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Dorset’s varied landscape and beautiful coastal walks have attracted visitors and families from all over the country for some time, but now there are even more reasons to visit this southern county, not least for their exceptional attractions.

Offering a range of things to do in Weymouth and across the county for families to enjoy during a break in one of the many local child-friendly Dorset holiday cottages, this area of Britain is becoming increasingly popular and seeing such holiday homes booked up months in advance of the summer season. Come rain or shine there is plenty to keep kids both big and small entertained, and here we list just a few of the top attractions that will make sure you never want to leave Dorset.

1. Sandworld

Family-friendly Sandworld has seen huge success since its launch in 2011. Open between Easter and Halloween, if you are visiting the county during this time a trip to Sandworld is a must. Perfect for when the weather takes a turn, its indoor venue hides a secret cove of wonders, playing host to numerous giant sand sculptures created by some of the world’s most talented sand artists.

This award-winning attraction includes a large sand pit for the little ones to play in, in addition to a new seating area where all can experience demos and workshops. They even offer a great souvenir in the form of their ‘Sand Art’ area, where visitors can create their own art by filling a character bottle with layered coloured sand to take home a piece of the magic.

2. Tank Museum

You may hear this attraction before you approach its location at Bovington, as the Tank Museum is home to the Royal Tank Regiment and Royal Armoured Corps. Their permanent exhibit boasts a collection of tanks and supporting artefacts that relay over 100 years of history, and for those who wish to catch a piece of the action live their Tanks in Action Displays and Tracked Vehicle Rides occur throughout the school holidays.

They regularly host temporary exhibitions such as the recent Fury Exhibition to coincide with the release of the Brad Pitt-starring film, which hosts a number of items acquired from the film set itself. Other highlights include “Battlegroup Afghanistan,” which transports visitors to the modern front line, and the “The Trench Experience” exhibition, marking the World War I centenary where visitors can experience what it would have been like for soldiers at the time. Don’t miss the annual Tankfest event, taking place over the 27th and 28th June 2015.

3. Swanage Railway

This next attraction is not only an attraction in itself, but acts as a way of seeing many of the great highlights of Dorset in one go. The Swanage Railway stops at Norden, Corfe Castle, Harmans Cross, Herston and Swanage, making Dorset’s heritage towns and Jurassic Coast more accessible by way of vintage railway. The heritage steam and diesel train service also hosts a number of seasonal events, including the popular Santa Specials and Driving Experiences.

4. Athelhampton House & Gardens

Continuing in the heritage theme is Athelhampton House and Gardens. This unique 15th century manor house illustrates handsomely to guests the history and culture of Dorset from this time, whilst regular events and activities hosted by the house provide fun for all the family. The house and gardens also give visitors a taste for local history, with the likes of author Thomas Hardy being a regular visitor of Athelhampton and one of Dorset’s most famed residents.

5. 6D Cinema

While English country cottages in summer are an immensely popular choice for a staycation during the school holidays, the UK is not exactly known for being reliable in terms of weather. Thankfully Dorset has this covered. The 6D Cinema in Bournemouth is the first of its kind in the UK and fully immerses its guests in the cinema experience, where they can see, hear and feel the action.

6. Moors Valley

Moors Valley is the joint venture between East Dorset Council and the Forestry Commission, and offers visitors a chance to really get to grips with nature. From peaceful activities such as walking and cycling to more adventurous goings on for the adrenaline junkies with the Go Ape course, the Moors Valley Country Park and Forest offers something to suit all tastes and interests whilst families can make the most of their holiday in the Dorset great outdoors.

7. Marine Theatre

The Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis offers a great range of productions, covering comedy, theatrics, poetry, dance and young people’s theatre. With an incredible history that dates back to 1806 when it first opened as a sea water baths, this little theatre by the sea makes for a great attraction in itself, let alone for the great performances that it hosts. After the baths fell into disuse, the theatre was then built in 1896 and is now regarded as an artistic hub where local residents and visitors are united and inspired by a programme of excellent and widely diverse art.

8. Portland Museum

Dorset’s Portland Museum is another incredible historic site that tells a story of Portland. Founded in 1930 by Dr Marie Stopes in two early 17th century stone cottages, this museum is as old as the artefacts it houses. The house in which the museum resides has a unique history in itself, having inspired author Thomas Hardy, with one of the cottages being the inspiration behind the house of his novel, The Well-Beloved’s heroine Avice.

9. Poole Museum

For an even greater insight into the history of Dorset’s people and landscape, the Poole Museum in Poole near Bournemouth can’t be beaten. Exhibitions cover art, pottery and even pirates, making them a great attraction for the younger visitor as well as interesting for the adults too. The museum covers four floors and has plenty to inspire and intrigue visitors on a rainy day.

10. Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre

Monkey World is one of the best and most famed attractions in the whole of Dorset, and even the UK. Helping governments around the world put a stop to the smuggling of primates from the wild, Dorset-based Monkey World is home to chimpanzees, orang-utans, gibbons, woolly monkeys, capuchin monkeys, marmosets and squirrel monkeys, to name just a few, and all are refugees of this illegal trade.

Open every day of the year, bar Christmas Day, Monkey World is a fantastic attraction to visit in Dorset while offering visitors the chance to help in this great cause.

These are just a handful of the great attractions in this part of the country that will make you wish your Dorset holiday could continue forever. Speak to the friendly team at Hideaways to find out more about what’s near your holiday cottage in Dorset.

Image Credits: Sandworld, The Tank Museum, Swanage Railway Andrew Wright., Athelhampton House and Gardens, 6D Cinema, East Dorset District Council, Peter Wiles Marine Theatre, Portland Museum, Poole Museum, Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre