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Things to do in Poole, Dorset

Poole is a large coastal resort in Dorset, five miles west of Bournemouth

The boats at Poole harbour © Colin Jackson
The boats at Poole harbour © Colin Jackson

Poole is a popular tourist resort, with plenty of boating activities in the harbour, Blue Flag beaches and an Arts Centre.

Many cross-channel ferry services carry both passengers and cargo to the continent. The Royal Marines also have a base in the harbour.

Poole is the main headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

A large part of Bournemouth University is also located in the town. There is a pleasant waterfront and many shops serving the population of around 138,000.

Things to do in Poole

Located on the historic Quay, Poole Pottery is world-famous. Visitors can see the pots being made and hand-painted and then browse in the extensive showroom. You can also paint your own mug, plate or box to take home.

The area around Poole has wooded chines, heathland and coastal mudflats which are home to a wide range of wildlife and migrating birds.

The boats at Poole harbour © Colin Jackson
The boats at Poole harbour © Colin Jackson

Brownsea Island is in Poole harbour and was the home of the original Boy Scouts movement. The island is accessible by ferry and is owned by The National Trust.

Poole is also the start of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast which is known for its prehistoric fossils. For walkers, the South West Coast Path runs through Poole providing some pleasant walks and breathtaking seascapes.

Visit the ruins of Corfe Castle or see how it would have looked in its prime at the Corfe Castle Miniature Village.

Other popular family attractions include the National Motor Museum and Gardens at Beaulieu, Abbotsbury Swannery and Poole Park with its jungle playground and ice skating.

History of Poole

This lovely area with its natural harbour, the largest in Europe, was settled pre-Iron Age. In the 1st century AD the Romans landed and took over the settlement at Hamworthy.

During the 3rd century, the Celts moved down to the harbour from their hilltop settlements.

By Anglo-Saxon times the town was part of the ancient kingdom of Wessex. It was an important resting place for ships before they travelled up the River Frome. Fishing was an important local industry.

The boats at Poole harbour © Colin Jackson
The boats at Poole harbour © Colin Jackson

Poole had two Viking invasions, by Guthrum in 876AD and by Canute in 1015 AD.

The port was shown on records in the 12th century and it prospered with the wool trade during the 15th century.

Henry VI even granted the town permission to build a town wall.

During the English Civil War Poole took the side of the Parliamentarians and the local garrison captured the Royalist stronghold at Corfe Castle.

Trade with Newfoundland allowed Poole to benefit from international trade.

Ships carried salt and provisions up to Newfoundland, brought dried and salted fish back to Europe and then imported wine, dried fruit and olive oil back to Britain.

By the 18th century, Poole was one of the busiest ports in Britain and the wealth it created can be seen in the magnificent mansions and buildings in the Old Town.

Unfortunately, this massive rebuilding project meant that many historic buildings were demolished in the process.

During the Second World War Poole was an important departure point for the D-Day Landings and a major supply base for Allied Forces.

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