For holidays in the UK that combine the best of England’s rural beauty, historic monuments and landmarks and a choice of coastal resorts ranging from the traditional and fun-packed to the tranquil and relaxing, the county of Dorset in southwest England is difficult to beat.
Dorset’s Jurassic Coast
From the picturesque town of Lyme Regis, immortalised in the film of John Fowles’ novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman on the county’s western edge, Dorset’s share of the remarkable Jurassic Coast stretches seventy-three miles to Studland Bay near the pretty and historic town of Christchurch in the east of the county. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast is named after its cliffs which are more than 180 million years old. An abundance of prehistoric fossils, including dinosaur remnants, has been found along the coast which is also fascinating for its varied rock formations which include chalk sea stacks and, at Durdle Door, natural arches. Part of the 630-mile South West Coast Path, Dorset’s own Coast Path enables the county’s stunning Jurassic Coast to be explored in its entirety.
The seaside resorts of Dorset
Those looking for a seaside holiday in Dorset have a choice of options. Lyme Regis and the nearby villages of Bridport and Charmouth offer a peaceful escape, beautiful coastal scenery, easy access to shingle beaches and plentiful guest houses, small hotels, tea rooms and traditional shops.
Weymouth’s golden sand beaches and temperate climate are major draws for Dorset holidaymakers. Not far along the coast from the eastern county border with neighbouring Devon, this attractive town was a favourite resort of King George III, and many examples of Georgian and Regency architecture remain along Weymouth’s attractive seafront esplanade. Whilst tourism has become the mainstay of Weymouth’s economy it is still a fishing town at heart and the fishing fleet can still be observed at the inner harbour. Weymouth boasts numerous visitor attractions including the sixteenth century Portland Castle built by Henry VIII, the Discovery Science Centre, the Sea Life Park and, nearby, the famous Portland Bill lighthouse. Weymouth is a popular location for water sport enthusiasts as the sea here is safe for swimming, windsurfing, sailing and diving.
With beautiful background scenery provided by the Purbeck Hills, the small and delightful Dorset resort of Swanage offers a decent stretch of sandy beach, an array of amusements, bars, cafes and hotels, and a traditional pier along its seafront. Set in an area largely protected by the National Trust, Swanage has not succumbed to the large-scale development of other seaside resorts and has retained a pleasing rural charm. Proximity to the countryside means that Swanage is the perfect resort for combining a walking and beach holiday, whilst the magnificent hill-top ruins of the eleventh-century Corfe Castle provide spectacular views over the town.
Remnants of the medieval fishing port of Poole can still be seen today in the resorts ‘Old Town’, and fishing remains a popular activity with both locals and visitors. However, it is the quality of Poole’s shallow and clean waters and its long, sweeping sandy bay that make the town a British sunshine destination of choice for jet-skiing, sailing, windsurfing and a host of other water-based activities. Poole is also known for its famous pottery, and is home to Compton Acres, one of the most important –and beautiful- historic public gardens in Britain.
For all-out family fun in a traditional British seaside resort, Bournemouth spoils visitors with attractions for everyone. A great beach on which to relax or indulge in one of twenty-five water sports on offer is backed by a bustling and colourful town that brims with Victorian architecture and plentiful shops, restaurants, entertainments and accommodation. Bournemouth is also renowned for its many public gardens where mums and dads can relax once the kids have worn themselves out at the Adventure Wonderland amusement park and gawped at the undersea wonders on offer at Bournemouth’s Oceanarium.
With literary connections (Chesil Beach is here), historic attractions, rural beauty and a host of delightful resorts, each with its own individual character and appeal, strung out along one of the most stunning and geologically-important coastlines in the world, Dorset offers the kind of holiday appeal that, once experienced, ensures that visitors will want to come back for more.