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Historic castles, beautiful houses and gardens, lush green countryside and some of the most striking coastal geography anywhere make Dorset a very special county to visit at any time of year. Notably short of big cities, but with attractive seaside towns like Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch as well as the county town of Dorchester, the area is unmistakably rural, threaded by rivers and with pretty villages punctuating its hills and heaths.
Most of the coastline is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, 100 miles (160km) of geological history that has yielded many of the world's most influential discoveries of fossils, including prehistoric trees and the first complete ichthyosaur. Seventeen miles (27km) long, the spit of land called Chesil Beach protects Britain's biggest tidal lagoon, and Lulworth Cove and nearby sea arches and stacks are popular both with tourists and climbers.
Dorset's cultural heritage is pretty unassailable, with writers Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen and the painter John Constable hailing from Weymouth. Mary Shelley, known for her book Frankenstein, made her home in Bournemouth, and Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter both featured the county in their books. Famous explorer and perhaps pirate Sir Walter Raleigh lived at Sherborne. Visitors to Dorset can expect to enjoy seafood, local ales and ciders, and particularly fine Dorset lamb.