Talk to the English about Dorset and Devon and you invariably get the response “it is lovely down there”. After visiting I agree wholeheartedly.
The combination of beautiful towns and cities, desolate moors, and picturesque coastline give a variety not seen in the other parts of England.
Our previous visits to Devon have been to the west and the east so this time we visited the areas in the middle. Exeter, a place with thousands of years of history was our first stop. Walking through the cathedral district, along the wall started by the Romans in 200AD and down to the docks gave us an excellent feel for this lovely city. The highlight of the day had to be the visit to Exeter Cathedral, we’ve visited a lot of churches over the years and this combination of Norman and Gothic architecture ranks among the best. To see the organ alone is worth making a visit.
Our next destination was Bournemouth via a rather circuitous route through Dartmoor, Plymouth and Torquay. I think we got a sense of what Dartmoor is like in winter as it was cold and grey but this just added to the impression of a wild and unspoiled place. The grey stone buildings seemed to blend into the countryside although Dartmoor Prison was very hard to miss with it’s massive grey cell blocks and high walls. The views out to the west from the top of Dartmoor were worth the effort of the short walk with an added bonus of seeing some Dartmoor ponies up close.
As sometimes happens when travelling you end up spending longer than intended in one place and then having to rush in others. I’m afraid Plymouth and Torquay were a little rushed so I’ll wait for our next visit before writing about them.
Next stop Bournemouth. This is probably the beach resort that is most like what I’m used to coming from the Antipodes. White sand beaches for miles and lots of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained.
It was a little cool for swimming so we kept busy with the villages and attractions along the coast. I think the highlight for me was Lulworth Cove and the surrounding sea cliffs. There is something quite calming about wandering along a beautiful piece of coastline and this coast had the added bonus of having fossilised remnants of an ancient forest to view as well.
Other highlights were Corfe Castle built for William the Conquerer close to a thousand years ago. The history of these sites is always interesting but the engineering side of me finds the construction and design of these castles with the multiple fall back positions in case of attack the most interesting. We also paid a visit to Portland Bill Lighthouse south of Weymouth and spent a couple of hours wandering out to Harry’s Rocks to view the white cliffs and kayakers paddling.
Every time we go to a new area in the UK I think “this may be my favourite place yet”. Dorset and Devon are going to take some beating, the variety of activities packed into such a small area, history going back millions of years and a white sand beach make it my favourite so far.