5 Things to See and Do at The Shire Hall Museum in Dorchester

On Sunday I headed over to the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum with Ed and the kids, arranged by the lovely people over at Jelly Rock PR, a local PR company. The museum, which is situated in the High Street of Dorchester, is open daily between 10am and 5pm and provides a fun and educational day out for adults and children alike. We really enjoyed our time at the museum, and I wanted to share with you our highlights from the visit. Interactive iPads & Audio Guides Before we entered the main museum, we were given the option of audio guides, or an interactive iPad to guide us around and keep the children occupied. The children went with the iPads and Ed chose to use the audio guide, which meant he was very much in a world of his own all the way around (tip: it’s probably best to use these when visiting without children). He said that the guide had been really interesting and had given the visit a greater depth, as he had been listening from a different person’s perspective. The iPads were brilliant for the children. Cameron is seven, and I think he found it more rewarding than his younger sister who’s five, as he was able to read along himself. Having said this, both kids were totally engrossed in the mystery box treasure hunt, and Carly was in her element when it came to drawing her name in graffiti using the iPad.The only issue with technology like this, is it can be temperamental at times, and we found that the mug shot wouldn’t take properly on Carly’s device, which was a shame, as she enjoyed the concept.Visiting the Cells Carly was a little apprehensive about this part of the museum. A member of staff had joked about the kids being locked in the cells whilst down there, and Carly takes things very literally at the moment, and it scared her. I found this the most interesting part of our visit, and loved reading about the holding cells, and different crimes people would have committed in order to end up there. As well as lots of photo opportunities, this section gave us and the kids a real insight into the history of the building.Dressing Up in the Courtroom I’m a total sucker for interactive areas in museums, and what better way to immerse yourself in history than to dress up and ‘become’ the characters from the past? The children, and myself *ahem*, had a fantastic time dressing up in robes and a wig and pretending to be the magistrate, before also donning some of the hats of those in the stands. There was also the chance to try your hand at transcribing, and several case handbooks you could read into. This was by far our favourite area as a family, and well worth dedicating some time to during your visit (tip: if it’s busy when you first arrive in the area, hang around and wait for things to quieten down, as you’ll be able to get more photos and feel less rushed). Lunch in the Cafe After a quick look around the temporary exhibition that was on, which was all about the US civil rights movement, we handed the iPads and audio guide back in and headed over to the cafe for some lunch.The selection was fairly small, but very reasonably priced, with most options around £5 or less. We opted for the kids lunch box for the three children, Ed went for an egg mayonnaise roll, and I decided on a jacket potato with cheese and beans. The portions were generous, with plenty of fresh salad and garnish on the side of mine and Ed’s plates, and the children’s boxes included half a sandwich, a bag of crisps, a drink, piece of fruit and a chocolate bar, which went down well with our fussy eaters!There’s a brunch time menu as well, which Ed had his eye on, but it’s only served until midday. If you fancy something to eat and drink but aren’t looking for a proper meal, they have a offer on for a cake and drink, the cakes looked incredible, especially the chocolate brownie and flapjack, but we were too hot to eat anything else, and made our retreat. Souvenirs from the Shop As we left, we visited the gift shop. I liked that it wasn’t situated so that you had no choice but to go through it, as with most attractions. The children picked up a couple of bits each – Carly went for a little notepad and pen, and Cameron wanted a colourful rubber and mini soft globe, as he’s very into his geography at the moment. All four souvenirs came to around £6, which wasn’t too bad, compared to other places. We really enjoyed our visit to Shire Hall, and would recommend a visit. What’s great about the ticket price (£8.50 adults, £4.50 child, £20 family) is that it allows you to return however many times you want for a year, which is brilliant if you feel you missed anything on your first visit, and makes it a very affordable attraction. In hindsight, I don’t think the museum was overly suitable for Benjamin, who is just under two. He got a bit bored, and the venue isn’t overly pushchair friendly (although there are lifts for those visiting in a wheelchair), which meant that one of us had to keep carrying him in order to stop him from running off. Both the older children enjoyed themselves, and I think the iPads added that extra little something to the visit for them. We were invited along by Jelly Rock PR and provided with complimentary entry and lunch for the purpose of this review. All views and images are my own.

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