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Dorset - Hotels, Cottages, Bed & Breakfast, Camping and Attractions

Dorset used to be thought of as just being a county you passed through on the way to Devon and Cornwall, but, thankfully, today people are much more aware of the multitude of attractions of the area in its own right.

This is a part of England which, quite literally, has something for every taste – with its famous Jurassic Coast and its associated features (Lullworth Cove, Chesil Beach, Durdle Door and fossils galore); its holiday resorts such as Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth and Swanage; its delightful, untouched, strangely named villages (where else could you find places that sound as if they were named after Agatha Christie characters – Lytchett Maltravers, Beer Hacket and Piddletrenthide?); and, everywhere you look, breathtaking land and sea views.

Dorset has far too much to offer the visitor to simply just pass through it, and with the New Forest National Park less than an hour down the road from the East of the county Dorset is an ideal holiday base to see the best the south has to offer.

The Dorset coastline, from the delightful small town of Christchurch in the east to famed Lyme Regis in the west has enough sandy beaches, hidden coves and spectacular cliffs to keep anybody happy. Christchurch, named after its priory, which still dominates the town, is a paradise for sailors as well as wildlife enthusiasts.

Lyme Regis - with its evocations of Jane Austen, who wrote, walked, bathed and danced there, and its more recent associations with John Fowles’ French Lieutenant’s Woman walking along the Cobb – has steep narrow streets and classic Georgian architecture.

And between these two extremities you can find Bournemouth – no longer a simply a magnet for the seaside retirement or Political Conference but now a lively, cosmopolitan resort; Poole, with its spectacular harbour; the magnificent coastal drives; and, of course, the un-missable and unique Chesil Beach – a 16 mile phenomenon of pebbles, which are tremendously energy sapping if you are considering walking along it!

If you fancy a glimpse at the homes of the mega wealthy, then Sandbanks, near Poole, has reputedly the highest property prices in the whole of the country.

As varied and dramatic as Dorset’s coast is, though, the inland part of the county must not be hurried through. The county town of Dorchester is a delightful place for an afternoon stroll, with historical connections abounding – especially, of course, Thomas Hardy whose statue stands at the top of the town, but also less pleasant reminders of England’s past such as Judge Jefferey’s infamous Bloody Assize and the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Shaftesbury is another inland town well worth some time, with Gold Hill, which you will recognise from countless television adverts and programmes, the Abbey and that priceless olde worlde atmosphere.

Just as much fun for many people will simply be driving or walking around the totally unspoilt rural areas of the county. In the north, there is Blackmore Vale, with winding lanes and ancient hedgerows; in the south are the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase – high chalk land hills offering great views and wonderful places to picnic. And always, when you least expect the, you will happen upon quaint chocolate box houses and villages.

Places such as Cerne Abbas, with not only its 180 foot phallic giant carved out of the chalk hills above, but also its picturesque little streets. Or there’s Abbotsbury, with its long main street full of sandstone cottages and tantalising tea rooms. Or completely untouristy places such as Yetminster and Evershot. You might even stumble across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage; but you’ll certainly see plenty of places just like it.

With such a Pandora’s Box of delights for the visitor, it is easy to understand why Dorset has developed from being ‘a place to pass through on the way to Devon and Cornwall’ into England’s third most visited county, in terms of nights spent there by visitors. This is reflected in the wide variety of Dorset hotels, Dorset Bed and Breakfast accommodation or, increasingly popular nowadays, Dorset cottages that are available.

Dorset truly is one of England’s most beautiful counties – and if ever a place could be described as having something for everybody, then this surely is it!

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