We stayed in a lovely little B&B on the outskirts of Weymouth. Very welcoming indeed - though whenever I stay in a B&B I feel as if I'm somehow intruding on these peoples' lives and stopping them from getting on with something.
Like the rest of the country, it poured with rain for the entire weekend. In fact the sun didn't shine until we were on the way home - stuck on the A303, just west of Stonehenge, for 2 hours because a bus had crashed a couple of miles ahead.
Anyway, back to the rain...
We chose Dorset because it was an area that neither of us had explored before and we managed to see a few sites, despite the weather. Though we didn't do as much walking as we normally would and outdoor sites like Corfe Castle and Maiden Castle were off the agenda.
Here's a quick run-down of the places we did see:
An excellent country house (run by the National Trust) with a great collection of paintings, including some by Reubens, Velazquez and Van Dyck. The highlight was undoubtedly having to wear bright blue, slip-on, plastic protectors over our shoes to protect the floors and carpets from our wet footwear.
The island famous for the stone which was used to build St Paul's Cathedral and hundreds of other buildings around the world; including the walls in my parents' front garden, if I'm not mistaken. Unfortunately, it seems like a dark, cold, miserable sort of place - though maybe that was an effect of the weather. Portland Bill lighthouse was fun, though there wasn't much to see from the top, due to the cloud closing in. And Tout Quarry sculpture park was a strange place. The sculptures seemed to be hidden and the ones we did find were unlabelled, so it was impossible to know if a piece of work was done by a quarry worker 200 years ago, or by Anthony Gormley in the 1990s.
A town of two sides. There was the long beach and promenade - typical of a British seaside resort. Packed with hotels, guest houses, amusement arcades, chips shops and tacky souvenir stands. On the other side of the Wey is the ancient harbour, still in daily use (unlike many in this day and age) and blessedly free of plastic tourist attractions. Instead, sympathetically restored buildings house nice restaurants, bars and exhibitions. Shame we didn't discover this area until our last night.
Again, the rain put paid to our ability to explore the area fully, so the county town seemed seedy and lacking in facilities. Though we did find a nice restaurant at 6 North Square which cooked up a good meal, though in bewildering closeness to the prison.
Lulworth Cove and Durdle Dor
Part of the 600-odd mile South-West Coast footpath which winds from Poole around the Cornwall/Devon peninsula to Minehead in North Somerset. Yet again, the weather was too overcast to really enjoy the surroundings, but luckily the rain held off long enough for us to tackle the 1 mile path from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Dor. This is a steep path. There aren't the words to tell you how steep this is. Or maybe I'm just very unfit and in need of getting on my bike 3 times a week for 6 months!
This area came closest to showing the staggering beauty of the Dorset coastline - and when the sun did come out briefly, it made the climb worth the effort.
An Elizabethan manor house. We popped in here on the way home (sort of) and it was a treat. The village is gorgeous and the house was fairly interesting, although much of the original features are now lost. I'll remember it mostly for the large number of school parties traipsing round. The kids were all much better behaved than I remember being at that age (14 or 15, I would guess). But I was partly amused, and partly outraged by the fact that I heard one of the teachers giving out 'facts' that were plainly made-up on the spot, or at least, were completely misinformed. Why he felt the need to give out misleading information when each room contained laminated information sheets telling the visitor everything they might want to know...?
Overall, a great weekend. Though I look forward to visiting again in better weather, having the chance to explore the outdoor attractions more thoroughly.