Real Ale Trails

Our annual festival could not go ahead this year, so our celebration of beer is instead supporting our pubs. The last few months have been difficult for pubs. There is no better time to visit our pubs and show them support. There are 371 pubs in Dorset which all have something to offer and are worthy of a visit and your support.

Our pubs trail simply a way to help you to find some of the best beer, and our best pubs, as previously voted for by CAMRA members who live in or have visited Dorset. We have developed seven pub trails.

You will find here 8 maps. One includes all the pubs that meet our criteria for inclusion: that is that they have appeared in the Good Beer Guide at least once in the last ten years. Also on this map we have marked the breweries and cider producers. Some sadly cannot accept visitors, others are doing takeaways only, it is worth checking these prior to visiting.

We cannot include every pub, if you would like to explore a wider range of pubs then these can be found on Whatpub . So the pubs showcased are those that have appeared in at least one edition of the Good Beer Guide between 2010 and 2021. Over the years there have been 400+ pubs eligible for entry in to the Good Beer Guide. Those selected are those voted on by CAMRA members using the beer scoring system linked to from Whatpub, voting the quality of the ale out of 5 on each visit.. They need 20 separate visits if they are in the towns, 10 if in a rural area and to be eligible need to score an average of 3.5 our of 5 or above. We are allowed 28 pubs for East Dorset, so it is the top 28 that are selected each year.

Our trails cover Boscombe to Christchurch, including Southbourne; Bournemouth; Corfe Castle, Corfe Castle to Swanage & Wool to Lulworth; Parkstone, Branksome and Westbourne; Poole, Wareham; and Wimborne.  The trails also include pubs which are on the trail and are doing something interesting in terms of offering cask or craft keg ale.

We hope you enjoy following the trail, that they give you some ideas for a day or evening out. Enjoy!

a collection of Good Beer Guide covers

Maps of areas
Click to view map

Our branch region covers the towns of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, as well as the towns and villages in the surrounding county stretching to Wool in the West, Mudeford in the East and Shroton in the North. Currently the whole country region is subject to tier 1 rules. Our understanding is that you can visit the pub with others in a group of up to 6. But do please check tier 1 rules on Gov.uk before you plan your visit.

Some pubs also have limited space and so while our trails have some pubs reasonably close together it may be necessary to book a table and plan in advance. Also their opening time may vary so it is worth contacting them (by telephone, via social media, etc.) and plan your trail more than would normally be the case. This is particularly the case if you are going to go on a trail as part of a group of 6. Do please remember that the rules have been imposed on the pubs as much as they have on us the drinkers, if a pub cannot allow you entry it is not their fault it is simply because they cannot accommodate you safely or in accordance with the current government rules.

Boscombe to Christchurch

Boscombe grew in the Victorian era as increasing numbers sought to live by the sea, hence its various terraces named after prominent Victorian politicians built to house those who would serve the houses and hotels of the wealthy migrants from London. Southbourne has evolved as a further extension to this suburb, hugging the clifftops with the same contrast of opulent housing with sea views on one side of the high street and terraced housing for the workers on the other. While suffering with the decline of the British seaside, both now has a vibrant and eclectic character. This contrasts with historic Christchurch, dominated by the Castle ruins and 11th Century Priory, this small town retains a medieval look. The historical and Victorian era pubs are challenged by micropubs and microbrewery taps making this a trail of contrasts, it can be followed by bus or train.

Corfe Castle to Swanage & Wool to Lulworth

The fading splendour of Corfe, the village mainly built from stone rescued after the castle was torn down during the English Civil War and breath-taking natural beauty of the Isle of Purbeck and surrounds are a must visit. The stunning views over the bay from Lulworth to Worth Matravers are worth the walk from the bus route, and can be enjoyed with a pint at one of the few pubs which has been in every Good Beer Guide, the Square and Compass. If cliff top walks are not your bag, the historic port of Swanage offers the seaside experience of a bygone age and the heritage Swanage Steam Railway can be used to roll through to Corfe.

Parkstone, Branksome & Westbourne

The Victorians would have known Parkstone, Branksome and Westbourne as villages, suburbs of the old port of Poole. While there is now no real separation between them they have a unique character. The Victorian arcades of Westbourne, once the gateway to Hampshire, give way to the residential Branksome surrounding its railway station. Upper Parkstone sprawls over steep hills in the uplands of Poole. Lower Parkstone sit in the valley and is renowned for its vibrancy. Across these areas there are a wide range of pubs to visit. The route is well served by Yellow and More buses.

Bournemouth

Founded in 1810, Bournemouth is the most populated area sprawling across a range of suburbs from Kinson in the north, to the more immediate Winton and Charminster areas and then the heart of the town across East and West Cliffs. While originally a place for Victorians to escape the London smog, it now caters more for tourists, stag nights and the ever-growing student population ensuring a diverse and eclectic night life. The trail takes you around the suburbs and to the West Cliff with its own brewery. All routes are well served by frequent bus services.

Poole Town

The settlement of Poole goes back to the Iron Age and over its history it has been a thriving port, shelled by the Spanish Armada, seen launches for the D-Day landings and more recently is the home of luxury yacht maker Sunseeker. The old town remains unspoilt and reflects its trading history, the quay bustles now with tourists rather than stevedores unloading cargo, and the skyline is seeing increasing numbers of luxury flats providing views over the bay to Brownsea Island. The pubs, reflecting the town, are mix of historical and modern. The town enjoys very good bus and rail links and remains perfect for a day out or a week away.

Wareham

Built on the confluence of the Frome and Piddle rivers, the settle dates back to the Mesolithic era and the modern town reflects its history. The walkable ramparts were built by Alfred the Great to hold back the Vikings, there are site of various battles from the time of the Civil War and some buildings retain the scars of the 1762 Great Fire of Wareham. Accessible by bus and train, this historic market town is the gateway to the Isle of Purbeck but offers a unique experience of spectacular nature and history, regular markets and a range of events on the quayside that celebrate longstanding traditions of the area.

Wimborne

The Saxon church, with Norman and Gothic architecture, famed for its chained library and the tomb of King Ethelred and surrounding 15th, 16th and 17th century buildings are at the heart of the historic Minster town surrounded by the spectacular Cranborne Chase. The town hosts a Folk Festival which attracts visitors from across the area and offers a vibrancy reflective of its heritage. The town has always been home to a broad range of pubs and this remains true today, truly offering something for everyone. Wimborne is accessible from Bournemouth and Poole by bus, a good day out to the town must include a walk to the heritage pub The Vine.

Transport provider links

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