Weymouth & the Southern Coast - A view from our expert author

Chesil Beach Dorset England UK by cpphotoimages Shutterstock
Chesil Beach is one of the finest beaches in Dorset © cpphotoimages, Shutterstock

The ridgeway is extraordinarily rich in prehistoric sites such as long barrows, round barrows, stone circles and hillforts.

Along this portion of the Dorset coast the huge shingle bank of Chesil Beach stands separated from the mainland by a lagoon, creating a strange, but entirely natural, visual phenomenon. At the beach’s southeastern end are the town of Weymouth and the peninsula known as the Isle of Portland. Depending on how you look at it, Weymouth is either confused about what it wants to be or multi-talented, having to juggle being a working town, a port and a seaside resort. Now it can add another achievement to its CV – Olympic venue. It was quite a coup for Weymouth, and for Dorset, when the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) was chosen to host the sailing events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Thanks to the WPNSA, the area now has world-class facilities to complement its superb sailing waters.

Punch and Judy show Weymouth Dorset England UK by BasPhoto Shutterstock
The seaside town of Weymouth is known for its Punch and Judy shows © BasPhoto, Shutterstock

Linked to Weymouth by a causeway is the Isle of Portland, famed for its Portland stone quarries and its lighthouse at Portland Bill, which warns shipping to steer clear of Dorset’s southernmost point. A highlight of the island is Portland Castle, an extraordinarily well-preserved fort built by Henry VIII in the 1540s. Smuggling became rife along the south coast after an act was passed in 1751 which dramatically increased the tax levied on spirits. Weymouth and the surrounding area was a smuggling hot spot, with a notorious gang operating around Osmington Mills. The quiet waters of The Fleet lagoon behind Chesil Beach were ideal for stowing contraband for collection at a more convenient time.

The South Dorset Ridgeway is a ridge of chalky downland running parallel to the coast from Abbotsbury in the west to the village of Osmington in the east. The ridgeway is extraordinarily rich in prehistoric sites such as long barrows, round barrows, stone circles and hillforts.

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