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Farming has been a way of life here for centuries and the county has a superb choice of products on sale at farm shops and markets.
An important scene in Jane Austen’s Persuasion was set on the Cobb, long before Meryl Streep in the movie version of John Fowles’s novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman helped make the location world-famous.Fishermen practising sustainable fishing bring sea bass, crab and scallops to West Bay and Lyme Regis.You can buy them from companies including Dorset Shellfish or Samways – or let the experts cook them at restaurants along the coast.Bournemouth had its heyday in the 19th Century but the town still has its pleasure gardens and glorious golden sands.The Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery was built by diplomat Sir Merton Russell-Cotes as a birthday present for his wife.Glimpse the multi-million-pound homes before you take the chain ferry across to Studland, where you can walk and swim in peace.
Dorset is a county of rivers – the chalk streams of Cranborne Chase, the Frome and Brid in West Dorset, and the Stour, rising above the National Trust’s Stourhead Gardens and meandering down through the countryside to Christchurch.
Contemporary authors who have made their homes in Dorset include Minette Walters and American-born Tracy Chevalier, whose novel Remarkable Creatures tells the story of Mary Anning, the Lyme Regis fossil collector and ‘mother of palaeontology’.
The varied Dorset cultural scene includes Artsreach, one of the country’s best rural touring schemes.
St Giles House, the 17th Century ancestral home of the Earls of Shaftesbury at Wimborne St Giles, had been boarded up for 40 years.
After his father was murdered and his elder brother died, Nick Ashley-Cooper inherited the estate.
Elsewhere, the South Dorset Ridgeway has more than 1,000 ancient monuments along its route.