A short distance from Dorchester you’ll find Poundbury, a vibrant town that’s home to more than 200 businesses, including shops, cafés, an art gallery and a garden centre. Poundbury was more or less plucked from the imagination of HRH The Prince of Wales. Not only is it built on Duchy of Cornwall land, but it was constructed in accordance with the architecture and urban planning Prince Charles advocates in his book, ‘A Vision of Britain’. This royal seal of approval is no doubt part of the reason it attracts so many wonderful independent businesses.
Bonjour Cafe serves handmade bakes, cakes, fresh coffee and lunches. But this pink café on the corner is perhaps most well-known for its delicious fudgy brownies. Head here at the right time and you can also pick up some lovely local flowers, or peruse their larder full of Dorset produce.
Another must-visit foodie spot is The Potting Shed. Its owners gathered recipes for potted olives from their motorbike travels around the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. They then put this knowledge into practice by opening their very own deli serving fine wines, local produce, spicy marinades, cheeses and, crucially, jars of aromatic green olives. Find the bistro on Queen Mother’s Square. They offer lunch with seasonal menus or head in the morning for a Spanish Breakfast or flaky pastry.
Monart Spa is a 5-star spa equipped with a full Thermal Suite. Relax tense muscles with their different heating and cooling rituals – they have a Sauna, Steam Room, Sanarium, Salt Grotto and unique experience showers. Ease into their hydrotherapy pool and let your neck and back be gently massaged by jets of water.
Rhubarb Candle Company is a family-run business who create heavenly scented candles, all hand-poured, made using soy wax from sustainable, ethical farms. Their wax is even compostable. It’s a lovely bright shop to wander round sampling fragrances reminiscent of floral country meadows, warming Moroccan spices, or vintage barbershops. Or, like its namesake, the smell of tart rhubarb.
Spark the imagination of little ones at Boo’s Toys with their collection of charming wooden toys and cute plush creatures for newborns. There’s wonderful families of animals, Danish-designed toy sets and rainbow fidgets for sensory play. Overall a massive selection of playthings for younger children that encourage imagination, creativity and the magic of solving puzzles.
Cherryade Life Store was founded in 2013 by husband-and-wife team Ian & Ginette Stanley. Featuring carefully curated items for life and home, the store’s aesthetic is inspired by trends that influence modern life: slow living, minimalism, wabi-sabi, self-care, sustainability and the use of natural materials and textures. Inside the store, high ceilings and huge arched windows create a space full of light, giving a welcoming and calming atmosphere in which customers can browse collections of design-led home and lifestyle items, houseplants, dried botanicals, ethically conscious jewellery, beautiful and functional stationery and high-quality greeting cards.
Dorset Wine is an independent merchant specialising in an interesting selection of alcohol from all over the globe. Ask their knowledgeable staff about the rows of dark bottles to hear the stories behind the wine. The perfect place for non-pretentious advice on how to enjoy it or for sipping a glass of vino on the square.
Should you be looking to stay the night, The Duchess of Cornwall Inn should do nicely. While it’s fairly standard for a chain inn – it’s part of the Hall & Woodhouse portfolio – the building itself is rather regal in its proportions and the country-style interiors contain many artefacts from the Woodhouse family.
Visitors to Poundbury can take advantage of free parking, but the best way to discover the town is by foot. You’re bound to find one of the many free maps floating around if you pop into a local shop or cafe. There’s also three parks to discover, including outside gym equipment on The Great Field.
The historic Maiden Castle is right on Poundbury’s doorstep. It’s one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe, spanning the size of 50 football pitches. It boasts over 6,000 years of history, so make sure you read up on the site before you visit to fully immerse yourself in its unique past.