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Dorset’s coastline offers a wealth of opportunities for enjoying being beside the sea. Bournemouth offers a lively (and sometimes rowdy) seaside experience, with its long and impressive but deckchair filled beach and plenty of nightlife. More refined Poole offers a pretty, historic harbour, good pubs and restaurants, some excellent local beaches and boat trips to wildlife rich Brownsea Island.

Further west you reach the Jurassic Coast. A UNESCO world heritage site, this stretch of coast is home to fascinating geology and a wealth of fossils as well as being what many argue is Britain’s most beautiful stretch of coastline. The dramatic ruins of impressive Corfe Castle loom over a pretty village, while to the south sparkling bays, deep caves, intricate sea stacks and weird and wonderful rock formations grab the attention. For a hands on experience, you can scour the beaches for fossils around Lyme Regis.

Away from the coast, Dorset is a quiet, rural place, filled with traditional towns and villages, stately homes – including luxurious Kingston Lacey and Sherbourne Castle – and ancient sites – including the unusual Cerne Giant, a 60 metre high chalk figure of a naked man, in fairly graphic detail, calved into the hillside!

Dorchester, the county town of Dorset, is where Thomas Hardy spent much of his life and several of his works were based in and around the city. Various Hardy related sites can be visited in the area. The remains of Maiden Castle, a huge iron-age hill fort, can also be visited near Dorchester.

Image © VisitBritain / Adam Burton