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Dorset is one of the gems of England’s south coast. It has no motorways, and no cities – and its dramatic coastlines, fascinating geology and charming towns and villages make it an ideal destination for a walking holiday. Here we take a look at some of the top reasons for visiting this beautiful county.
Be a Fossil Hunter
There’s a reason the Dorset stretch of England’s south coast is called the Jurassic Coast. The area’s abundance of animal and plant fossils, due to continuous coastal erosion, led to it becoming England’s first natural World Heritage Site in 2001. As you walk along some of Dorset’s beaches, such as Charmouth, you’ll see people tapping away at the rocks with little hammers, in search of fossils. It’s an area of fascinating natural history, with landscapes carved over millions of years that paint a picture of how life evolved.
Charmouth Beach - a prime spot for fossil hunting
An ammonite fossil
Marvel at Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove
Thousands of years of coastal erosion have created some spectacular rock formations along the Dorset coast, and none more so than the famous Durdle Door. This natural arch is a popular tourist attraction that needs to be seen in the flesh to fully appreciate it. Just along the coast from Durdle Door is Lulworth Cove, a beautiful, naturally rounded bay that creates a perfect environment for a refreshing dip in the sea. These natural wonders are perfect examples of the variety of coastal landscapes you’ll encounter in Dorset.
Explore the History of Dorchester
Whilst our walking tours are all about enjoying the great outdoors, Dorset’s county town, Dorchester, is well worth exploring. A historic market town, Dorchester’s roots can be traced back to prehistoric times, through the establishment of a Roman settlement, and some of the early raids of the Viking area. Today it’s a lively town, with plenty of places to enjoy food and drink, shopping and historical sightseeing.
As you enter Dorchester on our walk, you'll visit Maiden Castle, a huge iron-age hillfort. Much of it was built in the 1st century BC, and excavations have revealed a fascinating insight into life during the Neolithic, Iron Age and Roman eras. Dorchester also features the remains of a Roman town house, with a beautifully preserved mosaic floor.
The centre of Dorchester
Maiden Castle, a huge iron age hill-fort just outside Dorchester
Discover Thomas Hardy’s Wessex
Many of Thomas Hardy’s most famous novels are set in a fictionalised version of the ancient county of Wessex, which covers the county now known as Dorset, as well as other parts of England’s south west. Hardy renamed his home town of Dorchester as Casterbridge, most notably for The Mayor of Casterbridge. On a Dorset walking holiday you can visit places featured in some of Hardy’s finest novels, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure. You can also visit Hardy’s Cottage, a few miles outside Dorchester.
Statue of Thomas hardy in Dorchester
Hardy's Cottage, now a National Trust property
Enjoy Delicious Food & Drink
Whilst neighbouring counties Devon and Cornwall might be a little more famous for cream teas, you’ll find plenty of places to enjoy this indulgent treat in Dorset. The scones, clotted cream and jam are as good as you’ll anywhere else. And as a coastal county, it almost goes without saying that Dorset offers some of the best fish and seafood you’ll find in the UK. To wash down your fish and chips, you can also savour some of the excellent ale that’s brewed here – made all the more delicious by the charm of many of the pubs in which you can drink it.
Cream tea... mmmm!
Fish, chips and beer - the perfect combination!
Walk along europe's longest shingle beach
Chesil Beach, all 29km of it, is a shingle beach that connects the island of Portland to Weymouth. In fact, it’s the longest shingle beach in Europe. The landward side of the beach offers one of the Jurassic Coast’s best fossil-hunting sites. Chesil Beach is interesting not just for its sheer length, but because much of it is separated from the mainland by The Fleet Lagoon, a 13km long area of shallow water – long stretches of the lagoon are just 2m deep. It’s also the setting for Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novel, On Chesil Beach, which was recently made into a film.
Chesil Beach, viewed from Portland
West Bay, at the northern end of Chesil Beach
Visit Charming Towns & Villages
In some parts of Dorset, it can really feel like you’re stepping back in time. Abbotsbury is one of the prettiest and most traditional villages in the UK, and is home to a famous swannery. Lyme Regis, where our walking tour starts, is a charming, lively town with a lovely 13th century harbour. Bridport is another attractive market town on the walk that offers plenty of choices for delicious food and drink.
Abbotsbury, the quintessential English village
Lyme Regis Harbour
Sherpa Expeditions’ Dorset and Wessex Trails is a self-guided walking tour that departs daily from 29 March until 22 October 2019.