Quiet village of thatched cottages in sheltered green valley. Benedictine monks built remaining 15th-century tithe barn, and created the famous Abbotsbury Swannery. Exotic plants and trees in Sub-Tropical Gardens.
Small town loved by Hardy. Market cross stands in square of handsome 18th-century houses, Elizebethan Parnham House, rescued by John Makepeace’s furniture workshops. Stately terraced gardens at nearby Mapperton House.
Essential port of call for Hardy devotees as Saxon Church houses D’Urberville family tombs. Tess burried here too. Richly decorated oak ceiling a gift from Cardinal Morton, Henry VII’s chancellor.
Hill-top obelisk commemorates Dorset’s other famous Hardy; Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, captain of Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Hansome Georgian town that rose from ashes of 1731 fire; rebuilt with chequered brick and stone. Former leper hospital now local history museum. Royal Signals Museum at nearby Blandford Camp tells history of army communications, from carrier pigeons to long-range technology.
For airplane lovers. The museum has old jets and an observation platform for watching take off and landing of the airfield.
For those who enjoy being in the countryside in the saddle!
Largest collection of armoured vehicles in the world. Tons of metal giants and a tank simulator.
Ropemakers town with wide street, once used for drying and twisting hemp. Still Britain’s main producer of cords and twines, but now made of synthetics such as nylon. Fishermen’s cottages and fine Georgian town hall. Rope industry museum.
Stately Home, successfully added to over the centuries. Attractive blend of contrasting styles. Cider making displays in 14th-century priest house. Garden with large pool and long terrace.
Steep path from village of South Cadbury leads to huge grassy plateau of an ancient hill-fort; traditional site of Camelot, seat of King Arthur’s court. Ramparts thrown up by successive defences from Iron Age to Saxon times still form a green wall encircling 18acre fort.
Half-Timbered Tudor houses back on to stone cottages. Gatehouse and tithe barn remain from substantial 10th-century abbey. Chalk giant, 1500 years old and 180ft from head to foot, still looks down from hill above village. Naked figure thought to be a pagan fertility symbol.
Billions of pebbles form immense bank of shingle, 40ft high in places, stretching for ten miles from Abbotsbury to Portland. Moonfleet Hotel 1603, in East Fleet village features in J Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet tale.
T E Lawrence (of Arabia) made this sparsley furnished cottage his ‘earthly paradise’. Just as he left it the day he was killed on his motorbike in 1935.
The castle dates back to the 11th century. It is looked after by the National Trust.
Busy market town steeped in history. Hardy’s ‘Casterbridge’ and home for many years. County Museum has a reconstruction of his study an collection of manuscripts. Roman remains include amphitheatre adapted from Stone Age circle, and villa with mosaics. Smith’s Arms in Godmanstone, 5 miles north, Britain’s smallest pub.
T S Elliot’s ancestral village, celebrated in his poem Four Quartets. His ashes lie in church where local hero William Dampier, the 17th-century pirate, explorer and Royal Navy captain, is buried.
A 14th-century house, altered in early 16th-century. Inricately carved oak beams in Great Hall and upstairs sun room.
Fleet Air Arm Museum
Climb aboard Concorde and inspect more than 50 other historic aircraft, from World War II carrier biplanes to Argentinian fighters from the Falkland’s campaign.
Ten-minute stroll through the bluebell woods leads to Hardy’s birthplace, a thatched cottage built by his grandfather in 1800. Simple whitewashed rooms and inspiring views over heathland.
Isle of Portland
Dorset’s Rock of Gibralta. Windswept limestone peninsula juts 4 miles into Channel. Pitted with quarries – Portland stone still extracted. Ex-naval harbour overlooked by castle built by Henry VIII. Ruined Rufus Castle, Norman built, lies above church Ope Cove. Portland museum in Easton. Old lighthouse near ‘Portland Bill’, now a bird-watching station. Good bathing for careful swimmers at Church Ope cove.
Near West Lulworth is Lulworth Cove where two arms of Portland and Purbeck stone embrace the sea. Walk west leads to limestone sea arch of Durdle Door. Attractive village of East Lulworth has 1786 Rotunda, first Roman Catholic church built after Reformation. From car park between two villages, tanks can be observed in action on Defence Ministry land.
Lytes Cary Manor
Restored medieval manor, the ancestral home of 14 generations of Lytes. Great Hall built in 15th-century with minstrel’s gallery. Tudor dining room and parlour with ornate panelling.
This beautiful cove is near the village of West Lulworth on the Jurassic Coast.
Iron Age hill-fort with extensive earthworks enclosing some 120 acres. Destroyed by Romans in AD 43; skeletons of defending Britons found in excavations. Foundations of Roman-Celtic temple lie on the summit.
Peaceful village of whitewashed thatched cottages built in 1770’s to replace the original; pulled down by Earl of Dorchester because it spoiled the view from his gothic-style mansion (now a school). Abbey church, dating back to 14th-century restored in 19th-century by Sir Gilbert Scott, architect of London’s Albert Memorial.
Acres of wild shrubs and rare trees surround privately owned house in hamlet of Minterne Magna; ablaze with rhododendrons and azaleas in early summer. The house is not open to the public
Golden stone turrets and gables embelish this outstanding Elizabethan mansion. Original panelling, carvings, plasterwork and stained glass. Long gallery, 172ft now a portrate gallery.
Centrepiece of riverside village is Church of St Nicholas. Bombed in 1940, new clear glass windows engraved with festive images by Lawrence Whistler. T E Lawrence (of Arabia) buried nearby.
Timeless, thatched village owes its name to Fitzpaine family of 14th-century lords. Church overlooks 18th-century rectory. Old parish fire engine in purpose-built shelter. Fine views from Okeford and Bulbarrow Hills.
Winding lanes thread terraces of handsome stone houses, perched by strange angles. Topmost is gargoyled Norman church. All overshadowed by Eggardon Hill and its Iron Age fort.
Town built on edge of 700ft plateau features in Hardy’s novels under old name of ‘Shaston’. Handsome buildings in the High Street, including stone-built Mitre Inn. Tiled and thatched cottages on steep, cobbled Gold Hill.
Town with Abbey dating mainly from 15th-century. Two castles: ruined 12th-century Old Castle; and Sherborne Castle built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594, lake and gardens by Capability Brown.
Sparkford Motor Museum
Mecca for car and motorbike enthusiasts. Over 200 gleaming models from 1905 Daimler to sleek 150mph E-Type-Jaguar.
A typical seaside town, much unchanged for a century. This pretty and lively town lies at the southern end of Studland Bay, a noted beach. Since Roman times Swanage has been the centre of the local stone industry, and marble from Purbeck has been used in cathedrals throughout Europe. The sea off the town was the site of one of the greatest sea battles of the Middle Ages, when King Alfred destroyed a Danish fleet of more than 100 vessels in 878.
Village green sycamore is where six farmworkers (the ‘Tolpuddle Matyrs’) met in 1834 to propose formation of a Trade Union. They were arrested and convicted as a ‘secret society’.
West Fossil Barn
A late 17th to early 18th-century tithe barn that has been carefully converted into living accomodation, retaining its charm and historic features – which are Grade II listed. Nearby are two recently converted barns – now available for holiday letting. For information on how to book the holiday barns (Bramble Barn and Tanglewood Barn), please click here.
Roman port now modern ferry terminal. Sheltered sandy beach where George III bathed. Safe boating in bay, overlooked by Lodmoor Country Park. Sealife Centre and Tropical Bird Park. Radipole Lake bird reserve with nature trails. Shipwreck Centre on Custom House Quay.
Modern town where gloves have been made for centuries. Gloving tools, Roman finds and historic firearms in museum. Church 14th-century, flooded with light from 18 vast windows.