The town of Sherborne, nestled amongst green valleys and woodland, was founded by the Saxons. It's a traditional market town, with several gift and antique shops. Sherborne proudly reached the final stages of 'Country Life' magazine's competition for 'England's favourite market town' (eventually won by Hexham in Northumberland). There are some impressive historical buildings to visit here: the 12th century Abbey Church, the 15th century almshouse and two castles. If you're an aviation enthusiast then the Fleet Air Arm museum is just a stone's throw away.
Inland Dorset has many beautiful stately homes and gardens to visit. Forde Abbey and Gardens, for example, is elegantly poised on the banks of the River Axe near Chard. The golden-coloured building, now a privately owned country house, is surrounded by 30 acres of gardens dating back to the 1700s. If you're staying in Dorset in spring then make your way here to see millions of bulbs in bloom, and to explore the arboretum, rockery and working kitchen garden. There's also a tea toom, gift shop, pottery, forge and garden centre.
One of the green rolling hills of Dorset draws in a particularly large number of visitors. On a hillside near the little village of Cerne Abbas, a 180 foot naked man is carved into the chalk hillside. The first mention of the 'Cerne Abbas Giant' in the historical records occurs in 1764, but its style and proximity to Iron Age earthworks suggest that it had been there for a lot longer. The site has long been associated with fertility, for reasons which are immediately obvious upon viewing the giant! In days gone by, it was custom to erect a maypole on the hillside around which childless couples would dance. Even today, those trying for a baby are known to come here in the hopes of conceiving.
Beaminster is another good base to consider if you're looking for accommodation in this Western part of Dorset. It has over 200 listed buildings and being set at the head of the picturesque Brit Valley makes it a great place for walkers. There are several tea shops and other small shops in the town centre; enough to keep you going if you're self catering. If you fancy something really different during your stay then why not have a go at Llama trekking? A couple running a B&B just outside Beaminster offer full-day treks which take Llamas and their riders on various routes to explore the Dorset countryside in unusual style!
From Lyme Regis right up to Sherborne, West Dorset is almost entirely made up of designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The woodlands and rolling hills are habitats for all sorts of flora and fauna, including bluebells, butterflies, deer, hares, foxes and over 350 species of bird. Dorset is good for cycling holidays, with lots of quite country lanes and designated cycle routes. Pilsdon Penn is Dorset's highest point, and therefore offers breathtaking views. Other top spots for walking and cycling are The Cerne Valley and the Brit Valley, through which you can follow the Brit Valley Way walking trail.