Dorset Towns - A-Z of Dorset towns and villages

Dorset Towns, Villages and City

As well as having some of the most beautiful coastal scenery to be found anywhere, Dorset is home to some fascinating towns and idyllic villages. The list below includes all the major towns and villages in Dorset. For a full list of places in Dorset, large and small, check out the gazetteer.

  • Abbotsbury

    The charming village of Abbotsbury marks the centre of an area that has been settled for more than 6000 years. Within the present parish are over 20 tumili or burial mounds, which indicate that there was a high population here from very early times. Abbotsbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort a few... more
  • Beaminster

    Beaminster - Church Street from St Mary's Church gates
    Beaminster is an old settlement, dating back to around the 7th century, when it was known as Bebingmynster, meaning the church of Bebbe. The present church is dedicated to St Mary and dates from the 13th to the 15th centuries. In the late 13th century, a charter was granted for a Thursday market... more
  • Blandford Forum

    Blandford Forum was a major market town during the later medieval period. This was principally due to the fact that both the main road from Salisbury to Dorchester and that from Poole to Shaftesbury crossed the River Stour at this point, explaining, at least in part, the derivation of the name. In... more
  • Bournemouth

    It is possible for the tourist to view Bournemouth’s seven miles of golden sands and surrounding countryside from a hot air balloon. However this is a recent innovation and the town has been a tourist resort for many years. The resort is an ideal centre for visiting well-known attractions such as... more
  • Bridport

    West Street - Bridport
    Bridport is a small market town and fishing port, for many years the main producer of ropes in the country. It became a fortified burgh, established by Alfred the Great, in the late 9th century. In the middle of the 13th century, Henry III made the town a Royal Borough. In 1651 Charles II stayed in... more
  • Cerne Abbas

    Cerne Abbas is a well-preserved historic village nestling in the valley of the River Cerne, among the steep chalk downland of central Dorset. Famous for the enigmatic and well-endowed Cerne Abbas Giant, one of the largest hillside figures in Britain, the village of Cerne Abbas lies just east of the... more
  • Christchurch

    Christchurch Priory
    During the Iron Age, the area between the rivers Avon and Stour were settled and the town of Christchurch was born. From Saxon times, the Great Priory Church occupied a prime position close to the river, dominating a timber-walled town arranged in a grid system. Following the Norman Invasion,... more
  • Corfe Castle

    Corfe Castle is a village, civil parish and ruined castle with views stretching across the width of the Isle of Purbeck. The castle, which overlooks the village, commands a gap in the Purbeck hills between Wareham and Swanage and this important location has given rise to a long and colourful... more
  • Dorchester

    Dorchester is the county town of Dorset. To anyone who has read and enjoyed the novels of Thomas Hardy it is synonymous with the Wessex novels. Hardy was born in the nearby village of Higher Brockhampton. He went to school in the town and was later employed by a firm of architects there. Hardy... more
  • Evershot

    Evershot is a small picturesque village midway between Beaminster and Cerne Abbas on the River Frome. It is one of the highest villages in the county at 700 feet above sea level. The name of the village is derived from the Saxon words “edfor”, meaning wild boar, and “holt”, meaning thicket. It can... more
  • Gillingham

    Gillingham High Street">Gillingham, the Leddenton of Thomas Hardy's novels, is situated in the Blackmore Vale, and is the most northerly town in Dorset. The town is in a convenient position for anyone wishing to explore the surrounding area, as it is on the main railway line from Exeter to... more
  • Kimmeridge

    Clavel Tower - Kimmeridge
  • Lulworth

    West Lulworth and Lulworth Cove Situated between Weymouth and Swanage in south Dorset, Lulworth Cove represents one of the finest examples of a natural cove in the world. Recently incorporated into the UNESCO Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the area is important both for its fossils and its... more
  • Lyme Regis

    Situated at the mouth of the river Lym, Lyme Regis is the most westerly town in Dorset. It lies halfway between Exeter, to the west, and Dorchester, to the east, and is known as “The Pearl of Dorset”. The first reference to the town of Lyme dates from 774, when it was mentioned in connection with a... more
  • Milton Abbas

    Milton Abbas
    Milton Abbas, a charming and quaint thatch village sits on the Milton Abbey estate, and is often featured on postcards showing rural Dorset at its most idyllic. The village consists of 36 thatched cottages each made from cob and almost identical. The cottages were originally built to house two... more
  • Moreton

    Moreton is a tranquil Dorset village famous for its association with the prolific writer, celebrated soldier and pioneering archaeologist, T. E. Lawrence, perhaps better known as Lawrence of Arabia.Situated on the River Frome, just eight miles east of Dorchester, the village is achingly picturesque... more
  • Poole

    Poole Harbour skyline
    Dorset's largest town and industrial centre is the old port of Poole, which boasts one of the largest natural harbours in the world. The River Frome flows into the western end of the harbour. Most of the historic old town is clustered around the harbour area. The natural harbour was formed around... more
  • Portland

    Portland Bill and lighthouse
    Portland is not really an island but is reached over a narrow causeway from Chesil Beach. It is a huge block of limestone, measuring 4.5 miles by 1.75 miles and rising to a height of 400 feet above sea level in the north. The famous Portland Stone quarried here has been used for many well-known... more
  • Puddletown

    Puddletown is a small crossroads village close to Dorchester that retains a magical sense of times past. Formerly called Piddletown, for its proximity to the River Piddle, legend has it that Queen Victoria insisted the name was changed before a state visit. There is little evidence for this,... more
  • Purbeck

    Purbeck is a district of Dorset that takes its name from the peninsula known locally as the 'Isle of Purbeck'. This sixty square mile chunk of land jutting into the English Channel is bordered on three sides by water and, although not actually an island, has an insular character which is largely... more
  • Shaftesbury

    Gold Hill Shaftesbury
    At over 750 feet above sea level, Shaftesbury is one of the highest towns in England. It was known as 'Caer Palladur' in Celtic times. The Saxons built a hilltop settlement here, because of the commanding position overlooking the surrounding area, and in the 9th century King Alfred turned... more
  • Sherborne

    Sherborne has much to offer visitors and is one of the most beautiful towns in England. Situated on the Dorset and Somerset border it has excellent transport links making it a great centre from which to explore the Wessex area of Dorset and the neighbouring counties of Somerset and Wiltshire. The... more
  • Stalbridge

    Stalbridge stands in the Blackmore Vale, close to the Somerset border, and is Dorset’s smallest town. The long main street runs from the church to the 15th century market cross, which is the finest in Dorset and reputedly the best in England. It is made from the local yellow Ham stone and stands 30... more
  • Sturminster Newton

    Sturminster Newton is a pretty Dorset town, in the Stour farmlands, where there has been a market since 1272. It is situated in the beautiful Blackmore Vale, between Sherborne and Blandford Forum. There are several rivers in the area, the largest of which is the River Stour, which flows south from... more
  • Swanage

    The town of Swanage is on the Isle Of Purbeck, a spur of land jutting out into the English Channel. The wide Swanage Bay gives good views to the Isle of Wight in good weather. To the north are chalk cliffs leading to Old Harry Rocks. There are more great views from Durlston Head to the south of the... more
  • Tolpuddle

    Tolpuddle is a small village in the Piddle Valley with a clutch of thatched cottages and a pretty little medieval church. The village was made famous by the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of local men whose activities in the early part of the 19th century directly led to the creation of what we now... more
  • Tyneham

    Tyneham - ghost village - MOD
    When the two hundred and fifty two inhabitants of Tyneham were displaced during the second world war, so that the War Office could use the land around the village as a firing range for training troops, they left a polite notice on the door to the church: 'Please treat the church and houses with... more
  • Wareham

    There was a Roman settlement at Wareham and the modern town has grown up over this. It is believed that the transport of that time took advantage of the various rivers in the area and the closeness to the natural harbour at Poole. Wareham lies between the Rivers Frome and Piddle, at the gateway to... more
  • Weymouth

    Weymouth Bay has often been described as England’s Bay of Naples. It has something to offer everyone with golden sands, safe bathing and beautiful coastline scenery. It is ideally situated for exploring much of the lovely surrounding countryside and is largely unspoilt by tourism. The donkeys on... more
  • Wimborne

    Wimborne lies on the River Stour. It was an old Saxon settlement and the foundation of the Wimborne Minster dates back to the beginning of the 8th century, when the sisters of the King of the West Saxons endowed a monastery here. Apparently this was a foundation for both sexes. The present Minster... more
  • Wool

    Wool today is mainly modern and scattered, but there are a few remaining historic buildings. The 17th century gabled Woolbridge Manor House, stands beside the River Frome. This was where “Tess of the d’Urbevilles” spent her honeymoon in Hardy’s novel of that name. Next to the house is a 15th... more
  • Yetminster

    Yetminster is a lovely village, situated on the River Wriggle and built almost entirely of honey coloured limestone, and is well worth visiting. Its sleepy, old fashioned atmosphere is at least partly due to the lack of through traffic. Many of the houses date back to the 17th century. In spite of... more