The best pubs in Dorset

Penned on the 7th September 2022

The best pubs in Dorset

The southwest county of Dorset is a wonderful location to explore. From its rolling green hills and picturesque towns to its stunning UNESCO coastline laden with prehistoric fossils, there’s something for families, couples, hikers, history-buffs and nature-lovers alike to enjoy. And after a long day of exploring what better way to refuel and rest your weary legs than settling down for a little while in a cosy pub? Whether you’re looking to warm up by a log fire with a real ale or bask in the sun in a beer garden with a view, Dorset has a fantastic array of great British pubs to choose from. Here are some of our favourites.

The Acorn Inn, Evershot

In a nutshell: Thomas Hardy meets fine cuisine

Exterior of Thomas Hardy's Historic Acorn Inn

This 16th-century coaching inn in the small parish of Evershot is loaded with character and charm. It was featured in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and its beautiful setting and traditional interiors will transport you straight to the pages of the novel. But it's not just the literary connections that The Acorn Inn is famous for. Their menu (and chef!) have picked up multiple awards and accolades. They serve a good range of ‘farm-to-table’ seasonal food, from classics like the ploughman’s platter to fine a la carte dishes like Portland lamb chops with potato and thyme terrine and wild mushrooms. Whether you’re eating or just stopping for a drink, the atmosphere is welcoming and cosy in all weathers too. On a cool day, savour a pint of local Otter Ale by the roaring fire, or if the sun’s shining sit outside and sip a Pimms in the quaint beer garden.

For more incredible places to eat take a look at our guide to ‘The best places to eat in Dorset’.


Square & Compass, Worth Matravers

In a nutshell: Quirky, with a sea view

Beer garden at the Square & Compass

Set high above the hills of Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck is the fascinating Square & Compass. This pub is a Dorset institution - and is worth a visit for all sorts of reasons! It’s quirky all over, from its home-brewed scrumpy and pasty & pie menu to its in-house fossil museum and tiny bar. What it lacks in size it makes up for in welcoming hospitality though, hosting frequent live music events, open-air theatres and festivals. Unsurprisingly, Square & Compass is popular with locals and visitors alike. It’s often buzzing with happy drinkers and dogs, both inside under the cosy, low-beamed ceilings and outside on the stone-carved stools and tables overlooking the glittering sea below.


The World’s End, Almer

In a nutshell: Easygoing & spacious

Beer garden at The World's End

Just off the A31 at the ‘gateway to Dorset’ you’ll find this beautiful thatch-roofed pub, The World’s End. It’s been a public house for almost 600 years (rumoured to be the oldest in Dorset) and is brimming with history - Churchill and Eisenhower were said to have met here to discuss preparations for D-Day! Nowadays, whilst still traditional in appearance, their easygoing atmosphere, friendly service and modern British dishes make it a perfect pitstop to relax with a locally-sourced hearty meal or a tasty ale, cider or wine. The spacious garden and meadow is great for families (and dogs), or if you’d prefer a cosy corner indoors, there are plenty of spots to tuck into.


The Anchor Inn, Seatown

In a nutshell: Traditional ales & modern seafood

Entrance to The Anchor Inn

This multi-award-winning pub is tucked away between the cliffs of the stunning Jurassic Coast, overlooking Seatown Beach. It’s part of Palmer’s Brewery (the oldest thatched brewery in the UK, based just up the road in Bridport) and for over 160 years has been serving thirst-quenching real ales. Sit out on a beachside bench and listen to the sea lapping on the shore while you savour some fresh seafood. Or on a blustery day, enjoy the inviting, traditional interiors and settle in for something hearty to warm your cockles. Whatever the weather, after your meal you can step right outside onto the sand for a beach stroll and some fossil-hunting.


Brewhouse & Kitchen, Bournemouth

In a nutshell: Craft beers in Dorset’s biggest town

Pub grub at the Brewhouse & Kitchen

Whilst it’s not a pub in a traditional sense, this microbrewery and pub is currently rated number one on Tripadvisor for pubs in Bournemouth (Dorset’s largest town and coastal resort) so it’s well worth including on our list! They serve over 50 of their own unique craft beers, many of which have been brewed on-site, as well as a beer-matched food menu of flavourful small plates and hearty mains. Enjoy the comfy and casual interiors inside, or choose to sit outside in one of the quirky beer garden beach huts. Plus, if you fancy a visit with a difference you can try a beer masterclass, gin tasting masterclass, whisky & beer pairing, or a brewery experience day. 


The Greyhound, Sydling St Nicholas

In a nutshell: Dog-friendly dining

Fresh seafood at the Greyhound

The Greyhound is a centuries-old coaching house in the idyllic, chocolate-box village of Sydling St Nicholas, nestled amongst rolling hills and flowing streams. The award-winning fine dining menu changes daily but always features local produce, such as Dorset beef or Chalk Stream Trout. To drink, you’ll find real ales and lagers on draught, plus a good selection of wines and a range of malt whiskies. Dogs are very welcome in the traditional bar area (complete with a cosy wood-burner) and you can even request a bowl of kibble for hungry four-legged guests. The Greyhound is well-located for dog walks too, with the Wessex Ridge and plenty of different routes nearby.


The Red Lion, Weymouth

In a nutshell: Nautical, with classic pub grub

Local ales at The Red Lion

The Red Lion is one of the most famous pubs in the pretty seaside town of Weymouth. It’s also known as the ‘lifeboat man’s pub’ for its close proximity to the Weymouth RNLI - and it certainly celebrates its seafaring connections, with nautical pictures and artefacts on the walls, ‘Lifeboat Ale’ on cask and over 100 rums behind the bar. Hungry visitors will enjoy the Red Lion’s homemade pub classics like the fish pie, crab sandwich or chicken club burger. It’s worth sitting outside in the large sunny beer garden, if the weather allows, where there’s often live music on Sundays in the summer too. 


The Bankes Arms, Studland

In a nutshell: Locally-brewed beers by the beach

Exterior of The Bankes Arms

At the eastern tip of the Isle of Purbeck you’ll find the tiny village of Studland, with beautiful beaches and views over the chalky outcrops of Old Harry. You’ll also find The Bankes Arms, a traditional 16th century inn and old smugglers haunt, built from Purbeck stone. It’s home to the Isle of Purbeck Brewery so stop by to sample one of their award-winning beers or, if you’re hungry, some mouthwatering pub grub. Expect locally-caught fresh fish in the summer and casseroles, games and pies in the winter. There’s plenty of seating indoors but, if you can, sit out in the large garden for far-reaching views across the coastlines of Poole and Bournemouth. 


The Thimble Inn, Piddlehinton

In a nutshell: Like something from a postcard

Wild flowers at The Thimble Inn

This thatch-roofed inn looks as picture-perfect as it sounds. Nestled in the tranquil Piddle Valley not far from Dorchester, it’s surrounded by scenic green gardens and streams with plenty of outdoor seating. Inside, the antique furniture and sandstone and oak floors match the pub’s rich historic past. Behind the bar you’ll find Palmer’s Brewery real ales and on the food menu, fresh seasonal dishes like ‘pan-roasted sea bass’, ‘pork schnitzel’ or ‘Thimble pie’ served with an indulgent Dorset clotted cream mash. Check what’s on before you visit too because The Thimble Inn often hosts open mic nights, festivals and live music events.


The Scott Arms, Kingston

In a nutshell: Real ale & jerk chicken 

Sunset view and al fresco dining at The Scott arms

The Scott Arms is right in the heart of the pretty village of Kingston and boasts a garden with stunning panoramic views across Corfe Castle ruins and the Purbeck countryside. This is an historic pub with a modern twist. The cosy interiors blend old with new - but, more notably, in the summer months the ‘Jerk Shak’ in the garden serves up authentic jerk chicken and curried goat made by co-owner Nicky who’s from Jamaica, with mellow reggae playing in the background. In the winter there’s less reggae but the menu is just as appealing, with lots of wholesome seasonal specials. And there’s a decent selection of ales, ciders and wines too.


Lulworth Cove Inn, Lulworth Cove

In a nutshell: Perfect for a pub walk

Sunny day at the Lulworth Cove Inn

Set on the edge of the crescent-shaped Lulworth Cove, one of the Jurassic Coast’s most iconic sites, Lulworth Cove Inn is perfectly placed for a rest after walking and exploring this part of Dorset. Whether you’ve been combing the pebble beach for fossils or out for a stomp on the south west coast path, stop here to refuel with an award-winning Badger cask ale, world lager or wine and tuck into pub favourites like fish & chips or a steak & ale pie. Sit in to enjoy the bright interiors if you’d like some respite on a chilly day, or if it’s warm enough, choose to sit out in the fresh sea air on the terrace. As you’d expect, the views are breathtaking. 

If you’re looking for more coastal walks in Dorset, get some inspiration and route ideas from our blog post here. 


The Countryman Inn, East Knighton

In a nutshell: Family-friendly fun

Exterior of The Countryman Inn

A few miles north of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door sits this family-friendly, family-run pub. The Countryman Inn has plenty of space in the welcoming main bar and restaurant, as well as a beer garden with a great children’s play area to keep little ones entertained while you enjoy a peaceful cold pint or a glass of wine in the sunshine. To eat, they serve pub classics, seasonal favourites and a popular Sunday lunch, with several mini options available on the kid’s menu. There’s often quiz nights, karaokes and live music here too, so there’s something for visitors of all ages to enjoy! 


The Silent Woman Inn, Wareham

In a nutshell: A hidden gem

Beer garden at The Silent Woman Inn

This inn in the heart of Wareham Forest was once a popular haunt for smugglers, and legend has it that it earned its name from a once talkative landlady who gave away the smuggler’s secrets at a local market, so they cut off her tongue. Today it’s still popular but, thankfully, less grisly! Award-winning Badger Beer is served on tap, alongside carefully chosen wines and ciders. When it comes to food this pub is all about ‘smokehouse’ - think smoked meats, steak and grills with sides of chips, garlic bread and corn-the-cob. And you can eat al fresco in the picturesque landscaped gardens. The Silent Woman is worth veering off the beaten track for. 



Where to stay in Dorset

If you’re looking for a glamping holiday with a difference in Dorset, we have several beautiful hideaways to choose from in the countryside and on the coast.


Toby's Hut 

Colourful and quirky shepherd's hut in Dorset

A little further to the north is Toby’s Hut, a beautiful and colourful shepherd’s hut set amongst the unspoilt Dorset hills. This bespoke hut for two has a wood-burner and a private hot tub, making it an idyllic spot to relax after your day of exploring, eating and drinking. The owner is an artist and you’ll find some of her sculptures around the grounds too.


La Cabine Francaise 

Romantic shepherd's hut in Dorset

A beautiful shepherd’s hut with a French twist, La Cabine Francaise is situated in the peaceful countryside near Dorchester. The elegant interiors and underfloor heating are just a couple of the lavish touches you’ll enjoy if you choose to stay here. For a luxury, romantic escape to nature, that's also dog friendly, look no further.


See our full selection of Dorset retreats here. 


And if you’re keen to start planning your adventures, take a look at our Guide to exploring the Jurassic Coast for lots of ideas for things to see and do in this idyllic part of the UK. 


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