- At a glance
- Locality & Walks
- Accommodation & Meals
- Travel options
Your Holiday at a Glance
|Independent Walking Holiday||
|Dates for 2020||
|Accommodation and Meals||
|What's not included||
Heart of Hardy's Dorset
Your independent walking holiday literally and literarily follows in Thomas Hardy’s footsteps. You take some of his favourite walks as well as the routes taken by many of the characters from his novels. You will discover the real life settings that inspired Hardy’s fictional Wessex, walking in the area of rolling hills between the Blackmore Vale and the Frome Valley at Dorchester. Your route begins in Dorchester (Casterbridge) where you will spend a couple of days exploring the settings for The Mayor of Casterbridge, Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Under the Greenwood Tree and Return of the Native along with where he was born, grew up and wrote his novels and poems.
Leaving Dorchester behind you will discover some of Dorset’s village gems, such as Milton Abbas with its identical thatched cottages, Cerne Abbas with its chalk giant and tiny Bingham’s Melcombe with its manor house, church and rectory. You will get the opportunity to visit relevant landmarks, properties and gardens, including Hardy’s Cottage, Athelhampton House and Minterne Gardens as well as enjoy the wonderful Dorset scenery in an area designated as Dorset's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The walking days on this independent holiday average about 17km. The walking varies with some easy sections, whilst others sections have some steeper ascents and descents. For the most part your walking trail follows local footpaths, though there will be sections that follow national trails, such as the Wessex Ridgeway.
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome, and night at Dorchester. Explore the town of ‘Casterbridge’. Visit a Roman town house or Maiden Castle
Day 2: Dorchester, Max Gate & Stinsford
A route through Dorchester (Casterbridge) takes you to Max Gate (Hardy’s last home) and from there across the Frome Valley following in Tess’s footsteps (Tess of the d’Urbervilles). You will see Thomas Hardy’s first school and where the Hardy family are buried. You will follow in his Mellstock characters' footsteps (Under the Greenwood Tree), before crossing the water meadows back to Dorchester. 20km, +60m
Day 3: Hardy's Cottage & Far From the Madding Crowd
Today you will visit Puddletown (Weatherbury) and the other settings that inspired the novel Far From the Madding Crowd before crossing Puddletown Forest (Egdon Heath of Return of the Native) to visit Hardy’s birthplace and explore more of Dorchester. 17km, +135m
Day 4: Puddletown/Moreton to Bere Regis
Option 1: Visit Athelhampton House and gardens, a 15th century manor house, where Hardy was a frequent visitor. Walk via the villages of Briantspuddle and Throop to Bere Regis (the Kingsbere of Tess of the d’Urbervilles). Option to climb Woodbury Hill for views and home of the Greenhill Fair (Far from the Madding Crowd) 11+km, +110+m
Day 5: Bere Regis - Milton Abbas
Your walking trail takes you via Tolpuddle, famous as the home of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and then onto Dewlish in the valley of the Devil’s Brook and to the picturesque Milton Abbas with its 36 identical thatched cottages and abbey church. 17km, +340m
Day 6: Milton Abbas - Lower Ansty
Today’s walk sees you climb onto the Wessex Ridgeway with wonderful views across the Blackmore Vale (Tess’s ‘Vale of Little Dairies’) and onto Bulbarrow Hill and Rawlsbury Hill Fort before descending to Hilton and Bingham’s Melcombe, with its 16th century manor house. 15km, +260m
Day 7: Lower Ansty - Cerne Abbas
Your route takes you westwards onto the Wessex Ridgeway and then along a ridge in Tess’s footsteps as she makes her way to Beaminster. The views open up again of the Vale before descending through a valley via Minterne House with its Himalayan gardens to Cerne Abbas (Hardy’s Abbot’s Cernel) with its famous chalk carved giant. 18km, +370m
Day 8: Cerne Abbas - Evershot
Today you will traverse the rolling downland to Sydling St Nicholas, used in the 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd as well as being Hardy’s Sidlinch (The Grave by the Handpost). Your route ends at Evershot (Hardy’s Evershead in Tess of the d’Urbervilles). 20km, +340m
Day 9: Around Evershot
Your last day’s walk takes you via more of Dorset’s small isolated communities including one of England’s smallest churches to Melbury Osmond (King’s Hintock) and back by Melbury Park. You are walking through the setting for Hardy’s The Woodlanders. 11km, +260m
Day 10: Departure
Accommodation & Meals
This independent walking holiday in Dorset has a range of good quality guest houses, bed and breakfasts and inns. In some locations the choice of accommodation is limited so please book early to ensure that we can secure our first choice accommodation. Where possible, we choose guest houses with a distinctive local character, where charming surroundings are married with a warm welcome. All accommodation is on a B&B basis. Evening meals are taken in local cafes, tea rooms, restaurants and pubs, whilst lunches can be bought at local shops or from your guest house. A couple of examples are listed below.
|Acorn Inn||Inn||Located in the village of Evershot, this 16th century coaching inn features in Tess of the d'Urbervilles as 'The Sow and Acorn.'||4 stars AA|
|The Fox Inn||Inn||The Fox Inn is in the pretty rural village of Ansty and is the original home of the Woodhouse family (Hall & Woodhouse) situated across from the original brewery, which was founded by Charles Hall in 1777.|
To get to Dorchester
By Train & Bus
Dorchester is served by a main line train station and there are regular direct trains from London Waterloo, which takes approx. 3hrs. National Express run 1 direct service from London Victoria per day which takes approx. 3 to 4 hrs.
Bristol airport is about 1.5 hours drive. Exeter and Bournemouth (Hurn) International Airport are approximately a one hour drive. London Airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, have rail links into London for train and coach services to Dorchester.
Long term parking in Dorchester is limited. So if planning to come by car, please advise us well in advance so we can check your options.
To return from Evershot to Dorchester
At end of holiday, you will have a transfer back to Dorchester, if required.