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Holiday cottages in South Dorset

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Portland, at Dorset's southerly point, is almost an island, being joined to the mainland only by the causeway Chesil Beach. The best way to explore this area is by foot. There's a good network of footpaths which allow access to several sites of special scientific interest. The chalk and limestone grasslands are a haven for butterflies and several rare species can be spotted here. Around the coves and rocks you can take in the atmosphere as the waves crash against the shore. You'll see several shipwrecks and interesting geological features carved out by the power of the water.

Portland Bill lighthouse is a famous feature of this area. You can climb over 150 steps on a guided tour of the lighthouse and enjoy spectacular views whilst hearing about the history of the place. The Old Lower Lighthouse is now home to Portland Bird Observatory (open from March until November) which was established to study bird migration. Lots of migrating birds stop off at Portland during their migration south. Chesil beach itself, and the Fleet Lagoon it gives on to, are of significant geological interest. The Chesil Beach visitor centre tells the story of the area's geology and wildlife through a series of interactive displays. You can also take a trip on the Fleet Observer, which is a glass bottomed boat used to examine the marine life within the Fleet Lagoon.

For thatched cottages and a rustic retreat into Dorset's past have a look around the Abbotsbury area for your self-catering accommodation, or for cosy inns and B&Bs. Abbotsbury is a very old village and famous for its swannery. This 600 year old bird sanctuary is the only place where you can walk amongst nesting and hatching swans. The village is full of picturesque medieval buildings and is overlooked by an iron-age hill fort. Abbotsbury is home to the world's largest thatched Tithe Barn, which is now a good place to take children with the 'smuggler's barn' interactive adventure, and friendly farm animals to meet. The 14th Century St Catherine's Chapel perches on a hill on the edge of the village, and looks out across Dorset and the coast. There are also sub-tropical gardens to visit and various shops, pubs and restaurants.

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