A novel type of microwave probes based on the loaded aperture geometry has been proposed and experimentally evaluated for dielectrics characterisation and high-resolution near-field imaging. Experimental results demonstrate the possibility of very accurate microwave spectroscopic characterisation of thin lossy dielectric samples and biological materials containing water. High-resolution images of the subwavelength lossy dielectric strips and wet and dry leaves have been obtained with amplitude contrast around 10-20 dB and spatial resolution better than one-tenth of a wavelength in the near-field zone. A microwave imaging scenario for the early-stage skin cancer identification based on the artificial dielectric model has also been explored. This model study shows that the typical resolution of an artificial malignant tumour with a characteristic size of one-tenth of a wavelength can be discriminated with at least 6 dB amplitude and 50° phase contrast from the artificial healthy skin and with more than 3 dB contrast from a benign lesion of the same size. It has also been demonstrated that the proposed device can efficiently deliver microwave energy to very small, subwavelength, focal areas which is highly sought in the microwave hyperthermia applications.