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

Wool Bridge, Wool

Wool, Dorset

Wool is a small village made famous by Thomas Hardy in his novel, 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'. He named it 'Wellbridge' and used the Manor House as the setting for his tragic heroine's honeymoon night. Hardy de...
Punch and Judy, Weymouth

Weymouth, Dorset

Weymouth has a glorious setting, occupying the low lying coastal plain below the ancient trackway known as the Ridgeway, which crosses the top of the chalk hills from White Horse Hill in the east, to Abbotsbury...
St. Michael's Church, Stinsford

Stinsford, Dorset

Stinsford, is a small hamlet set in a wooded valley of the River Frome. It is a place of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world who enjoy the works of the internationally renowned novelist and poet, Th...
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury

Shaftesbury, Dorset

This ancient and cobbled steeply descending street, is probably the most photographed in Dorset. Its unique setting in the County's only hill-top town, was made even more famous as the setting for the Hovis bre...
Holt Lane, Melbury Osmond

Melbury Osmond, Dorset

Melbury Osmond is approached along a winding, sunken lane, with thatched stone cottages lining the slopes. This crosses the watersplash, a shallow paved ford crossed by a small footbridge. In spring and summer,...
St. Osmund's Church, Evershot

Evershot, Dorset

Evershot is a lovely village where little has changed over the last century. In his novels and short stories, Thomas Hardy called it, 'Evershead'. In 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles', Tess stops here for refreshm...