South West England – Weymouth and Dorset

Weymouth and Dorset
1. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Swannery and Childrens Farm
Established in 1765 by the first Countess of Ilchester as a kitchen garden, Abbotsbury has since developed into a magnificent 20 acre site filled with rare and exotic plants. It’s a mixture of formal and informal, with charming walled garden walks and spectacular woodland valley views. The children’s farm is a great place for under 11’s, where children can ride ponies and feed baby goats. Don’t miss feeding time of 600 birds at the swannery! Facilities include a cafe and plant sales.

2. Oceanarium – the Bournemouth Aquarium
Explore the secrets of the ocean in an adventure that will take you to some of the world’s most amazing waters. The Oceanarium Bournemouth brings you face to face with marine life from the furthest reaches of the globe. The Oceanarium is a fully interactive experience with touch screen games, feeding demonstrations and talks, plasma screen documentaries, walk-through underwater tunnel and exhibits to help you discover more about this fascinating underwater world.

3. The Tank Museum, Bovington
Over 300 vehicles from 29 nations make up Bovington Tank Museum’s collections, from the very first tank to the modern British Challenger II. Many of the vehicles are unique and can be seen nowhere else in the world. There are three main exhibitions; The Tank Story, The Trench Experience and The Discovery Centre. Follow the story of the tank from 1915 into the 21st century. Walk in the footsteps of a WWI soldier, from the recruiting office to the front line.

4. Weymouth
The classic seaside resort of Weymouth, with its beach and idyllic leisure harbour, nestles perfectly alongside the rugged Isle of Portland, the perfect place for visitors who just want to get away from it all. Chosen as the venue for the 2012 Olympic sailing. Weymouth is best enjoyed for its authentic charm as a traditional, British seaside resort. There’s a fine sandy beach, and the sea front and quayside are lined with pretty Georgian houses painted in a variety of pastel shades. Gentle rolling downs provide a backdrop to the north, and fishing boats operate from along the stone quay which lines the opening of the river.

5. Portland Bill Lighthouse and Visitor Centre
The famous Portland Bill lighthouse was built in 1906, stands 35m high and has been keeping shipping safe along this stretch of the Dorset Coast ever since. Also on the site of the lighthouse is a visitor centre, which is open during the summer months and contains displays about various Portland lighthouses, local wildlife, the Portland stone industry and shipwrecks. Why not visit Pulpit Rock, a fantastic rock formation next to the lighthouse?

6. Thomas Hardys Cottage
The poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in this small thatched cottage with its charming cottage garden. It was from here he would walk the three miles to school each day in Dorchester. The cottage was built by Thomas Hardy’s great grandfather, and is little altered since the family left. Hardy’s early novels, Under the Greenwood Tree, and Far from the Madding Crowd were written here. Copies of Hardy’s books are on sale, and a series of literary events takes place throughout the year.

7. Cerne Abbas Chalk Giant
Walk up Giant Hill in West Dorset to the Cerne Abbas Chalk Giant. The Cerne Abbas Giant is a huge outline sculpted into the chalk hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas representing a naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant. Public perceptions are wide-ranging, is he smutty, humorous or offensive? Certainly he has been used to advertise products as diverse as condoms, jeans and bicycles. Many couples today believe him to be a unique aid to fertility.

8. Sherborne Castle
Once the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, the imposing Sherbourne Castle and stunning gardens sit within a Capability Brown influenced landscape. Tranquil lakeside walks take you through a superb collection of trees and plants, including giant Cedars and Ginko, with the 12th century ruins of the old castle as a romantic backdrop. The new castle was constructed by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 to replace an existing hunting lodge, and was aded to in the 1620’s. Facilities include a shop and tearooms.

9. Shaftesbury and Gold Hill Museum
Shaftesbury offers visitors breathtaking views of the surounding Dorset countryside. It is one of the oldest and highest towns in England and dominates what Hardy called the “engirdled and secluded” Blackmore Vale. Gold Hill, with its steep cobbles and picturesque cottages is the epitome of rural charm. Gold Hill Museum portrays local life and history through collections which include the town’s first fire engine! Visit the cottage garden, which features plants chosen for perfume as well as colour.

10. The Teddy Bear Museum, Dorchester
A visit to Teddy bear House is in fact a visit to the home of Mr Edward Bear and his large family of human-size teddy bears! Here in an Edwardian style house, in the picturesque town of Dorchester, these unique bears live and work and would love you to come and visit their charming house. A visit to their home is a delight for visitors of all ages. Join the bears as they relax around the home or busy themselves in the “Collectors’ Room” of the Dorset Teddy Bear Museum.

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