From the fizzing beach and resort bustle of Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth to the historic inland subtleties of ancient Wimborne, Dorchester and nearby Higher Bockhampton, where author Thomas Hardy was born and set many of his novels, DORSET’s appeal is contrastingly intense, peaceful, active, rural and vividly historic.
The Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile World Heritage Site stretching west from vibrant Swanage, is a World Heritage Site rich in dinosaur fossils, while gentle river-side communities such as Sturminster Newton offer a chance to walk quiet lanes in rolling countryside famous for cheese. The 1,000 year old ruins of Corfe Castle near Wareham are among the most beautiful in the country, while rural communities such as Blandford Forum offer small-scale market-town charm with stunning Georgian architecture and a feel for quiet locality.
Somerset’s coastal resorts include the gentility of Weston super Mare, and more southerly Burnham-on-Sea, on the edge of the Somerset Levels, a vast, lush plain increasingly popular for cycling and bird-watching.
The county is famous for orchards and cider which can be tasted on drives through sweet villages such as Muchelney, Dowlish Wake and Mudgley. Fine walking areas include the high ground of Exmoor, and the high rolling hills of the Quantocks, and the Mendips. Here, the limestone crags of the Cheddar Gorge and its nearby village offer stunning scenery, mysterious caves, and a chance to watch Cheddar cheese made. Ancient Glastonbury and England’s smallest city, Wells, are hugely popular centres with considerable historic, architectural and atmospheric interest.