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10 of the Best Family Days out in Dorset

Nothe Fort, Weymouth

Nothe Fort, Weymouth - Image by member Andy Brind (view gallery)

A list of 10 of the best Family days out across the beautiful County of Dorset, from Monkey World in Wareham to The Keep Military Museum in Dorchester.

1. Monkey World, Wareham, Dorset

Monkey World, Dorset.

Monkey World, Dorset. - Image by member Graham Rains (view gallery)

This is a place where "Monkey Business" really is acceptable, for the centre is home to over 150 primates of 15 different species. Founded in 1987, the centre was set up by husband and wife team Jim and Alison Cronin to give sanctuary to abused Spanish beach chimps. Since then the work of the centre has become renowned throughout the world, at the sanctuary there are chimps from Europe and other countries such as Israel, Dubai and Taiwan, they have all been rescued either from suffering abuse in laboratories, being used as exotic pets, photographers props, or circus animals. Whatever their circumstances, all have been wrenched from their families at an early age, smuggled out of Africa and sold to so-called humans who want them for no other reason than to make money! By any standard, in such hands the chimps faced a life of sheer terror as they are dressed up and forced to parade for up to 16 hours a day. Often when at the tender age of 4 or 5 the chimps become uncontrollable because of ill-treatment and the abnormal lifestyle they have endured, they are killed and replaced with a younger chimp.

The focus at Monkey World is to rescue as many animals as possible. Once they arrive at the centre they are medically examined by the local veterinary team and sometimes those in need of operations are hospitalised in the on site hospital.

The chips are slowly rehabilitated and introduced into social groups to live much as they would have done before captivity. Because of the constant need to rescue, the females of the group are kept on birth control, lack of space and funding prevent allowing the animals to breed.

Monkey World is open every day to visitors. You can expect to see the animals living in relatively normal conditions created within over 65 acres of wonderful Dorset Woodland. Amongst them you can see Orangutans, Marmosets, Woolly Monkey's, Chimpanzees, Squirrel Monkey's and many more. There is an entertaining Pet's Corner, a Bird Pond and Donkey's. There is even a viewing tower, adoption centre, picnic areas, a cafe and a gift shop.

For a refreshing day out with a difference Monkey World is the place for you. Not only can you enjoy all that you see, but it makes you aware of the importance of conservation and the need for the preservation of animals who through man's eternal greed would otherwise quickly become extinct.


2. Weymouth Sea Life Centre, Weymouth, Dorset

Penquin at SeaLife Centre in Weymouth

Penquin at SeaLife Centre in Weymouth - Image by member Emma Eden (view gallery)

A unique mix of indoor and outdoor attractions set in seven acres makes Sea Life a great family day out. The Park offers a day of fun and amazement, bringing you face to face with penguins, seals, otters and so much more.

New for 2005 - Don’t miss the exciting new Splash Lagoon

Why not cool off in the Splash Lagoon – guaranteed to keep the kids entertained with a whole day’s fun and laughter (Opening June 2005).

And there’s so much more!!

Seahorses, crabs, sharks and rays – you’ll find them all in habitats designed to mirror their natural environments, with daily feeds and presentations.

For the kids…

Visit the all new Shark Academy interactive show, where you can graduate as a Shark Cadet. Also for children there is an Adventure Trail to be explored, and Sunken Treasure to be found, or come and join the excitement and pan for gold!

For more information on Sea Life please call 01305 788255 or check out the website


3. Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle - Image by member Ian Gedge (view gallery)

Standing in lofty splendour above the chimney pots of the village with the roaring ocean lapping the cliffs to the other side of a rocky outcrop, the romantic ruins of medieval Corfe Castle, cast a dramatic shadow from every approach. There is evidence of habitation in the area in the days of pre-history but Corfe really came to prominence when the great castle was begun at the time of William the Conqueror.

The castle has a stirring history, and although for nearly all of the medieval period it was a Royal residence, it was tainted by dark and secretive deeds. King Edward II was imprisoned here and strangely, King John kept his crown jewels at Corfe. When the throne passed to Henry VII he gave the castle to his mother, however when Henry VIII succeeded, he claimed the castle for himself. Henry's daughter Queen Elizabeth I, sold Corfe to Sir Christopher Hatton, a favourite courtier and Chancellor. He fortified it as part of England's defences against the Spanish Armada.

Corfe Castle was eventually sold by the Hatton family, and at the time of the Civil War it was owned by the powerful Bankes family. Sir John Bankes was Lord Chief Justice to Charles I. Again mischief was afoot, Lady Bankes stood alone and in spite of holding the castle through the sieges of 1643 and 1645, she was finally brought down by the treachery of Colonel Pitman, one of her own officers.

The castle was left in ruins by the Parliamentarian forces, and although it continued in the ownership of the Bankes family it remained derelict throughout the centuries until it was gifted by the Bankes's to the National Trust in 1982.

Below the castle, the village of Corfe shows picturesque stone houses of the 17th-century. At the Corfe Castle Model Village you can see a perfect replica of the once mighty fortress. It's former splendour is vividly portrayed and like the magnificent hilltop ruin, cannot fail to impress all who see it.


4. Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset

Tank Museum, Bovington Camp, Athelhampton, Dorset

Tank Museum, Bovington Camp, Athelhampton, Dorset - Image by member Bpeters (view gallery)

The world's best collection of tanks and fighting vehicles, including the only working example of a Tiger I tank, and a British World War I Mark I tank; the world's oldest surviving combat tank.


5. Nothe Fort, Weymouth, Dorset

Nothe Fort, Weymouth

Nothe Fort, Weymouth - Image by member Andy Brind (view gallery)

Nothe Fort lies to the east of Weymouth. This spectacular "D" shaped building is preserved as one of the finest pieces of military architecture from the Victorian Era.

The fort was built by the 26 Company of the Royal Engineers between 1860 and 1872, on a peninsular which juts out into the sea north of Portland Harbour. Its guns covered both the approaches to Portland and Weymouth harbour from the East.

The Nothe had a range of bomb proof vaulted rooms within its walls, and was originally equipped with a mixture of Rifle Muzzle Loading cannons, later in 1888 these were replaced with seven 38 ton 12.5 inch RML's. By the turn of the 20th-century these had been replaced with two, and later three 6" Breech loading guns on the Ramparts.

In 1954 the fort was disarmed and removed of all its weapons. It was later purchased by Weymouth Council, who abandoned it to fall into a state of near ruin, its wood was stripped for use as firewood and its metal sold for scrap by a series of invading hippies and vandals.

Fortunately, Weymouth Civic Society mounted a rescue scheme, and today Nothe Fort is one of the finest museums of its kind in the country. Visitors can see lifestyle reconstructions of the guns and the men who manned them, learn all about how this splendid fortification was constructed.

This is a wonderful place to visit, it exudes all the atmosphere and might of England's military history, and it is therefore unsurprising to learn that Nothe Fort attracts more than 50,000 visitors each year.


6. Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth, Dorset


Museum - Image by member poe (view gallery)


7. Swanage Railway, Swanage, Dorset

Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway - Image by member Paul V. A. Johnson (view gallery)

An award-winning standard gauge preserved steam railway in Swanage that offers a unique journey through 6 miles of Dorset countryside, with stunning views including that of Corfe Castle.


8. Portland Castle, Weymouth, Dorset

Portland Castle, Dorset

Portland Castle, Dorset - Image by member (view gallery)

This is one of the best preserved of all King Henry VIII's mighty fortresses, built by the monarch to guard the south coast against invasion from the French and the Spanish.

The castle was built around 1540, of white Portland stone, it stands in a superb position overlooking Portland and Weymouth Harbour. It was further extended in the 17th-century, and again in the 18th-century when it was the home of Captain Charles Manning, builder of the Portland breakwater.

Portland castle has had a somewhat strange history, it was never used as intended and only saw action during the English Civil War when it frequently changed hands between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.

In the year 1870 the Government of the day took over the castle, and it was later used during World War I as a Seaplane base, and again in World War II, when it was used for part of the D Day Operations.

Visitors to Portland will find the castle sitting serenely within the Royal Naval Dockyard.


9. The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset

The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset

The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset - Image by member Nicola Clark (view gallery)

This exciting keep is the home of the Military Museum of Devon and Dorset. Here visitors with a keen interest in all things military can learn of the military service men and women of Dorset and Devon, their lives and times. There are rich portrayals featuring The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, The Dorset Regiment, The Devonshire Regiment, The Dorset Yeomanry, The Dorset Militia, The Royal Devon Yeomanry, and 94 Field Regiment R.A.

The feast set before your eye's includes the very latest technological interactive displays, uniforms including ceremonial, medals, and weapons used over the past three hundred years. There are paintings, photographs and books, together with an archive section available to those attempting to research family or military history.

The museum, although military based offers something for everyone, it fully depicts the proud service traditions upheld by centuries of men and women of Dorset and Devon.


10. Abbotsbury Swannery, Abbotsbury, Dorset

Abbotsbury Swannery

Abbotsbury Swannery - Image by member Christine Cooney (view gallery)

Set in one of the most beautiful unspoilt regions of England, Abbotsbury Swannery is home to sometimes up to 1000 beautiful swans. A sanctuary was set up here by monks of the local abbey and is believed to have been going since atleast 1393. There are things to do for all the family including an ugly duckling trail for children and a special Audio Visual show for all the family. Part of the history of the area resides at the swannery in the form of a Bouncing Bomb which was used against the dams across Europe during the second world war.


A Pictures of England article submitted by Sarah

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