From giant naked chalk figures to prehistoric stone circles, some of England’s most incredible historic sites can be found dotted in amongst Dorset’s rolling hills and spectacular scenery. Dating back thousands of years, many of these jaw-dropping ancient Dorset monuments can be found on scenic country walks, best enjoyed with a long, leisurely picnic packed full of delicious local produce. Take a look at our favourite Dorset landmarks to visit when staying at our luxurious country house hotel, Summer Lodge.
Chalk Hill Figures
The Osmington White Horse is the only one of its kind in England, thanks to the fact that it features both horse and rider. The chalk figure, located near Weymouth, recently underwent a restoration, and is looking brighter, bolder and better for it.
Even older than the 1808 White Horse and definitely a little racier, the Cerne Abbas Giant, or “Rude Man” as he has come to be known, is thought to date as far back as the Roman occupation of Britain in the 2nd century AD. Some suggest that this 180ft chalk figure (which is completely naked and rather well-endowed) is the hero Hercules, while others insist he’s the pagan symbol of fertility.
With views out over the sea and nearby Abbotsbury, the ancient fallen stone circle at Kingston Russell can only be visited on foot. Meander down the little public footpaths to see this circle of 18 stones up close – it’s been around since the early Bronze Age, or late Neolithic period. A few other Dorset monuments are also nearby, including the Nine Stones, which – amazingly – are still standing after 4,000 years.
For a touch of mystery on your tour of Dorset monuments, head over to the Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows. Many of the Bronze Age burial mounds at this site, close to the prehistoric Nine Stones, have hidden their secrets as far back in time as 1500 B.C. with few mounds ever being excavated.
When embarking on a trail of ancient Dorset monuments, no trip would be complete without taking in some of the hillforts and henges – and there are plenty to choose from.
The 12th century Knowlton Church is worth a look, thanks to its impressive henge earthwork from the Neolithic period. Similarly, one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Europe, Maiden Castle is also a great spot to visit, with over 4,000 years of history to be explored.
For extra bang for you buck, visit Eggardon, which is both barrow and hillfort. The site has sweeping views across Dorset and, as an added bonus, you can walk along the remains of a Roman road to get to it.
You can also follow in the footsteps of the ancient Romans during your stay in Dorset. Found on a hilltop on the South Dorset Downs, the remains of the Jordan Hill Roman Temple can easily be taken in on a walk, plus you get to enjoy fantastic views out over the coast. Or for a taste of domestic (rather than religious) Roman Britain, head to Dorchester’s Roman Town House – the only of its kind in the country.
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