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Dorset is a largely rural county of 1,024 square miles on the south coast of England, bordered to its west by Devon, its north by Somerset and Wiltshire, and to the east by Hampshire.
What Sort Of Landscape And Natural Features Are There In Dorset?
Dorset is home to some of the most famous and ancient scenery anywhere in the British Isles. It offers high chalk downs and cliffs, limestone ridges and low-lying clay valleys. It is perhaps most famous of all for its coastline, three-quarters of which comprises the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its extremely rich geological and archaeological significance.
In addition to the Jurassic Coast, over half of Dorset is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With the majority of the population living in the towns that make up its southeastern corner, the rest of the county remains rural, with rolling hills, dense woodland, barren gorse scrubland and a scenic coastline that features both sandy and pebble beaches.
What Are The Notable Parks, Beaches Or Wild Areas Are There In Dorset?
As a result of its rural setting, Dorset is both home to a large number of farms and animal pastures as well as a favourite area for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers. Both of these may need to be taken into account when out exploring with your own four-legged friends.
Some of Britain’s most notable coastal landmarks can be found in Dorset, including Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland. The varied geology of the area has also created several unique and beautiful places to visit inland, too. It is also an area of particular significance to social historians, with a history of human settlement that dates back to Neolithic times.
Seven Things For You And Your Dog To Do In Dorset
Visit Corfe Castle
One of Britain’s most historical and beautiful castle remains, Corfe Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror on a site thought to have been first settled by humans in 6000 BCE. The castle was subsequently a stronghold during both the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War, shortly after which it fell into disrepair. Today it is a National Trust property sitting in between the hills around the picturesque village of Corfe. There are over 14 miles of grounds to explore, including wildlife gardens, fossil corner, giant family games and a model village. Dogs are welcomed throughout.
Travel on the Swanage Railway
Decommissioned as a passenger line in 1972, the 9.5 mile stretch between Swanage and Wareham is now operated as a heritage steam railway. One of the stops on the route is at Corfe Castle, for anyone wanting to pack as much into their day as possible.
Visit the Dinosaur Museum
Dinosaurs are big business in Dorset, due to the sheer number of fossil specimens that have been unearthed in the county throughout the years. This is perhaps best reflected in this museum in Dorchester, which dogs are welcome to visit as long as they are brave enough.
Visit Lulworth Castle
Located in the west of the county, close to the village of Wool, Lulworth Castle is a stunning Elizabethan/Jacobean revival castle finished in 1609. It stands in the Lulworth Estate, which contains both gardens and a park. Dogs are welcome throughout the site but will often need to be on a lead, due to grazing livestock in the area.
The Blue Pool Nature Reserve
A man-made swimming hole – it used to be a clay mining pit – this unique reserve near Wareham gets its name from the way the clay particles in the water refract sunlight, making the whole pool appear to change colour from deep blue to green. It is set within a 25 acre site of heath and woodland which your dog will love to investigate.
Visit Athelhampton House and Gardens
A 15th-Century Tudor manor house set in one of England’s most elaborate architectural gardens, in the verdant countryside just outside Dorchester. It features great fountains, walled gardens, noted floral displays and a boardwalk alongside the River Piddle.
Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre
Based in Kimmeridge Bay at the heart of the Jurassic Coast, the Fine Foundation offers interactive displays, aquariums and trails for both walkers and snorkelers. Dogs are welcome throughout the site, although will need to be kept on a lead in some of the site’s wildlife reserves.
Seven Walks For You And Your Dog To Enjoy In Dorset
North Dorset Trailway
14 miles of trails and walks between Sturminster Newton and Spetisbury which cater for visitors of all abilities, from mountain bikers to people with mobility scooters. Largely made up from sections of the Somerset to Dorset railway line that was discontinued in the early 1960s, it features an array of landscapes and vistas for everyone to enjoy.
The Cerne Abbas Giant
One of the most famous hill figures in the UK, the Cerne Abbas Giant – a 55-metre high chalk outline of a naked man carrying a large club – is thought to date from any time between the 8th and 10th Centuries. The site is now administered by the National Trust and your dog will love to explore the glorious countryside walks that surround it.
Four miles of sandy beaches in the sheltered bay just north of Swanage. As well as being the ideal spot for your dog to have a romp along the coast, it is also the ideal place to see Old Harry Rocks, one of Dorset’s most famous headlands.
A beautiful and geologically significant natural harbour which forms one of the most celebrated parts of the Jurassic Coast. You and your four-legged friend could choose to go fossil hunting along the pebble beach and its rockpools, or instead explore the clifftop walkways. It is also not far from Durdle Door.
An ancient woodland just to the east of Dorchester, Thorncombe boasts 26 hectares of walks and trails, as well as the National Trust-administered Hardy’s Cottage, the birthplace and former home of the author Thomas Hardy.
A quiet and secluded shingle beach along the Jurassic Coast near Bridport. While dogs are not permitted in some parts of the beach during high season, it is nevertheless still worth a visit due to the nearby hill at Golden Cap, which offers remarkable views along the cliffs and shoreline. It’s a rather steep and hilly affair, this one, recommended for the more able-bodied owner and spritely, energetic dog.
A remarkable 18-mile long shingle ridge near Weymouth, sandwiched between the Channel and the tidal lagoons of East and West Fleet, set within the West Dorset Heritage Coast AONB. This one has to be seen to be fully appreciated, and is frequently voted one of England’s most spectacular views. Dogs are subject to seasonal restrictions along portions of the beach, so it’s best to check exactly where and when beforehand so your hairy pal doesn’t go home disappointed.
Where To Stay In Dorset
Exactly where you want to base yourself for your stay is obviously dependent on exactly what activities you and your dog plan to get up to. However, here are some suggestions.
A large town on the south coast of Dorset with sandy beaches and a natural harbour, Poole has been a favourite with holidaymakers for generations. As well as all modern conveniences, Poole is an ideal base for all kinds of beach or woodland walks and it is nearby both Bournemouth, Dorset’s most populous town, as well as Brownsea Island, a celebrated nature reserve just off the coast. Unfortunately, due to the special habitat it provides, Brownsea has a no dogs policy.
A coastal town to the west of the county, within the Jurassic Coast. Weymouth is particularly noted for its scenery, being near both Chesil Beach and Portland Island, with its castle and famous lighthouse at Portland Bill.
The county town of Dorset, Dorchester sits on the eastern edge of the Dorset AONB and is home to a wide variety of museums, castles and other historic houses. It is also an ideal base of operations for visitors wanting to visit both the Jurassic Coast as well as more inland areas of interest, such as the Cerne Abbas Giant.
An historic market town set deep within both the Jurassic Coast and Dorset AONB. Its location makes it an ideal rural base for those wanting to enjoy the richness of the county’s countryside as well as visit some of its most celebrated beaches, such as those at Eype or Chesil.
A pretty market town towards the north of the county, Blandford Forum is the ideal base for people wanting to explore the best of the Dorset countryside, the town sitting between the Dorset AONB to its west and the Cranbourne Chase AONB to its east. It is also home to the North Dorset Trailway.
Sat just to the north of the Hartland Moor Nature Reserve, Wareham is an ideal base for holidaymakers keen to explore some of the finest of the county’s geological phenomena, such as The Blue Pool and Jurassic Coast, while remaining close to the urban centres of Poole and Bournemouth. It is also ideal for those wanting to visit the Bovingdon Tank Museum or Monkey World attractions, although as you may already have anticipated, neither of these are open to dogs.