Dorset Museum

What are the best Dorset Museums?

For a county awash with history, it comes as no surprise that Dorset has a superb array of excellent museums. But with so many on offer, which ones should you make a bee line for? That partly depends on what floats your historical boat. Take a look at the George Albert guide to the best Dorset museums for some top tips.

Dorset Museum & Art Gallery

High West Street, Dorchester. DT1 1XA

Where better to start in this historic county than the history-rich County Museum. The focus here is wonderfully broad - spanning 250 million years of Dorset stories, told through imaginative displays.

Exhibits range from palaeontology and archaeology to history, art and culture. Which means you get to encounter an extraordinary range of artefacts. Dinosaur remains include the well-preserved 155 million year-old fossilised skull of the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur. Archaeology includes Bronze Age gold, local Roman-era discoveries and finds from the massive Iron Age hill fort at nearby Maiden Castle.

But perhaps the highlights of this, one of the best Dorset museums, are the engaging displays about Wessex wordsmith, Thomas Hardy. These feature a recreation of his study, original manuscripts and personal letters. 

Roman Town House 

Colliton Park, Dorchester. DT1 1XJ

Next, one of the best free Dorset museums. Heading to the back of the County Council offices might seem an unusual way to find an intriguing insight into the past, but that’s what you get if you go to Colliton Park, on the north side of County Hall,

That’s where you’ll find the Roman Town House. This superb site is free to visit. You enter via a kissing gate which leads to the preserved remains of a fine Roman town house. A contemporary reconstruction of the rest of the structure has been added, sensitively, providing a powerful echo of the Roman era. 

Underneath you get to see low flint walls and beautifully preserved mosaics, as well as the remains of the underfloor heating - or hypocaust - which created comfy room temperatures of around 18°C. 

The Keep Military Museum 

Bridport Rd, Dorchester. DT1 1RN

Still in Dorchester, and just a few minutes away, one of our favourite Dorset museums is the Keep Military Museum. It takes you on an absorbing journey into stories relating to a local military past. The first thing you notice is the striking Grade II listed keep itself - an impressive gatehouse for the Depot Barracks of the Dorsetshire Regiment. 

Once inside, you’ll encounter everything from medals, uniforms and weapons, to Hitler’s desk - which was taken from the ruins of the Chancellory in Berlin in 1945. Round off your visit by stepping up to the battlements for sweeping views of Dorchester and the surrounding hills & fields.

Bridport Museum

South St, Bridport. DT6 3NR

Next up in our tour of Dorset Museums is the beautifully bijou Bridport Museum. Exhibits here are firmly rooted in the town’s past. And what a past. Expect to find 180 million years of rocks and fossils that take in massive marine reptiles, ammonites and belemnites.

Look out too for the significant collections telling the story of rope and net making - massively-important industries for the local area for the last 180 years. Add Iron Age coins and Roman armour, jewellery, amulets and tools, and you have a heritage-themed winner


Nothe Fort 

Barrack Rd, Weymouth. DT4 8UF

Nothe Fort is arguably the most spectacularly-sited of the Dorset museums. Weymouth’s highest-ranked museum and heritage attraction sits on a promontory directly south of the town itself. This strategic position means the fortification here can offer everything from underground tunnels and a Victorian Gun Deck, to the sweeping view of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

Nothe has recently been the subject of a £2.4 million conservation programme, and your visit now includes three films which really capture the evolution of the fort. 


Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum

Dorchester Road, Tolpuddle. DT2 7EH

While Dorset is a beautifully relaxed county to visit on holiday, it’s also a county with an incredibly important industrial past. The next one of our Dorset museums conveys how a sequence of events in 1834 helped shape the rights we have in the UK today.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum charts the story of the six Dorset farm workers who were arrested and convicted over their role in setting up a trade union to fight for better wages.

Their sentence was harsh - the brutal process of being transported to Australia. The museum evocatively conveys how an ensuing country-wide campaign, mass protests and an 800,000-strong petition, led to the men being pardoned and allowed to return home, some three years later. 


Tank Museum 

Linsay Rd, Bovington, Wareham. BH20 

The last of our Dorset museums is one with an awful lot of firepower. The Tank Museum at Bovington houses 300 military machines, with representatives of every key conflict since the First World War. 

This means you get to see the evolution of the vehicles from the lumbering Little Willie of 1915, via WWII’s Sherman tanks to the the formidable Centurion’s of the Iraq War. And the museum is not just about machinery. It also does an evocative job of telling the narratives of the people who played such key roles in events too. 

Look out too for the Live Action displays, usually in the local Easter, May and school summer holidays. When you’ll see - and hear - tanks roll into action, amid full commentary and lifelike explosions.


Discover Dorset Museums from the George Albert Hotel

With so many Dorset museums to visit, you don’t have to be a paid up history buff to want to spend more than one day. At The George Albert Hotel we recommend you spread your museum visits over several trips, working in some hiking, beach-going and sightseeing as well.

And when you do you’ll want a superbly-sited, supremely comfortable, welcoming hotel. At The George Albert Hotel we pride ourselves in being just that. We’re in a great location - just 10 miles from the wealth of museums in Dorchester. While Bridport, Weymouth and Tolpuddle are within 18 miles, and Bovington is just 25 miles away.

At The George Albert Hotel a busy day sightseeing can be followed by a delightful meal at our Kings Restaurant, before you relax in your spacious, comfortable, stylish room, complete with a deluxe bathroom and supremely comfy bed.

In fact we think you’ll agree that The George Albert Hotel is an ideal place to discover Dorset’s heritage and make your own fabulous memories.

Discover your next stay here.