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Holiday cottages in East Dorset

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If you do choose a holiday cottage in east Dorset, then you're within reach of the New Forest, which lies mainly in neighbouring Hampshire. The New Forest is a large National Park, which is actually far from New; in fact it's over nine hundred years old. The area is made up of over 200 square miles of native deciduous and coniferous woodland, heaths, bogs, streams and estuaries. In it you'll find ponies, cattle and pigs roaming freely, as well as a vast array of other plants and animals. If you're in Dorset on a cycling holiday then you might want to get pedalling over to the New Forest to explore over 100 miles of Forestry Commission owned offroad tracks. This is also great walking territory, and there are abundant footpaths offering a nice variety of scenery. Needless to say, there are plenty of options for accommodation in East Dorset and into Hampshire; log cabins, family-sized lodges, campsites, hotels and B&Bs.

Poole, down the coast from Bournemouth, is one of Dorset's best-known seaside resorts, with a natural harbour, bustling key and good beaches. One of these beaches, Sandbanks, is the proud winner of fourteen European Blue Flags, awarded for safety and cleanliness. The Cockle Trail guides visitors around the town, showing off a romantic seafaring and trading history and taking in impressive Georgian and medieval buildings. In summer, Poole takes on a somewhat continental atmosphere with alfresco dining offering fantastic evening views across the harbour. Poole is also famous for its pottery. The official 'Poole pottery' has been produced for over 130 years, and you can visit both the showroom and the factory outlet in Poole.

For active holidaymakers, there are plenty of exhilarating watersports going on in Poole. As well as power boating and jet skiing, the sheltered harbour is a great place for learners to try out sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding or kite surfing. In fact, Poole is home to 'Animal Windfest', the premier UK wind and kite surfing championship. If you fancy something a bit quieter there are some nice gardens and parks around Poole, including the impressive Compton Acres and nearby Upton Country Park, where you'll find a merchant's house, a formal garden, woodland and parkland open to the public. Just out of town is the Tower Park complex, which includes the Splashdown water park, bowling alley and a cinema. There's also the Courtyard Centre, a working craft centre which hosts regular workshops and serves a lovely cream tea.

If you do pick a cottage for a summer trip in or near Poole, then Brownsea Island is a must for a peaceful day out. Be warned though: you will need to pay both for the ferry and a 'landing charge' on arrival. Part-owned by the National Trust and by Dorset's Wildlife Trust, Brownsea nature reserve is home to a vast range of wildlife, including the rare red squirrel. If you pop into the Visitor and Education Centre you can learn about the island's interesting history; it's the birthplace of the Scout and Guide movement. You'll also enjoy peaceful walks (with no traffic to disturb you) and perfect picnic spots.

Set in Dorset's woodland near Wareham is the 'Monkey World' ape rescue centre. Monkey World was set up in 1987 and continues to rescue apes from all over the world. Many of the apes have been captured in Africa and used for entertainment on Spanish beaches. There are also ex-laboratory animals and those rescued from the illegal pet trade or from circuses. Monkey world has 65 acres of sanctuary for over 150 primates.

Wareham itself is a pretty market town. In its early days, the town suffered regular raids by the Vikings and was captured by Canute in 1016. Wareham's earthen walls were subsequently raised for protection. The grassy banks now surround a cluster of buildings, many of them of historic interest. The 'Wall walk' offers views over the River Piddle (that'll cause a few giggles!). You can also take a boat trip on the river Frome. There are lots of pubs and traditional tea rooms for refreshments. If you're in self-catering accommodation nearby then you can stop off at the weekly market, and perhaps catch one of the regular farmers markets, for some high-quality local fare.

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