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Rural Dorset


Away from the coastline there is a whole different side to Dorset waiting to be explored. Over 40% of the county is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which affords protection of the landscape, wildlife and environment similar to that of National Parks.

The Dorset Downs stretching west of Blandford Forum form a spectacular chalk landscape with rolling hills and steep, wooded valleys. Iron Age forts still watch over the countryside from some of the higher hills - the best views can be found here too. This area was the setting for many of Thomas Hardy's novels, and walking along some of the many designated footpaths, it is easy to understand how that inspiration might have come to him. Areas of heathland provide an environment for many rare fauna and flora, including all six species of British reptile.
The countryside surrounding the downs is just as picturesque, albeit less hilly. Across the entire county, networks of paths are maintained for enjoyment on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. Whether you build your holiday around one of these activities, or just take a day or two to experience them, you will not be disappointed.

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Aside from the views there are lots of other attractions too. Nature reserves, historic houses and gardens. If you're fond of history there are forts, castles, abbeys, stone circles and even chalk figures such as the one at Cerne Abbas - the largest human chalk figure in Britain.

Finally, don't ignore the villages and towns. Most are steeped in history. Pause and take a break in one of the picturesque villages, often just a cluster of stone-walled, thatch roof cottages. Lunch, or perhaps a cream tea, is so much more enjoyable in an idyllic setting like this. Visit some of the larger market towns. Here you will find shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, usually selling local goods and produce. Many towns still have an active market on one or two days each week - always worth a visit. Track down some local culinary delicacies or perhaps find an unusual souvenir of your stay.

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