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  • Countryside Hardy’s hills, coastal thrills
  • Country life From beach to pub to cricket field

Dorset is a tale of two landscapes: the chalky downlands of Cranborne Chase and the Purbeck Hills, with their pretty villages and grand houses; and the wild, adventure-friendly Jurassic Coast, rebranded but untamed.

Uniting the two are this sunny county’s sunny disposition and approachable nature, not to mention a market renaissance that has Dorset’s bakeries, kitchens and restaurants catching up with its breweries and orchards. A single weekend down here can take you from ocean‑view hike to Bridport brasserie; from Iron Age hill fort to sailing lessons in Poole Harbour (the second largest in the world). Neither London‑on‑sea trendy, nor too remote for a quick getaway, Dorset’s resorts and countryside are favourites for natural beauty, fair weather and good old‑fashioned fun.

Do go/Don’t go

Summer’s a shoo-in, with Dorset among the UK’s top five sunniest counties. May is wonderful for seeing the coastal-path flowers at their height. Winter can be forbidding for serious Jurassic hikes, but among the gentle beaches and resorts, the off-season coast is a treat.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Bournemouth International Airport (www.bournemouthairport.com) has links with Glasgow | Dublin | Shannon and New York | as well as many European cities. There’s a shuttle bus that connects the airport to Bournemouth railway station (www.yellowbuses.co.uk).
  • Boats There are passenger ports at Poole and Weymouth, with connections to France and the Channel Islands.
  • Trains From London, the South Western Main Line runs down to Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester and Weymouth; or there’s the West of England Main Line, which passes through Sherborne. Go to www.nationalrail.co.uk to plan your journey.
  • Automobiles Not a single motorway carves through Dorset; from London | take the M3 to Andover or Winchester | then it’s A roads all the way.
  • Taxis The number for the main taxi rank outside Bournemouth railway station is +44 (0)1202 556166. In Bridport, we recommend Beeline Taxis (+44 (0)1308 425555); in Dorchester, Pete’s Cabs (+44 (0)1305 251122).