Moving to Dorset: a destination guide

Dorset, on the south west coast of the UK, is a very popular county due to its location and incredible coastline. The county’s bordered by the English Channel to the south, Devon to the west, Somerset to the north west, Wiltshire to the north east and Hampshire to the east. Dorchester, the county town, is a historic market town with a population of around 20,000.

It has also grown in popularity for home movers, attracting people from all over the UK. In recent years new movers to the county have resulted in a large boost in population, bringing it to 780,000. The pace of life, scenic outdoors, and beautiful beaches make it very attractive to families, as well those looking to get away from city life.

If you are looking to enjoy walks on the beach or across moorland, to enjoy incredible local produce, and a peaceful lifestyle Dorset is for you. The relaxed pace of life and outdoors lifestyle could be the reason that Dorset has the highest life expectancy in the UK.

The county offers a range of lifestyles: from rural cottage living, to city living in Bournemouth or Dorset city. With 2653 square kilometres of land to choose from, you are sure to find an area of the county just right for you.


Dorset: a brief history

A historically sparsely populated region of the UK, much of Dorset’s history is tied up in the Jurassic Coast. The only natural World Heritage Site in England, the Jurassic Coast is 95 miles of picturesque coastline. It draws swathes of fossil hunters from around the globe and has been home to some incredible discoveries.

The county also played a large role in both World Wars. The Dorsetshire Regiment were actually the first to encounter a gas attack during World War 1. The county also lost substantial numbers of men during the First World War, specifically at the Battle of the Somme. During the Second World War, the county’s beaches were used for landing exercises to ready troops for the Normandy invasion.

After World War II, Dorset’s tourism grew in popularity. The incredible beaches began to draw visitors from across the UK. This continues today, with the quiet rural locations and exceptional coastline attracting tourists from around the globe. Today, tourism is the county’s biggest source of income.


Dorset: the culture of a coastal county

With miles of coastline as impressive as Dorset, it’s no wonder that much of the county’s culture is entrenched in outdoor living. For Dorset residents, walks on the beach are a regular part of enjoying life. There’s nearly 150km of coastline to explore, and fossil hunting is just one unique activity available here. There is also incredible forest to explore across the county: perfect for long hikes, bird watching or even cycling.

Known for its beauty, the county attracts artists and photographers looking to capture the impressive vistas. Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour has actually been voted the UK’s favourite nature reserve, famed for its exceptional natural beauty. And for flora and fauna enthusiasts, Wareham is considered the most botanically rich area in the entire country.

If you like warmer weather, a move to Dorset is the perfect choice. The county benefits from a notoriously mild climate (for the UK) and enjoys 364 hours more sun than other UK counties. Move here if you enjoy breath-taking scenery, outdoor pursuits, a warm climate and a sparse population.

Life in Dorset really is made for fans of coastal living. With tourist-favourite beaches like Bournemouth Sandbanks, Weymouth, Christchurch and Swanage to explore, your weekends will never be boring. Why not try a new hobby: kite surfing, paddle boarding, surfing and open water swimming are common beach activities across the county.

Dorset has a taste for the good life. Not only is the county beautiful, but it produces some exceptional food. With a very high standard of local produce and top-class seafood, the county has attracted more than its fair share of top chefs.


Things to do in Dorset

While the county may be sparsely populated, offering a slower pace of life than the UK’s big cities, don’t mistake this for a lack of things to do. The county has a plethora of exciting activities, places to see, and exceptional places to eat at.

At Santa Fe Relocation, we know that getting settled into a new place can be daunting, even down to what to do first. But our local experts are here to help.

Here’s our list of the top things to do for new Dorset residents:
• Try a festival – Dorset’s calendar is packed with festivals of all shapes and sizes. Why not try the Christchurch Food and Wine Festival, the Swanage Jazz Festival or the Sherboren Abbey Festival to start?
• Try a new water sport – since you will no doubt be spending most weekends, and even some afternoons enjoying the beautiful coastline, delve into trying the water sports available. From sailing to kayaking, open water swimming to kite surfing, there’s something for everyone.
• Go fossil hunting – with 95 miles of Jurassic Coastline to explore, this free activity is popular with Dorset residents. Take a leisurely stroll along the coast and see if you can pick up a dinosaur bone or two.
• Visit the apes at Monkey World – one for the animal lovers. Monkey World is one of the only Ape rescue and rehabilitation centres in the UK. It’s a great way to meet the 250 primates that have been rescued and help fund the incredible work.
• Try some local wine – thanks to the sunny climate and rich agricultural land, Dorset is making waves in the wine community. Why not visit one of the local vineyards and taste some locally produced wine to toast your new move.
• Give rock climbing a go – Portland in Dorset is widely considered one of the very best climbing locations in the UK. It makes a great activity for experienced climbers and thrill seekers looking to try something new.

Where to live in Dorset

Dorset consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the UK. But where to live in Dorset really comes down to what kind of lifestyle you are looking for. The county has a lot of variety on offer: coastal properties, town living and rural serenity. However, if you are looking for a bustling urban environment, this is not the county for you.

You’ll also discover very competitive housing prices here, unlike some of the neighbouring counties. The average detached house here is on sale for £450,000 (accurate as of April 2019). The rental market is equally reasonable, with apartments available from just £400 per month. The costs do fluctuate across the county, so expect to pay higher prices in tourist hot spots, city centres and for properties with a coastal view.

Here are some of our favourite locations:
• Sherborne – this market town is not widely known about, making it a bit of a hidden gem. It’s picturesque, has a range of lovely properties and good amenities.
• Bournemouth – with a busy city centre, great educational institutions, and excellent transport links this is the perfect urban base in Dorset. Not to forget, Bournemouth offers exceptional beaches.
• Christchurch – move here for a relaxed pace of life, and idyllic traditional cottages.
• Weymouth – this beautiful seaside town offers Georgian houses, Jurassic coastline and incredible sandy beaches. A great location for water sports fans.

If you are unsure which area of Dorset is the perfect match for you, let us help. At Santa Fe Relocation, we have 120 years of experience in helping to create the perfect move. Our Home Search service is just one way we do that. We get to know you, and then short list properties and areas that match your needs, lifestyle and style. We make moving home easy for you.


Dorset: family life and education

If you are moving to Dorset with a family, you can rest assured that the county has some good schools to choose from. The county is split up into three local education authorities: Dorset County Council, Bournemouth, and Poole. Depending on where your new home is, you will have you pick of great schools in one of the three areas.

Dorchester, Corfe Mullen, Ferndown and West Moors operate a three-tier education system; with children attending first, middle, then high school. The rest of the county operates a two-tier system: children attend primary then secondary schools.

Bournemouth and Poole operate a selective education system: both areas have two single sex grammar schools, with entrance via the eleven-plus school examination.

No matter where in the county you move, there are excellent schools. Most prominently, the independent schools rank highly. Many of the private schools here offer both boarding and day schooling.

Some of the best-known private schools are:
• Canford School
• St Mary’s Catholic Girls School
• Sherborne School for boys

Further education is provided by four institutions across the county: Weymouth College, Kingston Maurward College, Bournemouth College and Poole College. For those interested in higher education there is Bournemouth University and the Arts University of Bournemouth.

If you want additional information about the right school for your family, let us help. Santa Fe Relocation’s School Search experts short list excellent schools that meet your requirements and help with the application process. We use our expertise to make your move even easier.


Travel information

Dorset has good transport links considering the rural feel. It is actually just two and a half hours from London by car. The easy travel links to the capital and neighbouring counties, combined with the rural feel, is what attracts many people to Dorset.

There are also good rail links across the county. The train from Weymouth to Waterloo, London stops at Bournemouth, Poole, Wareham and Dorchester. There is a direct train between Swanage Railway station and London, and a good line that runs from Swanage to Bristol.

The county doesn’t have a motorway but is connected via a number of A-roads, with good links to the M3 which takes you to London. The roads across Dorset are good, but journey times will naturally be longer to main cities and railway stations the more rural your new home setting is.

For international travel, Dorset residents can either fly out of Bournemouth airport or travel to one of the major London airports. There are also Channel crossing ferries from Poole to the Channel Islands and St Malo in France.


How can Santa Fe Relocation help with your move to Dorset?

Moving home can be stressful, but not when you move with us. We’ve got 120 years of experience, and we offer personalised additional services to make it easy. With one point of contact, you can rest assured that every aspect of your move is being taken care of. So you can put your feet up and enjoy your move. 

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