Dorset, on the south coast of England, is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It is characterized by its rolling hills, sandy beaches, beautiful villages and World Heritage status coastline. Historically it goes back to the Jurassic period with many amazing fossil finds on the beaches, ancient hill forts such as Maiden Castle near Dorchester, stone circles and earth barrows or burial sites.
Ancient towns such as Shaftesbury and Dorchester take you back in time with their quaint streets and historic townhouses, many with thatched roofs. Blandford Forum has some outstanding architecture and museums and is home to the Great Dorset Steam Fair. The county is based on chalk as can be witnessed at Cerne Abbas where a giant figure has been hewn into the hillside and is visible for miles.
Dorset has an unrivalled coastline which is very popular with vacationers. Bournemouth is a large resort town with miles of sandy beach, a long promenade and formal parks. Poole is the second largest harbour in the world, after Sydney, and is also known for its Poole Pottery. Further to the west are the smaller Victorian resorts of Lyme Regis and Weymouth, delightful communities with fishing fleets in the harbour.
Dorset has many festivals and fairs demonstrating maypole dancing and Morris dancing among other local traditions. It is also home to many writers and artists, including Thomas Hardy who captured rural life in his tales of ‘Wessex’ as it was known. His home at Bockhampton and the home of Lawrence of Arabia at Bovington are both owned by the National Trust, along with many other fascinating and beautiful properties. With golf courses, a steam railway, a Tank Museum, cyclepaths, fishing trips and opportunities for rock climbing there is always something to see and do in Dorset. For those who enjoy nature, Brownsea Island Nature Reserve, Abbotsbury Swannery and the Sea Life Park and Marine Sanctuary at Weymouth offer activities which are a little out of the ordinary.