Dorset, is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The ceremonial county comprises the non-metropolitan county, which is governed by Dorset County Council, and the unitary authority areas of Poole and Bournemouth. After the reorganisation of local government in 1974 the county's border was extended eastward to incorporate the Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch. Around half of the population lives in the South East Dorset conurbation, while the rest of the county is largely rural with a low population density.
Dorset has a varied landscape featuring broad elevated chalk downs, steep limestone ridges and low-lying clay valleys. Over half the county is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and three-quarters of its coastline is a World Heritage Site that features notable landforms such as Lulworth Cove, the Isle of Portland, Chesil Beach and Durdle Door. Agriculture was traditionally the major industry of Dorset but is now in decline and tourism has become increasingly important to the economy. There are no motorways in Dorset but a network of A roads cross the county and two railway main lines connect to London. Dorset has ports at Poole, Weymouth and Portland and an international airport. The county has a variety of museums, theatres and festivals, and is host to one of Europe's largest outdoor shows. It is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, who used the county as the principal setting of his novels, and William Barnes, whose poetry celebrates the ancient Dorset dialect.
- Corfe Castle, captured and destroyed by Cromwell’s army in 1646.
- The county features some notable coastal landforms, including examples of a cove (Lulworth Cove), a natural arch (Durdle Door) and chalk stacks (Old Harry Rocks).
- The Dorset County Museum in Dorchester was founded in 1846 and contains an extensive collection of exhibits covering the county's history and environment.
- The Tank Museum at Bovington contains more than 300 tanks and armoured vehicles from 30 nations.
- One of Dorset's most noted cultural institutions is the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra which was founded in 1893.
- Grade I listed buildings include:
- Portland Castle, a coastal fort commissioned by Henry VIII;
- A castle with more than a 1,000 years of history at Corfe;
- A Roman ruin described by English Heritage as the "only Roman town house visible in Britain";
- Athelhampton, a Tudor manor house;
- Forde Abbey, a stately home and former Cistercian monastery;
- Christchurch Priory, the longest church in England;
- St Edwold's church, one of the smallest
More about Dorset:
- The first human visitors to Dorset were Mesolithic hunters, from around 8000 BC
- During the Iron Age, the British tribe known as the Durotriges established a series of hill forts across the county—most notably Maiden Castle which is one of the largest in Europe.
- The Romans arrived in Dorset during their conquest of Britain in AD 43.
- In 789 the first recorded Viking attack on the British Isles took place in Dorset on the Portland coast, and they continued to raid into the county for the next two centuries.
- The wool trade, the quarrying of Purbeck Marble and the busy ports of Weymouth, Melcombe Regis, Lyme Regis and Bridport brought prosperity to the county.
- The dissolution of the monasteries (1536–1541) met little resistance in Dorset and many of the county's abbeys, including Shaftesbury, Cerne and Milton, were sold to private owners.