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Dorset is one of Britain’s best kept secrets – a beautiful and peaceful county far from the madding crowd but crammed with fascinating things to see and do.
The gorgeous landscape is little changed since Thomas Hardy immortalised it in his Wessex novels and it’s littered with ancient monuments and fascinating houses.
Cloudshill, Lawrence of Arabia’s tiny retreat, and Thomas Hardy’s own cottage, are both surprisingly modest but wonderful stately homes and gardens abound. These include Mapperton, Forde Abbey, Montacute, Tintinhull and a couple of Roman villas. Sherborne is one of the most beautiful towns in England, with an abundance of medieval buildings that includes a superb 1300 year old Abbey and two castles.Cerne Abbas Giant and the spectacular Maiden Castle must not be missed.
Dorset is also home to the world heritage Jurassic Coast. You can go fossil hunting along the shoreline, explore the wild landscape of the Undercliff, celebrated in the John Fowles novel ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, discover the amazing rock formations around Lulwoth Cove, wander along the great expanse of sand at Studland Bay and watch the waves crashing onto the eighteen miles of breathtaking Chesil Beach.
There are a host of picturesque ports and seaside towns to visit – Weymouth, Portland, Lyme Regis and Charmouth to name but a few.
Families love Dorset. Explore Corfe Castle, the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s Kirren Castle, or Brownsea Island where the Boy Scout Movement first took shape. There are museums galore – The Royal Tank Museum, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Haynes Motor Museum, as well as a dinosaur and fossil museum in Lyme Regis and another in Dorchester. Swanage railway is great for steam train enthusiasts, there’s the world famous primate rescue centre at Monkey World, and you mustn’t miss the Swannery at Abbotsbury.
The walking walking and cycling are wonderful but the water sports are pretty special too - Weymouth is hosting the 2012 Olympic sailing events and there’s also great scuba diving, kite surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, kayaking, coasteering, fishing and all kinds of messing about in boats.
Excellent hunting, shooting and fishing is available - Southern Counties Shooting is the largest shooting ground in the country, Wrackleford Estate has an exceedingly good reputation for their pheasant shoot while the dry fly fishing on the River Frome is rated extremely highly.