This page is about the county of Dorset in England see Dorset (Disambiguation) for other places called Dorset
Dorset (pronounced 'Dorsit', sometimes in the past called Dorsetshire) is a county in the southwest of England. The county town is Dorchester. The county borders Devon (w), Somerset (nw), Wiltshire (ne) and Hampshire (e).
Dorset has a population of 645,166 and has the highest proportion of elderly people of any county in Britan, with 25.9% of the population over 65.
The seaside resort of Bournemouth and the port of Poole dominate the southeast of the county, which is otherwise mostly rural. Poole is home to Tower Park, the largest leisure complex in Europe. The conurbation, though large now, was little more than a small town on Poole quay, surrounded by heathland, in the mid 19th century. Sandbanks, a spit in Poole harbour, has the third-highest land value in the world, but was worthless a century ago.
Blandford St Mary is home to the Badger brewery of Hall and Woodhouse, whilst Weymouth is acknowledged as the first ever holiday resort, used by King George III, and is still a popular seaside resort. Jutting out into the English Channel is the Isle of Portland.
Dorset is famed in literature for being the native county of author and poet Thomas Hardy. Many of the places he describes in his novels in the fictional Wessex are in Dorset. The National Trust own Thomas Hardy's Cottage, in woods east of Dorchester, and Max Gate, his house in Dorchester. Stalbridge was home of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Poet William Barnes, authors Theodore Francis Powys, John le Carré and P.D. James and satirical novelist Thomas Love Peacock are also locals. The author John Fowles lives in Lyme Regis.
Dorset is also the birthplace of artist Sir James Thornhill, musicians P.J. Harvey and Robert Fripp, paleontologist Mary Anning, rowing champion Matthew Pinsent and archbishops John Morton and William Wake. Explorer Sir Walter Raleigh lived in Dorset for a time. Scientist and philosopher Robert Boyle lived in Stalbridge Manor for a time. Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg lives in Burton Bradstock, near Bridport.
Poole harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world (Sydney Harbour being the largest). The harbour is very shallow and contains many islands including Brownsea Island, famous for its Red Squirrel population, and as the birthplace of the Scouting movement. The harbour lies over one of Britain's few oil fields, which produces some of the highest-quality oil in the world, has the longest horizontal oil drill (which stretches 5 miles from Wytch Farm, ending directly beneath Bournemouth pier), and the oldest working oil pump in the world, which has been pumping continuously for over 40 years.
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Towns and villages
The county is also home to the new village of Poundbury, developed by Prince Charles.
Places of interest