just over the border in Hampshire. There are 3 great local airports – Bournemouth, Southampton and Bristol.
Best kept secrets of Dorset
Dorset is rightly known for its fabulous beaches and has 25 Blue Flag beaches. Most visitors, unsurprisingly, head to the 10 mile stretch of golden beach that runs uninterrupted from Sandbanks to Hengitsbury Head.
However, for a quieter alternative step back in time and head to South Beach on Studland, a sheltered cove with a 2km stretch of sand which is looked after by the National Trust. It is ideal for families as it slopes gently into the sea and the water is generally calm. Helpfully, there is a café at the entrance to the beach which also loans out beach toys for the children.
For the more adventurous Chapman’s Pool is a special spot that is very tranquil and rarely visited. To get there take a 1-mile walk from the lovely village of Worth Matravers, with the final descent into the cove being quite steep. It is a stone beach ideal for fossil hunting, rock pooling and enjoying the stunning scenery. Reward yourself for your adventurous efforts by popping into the charming Square and Compasses pub.
Relocating to Dorset
For families relocating to Dorset, there are many factors to consider. Finding an ideal home in a suitable location is a part of the relocation that we would be delighted to assist with.