Dorset is home to a fair share of charming towns and villages. In fact, it’s undoubtedly one of the most picturesque counties in England. From thatch-roofed villages and famous filming locations to staggering coastlines and postcard-perfect seaside resorts, Dorset is as diverse and as beautiful as they come.

    If you’re planning a trip to this breathtaking corner of southern England, be it to stop in one place or explore the wider county, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to go. So, we’ve taken some of the pressure off your decision making and have come up with our guide to the most picturesque towns and villages in Dorset.

    1

    Shaftesbury

    Climb the famous Hovis hill

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    The beautiful Saxon town of Shaftesbury is Dorset’s most significant hilltop settlement, steeped in history – and steep geographically too! Located roughly 30 miles inland from the south coast, the picturesque town borders Wiltshire and its Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – an idyllic spot for avid explorers.

    Shaftesbury is perhaps best known for Gold Hill, the steep cobbled street made famous in the classic 1973 Hovis advert, Boy on the Bike. Use all the puff you’ve got to walk past the thatched and stone cottages to the top and visit the Gold Hill Museum for a fascinating insight into the local history. A visit to Shaftesbury Abbey is a must, too.

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    2

    Corfe Castle

    Discover ancient ruins, intricate models and unforgettable family fun

    The charming village of Corfe Castle is named after the 11th-century castle of the same name, dominating the surrounding hilltop skyline. The ancient castle ruins are the biggest draw to this attractive, grey-stone community, which lies in the heart of the Purbeck Peninsula, between Weymouth and Bournemouth.

    When you’re not exploring real-life historic landmarks, step back in time on a journey through the intricately-detailed Corfe Castle Model Village, giving you a glimpse into what life used to be like here in 1646. If you’re on a family getaway, the fabulous Dorset Adventure Park is just outside the village, too.

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    3

    Lyme Regis

    Soak up the sun and hunt for fossils in ‘the Pearl of Dorset’

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    Lyme Regis is a breathtaking seaside town in West Dorset, hugging the famous Jurassic Coast. With its bunting-lined streets, sweeping golden beach, calm turquoise sea, and, of course, its world-renowned Cobb, it’s easy to see why this is such a hotspot for holidaymakers. But, there’s more to this postcard-perfect town than just its beautiful beach.

    Famous for its abundance of prehistoric fossils, you can venture off on guided fossil hunting walks, run by the Lyme Regis Museum. Fans of the arts can find places offering Jane Austin walking tours and even Broadchurch tours, too. Plus, no trip to Lyme Regis would be complete without a visit to the traditional Marine Aquarium.

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    4

    Milton Abbas

    Experience fairy-tale cottages and traditional village celebrations

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    Milton Abbas might not be the biggest village, but a visit to this central Dorset gem will have you feeling like you’ve stepped onto a film set. Its perfectly symmetrical thatched white cottages, with their large front lawns, can only be differentiated by their colourful front doors and their individual house names.

    If you’re visiting the area in July, be sure to check whether the 18th-century Milton Abbas Street Fair is taking place. It occurs every 2 years on the last Saturday of the month and sees the village come alive with hundreds of arts, crafts and food stalls, plenty of entertainment and villagers dressed in period costumes.

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    5

    Weymouth

    Enjoy all the fun of a traditional seaside holiday

    The picturesque coastal town of Weymouth has all the ingredients for a traditional British summer holiday. Its vibrant seafront is home to a sandy beach lined with multi-coloured beach huts and equally colourful houses. Talk about Instagrammable content!

    If you’re looking for a fun-filled family holiday, this could be just the place for you. When you’re not building sandcastles, why not visit the impressive Sandworld Sculpture Park and be wowed by the work of the experts? Take in the fabulous sights at the award-winning Nothe Fort, traverse the causeway to the Isle of Portland and soak up the atmosphere of the town’s bustling harbour.

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    6

    Burton Bradstock

    Hike along one of Dorset’s most stunning stretches of coastline

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    The breathtaking landscape surrounding Burton Bradstock is enough to draw anyone to this quaint coastal spot. The village itself is relatively unassuming, though still beautiful with its traditional thatched cottages. Venture a little further afield and you’ll be rewarded with one of Dorset’s most spectacular scenery.

    Head out on an unforgettable coastal walk and have your camera at the ready when you reach Hive Beach, famous for its dramatic sandstone cliffs. Continue a little further along and you’ll discover West Bay, the filming location for the BBC’s Broadchurch. At the end of the day, head back to the Hive Beach Café and satisfy your appetite with some freshly-caught seafood.

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    7

    Cerne Abbas

    Visit the home of the iconic Cerne Giant

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    You’d be forgiven for thinking that you don’t know what the small village of Cerne Abbas is famous for, but then you’ll see that instantly recognisable image of the nude man carved into the chalk hillside. The ancient and iconic Cerne Abbas Giant stands at an impressive 180 ft tall and is just a short walk from the village itself.

    Aside from its hillside giant, Cerne Abbas is well worth your time to explore. The Benedictine Cerne Abbey is a wonderful sight to explore and the nearby Cerne Abbas Brewery means you won’t be short of great pubs serving freshly-brewed beers, as well as local ciders, wines and spirits.

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    foto door Garry Knight (CC BY 2.0) bewerkt

    8

    Upwey

    Make a wish at the ancient well

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    The idyllic village of Upwey lies right on the outskirts of Weymouth, offering a peaceful respite from the bustling seaside town. Strictly speaking, the area has morphed into one of Weymouth’s outer suburbs, but locals here are passionate about maintaining that traditional village life.

    What was once Dorset’s premier tourist hotspot is now a sleepy, pretty village, with only the sound of chirping birds and babbling brooks to break the silence of your surroundings. Nowadays, the area is most famous for its moss-covered Wishing Well, set in beautiful ornamental water gardens with a tearoom serving traditional afternoon high tea.

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    9

    Sherborne

    Explore medieval sites and spot famous TV and film backdrops

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    The charming market town of Sherborne is rich in history, with fascinating ancient landmarks to explore. Film and TV enthusiasts with a sharp eye may well recognise places such as Sherborne Abbey and Sherborne School from the likes of Far From The Madding Crowd and the 2014 blockbuster The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

    Located on the banks of the River Yeo and packed with independent galleries, bookshops and eateries, Sherborne is a beautiful town to discover. A look inside the aforementioned abbey is a must, as is a visit to the Sherborne Castle & Gardens. Numerous events and festivals take place in the town throughout the year, so be sure to check what’s on before you go.

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    10

    Dorchester

    Delve into the history and culture of the county

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    Dorchester, a county town of Dorset, is the place to be if you love immersing yourself in the local culture of your surroundings. Home to a wealth of must-see attractions and some of the best museums in the county, it’s a great place to base yourself, especially if you’re planning to explore the wider county too.

    Learn all there is to know about the area at the incredible Dorset County Museum, get your creative juices flowing at the Sculpture by the Lakes or visit Maiden Castle, one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Europe. For the literature fans among you, must-visits include Thomas Hardy’s Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage.

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    11

    Evershot, Dorset

    Walk in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy

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    Evershot is an idyllic town surrounded by gently undulating Dorset pastures. The village is bordered by the River Frome and is made up of just a few streets. There’s an old coaching inn here, which was referenced by legendary author Thomas Hardy in his classic novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles and the whole village retains a 19th-century vibe. Days spent in Evershot revolve around country walks and visits to palatial country manors. Head to Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant for a genteel afternoon tea set with Dorset cream tea.

    In neighbouring Cerne Abbas, you can visit the carving of the Cerne Giant – a club-wielding figure cut into the chalk hillside. For family adventures, head to The Dinosaur Museum a few miles out of town to learn about the megalithic fossils found in the surrounding hills.

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    Sadie Geoghegan-Dann | Schrijver

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