Blackmore Vale, Dorset
Adored by Thomas Hardy and immortalised in his novels, the glorious Blackmore Vale still retains the pastoral charm that he found so captivating. It’s a wide valley, and most of it is in north Dorset, though it extends a little into south Somerset and south west Wiltshire; limestone hills and verdant green pastures are dotted with ancient woodlands; the rivers Stour and Yeo lazily wind their way through the valley and if you pootle about the narrow lanes you’ll find pretty villages with the lure of a quaint country pub.
There are some equally attractive towns where it’s nice to spend a few hours browsing around the shops or wandering the streets taking in the old town houses and small cottages; Shaftesbury, Sherborne, and Blandford Forum are all worth a visit.
But best of all is to get out and explore the wilds; get the map out or find a walking trail, pack a picnic and go off and spend the whole day amidst this bucolic beauty. Pure soul fodder.