The Heart of Wessex line travels from Bristol to Weymouth. Photo: Mark Simons
The Dorset AONB remains for the most part gloriously unspoilt and retains an otherworldly air due largely to the fact that no motorways pass through the region.
The area is well connectee by rail, with the main rail hubs at Dorchester, Bournemouth, Weymouth and Maiden Newton. Thereafter getting to the rural heart of many parts requires some patience over buses, or opting to go by bike or car (there are park and ride services at Weymouth, Dorchester and Norden).
Dorset is served by an excellent rail network from many main towns across the UK, with direct trains operated by SouthWest Trains from London Waterloo stopping at Bournemouth, Dorchester and Weymouth, Sherbourne and Axminster (for Lyme Regis).
Other operators include First Great Western (which runs the Heart of Wessex line - a picturesque 87 mile route from Bristol to Weymouth via Bath, Wiltshire and Somerset before traversing the Dorset AONB) and Cross Country (for services out of Bournemouth to the north of England).
National Express runs regular services to Bournemouth, Dorchester and Weymouth, Sherbourne and Axminster, as well as Bridport, Honiton, Yeovil and Exmouth.
Photo: Southwest Trains
Getting around the Dorset AONB by public transport
Getting around Dorset by public transport is possible, but there are only limited bus services so it's a good idea to plan your trip before you go. The Jurassic Coaster X53 service operated by First Group, runs from Exeter along the coast via Beer, Seaton, Lyme Regis, Abbotsbury, Chickerell, Weymouth, Osmington, Wareham and Poole. It's an hourly and very reliable service in the summer, and two hourly (and still reliable!) in winter. It provides an excellent opportunity to go on one-way walks along the coast and to visit the market and coastal towns.
The More From Wilts & Dorset group offers regular services (but not on Sundays) between Poole, Wareham and Swanage on the number 40 bus, and between Bournemouth, Studland and Swanage on the number 50 bus.
Swanage Railway at Corfe Castle. Photo: Diana Jarvis/GreentravellerThere’s also a charming steam train option: Swanage Railway runs between Norden, just outside Corfe Castle, and Swanage. The old railway line was demolished in 1972, but has been enthusiastically reinstated and the service is run by a team of 500-plus volunteers. Swanage Railway is an ongoing project, with work currently taking place to link the line with the national rail service from Wareham station.
For detailed local travel information visit mapping.dorsetforyou.com (includes timetables, live bus times, bus passes and concessionary travel, and accessible community transport) or Traveline (tel. 0871 200 2233 for impartial information on planning your journey by bus, coach or train). Don't forget Google has added coast-to-coast public transport information for the whole of Great Britain to its Maps app so you can compare journeys by bike, train, car and on foot, and find train departure times from your nearest station.
Google has added coast-to-coast public transport information for the whole of Great Britain to its Maps app.Google has added coast-to-coast public transport information for the whole of Great Britain to its Maps app.
The Jurassic Coaster service runs from Exeter along the Dorset coast to Poole