Dorset is a county of great beauty and interest, which retains its unity and individuality. It boasts some of England’s classic landscapes with rolling chalk downland and hidden valleys. Here you will find villages full of thatched cottages. They have the simple characteristics of a community which has grown up around the church, manor house, vicarage, farms and the village pub and green. The villages are far enough apart to have different characters and appearance, but they are all unmistakably Dorset. The local mellow Purbeck stone is distinctive in the Eastern Dorset villages such as Corfe and Worth Matravers. The Cerne Giant cut into the chalk at Cerne Abbas, is of immense antiquity and interest.

For those who have read any of Thomas Hardy’s work, Dorset is inextricably interwoven with memories of his novels and poems and the atmosphere they create. Hardy adopted the historical name of Wessex, once the kingdom of King Alfred, as the name for his own ‘partly real, partly dream-country’. The great majority of locations in Hardy’s novels are set within West Dorset. These include, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Under the Greenwood Tree, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Woodlanders and The Return of the Native.

Dorset has a beautiful coastline. Bournemouth is a cosmopolitan seaside resort with six miles of clean, sandy beaches. Poole has a magnificent natural harbour, believed to be the second largest in the world, after Sydney Harbour. Across the Harbour, are the spectacular sights of the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks, followed along the coast by Lulworth Cove and the chalk arch of Durdle Door.

The Dorset coast offers splendid walking opportunities. The highest cliff in Southern England is at Golden Cap, where there are breathtaking views along the coast to the Isle of Portland (Hardy’s ‘Isle of Slingers’) and the dramatic Chesil Beach.

Places to visit in Dorset

Market Street and Church Street, Abbotsbury


Abbotsbury is a long village of yellow-stone, thatched or slated cottages, set in a sheltered green valley close to the Dorset coast. Less than a mile away is the northern end of Chesil Beach, a massive shingle...
Post Office Row and St. Mary's Church, Tyneham


Tyneham is the famous Dorset village on the Jurassic Coast, six miles from Wareham, north-east of Worbarrow Bay.  It is set in a beautiful valley "frozen in time", now deserted and only accessible when, with th...