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Dorchester is the county town for Dorset, and a long established market town, found in the south of the county to the north of Weymouth.
It is a pleasant town to explore, with a partly pedestrianised shopping centre, some interesting buildings and highlights to discover from the long history of Dorchester, and a good number of open and park areas - there are attractive tree-lined walks that encircle a good part of the town centre, partly alongside the river. Among the highlights:
1) Start perhaps with the Roman Town House - substantial excavated parts of walls and a floor mosaic, along with other artefacts, provide a fleeting glimpse of the importance of the town 2000 years ago.
2) Explore the modern shopping centre, with a very wide range of both local and 'high-street' type shops. Note the historical town Pump at the end of South Street. Market day in Dorchester is Wednesday.
3) Stroll through the Borough Gardens park area, a traditional 'town gardens' with children's play area, lawns and gardens, a clocktower and bandstand etc
4) Visit the curious earth formations at Maumbury Rings. These are fascinating especially because they developed over several stages of history: firstly as a Neolithic earth monument, then by the Romans who took advantage of (and increased the size of) the earth bank to create an amphitheatre; then again during the Civil War (1642-1643) the earthworks were used as a fort to protect the town of Dorchester.
There are also several museums in central Dorchester, representing Terracotta Warriors; Teddy Bears; Dinosaurs and Tutankhamun, as well as the Keep Military Museum in an imposing building on Bridport Road; and the Dorset County Museum with many artefacts from the town and area.
A couple of miles outside Dorchester is Maiden Castle, a 5000 year old hillfort where you can see the remains of the ancient hillfort and extensive earthworks that helped provide the defences for the castle, and also the excavated foundations of a Roman villa.
Map of Dorchester and places to visit
Dorchester places to visit
See more places nearby in the Dorset guide