Our Favourite Drive from Dorchester

Monday 19 June 2017

Our guests often ask us for recommendations for scenic drives from Dorchester. The options in West Dorset are, of course, endless but we often recommend this route as it is easy to navigate and provides some wonderful views of Dorset and, especially valuable for anyone with mobility difficulties, you hardly need to leave the car to enjoy the landscape at its best.

Abbotsbury Hill

From Aquila Heights you can get onto the A35 in a couple of minutes, and then follow the main road to Bridport. There are some early glimpses of the rolling Dorset hills around the village of Winterborne Abbas, and then the road rises up onto the downs and the landscape just unfolds around you like a map, giving awesome panoramic views. First, on the left, the coast emerges all the way around Lyme Bay into Devon and then, on the right, vast panoramas of rolling Dorset and Somerset hills and farmland come into view. There are a couple of parking places along the road here to stop for more detailed observation of this vast, typically West Dorset, landscape.

The road drops down into Bridport, which is a lovely little market town for a stop although, as this is a scenic tour, we’d recommend going on a mile further and stopping at West Bay. You can park right on the harbour or the esplanade, and from here it is only a few yards to walk out onto the pier for grandstand views of the iconic East Cliff and longer views along the Jurassic Coast to Chesil Beach in one direction and Golden Cap (highest point on the south coast) in the other. Hardy and Miller fans can play “spot the Broadchurch location” here and there are plenty of options for lunch, including the row of fish and chip huts which sell well-cooked and good value food.

East Cliff, West Bay

From West Bay, take the Weymouth road towards Burton Bradstock and onwards to Abbotsbury. This is the best road in Dorset for sustained views of the Jurassic Coast, and you can see Chesil Beach all the way to Portland. The real highlight comes at the top of Abbotsbury Hill as the road begins to drop down into the village. There are a couple of parking laybys on the right hand side (the second one is the best). The birds-eye view of St Catherine’s Chapel on its hill overlooking the Fleet lagoon and Chesil Beach beyond is just picture-postcard perfect. Everything fits so well into place, that it’s hard to remember this is just an accident of nature.

The village of Abbotsbury at the bottom of the hill is lined with stone cottages and is another possible stopping place, and the splendour of the sub-tropical gardens are just off to the right. From here, it is possible to continue along the coast road to Weymouth although the road is now at sea level and the views diminish. However, we prefer to turn left at Portesham and climb up onto the South Dorset Ridgeway. At the top of the hill, turn right for Hardy’s Monument. It’s a single track road but there are plenty of places to pass.

Hardy Monument View

Hardy’s Monument was built to commemorate the life of Admiral Thomas Hardy (not the author), who was alongside Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. The builders certainly picked the perfect spot – the views are genuinely breathtaking. Countryfile Magazine once said that “you can see as far as the sea from here” which must rank as one of the understatements of all time. You can see so much further than that – on the clearest days, the coast is visible right around to Start Point beyond Torbay in one direction, and to the Isle of Wight in the other. Inland, huge swathes of Dorset can be seen as well as parts of Somerset and Wiltshire and possibly snippets of Hampshire. The tower is open five days a week in summer, and can be climbed for slightly better views, but the views from the ground are special enough! (Note that the car park here is owned by the National Trust who sadly only open it on Wednesdays-Sundays in summer and lock the gates at 4.30.)

From here, the road can be followed down into Martinstown, where some of the houses are reached over little bridges across a stream from the road, and then turn left for Dorchester. Alternatively, keep going towards Upwey where you will find the Wishing Well tea rooms in front of you, a lovely peaceful place to end the trip sat outside in the lush water gardens.

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Visited Dorchester last weekend for a Christening and booked in to Aquila Heights without looking at reviews just on webpage description. The welcome, service, room and food were simply the best we have experienced. Thankyou Derek and Wendy - wonderful hosts. 

Steviebarley - via TripAdvisor
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