Morning Let’s start off with a touch of culture, so wander the streets of Wimborne Minster, a Fairtrade-certified town that mixes independent cafes and shops with history and heritage. Wimborne Minster church (free entry, wimborneminster.org.uk) dates back to Saxon times, housing the tomb of Alfred the Great’s brother, Ethelred, King of Wessex. Upstairs there’s a unique ‘chained library’; a collection of ancient tomes dating back to the 14th century that were literally chained to the shelves to prevent theft by unscrupulous scholars. On display are books including the Polyglott Bible, a 350-year old translation of the Bible into nine different languages.
Afternoon Stop off for lunch at The Olive Branch, a classy-but-quirky gastro-pub by the River Allen with Lichtenstein prints on the walls and Calvin and Hobbes wallpaper in the toilets. They call themselves “the most spectacular pub in Dorset”, and with a selection of local ales and gourmet pub grub, who are we to disagree? Don’t leave without trying the melt-in-your-mouth courgette fries (mains from £8, theolivebranchwimborne.co.uk).Next, take a walk along the River Stour to experience some beautiful countryside with big skies and fields of flowers. The picture-postcard hamlet of Pamphill, owned by the National Trust, is a short walk from the river, with rustic thatched cottages and the tiny Vine Inn on Vine Hill. The pub offers a warm welcome, a chat with the locals, seasonal real ales and doorstep sandwiches to die for. Be sure to bring your swimming gear for a dip in the river. Kingston Lacy may sound like a character from one of Dorset native Thomas Hardy’s novels, but it’s a sprawling country house estate close to Pamphill (from £7 for garden and park only, nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy). Run by the National Trust, Kingston Lacy dates back to the 17th century, when the Bankes family constructed a new home in the aftermath of the bloody Civil War and Restoration. On a walk around the gardens, take in the Egyptian obelisk brought back by adventurer William Bankes, the gorgeous Japanese garden, and the busy Kitchen Garden – complete with adorable pigs. There’s even a National Trust app to guide you around.
Evening No English town is complete without a proper Indian restaurant, and Rimjhim in Wimborne is a cut above the usual with unbeatable service and a fusion of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. Their affordable starter menu encourages sampling, so try the Nepalese lasuni kebab and a dish of choyla, a chargrilled favourite (mains from £7.95, 9 Leigh Road, rimjhimwimborne.co.uk).
Morning Head to Bournemouth to enjoy some of England’s finest beaches and the gateway to the world-famous Jurassic Coast. For breakfast, enjoy fresh local produce at Urban Reef, a smartly designed bar/cafe/deli on the Boscombe promenade. Its breakfast menu includes a full English with Dorset pork sausages, and a great view from the beachfront terrace across the bay (on the promenade near Boscombe Pier, urbanreef.com).Once your breakfast’s gone down, head right outside to the Sorted Surf School to catch some waves (lessons from £30, bournemouth-surfschool.co.uk). Boscombe boasts Europe’s first artificial surf reef, recently reopened for coastal activities including diving and wind surfing.
Afternoon Established by Italian ice cream enthusiast Luigi Bray in 2008, Giggi Gelateria was rated the best ice cream outlet on the South Coast by The Times. This is genuine homemade ice cream made the Italian way, with flavours ranging from classic vanilla to Christmas pudding, and a selection of sorbets as well. Pick any three flavours and they’ll blend them together into a creamy frappe (10 Burlington Arcade, giggigelateria.co.uk).Cycle routes are plentiful in Bourne-mouth, so hire a bike (from £8 for four hours, koolcyclehirebournemouth.co.uk) and go exploring. Head westwards towards Poole and take in the natural harbour, the largest in Europe. Cycle back towards the Lower Gardens near Bournemouth Pier, and drop in on the Pinewalk Art Exhibition (until September 7), a sprawling open-air art display that’s been running for more than 50 years. You can browse paintings, photography and sculptures created by artists from across the country, and with a range of artists from students to professionals, you might even get to pick up a genuinely unique souvenir.With its sandy beaches, Bournemouth is the home to British beach volleyball, and you might catch one of the tournaments held throughout summer. Test your skills and show the locals how it’s done at one of the free courts on the beach, east of the pier.
Evening After 6pm, enjoy the sunset on the beach with the hot sizzle of a barbecue and a few beers. Then make your way along the promenade to the beachfront Aruba bar and restaurant, a hotspot with great views, live music and DJs on Sundays. There’s a full selection of tropical cocktails, although Sex on the Beach is tellingly missing (cocktails from £5.50, Pier Approach, aruba-bournemouth.co.uk).Alternatively you could grab a snack and a beer at Sixty Million Postcards, an American-style diner with a cinema-style marquee over the entrance. It’s the perfect place to digest your weekend with cheap booze, a plate of nachos and cosy booth seating (19-21, Exeter Road, sixtymillionpostcards.com).