Dorset Ambassador County Module

Countryside, towns and villages

Topic Progress:

Of course, Dorset is much more than just its coastline. Dorset has no less than two large areas which are officially an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB).  The first stretches from Lyme Regis to Poole Harbour and inland to Blandford Forum; and the second covers Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs– together they cover half of the county. Cranborne Chase was formerly a royal hunting forest and has a long history of smuggling and deer poaching – deer can still be seen grazing there. These areas are great for panoramic views, and people enjoy walking, riding and cycling.

More information about the AONB, how it is managed and opportunities to explore can be found at  and

Overall, Dorset’s countryside is very varied.  In the east there are heathlands; the centre is chalk downland, with rivers and streams cutting through; and in the west towards Devon there are more hills and woodland. The north of Dorset is known as the Blackmore Vale, a very old landscape shaped by dairy-farming, with many small paths and bridleways.

Dorset is full of lovely market towns, famous for their landmarks, links with historical events or to English culture; and there are also some 150 smaller villages that are worth exploring.  Far too many to list here, but do you know if there is something unique you could explain to visitors about where you live or work?

The important towns of Weymouth, Dorchester, Shaftesbury, Christchurch and Swanage are described in detail in the regional sections later.  To learn more about the large conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole, look at the Bournemouth Ambassador site and the Poole module attached to it.