The county town of Dorset, Dorchester has bustling shop streets, with the Corn Exchange's handsome clock tower at their centre. Prince Charles's model village of Poundbury lies close to Dorchester, offering a further selection of eateries and boutiques.
Back in 1685, Judge Jeffreys conducted his Bloody Assize in the town, condemning more than 300 men to be hung, drawn and quartered. Today, Dorchester is closely associated with the novelist Thomas Hardy, who found settings for his fictional Wessex in the town and the rolling countryside beyond.
Local attractions include the ancient earthworks of Maiden Castle and Maumbury Rings, the excavations of a Roman town house and a host of museums, dedicated to the military, Tutankhamen, terracotta warriors, teddy bears and dinosaurs.
Around 18,000 people call Dorchester home. Tourism is vital to the local economy, but IT, high-tech industries and brewing all contribute to the mix.