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The county of Dorset, which lies between Devon and Hampshire on England's
southern coast with Somerset and Wiltshire to the north, occupies an area
of over 1000 square miles.
Dorset's 75-mile coastline is fascinatingly varied. One of the best ways of experiencing its many delights is to walk a section of the South West Coast Path. Heading westwards beyond the exceptionally clean, sandy beaches of Bournemouth you can make a start at the Isle of Purbeck next to Poole Harbour. It’s not really an island at all, but a heathland, now designated a World Heritage Site. Past Corfe Castle – one of the most romantic ruins in all of Britain - the path leads on to Kimmeridge Bay – a marine nature reserve, favoured by divers – and then to exquisite Lulworth Cove and the famous limestone arches of Durdle Dor. Further west beyond Weymouth, is Chesil Beach, an eighteen-mile long ridge of shingle that stretches its bony finger at out to Portland Bill, and is inhabited throughout the year by sea anglers. From here the South West Coastal Path eventually leads you to the crumbling cliffs of Lyme Bay and Lyme Regis in the far west of the county. The beach and famous undercliff at Lyme are so rich in fossils that it comes as little surprise to learn that this part of Dorset is now known as the “Jurrassic Coast”. From this point, if you follow the South West Coastal Path any further, you’ll be in Devon.
There’s more to Dorset than popular seaside resorts of Bournmouth, Weymouth and Lyme Regis. The heaths and rolling green hills where chalk and flint cottages nestle evoke the world of the author Thomas Hardy. Dorchester, the County seat, was Hardy’s Casterbridge, the place where Michael Henchard’s guilty secret – that he once sold his wife and daughter to a sailor – becomes his undoing. Many other picturesque Dorset towns and villages have unfeasibly quaint names such as Blandford Forum, Piddletrenthide, Toller Porcorum and Cerne Abbas, where the famous chalk giant flourishes his manhood.
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