SECRET LANDSCAPE TOURS proudly presents a special three day tour of Dorset, one of the most beautiful counties in England.
Dorset is a many-layered County in the south and west of England. With a wonderful coast, rolling hills, mysterious woodland and charming villages, Dorset still retains the special qualities that have made it such a rewarding area to visit.
Our tour of Dorset will reveal the secrets of a largely unspoilt landscape and give you a truly memorable experience of a place of true beauty.
Our first day starts with a visit to the attractive village of Cerne Abbas [map]. On the hillside above the village is a chalk figure, the famous Cerne Abbas Giant. This figure in all likelihood dates from the Iron Age and is probably a representation of the god Cernunos.
After viewing the Giant, we walk beside the beautiful River Cerne towards the Silver Well, also known as Saint Augustine's Well.
This holy well has reputed healing properties and is situated in a charming and secluded spot near the site of the long-lost Abbey, part of which is now an attractive churchyard. Near to the Well is an ancient Yew Tree, probably over 500 years old.
The only parts of the Abbey complex remaining are the nearby mediaeval Guest House and Abbot's Gatehouse, a very atmospheric building which is reputed to be haunted. Visitors have sometimes been aware of the smell of incense and some have noticed a rather sad atmosphere.
We have lunch in the highly rated New Inn in the village, an Inn which is in fact one of the oldest in the area!
After lunch we travel across the stunning scenery of the Marshwood Vale, passing Pilsden Pen, long thought to be the highest hill in Dorset. Our destination is the ancient seaside town of Lyme Regis [map], one of the most attractive coastal towns in Britain. Lyme is an historic town and was probably settled in prehistoric times. Certainly the Romans came here, naming the settlement Lyme Supra Mare. We visit Monmouth Beach where fossils can be seen etched in the rocks. We then explore the fascinating harbour area with its wonderful 13th-century sea-wall known as The Cobb.
We visit the beautifully situated Church of St. Michael, whose foundations and part of the tower are Saxon. There are Norman features in the church structure and a fascinating late 13th-century Brussels tapestry hanging on the north wall. A short distance from the church is the Leper's Well, situated below a wall which is all that remains of the friary, founded in 1246. The friars founded a lepers' hospital in Lyme in the 13th century of which the well was a part.
After a refreshing cup of tea or coffee, we drive the scenic coast road with stunning views and delightful villages. We should arrive back at our accommodation around 4.30-5pm.
Our second day begins with a stunning coastal drive to Abbotsbury [map], where we visit the Tropical Gardens which contain exotic and rare trees and plants.
We then walk up the hill to St. Catherine's Chapel, a mediaeval building which is redolent with echoes of the past. Next to visit are Abbotsbury church, with its lovely ancient porch.
We also view the neighbouring enigmatic fragments of the mediaeval Abbey.
We then travel a few miles by car to the mysterious body of water, a mixture of saline and fresh, known as the Fleet. After a short walk besides its gleaming beauty, we have lunch at the attractive and stately Moonfleet Manor Hotel. After our meal, we explore the enigmatic headland known as the Isle of Portland. We start our visit with a drive to the tip of the headland, Portland Bill. Here we can be exhilarated by the wild crash of the ocean on the rocks below. Near Portland Bill is an ancient well, the Culver Well is a spring lined by stone slabs and feels a subtly atmospheric place. Nearby are the remains of a Mesolithic settlement dating from about 6000 BC. Church Ope Cove is beautifully located below the ruins of Rufus Castle, probably built by William Rufus, son of William the conqueror. There are more ruins on the cliff above the Cove, those of St. Andrew's Church. The Cove is a lovely small beach, unspoilt for the most part. Our last visit for the day is the interesting Portland Museum, where we can see prehistoric aertefacts and other fascinating items that tell some of the history of this lovely area, the Isle of Portland. We take the coastal route and arrive back at our accommodation late afternoon.
Our third day is largely spent in a very atmospheric and beautiful area of Dorset, the Isle of Purbeck. Although not technically an island, this piece of land has the sea on three sides and is imbued with the special light the bodies of water give.
We visit firstly the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle [map], beautifully positioned atop a rocky hill. Initially a wooden structure, it was demolished and replaced with an imposing stone building by the Norman King William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Used by Royalty for 600 years it was passed through various hands until it was bought by Sir John Bankes in 1630. The Bankes family were Royalist and during the Civil War the castle was largely destroyed by the Parliamentarians.
We next drive the short distance to the Studland area, famous for its beautiful beaches. We stroll along the shoreline, enjoying the smell of the sea and the lovely surroundings. We then walk a very short distance to visit one of the outstanding historic churches of England, the church of St. Nicholas. This church was thought to have been built on an earlier Pagan religious site. It's roots go deep to Saxon times although the present building dates largely from the 12th century.
After our morning visits, we lunch at the fashionable 'Pig on the Beach', a 4 star hotel and restaurant enjoying wonderful views and superb food. After lunch we drive out of the Purbeck area to the Forest of Wareham, which mixes heathland and trees with dramatic effect.
After a short stroll amongst the sylvan beauty we drive to Tolpuddle to view the Martyrs' Tree, one of the most famous trees in the Country. This tree is an enormous Sycamore of venerable age, under which sat, in the 1830's, the 6 agricultural labourers who founded the Trade Union Movement and who were deported to Australia for their alleged 'crimes'. These 'crimes' consisted of attempts to bargain for fairer pay and living conditions.
Our last visit of the day is the remarkable 15th century Athelhampton Hall, one of the most beautiful and most haunted stately homes in England. The creak of the centuries gives a melodious tinge to the fabric of the house and one can well imagine supernatural activity amongst the poignant beauty of the house and grounds.This is the last day of our three day tour which hopefully has given a taste of what this lovely part of England has to offer.
Comfortable bed and breakfast accommodation is provided in or near the beautiful small town of Beaminster [map].
Car - London to Dorchester. From London take the M3 motorway and exit junction for A303 Andover. Continue along the A303. After approx 60 miles exit for Yeovil and the A3088. At Yeovil take the A37 for Dorchester. The journey should take just under three hours.
Train - London Waterloo to Dorchester approx 2 hours 30 minutes. Train times can be accessed via the National Rail website.
Coach - National Express to Dorchester approx 3 hours 50 minutes. Check coaches and times via the National Express website.
Secret Landscape Tours is happy to help with your travel arrangements by offering advice etc.
To book this tour, please advise us of your preferred location & dates and check availability using our booking form.