Cultural Tourism

Christchurch and East Dorset

What might visitors expect…..?

The gateway to the New Forest, cosy pubs, good local food, sailing, harbours, green spaces, childhood holidays, crabbing, beach huts, stony beaches, fishing, gardens, heritage, relaxing.

Historic buildings, landmarks and heritage

Christchurch Priory is an important historical landmark in the centre of the town. From here visitors who are interested in heritage can easily walk down to the ancient Christchurch Quay; or visit the Red House Museum which tells the story of the archaeology, social and domestic history of Christchurch.

Visitors who like Christchurch and the Priory will also be interested in Wimborne, another town with a church as its focus – Wimborne Minster, with its famous Quarterjack chimes. The Priests House Museum is practically next door and has interactive displays and activities about East Dorset. Ten minutes from Wimborne by car is Kingston Lacy, a country mansion with extensive gardens; and down the road from here is Badbury Rings, an Iron Age Hill fort, and an interesting walk. Both these are National Trust properties, and popular with all ages (and dogs).

Festivals and food

Both Christchurch and Wimborne hold fantastic food festivals – Christchurch Food Festival in May and Wimborne Food Festival in October. The Wimborne Folk Festival takes place in June; and remember that East Dorset is a popular base for those who attend the renowned Larmer Tree Festival – the next one is in July 2018.

Performing Arts

East Dorset borders Bournemouth, with its large theatre and music venues; and visitors who stay in this part of the county can easily travel into the town. However, the smaller venues in East Dorset offer a more unusual range of performances in more intimate settings. The Hub in Verwood is both a sports centre, theatre space and cinema. Christchurch has the lovely Regent Centre, again both a theatre and cinema, as it can broadcast live and recorded performances from elsewhere in the country such as the National Theatre in London.

Visual Arts and crafts

The most important visual arts and crafts centre in East Dorset is Walford Mill in Wimborne, home to craftsmen and makers of all kinds, and a gallery as well. It has a restaurant on site, and offers cultural workshops to parties of guests; or in the school holidays for children.

Food and drink

As we have seen, memorable food and drink experiences can make (or break!) a successful holiday. As well as many restaurants, cafes and tea rooms across the region, there are three successful farm shops – Gullivers, Pamphill and Vines – where visitors can buy fresh Dorset food; from meat and vegetables to the famous Dorset Knobs!

Some interesting cultural facts about East Dorset

As there are so many rivers in East Dorset the soil is very rich – this is the reason there are so many formal gardens (Knoll Gardens, Kingston Lacy) – and garden centres.

Famous Dorset author Thomas Hardy wrote about Cranborne, near Wimborne, in his novels set in Dorset and called it Chaseborough. Wimborne became Warborne, which features in his book Two on a Tower.

There is a story connected to the building of Christchurch Priory – the legend of the ‘miraculous beam’. The story goes that one of the roof beams was cut too short but a mysterious carpenter was able to fit it. The unknown carpenter, never seen again, was thought to be Jesus Christ. The church was called Christ’s Church of Twynham, then Twynham-Christchurch and eventually just Christchurch. The miraculous beam can still be seen today in the Priory’s ambulatory.