West Dorset

Long gone are the days when West Dorset was viewed as quaint and old fashioned by the whirling urban centres in the east of the county.

Although its deep-rooted sense of identity is still there in its coastal and rural villages and towns, today it is also famed for gastronomic excellence thanks to the work of celebrity foodies like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Mark Hix, Mat Follas and Cass Titcombe. As well as high quality old-fashioned seaside fish and chips and hearty pub food there’s a mouth-watering choice of first class eateries, many of them award winning, in and around Bridport, Beaminster, Seatown, Lyme Regis, Weymouth and Sherborne.

The golden cliffs at West Bay and Burton Bradstock are instantly familiar to the millions that watched David Tennant, Olivia Coleman and Jodie Whittaker in the three seasons of ITV crime drama Broadchurch, but they are just aperitifs for a feast of visual thrills in West Dorset.

The county town of Dorchester is laden with treasures dating back to prehistoric times, while Sherborne with its distinctive ochre-coloured ham stone architecture was the ancient capital of Wessex and the final resting place of two Saxon kings of England.

Chesil Beach, 18 miles of pebbles and shingle, connects the port resort of Weymouth in the east to the fascinating village of Abbotsbury, home to a 600-year-old swannery and subtropical gardens founded more than 250 years ago.

Further along the coast is the steep shingle beach and delightful village of Eype and inland the charming villages of the Piddle Valley, the Iron Age hill fort and farm at Eggardon Hill – once owned by the notorious smuggler Isaac Gulliver – and the defiantly male charms of the giant hill figure at Cerne Abbas.

West Dorset really is full of surprises!