Dorset [ dɔ sɪt ː ] (also Dorsetshire ) is a county in South West England. The capital city is Dorchester. The adjacent counties are in the West Devon, Somerset in the north-west, Wiltshire to the northeast and Hampshire to the east.

Dorset has approximately 750,000 inhabitants and has the highest proportion of older people from all counties in the UK: 25.9 % of the population is over 65 years old.

Bournemouth and Christchurch were reclassified in 1974 from Hampshire to Dorset.

The seaside resort of Bournemouth and Poole Harbour dominate the southeast of the otherwise more rural county. In Poole 's Tower Park, Europe's largest leisure complex, home. In the 19th century, today's metropolitan area was little more than a small harbor town surrounded by heathland.

In the literature, Dorset is known as the home of the author and poet Thomas Hardy. Numerous places he ascribes to the fictional Wessex in his stories, are in Dorset. His cottage, nestled in the woods east of Dorchester, and his house in Dorchester are managed by the National Trust and can be visited. Stalbridge is the home of Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The poet William Barnes, the writer Theodore Francis Powys, John le Carré and PD James and the satirist Thomas Love Peacock also from Dorset.

In addition, the artist Sir James Thornhill, the musician Sir John Eliot Gardiner, PJ Harvey and Robert Fripp (King Crimson), the paleontologist Mary Anning, the rowing champion Matthew Pinsent and the archbishops John Morton and William Wake was born in Dorset.

In the St. Martin 's Church, Wareham by his friend Eric Kennington a tomb after the death of Thomas Edward Lawrence, who had become known as Lawrence of Arabia (1888-1935), set up with a picture of Lawrence in Arab dress.

Poole harbor is the second largest natural harbor after Sydney worldwide. In the very shallow bay are many islands. Including Brownsea Iceland, the founding place of the Scout Movement. Under the port is one of the few British oil fields.

Much of the coastline of Dorset was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its unusual geological formations in 2001.

Cities and towns