Dorset offers a rich and varied landscape. Largely rural with few main roads, it can broadly be subdivided into six main constituent parts:
The countryside is mainly grass with blackthorn hedgerows and mature Oak trees and is gently undulating. The economy of North Dorset is largely dairy agriculture based. It is popular not only for the schools in the area but also the transport links to London.
Towns: Blandford Forum, Gillingham, Shaftesbury, Stalbridge and Sturminster Newton.
Main villages: Ashmore, Chettle, Child Okeford, Milborne St Andrew, Milton Abbas, Motcombe, Pimperne, Shroton, Iwerne Minster, Tarrant Gunville, Tarrant Keyneston, Tarrant Launceston, Tarrant Monkton, Tarrant Rushton, Todber, West Stour, Winterborne Stickland, Woolland.
Schools: Bryanston, Milton Abbey, Hanford, Knighton, Clayesmore, Port Regis and St Mary’s Shaftesbury.
Communications: Mainline rail connections are avilable to London Waterloo from Gillingham with train times of approximately 2 hours. The A303 Exeter to London road is easily accessible also.
Places of interest: Golden Hill, Fiddleford Manor.
This area is characterised by grass downland and valleys, the Marshwood Vale, the Piddle and Frome valleys but most notably for the Jurassic coastline.
Towns: The county town of Dorchester, Lyme Regis, Bridport, Sherborne and Beaminster.
Main villages: Abbotsbury, Askerwell, Bishops Caundle, Broadwindsor, Bradpole. Buckland Newton, Burton Bradstock, Cattistock, Cerne Abbas, Charmouth, Chideock, Corscombe, Evershot, Halstock, Holwell, Hooke, Litton Cheney, Loders, Long Bredy Maiden Newton, Marshwood, Netherbury, Piddlehinton, Piddletrenthide, Portesham, Poundbury, Powerstock, Poyntington, Puncknowle, Purse Caundle, Shipton Gorge, Stoke Abbott, Sydling St Nicholas, Symondsbury, Thorncombe, West Bexington and West Bay.
Schools: Leweston, Sherborne Boys and Sherborne Girls. The area offers very good primary schools.
Communications: The nearest mainline railway station is in Dorchester which goes to London Waterloo (approx. 2.5 hours). The A35 Honiton to Poole main road provides access to the A31/M27/M3 and London.
Places of interest: Abbotsbury Swannery, Chesil Beach, Dorset Downs, Eggardon Hill, Golden Cap, Jurassic Coast, Pilsdon Pen, Sherborne Abbey, Sherborne Castle, Sherborne House
This area is quite remote and rugged in parts with access to some lovely beaches. Originally known as the Isle of Purbeck.
Towns: Swanage and Wareham.
Main villages: Studland, Lulworth, Corfe Castle, Bere Regis, East Lulworth, Kimmeridge, Langton Matravers, Lytchett Matravers, Lytchett Minster, Moreton, Stoborough, West Lulworth, Wool, Worgret, Worth Matravers, Lytchett Minster and Upton.
Communications: There is a ferry between Poole (Sandbanks) and Studland which can often shorten journeys around the mainland. Alternatively there are trains from London to Wareham. The A351 main road connects with the A35 main road giving access to London and the west.
Places of interest: Brownsea Island, Chaldon Down, Clouds Hill, Corfe Castle, Dancing Ledge, Durdle Door, Godlingstone Heath, Godlingstone Manor,Jurassic Coast, Lulworth Castle, Lulworth Cove, Old Harry Rocks, Poole Harbour, Purbeck Heritage Coast, South West Coast Path, St Aldhelm's Head, Studland Bay, Swanage Railway, Tyneham, Wareham Forest, Kimmeridge Bay.
The popularity of the area, being close to the New Forest, Bournemouth and the Dorset coast, has seen a rapid expansion in housing from the 1970s. There still remains a rural feel, however, especially in the north and west of the area where a number of large country estates are found characterised by downlands, the Cranborne Chase and the Tarrant Valley. East Dorset also contains a large amount of lowland heath interspersed with blocks of forestry.
Towns: Wimborne Minster.
Main villages: Cranborne, Wimborne St Giles, Witchampton, Verwood, Sixpenny Handley, Edmondsham, Corfe Mullen, Shapwick.
Communications: The A31 provides easy access to the M27/M3 and London. The nearest train station is Poole with connections to London Waterloo.
Places of interest: Kingston Lacy, Cranborne Chase, Holt Heath and the New Forest.
The resort is among the first modern tourist destinations, after King George III made Weymouth his summer holiday residence on fourteen occasions between 1789 and 1805. It is an entertaing and attractive seaside town with a sandy beach, harbour and moorings and an esplanade of Georgian terraces.The Isle of Portland is famed for its stone. It is a central part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site and Chesil Beach connects it to the mainland. The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy will host the sailing events for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Main villages: Preston, Melcombe Regis, Upwey, Broadwey, Chiswell, Castletown, Fortuneswell, Weston, Portland, Southwell and Easton.
Communications: By road on the A354 from Dorchester or by train changing at Dorchester with connections to London Waterloo.
Places of interest: Portland Harbour, Weymouth Bay, the Esplanade, Chesil beach and the Fleet.
These towns are linked side by side and are lively, thriving coastal towns very different from the rest of Dorset. Of particular note is the Canford Cliffs and Sandbanks areas of Poole where property commands exceptionally high prices at an international level.
Schools: Talbot Heath, Bournemouth Grammar and Poole Grammar.
Communications: Bournemouth International Airport, at Hurn, is about 2 miles from Christchurch centre. Bournemouth Airport serves all the major cities in the United kingdom and throughout Europe. The towns have a station on the main line from London Waterloo to Poole.
Places of interest: Christchurch Castle, Christchurch Priory, Christchurch Harbour, Poole Harbour and Poole Quay.