VISIT DORSET BUT NOT IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER!
As the largest town in the county many assume it is the county town, however that is Dorchester. In fact up until the mid 1970’s the town was in Hampshire! Bournemouth mainly started to develop as late as in the Victorian era but Dorchester dates back to the Roman period and before. The town
in the pines as it’s called was looked upon as an easy to reach coastal town with many life-giving properties including the seawater bathing. Its 7-mile long beach running from Sandbanks in the West to Hengisbury Head in the East is still its biggest draw. With of course a pier and two funiculars one either
side of it to whisk weary visitors to the top of the cliffs avoiding the many steps that otherwise would take you there. With large entertaining facilities close to the beach summer shows are popular and the BIC has many world famous acts, shows and bands performing there all year round.
2 CERNE ABBAS
Know of course for its chalk hillside carving of a standing giant 55 metres high with one item also standing! (11 metres long). When and who carved it
is still greatly debated by science, archeologists and those with an interest in folklore or more natural pagan style interests. Not that members of the Wessex Morris are but every 1st of May finds them dancing at the top as the sun rises. The pretty village had a former Benedictine Abbey at its heart but now that’s long gone but a distinctive medieval half-timbered terrace of houses forms part of the street and is well on the tourist trail.
Sometimes called the Royal Manor of Portland or the Island of Portland or the Romans knew it as ‘The Isle of Slingers’! Their troops faced being attacked
as they approached the island and being pelted from the cliffs high above them seems to be a possible explanation. Anyone who has visited London and seen the sights there will have seen what Portland is famous for…its stone. Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Bank of England and numerous
well known shopping streets have hundreds of building constructed of Portland Stone. The easy to carve limestone that holds great detail is much desired. You can even try to do some carving yourself on the ‘Island’. Tout Quarry has works displayed in the open in this former quarry done by many artists
including Sir Anthony Gormley’s ‘Falling Man’. Go to the tip of Portland and its famous lighthouse, take tea or a meal at the nearby café and watch ships trying to deal with ‘The Race’ and the ‘Shambles Bank’ the shipping hazards that helps to explains why the light is there. Attached to the mainland Dorset by Chesil Beach rare terns nest on the stony beach and it’s a great area for rare maritime and colourful plants.
4 KIMMERIDGE BAY
A mixture of possibilities here for any visitor the stunning bay popular with surfers is right on the South West Coast Path and the whole area is overlooked
by the Clavell Tower a round folly that just a few years ago was on the very edge of the cliffs. The owners The Land Mark Trust moved it several metres inland and re-erected and totally refurbished inside and out. You can now rent the tower from the trust as a holiday home! What you may not expect at
Kimmeridge on the other side of the bay is to see a working ‘nodding donkey’ oil well pumping 24 hours a day drawing oil from reserves deep below and is part of the Wych Farm oil field. Walking further west takes you into the army ranges and this route is not possible when the Army is using its gunnery and tank firing ranges.
Here this Saxon hilltop town once produced coinage for the whole nation hence ‘Gold Hill’ that iconic steep street made famous by a TV bread advert that
visitors head for first. However Shaftesbury has for one reason or another been on the tourist trail for hundreds of years. Religious devotees had the town on their route because of the relics of St Edward the Martyr that was brought there in 981. King Canute died in the town and Edward The Confessor
licensed a third mint. As well as coins Dorset was a centre for button production and the town had many workers producing tiny hand crafted fasteners and by the middle Victorian period machine made buttons put paid to this skill but the town’s museum at the top of Gold Hill has a good display of those and many rural artifacts.
There is hardly any publicity material emanating from the County that does not include either Lulworth Cove or its next-door neighbour Durdle Door.
This large chalk arch worn away by the action of the sea has left this coastal landmark for all to see. There are boat trips at times to see it from the seaward side but most view it from the land.
VISIT DORSET FOR A LONG WEEKEND
It is possible to park quite close but a down and then return uphill walk for several hundred yards is required
to get the best view. Surprising this same large estate at Lulworth hosts a huge family orientated musical event every summer called Camp Bestival. This 3-day festival is held in the grounds of Lulworth Castle with a giant music stage and other performance and arts venues dotted around the area. Camping
is the preferred way of many families who can spend the whole time there. But day visits are possible many leading pop bands get showcased there and
performers such as Kaiser Chiefs, Blondie, Madness, Chuck Berry, Bob Geldof, Level 42 have all played the main Castle Stage. In recent years Fat Boy Slim, Katy B, KT Tunstall and Tears for Fears were on the main stage along with around 30 other acts over the 3 days that the festival runs.
7 BOVINGTON TANK MUSEUM
Is it one for the boys? Or is that old outdated tosh. Anyway if tanks float your boat then this venue is going to be able to float it so high you will have to tie
it down! One of the largest collection of tanks in the world is to be found here. Rare examples of these military fighting marvels are to be not only seen but often heard too! As a vast amount of the collection are put through their paces in the giant arena next door to the museum itself. For example a
working German Tiger tank the only such one in the world is on show. Vehicles from all over Europe and the world are held here from giant modern Challenger Mk II tanks to the very first that were used in 1916 in the First World War. All shapes and sizes of fighting vehicles are on display as well. You
could even be lucky and bump into military enthusiast and film star Brad Pitt who launched his Hollywood film ‘Fury’ at the museum. However if not there is much to see and being undercover it is a good place on those rare days when it does rain in Dorset.
The Dorset coastal town with probably the best beach in the county with its long curving soft sandy beach with a backdrop of Regency buildings makes
Weymouth enviable to have such an asset. Here it is also probably the safest in the County for sea bathing, as at times you can walk out for several hundred metres and still be at knee high depth of water! With a delightful and colourful fishing harbour, the easy to walk around town centre offers much
to its visitors. The pretty harbour is a focus for the largest free seafood festival in the country in early July. The sand provides a great venue in late July for the UK Tour Beach Volleyball to visit Dorset this classic competition when several hundred of the UK’s and other nation’s players hit the beach for a 3 day event. The beach also gets used
out of season for a motorcycle-racing weekend in February where the bikes jump over large mounds of sand specially constructed for the races. Its also the place in the UK that George III made famous for sea bathing and on a somewhat dirtier note where the Black Death was brought into the country from Europe!
9 LYME REGIS
Made famous by author John Fowles in the book and film of ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman” the Cobb or harbour wall is iconic to the area and known
around the world. The home of modern fossil hunting and collecting thanks to the work of Mary Anning back in the early 19th century and her important
finds of Jurassic period fossils she unearthed around Lyme Regis. This family resort ideal for water sports, fishing and swimming. With a Hix restaurant
in the town that top-notch brand of food goes down well there. The narrow lanes that run up from the seaward facing side of Lyme are nice to explore and give you different views of this small but bustling community spirited town.