Dorset photography guide
Our contributors have added 62 photo spots to this Dorset photo guide. Have you discovered an amazing new location in Dorset?
For a relatively small and sleepy county, Dorset is a photogenic powerhouse boasting some of England’s most recognisable landmarks from the geological wonders of Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Portland to the ethereal ruins of Corfe Castle, guardian of the Purbeck ridge. Whilst Dorset is deservedly famed for being home to the Jurassic Coast Natural World Heritage Site, it offers much more than just rugged coastline with over half the county being designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Inland, Dorset offers varied landscapes from elevated chalk downs and steep limestone ridges to extensive heathland areas, and in the River Stour, Dorset has an extremely photogenic waterway that meanders from North to South passing disused mills and quaint villages on its way. Dorset is not just a seascaper’s dream but offers a wealth of opportunity for those looking to explore a little.
With the majority of the Jurassic coast southerly facing, winter is perfect for capturing raging storm seas rolling in off the English Channel back dropped by sunrise or sunset skies. Spring through early summer sees rural fields and wooded areas full of blossoming oilseed rape, bluebells and poppies whilst autumn brings soft morning mists and atmosphere to locations such as Corfe Castle, Colmer’s Hill and the county’s woods and rivers.
Due to Dorset’s diminutive size and established tourism industry, all but a few locations are easily accessible with adequate parking provisions and minimal need for more than a light walk. Most locations are free from restrictions; however, the area around the Lulworth Firing Range can only be accessed at weekends and during specific holiday periods. When walking on the range, great care should be taken ensuring adherence to the guidelines provided at entrance gates. (Range walk info: https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/lulworth-range-walks)
Most popular Dorset photo spots
Whilst the Dorset coastline offers countless options, the majestic Durdle Door is a must for any Dorset trip especially considering its close proximity to numerous other top class locations such as Lulworth Cove, Man O’ War Bay and Mupe Bay, all easily accessible via the South West Coast Path. If time permits, this area is worthy of a couple of days exploring and will not disappoint. Further West, Weymouth is an ideal base to visit Portland, the historic Old Weymouth Harbour as well as the coastal towns of West Bay and Lyme Regis in the west of the county. Whilst in the east, Swanage and Poole offer ready accessibility to Corfe Castle, Swanage Bay, Old Harry Rocks and the wonderfully diverse Arne Natural Reserve.
For a different, less windswept and sea sprayed feel, spending time around Blandford and Sturminster Newton offers riverside mills ravaged by time, rolling rural countryside, woodlands and tree lined avenues; a slower paced, calmer offering than the often tumultuous Dorset coastline.
Dorset is generally a safe destination for travel. You can photograph everywhere in confidence, including at night, but apply usual common sense when out with your camera gear. Caution should be taken around Dorset’s coast; the seas are often wild, especially around Portland and Lyme Regis, and it can be dangerously easy to be caught unawares by a rogue wave. Dorset’s coastline, specifically around West Bay, Burton Bradstock, Portland and the Lulworth area, has recently seen numerous severe cliff falls and landslips so great care should be taken both when using cliff top pathways and whilst near cliff footings; these cliff falls can, and have been deadly particularly after prolonged rain. Follow local weather/tide times before setting off (https://www.tidetimes.org.uk).
The UK uses three-pin British plugs at 240V; if travelling from mainland Europe, a simple adapter will be required for electrical equipment use. The major mobile network providers are O2, Vodafone, EE and Three with the majority of the county’s network cover and data transfer being fast and reliable. Dorset is England’s only county devoid of a motorway and whilst there are good A roads between larger towns, it often feels like the whole county has ground to a halt during peak summer season. Allow additional travel time or visit locations early or late, avoiding school/work rush hour traffic; this will also ensure that you are not accompanied by the masses when on location – Dorset annually sees just under 30 million visitors.
For those with a passion for events and people photographing, Dorset has a host of offerings (see external links for events calendar); here are a few of the larger more popular events. During the summer months, Weymouth hosts a number of harbour side events with the Seafood Festival in July, one of England’s largest food festivals, being particularly popular, brings tens of thousands into the seaside resort (http://www.dorsetseafood.co.uk). In the east of the county, the Swanage Carnival and Regatta (https://www.swanagecarnival.com) and the Bournemouth Air Festival (https://bournemouthair.co.uk - UK’s largest Air Festival), held during July and August respectively, are great days out and especially suited to those visiting with families.
However, the star of the Dorset events calendar is the spectacle that is the Great Dorset Steam Fair near Blandford, the World’s largest heritage and cultural event showcasing Great Britain’s national industrial, agricultural and leisure history. The show has something for everyone, from collectors and steam fanatics to heavy horse fans or those just looking to enjoy camping and live music. During the five-day event, the site is the second most populous place in Dorset after the town of Bournemouth. http://www.gdsf.co.uk
Dorset Tourism Website
Dorset Events Calendar
Various Dorset Webcams
Author’s Website and Dorset Photo Galleries
Chris Frost Curator
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