Dorset's Countryside

Planning an escape to the country? Dorset’s stunning countryside and coastal scenery offers the perfect bolt hole! Little changed since the days of famous author Thomas Hardy, you can expect rolling green hills, far reaching views and plenty of peace and tranquillity. 

Why not experience our beautiful county through the seasons. From bluebell bedecked woodlands in spring and the vibrant purple of sun-warmed heaths in summer to autumnal shades of golden yellow and drinks around cosy pub fires in winter. It's the perfect rural get-away for any time of year.

Wherever you choose to go, be sure to follow the Countryside Code to respect, protect and enjoy Dorset on your day out.

At one with nature

Explore our varied countryside in search of some of Britain’s rarest flora and fauna - can you spot an elusive otter or glimpse the turquoise flash of a kingfisher along the river?  Keep an eye out for the diminutive Dartford Warbler or the six British reptile species which live on Dorset’s protected heathlands.

With lots of stunning wildlife to be discovered, our county is a must for lovers of the natural world. Take in the amazing scenery and beautiful wildlife along the Legacy Trail between Weymouth and Portland. Or visit one of our best birdwatching spots at Durlston Country Park or the RSPB reserves at Arne and Weymouth.

Dorset is the perfect spot to enjoy Britain’s wildlife. There are two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which cover half the county, plus lots of nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest waiting to be explored.

Discover your adventurous side

If you have an appetite for some action and adventure then you won’t be disappointed – Dorset’s magnificent countryside is packed full of it! See our scenery from a different perspective - perhaps from a quadbike, a horse or even the soaring heights of a hot air balloon! 

Book yourself on an activity with a twist - meet new companions on a walk with a Llama or a Donkey. Saddle up for some off-road biking on the Sika Trail in Wareham Forest or try the winding singletrack route through the trees at Moors Valley Country Park and Forest. We’ve got loads of other cycling routes for you to try too – many of them include pub or tearoom stops to refuel for the rest of the journey.

Take the opportunity to try out a new sport or activity during your holiday. From orienteering and bushcraft to fishing and rowing on the river - there are so many ways to experience our countryside you won’t know which one to try first.

A walker’s paradise

Discover picturesque valleys, hidden villages and sweeping downlands with panoramic views on a gentle stroll or longer walk. Did you know there are over 4,700 footpaths to choose from!

Uncover history and intrigue along the South Dorset Ridgeway, follow in the footsteps of Royalty on the Monarch’s Way or explore Portland’s stone industry with the Portland Quarry Trail.

Whether you choose to take on the challenge of following one of the 13 long distance trails which cross the county, or a shorter day walk, we’re sure you’ll have a great day outdoors.

You might like to book a guided walk with one of our experts to experience the best of Dorset without having to plan the route, risk getting lost and seeing places even the locals don’t know about!

Rural heritage

Imagine yourself treading in the footsteps of ancient warriors as you climb one of Dorset’s Iron Age hill forts - the views from the top will take your breath away!

Feel the power of our many rivers at a well-preserved water mill; you can see the machinery in action at Sturminster Newton Mill and even buy some of the flour which has been milled there. 

Don’t forget to savour the taste of the countryside on a visit to one of the area’s farm shops or farmers’ markets. The producers will be proud to talk to you about the provenance of their goods and you might even be lucky to try a few tasters of local cheeses and chutneys as you shop.

Dorset after dark

Did you know that the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the east of the county is one of only 17 Dark Sky Reserves in the world?

Autumn and winter are fantastic for stargazing because of the longer nights. But whatever time of year you visit don’t forget to look up and admire the Milky Way, star constellations and if you’re lucky the Andromeda Galaxy.

If you aren’t staying near Cranborne Chase you can join a star gazing event at Durlston Country Park near Swanage or at various locations across Dorset.

Countryside inspiration

Famously known as the heart of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, the outstanding beauty of Dorset’s countryside has charged the imagination of many great writers, musicians, artists and movie makers.

Dorset’s rustic setting hit the big screen in 2015 as the backdrop for Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, Far from the Madding Crowd. You may also recognise our dramatic coastline from multi award-winning ITV drama Broadchurch!

Book your rural retreat!

With so much to explore a day will never be enough, so book yourself a break and start planning your mini escape to the country!

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