Escape the crowds and discover the beautiful countryside at the heart of rural Dorset. Less than a 45 minute drive from the coastal resorts you will find an area of high chalk hills, stunning views, quiet lanes, thatched villages, busy rural market towns and a hearty welcome.
With a wealth of quality accommodation the area forms the ideal base from which to explore the heart of the county as well as the coast to the south and Wiltshire and Somerset to the north. At Shaftesbury you will find famous Gold Hill, featured prominently in the Hovis adverts, and the 1100-year-old Abbey ruins. With outstanding views over the Blackmore Vale Shaftesbury is a delightful town to explore, and its museum, arts centre and shops provide plenty to do and see. Just a couple of miles south of Shaftesbury is the award-winning Compton Abbas Airfield which is nationally acclaimed as one of the prettiest and most visitor-friendly airfields in the country.
Explore the Georgian town of Blandford Forum, rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1731 and architecturally, little changed today. Visit Mrs Penny's Cavalcade of Costume or the town museum, or simply browse in Blandford's range of shops. Blandford Royal Signals Museum offers great attractions for all the family about the history of army communications. Blandford is also host to the annual Great Dorset Steam Fair at the beginning of each September, and the town's Georgian Fayre in May.
Upstream from Blandford sits Sturminster Newton, a pretty country market town and former home town of Thomas Hardy. The famous mill, surrounded by water meadows, today houses a fascinating mill museum.
Visit one of England's finest examples of a complete estate village at Milton Abbas. 200 years ago the Earl of Dorchester cleared the original village to accommodate a lake on his estate, and the rebuilt thatched village is today hardly changed. 500-year-old Milton Abbey, part of the original estate house, is set in finely planned grounds created by Capability Brown.
The area offers several Roman and Celtic hill forts such as Hod Hill and Rawlsbury Camp, where you are free to wander among the ruins as well as take in the stunning views over the surrounding countryside. The estate is criss-crossed by well-marked footpaths and bridlepaths, including part of the 137-mile Wessex Ridgeway walk from Marlborough, Wiltshire to Lyme Regis.
The North Dorset Cycleway follows a 7 ½ mile loop through much of the area's sensational scenery, threading through all of the district's characterful towns as well as passing many of the area's attractions.
Use the map of North Dorset below to zoom in or out to view directions or click the satellite button for an aerial view. For a larger version of this North Dorset map Click Here.