#TravelBold Top 6 Places To Visit In Dorset by Della Galton
1. Corfe Castle, Purbeck
One of Britain’s most iconic and evocative survivors of the English Civil War, partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians.
A favourite haunt for adults and children alike, all ages are captivated by these romantic castle ruins with breathtaking views across Purbeck.
Discover 1,000 years of our history as a royal palace and fortress. With fallen walls and secret places, there are tales of treachery and treason around every corner.
Spot the ‘murder holes’ and count the arrow loops. Feel history come to life and see the wildlife that has set up home here.
2. Old Harry Rocks, Studland Bay
Standing tall on Handfast Point at the southern end of Studland Bay is one of the most famous landmarks on the South Coast – Old Harry. They are part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and are managed by the National Trust.
The chalk formations are popularly known as Old Harry Rocks, but the name Old Harry actually refers to the single stack of chalk standing furthest out to sea. Until 1896 there was another stack known as Old Harry’s Wife, but erosion caused her to tumble into the sea, leaving just a stump.
Thousands of years ago, Old Harry and The Needles (another chalk rock formation) on the Isle of Wight were linked by a line of chalk hills that eroded away during the last ice age. On a clear day you can see The Needles from Studland Bay.
There are a number of theories about where Old Harry got its name. It is reputedly named after either a famous local pirate (Harry Paye) or the devil. The top of the cliff nearby is known as Old Nick’s Ground which is another name for the devil.
The route leading to Old Harry is popular with both walkers and cyclists and is part of the South West Coast Path.
3. Studland Bay
A glorious slice of natural coastline in Purbeck featuring a four-mile stretch of golden, sandy beach, with gently shelving bathing waters and views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight.
Studland Bay is ideal for water sports and includes the most popular naturist beach in Britain. The heathland behind the beach is a haven for native wildlife and features all six British reptiles.
Designated trails through the sand dunes and woodlands allow for exploration and spotting of deer, insects and bird life as well as a wealth of wild flowers.
Studland was the inspiration for Toytown in Enid Blyton’s Noddy.
4. Gold Hill, Shaftesbury
There’s much to see and do at Gold Hill; at the top of the street is the 14th-century St Peter’s Church, one of the few buildings remaining in Shaftesbury from before the 18th century.
Adjacent to the church is the Gold Hill Museum, set in two historic buildings. One was once the priest’s house and still has a “squint” through the wall to St Peter’s church; the other provided basic lodgings for traders at the market on Gold Hill.
The ancient cobbled street runs beside the Grade I listed walls of the ancient Shaftesbury Abbey built by King Alfred the Great. The excavated foundations of this once important and influential Abbey lie in a peaceful walled garden, with an extensive herb garden and medieval orchard. The Shaftesbury Abbey Museum brings to life the story of Saxon England’s foremost Benedictine nunnery which acted as the catalyst for the prosperity of the town and surrounding area for over 650 years until it was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in 1539.
5. The Cerne Abbas Giant
Standing at 180ft tall the Cerne Giant is Britain’s largest chalk hill figure and perhaps the best known.
Many theories surround the giant’s identity and origins. Is it an ancient symbol of spirituality? Or a likeness of the Greco-Roman hero Hercules? Or a mockery of Oliver Cromwell? Local folklore has long held it be an aid to fertility.
Above the Giant is a rectangular earthwork enclosure, known as the Trendle. Like the Giant, the Trendle is of unknown origin, but is belived to date back to the Iron Age. It is still used today by local Morris Dancers as a site for May Day celebrations.
The Giant was given to the National Trust nearly 100 years ago, in 1920. Part of conserving the Giant means leaving it alone as much as possible – the chalk is replaced every decade or so, a process that takes days of work by National Trust rangers and volunteers. The more the ground is disturbed, the quicker the Giant erodes away.
From different viewpoints, in different lights, the Giant can look starkly white or at times be just a faint outline. The best viewing spot for the Giant is from the Giant’s View car park, but there is also a short walk up to the Giant’s feet.
6. Brownsea Island, Poole
The perfect day’s adventure, this island wildlife sanctuary is easy to get to but feels like another world from the moment you step ashore.
The island sits in the middle of Poole Harbour, with dramatic views to the Purbeck Hills. Thriving natural habitats, including woodland, heathland and a lagoon, have created havens for wildlife, such as the red squirrel and a huge variety of birds, including the sandwich tern. You’ll find peacocks and hens wandering near the 19th-century church.
The island is steeped in history, which you can learn more about at the Visitor Centre. Several industries have thrived on Brownsea Island over the years, including cattle farming, daffodil farming and pottery. You’ll see remnants of all of this on the island – with Pottery Pier still surrounded by shards of the ceramics that were once crafted there. You can also see the remains of the village of Maryland, which once housed scores of workers and their families.
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