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12 of the best things to do in Dorset
1. Explore the glorious Dorset countryside by following one of the many walking trails which criss-cross the county. The Wessex Ridgeway is one of the longest – along the way there are intriguing artistic sculptures with poetry by James Crowdon or how about the South West Coast Path where you will find stunning views of the Jurassic Coast!
2. Go to a farmers’ market held in the key towns around the county to savour some of the area’s delicious local food; one of the best is Bridport’s every 2nd Saturday of the month; the town is in the heart of Dorset’s farmlands. Dorset Vinny Cheese with Knob Biscuits or Dorset Apple Cake are just three of the local specialities.
3. Take to the water on some of the country’s finest sailing and watersports spots – the National Sailing Academy is at Weymouth & Portland in recognition of the quality of the waters. Along the Dorset coast, there are plenty of locations to hire boats and kayaks or let someone else do the work and take a boat trip from one of the harbours such as Weymouth, Lyme Regis, Bridport, Swanage or Christchurch.
4. Visit one of the county’s many gardens which flourish in one of the country’s mildest climates. Athelhampton House is famous for its topiary, Kingston Mauward's stunning 35 acre formal gardens, tree trails, lakeside walks and a delightful walled garden and Forde Abbey for its 30 acres of award-winning gardens and England’s tallest powered fountain.
5. Dorset hosts England’s only natural World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast. The beaches of Lyme Regis or Charmouth abound with fossils where you can take one of the regular guided public fossil walks. Visit the variety of stunning landmarks that are world renowned for being the richest heritage sites for prehistoric remains!
6. Dorset’s coastal location ensures fresh fish is available at the local pubs and restaurants; watch the catch come into picturesque Weymouth or West Bay harbours for example and then eat at one of the many restaurants offering local seafood; among the best are the Hive Beach Café in Burton Bradstock and the Hix’s Oyster and Seafood Restaurant in Lyme Regis.
7. Unwind by flying through the trees at Go Ape! in Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, one of the country’s best outdoor leisure parks, more sedately you can also hire bikes to cycle around and admire the beautiful countryside!
8. Climb up to the top of Christchurch Priory for panoramic views across the area. The Priory is the longest church in England and one of the few to survive Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.
9. Clamber up to the top of the many prehistoric hillforts in Dorset such as Hambledon Hill near Blandford Forum or Eggardon Hill near Bridport for some of the best views of Dorset. Climb one of the largest hill forts in Europe at Maiden Castle near Dorchester. This spectacular hillfort is the size of 50 football pitches and its huge multiple ramparts once protected hundreds of residents. Or how about Badbury Rings, the iron age hillfort dating back to 800 BC!
10. Explore Thomas Hardy country; key ‘musts’ are seeing Hardy’s rather stern statue in Dorchester, visiting the Dorset County Museum for the world’s largest collection of Hardy memorabilia and visiting the picturesque cottage where he was born. Around the Dorset countryside are countless places which appeared in his novels – much of the countryside still looks the same as described in his novels.
11. Admire the glorious fan- vaulted ceiling of the county’s ‘cathedral’ Sherborne Abbey. Afterwards, explore the boutiques and antique shops of Sherborne, one of the county’s most historic and attractive towns which was once the capital of Wessex.
12. Follow the Swanage Art Trail for a taste of county’s artistic richness; the trail takes you around a series of paintings by famous artists who visited the area such as Paul Nash and Walter Field. The biennial Dorset Art Weeks is one of the largest in open studio events in the country.