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Discover Dorset

Far from the madding crowd

Dorset is an area that will surprise and delight any visitor, at any time of the year. On the sunny south coast, Dorset is a land of historic charm and nostalgia combined with the modern day comforts to be found in lively resorts. Famous for Dorset Cream Teas, Biscuit Knobs and Blue Vinny Cheese, there is so much more to this secret county waiting to be explored.

The changing coastline of Dorset stretching some 88 miles touches the New Forest to the east and to the west the pretty town of Lyme Regis renowned for fossil hunting and the dramatic Harbour Cobb, setting for the filming of the ‘French Lieutenants Woman’.

DorsetWith safe beaches, rugged cliff tops and tiny coves, walking the coastal path rewards you with stunning views across countryside and the sea. You may even be lucky enough to glimpse the dolphins at play off the Duriston headland, with guillemots circling the skies.

In the larger resorts of Bournemouth and Poole, award-winning beaches provide family fun and water sports in abundance. Bournemouth is an ideal family summer holiday choice, with accommodation to suit every need. Shopping in the town is a pleasure, followed by a stroll through the delightful gardens that lead directly to the pier and beaches. With a cosmopolitan flavour, the town bustles at night with theatres, cinemas, clubs and gourmet dining.

Neighbouring Poole boasts the largest natural harbour in Europe, where sailors, power boaters and windsurfers mingle amongst the islands of Brownsea, Furzey and Green. Along the Quay, relax in pubs and bistros overlooking the harbour and fishing boats at work, then treat yourself at the famous Poole Pottery Factory to a memento of your stay. Further along the coast is Victorian Swanage, nestling beneath the Purbeck Hills and a delight for all ages.

DorsetA ride on the Steam Railway, from Swanage up to the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle is a time capsule of majestic days gone by. Close by is the National Tank Museum at Bovington and home of the enigmatic Lawrence of Arabia who met his untimely death along the rhododendron clad lanes by his cottage at Clouds Hill.

A seaside holiday in Weymouth will most certainly be an eventful one. The resort is action packed with sailing, beach regattas, firework festivals and events all year. A leisurely day can be spent at Brewer’s Quay, a converted brewery warehouse, tucked away behind the Old Harbour. There you will discover speciality shops and tea-rooms and children will love to venture through the Timewalk to discover the secrets of Weymouth’s smuggling folklore.

However, there is more to Dorset than the seaside – a journey inland will reveal pretty villages at the end of winding country lanes. A place to relax and unwind with the seasons, and become a part of. There are many carnivals and village fairs throughout the year. Traditional thatched pubs, locally brewed ales and good food are plentiful. Historic market towns such as Christchurch, Sherborne, Shaftesbury, Blandford and Wimborne each have their own magical charm and nostalgia. Craft centres, art galleries, antique shops and emporiums lie waiting to tempt you with their curiosities. Discover original crafts at Walford Mill or soak up the tranquil graces of the converted Cisterian Abbey at Staplehill Crafts and Gardens. Further west lies the Broadwater Craft Centre close to the Brit Valley in the heart of rural Dorset. Whilst heading westwards, stop by Thomas Hardy’s birthplace and follow the Hardy Trail to learn more of his beloved ‘Wessex’. Much of what he wrote so passionately about is still very much in Dorset and has a rich and ancient history, from the cobbled Gold Hill and Abbey ruins in Shaftesbury to the Iron Age promontory fort at Hengistbury Head between Christchurch and Bournemouth. Throughout the area are examples of hill forts and barrows such as Maiden Castle, an amphitheatre at Maumbury Rings and an excavated Roman Town House at the county town of orchester. A trip there will also reveal the courtrooms where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried in 1834 and transported for forming a trade union.

DorsetChurches, Abbey, the Minster at Wimborne and the Priory in hristchurch all contribute to the heritage of Dorset alongside beautiful gardens, historic houses, animal parks, museums and galleries. There are so many places to visit you won’t want to leave.

For the more adventurous, there are long distance walks and cycle ways, horse-riding, fishing and a choice of many golf courses in the area. All this, plus a full calendar of events all year round. The choice is endless and the time is yours.

Images courtesy of English Heritage


©2006 Amra Media Solutions Ltd