Stretching along magnificent coastline and illuminated by its historically-rich limestone ridges, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty spans 2,653 square miles and covers 44 per cent of the Dorset area, bordering the counties of Hampshire, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire. Found in the South West region of the UK, Dorset is widely regarded for its geological value with its rocks and well-preserved fossils dating back to the pre-Jurassic era and providing a wonderful insight into the archaic life of the dinosaurs.
The area is also famous for its impressive landmarks – of which there are plenty, and for its stunning landscapes that sees large chalk ridges, pebble beaches, fantastic valleys and mysterious coves. Dorset is a beautiful part of the country that not only provides so many wonderful things to see but also has a huge historical value that allows you to get so much more from your holiday.
There are many amazing landmarks to be found in Dorset that will provide wonderful days out for you and your family. Lulworth cove is a favourite of many, famous for its curved harbour and spectacular sea views. Awarded World Heritage Site status, there are many pretty craft stalls and ice cream shops perfect for the warm summer days.
Near to this is Durdle Door, a fantastic limestone arch that can be viewed clearly from the top of the cliff. The sandy beach is considered one of the UK’s finest, and there are many rocks slightly out to sea that can be swum to – a challenge undertaken by many. Corfe Castle, built by William the Conqueror, is an impressive fortification and a Grade I listed building. Having been restored and made safe to the public, it is now open to visitors wanting to view one of the most important serving castles of its time. The nearby village also houses many lovely tea and gift shops ready to charm you.
The village of Abbotsbury, located in West Dorset, is a gateway to the Jurassic Coast and is around 10 miles from Weymouth. Abbotsbury is a pretty village decorated with old stone cottages and is famously home to the world’s largest thatched barn – built in the 11th century by King Canute’s steward, Orca.
The village is well-known for its swannery which for over 600 years has protected resting mute swans in the area. A popular tourist attraction, the swans allow close human contact and remain protected in the bay.
Nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’, Lyme Regis is another popular town in the area. Resting in Lyme Bay, there are many well-preserved fossils that unlock the mysteries about the most interesting species’ of dinosaur, and makes for an intriguing visit for those wanting to learn more about their origins. The Cobb is one of the most notable features of the area, providing one of the main locations for Jane Austin’s novel ‘Persuasion’, and is still working as a usable harbour today. On the Cobb is the Lyme Regis Marine Aquarium which houses many unique sea life species’ from Dorset’s coast and the Town Mill is a great example of a working flour mill, with the produced flour available for sale in the watermill’s shop.
Swanage is another great holiday stop for those looking for a warm, sandy beach with plenty of fun water sports to try.
The Swanage steam railway has been fully restored to working order and takes you through six miles of Dorset’s finest scenery whilst allowing you to experience one of England’s greatest ingenuities.
Awarded ‘Pier of the Year 2012’, Swanage Pier offers a whole host of activities to try. You can scuba dive under the pier or take a boat trip out into the sea where you can explore the deeper depths. Fishing is available at the far end of the pier and offers magnificent views across to the Isle of Wight. If you’d prefer to take it easy then take a stroll along the pier where you’ll find craft stalls to browse through and a café to relax in.
Dorset is rich in wildlife with a variety of creatures residing in the area, so nature lovers will truly be in their element. In Spring expect to see hares playing in the fields, and puffins flocking to the coast for the start of their breeding season. Summer marks the beginning of the bloom for the beautiful purple heather which turns the heaths into colour-rich wonders, attracting many rare butterflies at the same time. Dolphins are known to appear near the Dorset shore so take a walk along the coast, and keep an eye looking out towards the sea to see if you can spot one of these lucid creatures.
For the keen rambler, the Dorset area has over 2000 miles of walkable footpath and endless stretches of open land for you to map out your own route. However, if you’re looking for a well-used path then the South West Coast Path National Trial is one of the best routes to be found anywhere in the UK. Depending on your interests, you can start from many locations in the area and can choose to take a path that brings you next to the beautiful coast, takes you close to Dorset’s wildlife, or takes you to the best pubs in the area. Lasting for about 5 miles, they’re perfect for families wanting to incorporate exercise with discovery.
If you’re looking to inject a bit of fun and find something that the children will love, then become a smuggler for the day and discover the routes that these elusive men once took. Found at Stonebarrow, you’ll follow the marked trail, completing the activity sheets along the way and will learn about an interesting part of history whilst surrounded by great views.
The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of the country’s finest holiday spots and includes a huge number of incredible things to see and do. No matter whether you’re looking to spend your time sunbathing on the beach, explore the area’s historical monuments or witness its wildlife in its natural setting, there really is something for everyone.
If we have tempted you to visit Dorset for your next holiday, take a look at our self-catering cottages. Booking directly with the cottage owner means no commission or booking fees so more money to spend on having fun!