Visit Dorset and immerse yourself in a world of unspoilt countryside, enticing seaside towns, glorious sandy beaches and a dramatic fossil-strewn Jurassic coastline.
World Heritage Coastline
You’ll feel a real connection with our ancient past in Dorset, from the Jurassic cliffs around charming Lyme Regis to the soaring limestone archway of Durdle Door. Dorset’s entire 95 miles of spectacular coastline was designated as England’s first UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The coast is world famous for its outstanding geology, fossils and dramatic cliffs revealing 185 million years of the earth’s history.
Pull on your walking boots and explore Dorset’s section of the South West Coast Path and you’ll come across iconic natural landmarks such as the breathtaking Lulworth Cove, Golden Cap - the highest point on the south coast and the towering cliffs of West Bay. The dramatic 18 mile stretch of Chesil Beach with its Fleet Lagoon joins the rugged Isle of Portland to the mainland. There are also sheltered sandy beaches to enjoy at the quintessential seaside resorts of Weymouth and Swanage as well as Studland with its four-mile stretch of butterscotch-coloured sands, and the historic town of Christchurch with its immense natural harbour. If you’re feeling more adventurous, see the Jurassic Coast from a different perspective by trying coasteering.
Dorset’s rural areas are almost entirely designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Nestled amongst the rolling hills, you find lively market towns each with their own distinct charm including Dorchester, Sherborne, Wimborne Minster and Bridport. Discover fascinating landmarks in and around the many Portland-stone villages, such as the romantic ruins of Corfe Castle, the mysterious chalk giant at Cerne Abbas and the picturesque Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, to name a few.
These idyllic landscapes have inspired many writers and film-makers over the years. Dorset is the home of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wessex’. It was recently the setting for a recent Hollywood adaptation of his novel; Far From the Madding Crowd. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures featured Corfe Castle and WW1 legend T.E. Lawrence resided at a tiny cottage near Wareham.
The varied countryside includes forests, heathlands, country parks, river valleys and Iron Age hill forts such as Maiden Castle. This is the home to rare and unusual wildlife – spot orchids, otters, kingfishers, water voles, rare reptiles and 85% of the UK’s butterfly species.
Food and drink
Dorset is famous for the quality of its produce and many top chefs including Rick Stein and Mark Hix have relocated here to take advantage of the fresh produce right on their doorstep. It won’t take long to find a cosy pub or stylish restaurant serving top quality cuisine and locally-brewed ales. Sample the delights of Chococo Chocolates, Dorset knob biscuits, Blue Vinney Cheese and local seafood plucked straight from the sea. The area’s food is also celebrated in a number of nationally-recognised events including the Christchurch Food and Wine Festival, Dorset Food Week and the Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival in Weymouth.
Great days out
There’s plenty to entertain the whole family in Dorset. Go in search of prehistoric treasure on a guided fossil hunt or visit the world-famous Abbotsbury Swannery. Take a trip on the Swanage Railway, ride in a tank, trek with a llama and meet the monkeys at Monkey World.
There are ancient ruins, historic castles and fortresses to explore as well as sumptuous houses and gardens to tour including Athelhampton House, Mapperton House, Highcliffe Castle, Kingston Lacy and Sherborne Castle.