Formerly the home to famous English writer Thomas Hardy, and current home to my parents, Dorchester is one of the most 'typical' and peaceful little cities I have visited, with just 20,000 people calling it home. The central high street, the old castle, the gentle but pretty river and the surrounding countryside and hills are all absolutely idyllic. The writer of Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe) said in the 1720's that "a man that coveted a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time, and as well in Dorchester, as in any town I know in England". The city is also very close to some of the great beaches in Dorset.
Although not the most important city in the country now, there was a time when Dorchester was playing a larger role in the area. The city started as a Roman settlement (as so many cities did), called Durnovaria, complete with amphitheatre and aqueduct. Right next to one of the most important civil buildings there is still the ruins of a well-preserved Roman town house, with the underfloor heating incredibly clear to see. The County Museum has a lot of the coins, artefacts, statues and art that have been found in Dorchester from Roman times.
Dorchester Castle is a 12th Century construction, and really commands the city. It sits at the top of the hill that Dorchester lies on, and looks out over the main streets, and also has amazing views out over the River Frome that runs through the city.
Although the city itself really is very picturesque and beautiful, my favourite parts of the area are away from the city, and into the hills. The River Frome is a highlight in the city, and is the perfect addition to this sweet and quiet little city. You can walk along the river bank just a few hundred metres from the city, and feel like you are in another world. Just two kilometres away from the centre there is Maiden Castle. There is nothing here now in terms of buildings or constructions, but only the very obvious remains of the terraced protective hill fort.
This is one of the highest spots in the area, and provides remarkable views out over the lush green Dorset countryside. You can walk along the ridged terraces that were used as protective barriers, and make your way up to the top of the hill, where one of the largest hill forts from the Iron Age (700 BCE roughly) is spread out over the entire hill! There are few constructions in Europe to match this one, and it's very privately nestled in a spot that very few people ever see! There is even a Roman temple ruin on the hillside. Coming to Dorchester and Dorset in general from London will lead you through the beautiful New Forest area, which is an absolute joy!
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