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At a Glance

Your Holiday at a Glance

Independent Walking Holiday
    • In the Steps of Thomas Hardy: Heart of Hardy's Dorset

Dates for 2023
  • April to October
  • Accommodation is limited on some sections of the walk. Please book early to ensure your place.
  • 9 nights, 8 days walking - From £895
  • Loyalty scheme reduction applies for returning customers (see terms and conditions)
  • moderate grade walking holiday
  • 9 nights, 8 days independent walking between guest houses
  • 3 nights in Dorchester and 2 nights in Evershot, other accommodation on route between the 2
  • Shorter options are available. Please enquire with preferred options
  • Visit Hardy’s Cottage and Max Gate, the home he designed for himself
  • Expansive views across the Blackmore Vale
  • Visit the settings for Hardy’s most famous novels including Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  • Picturesque Dorset villages like Milton Abbas and Cerne Abbas in rolling countryside
  • Visit the real Casterbridge, Weatherbury, Mellstock and Evershead
  • Poetry and prose to accompany your walks
Accommodation and Meals
  • A range of guest houses, hotels, bed and breakfasts and country inns. They are good quality accommodation mainly in historic country inns. All accommodation is on a B&B basis. Please book early to ensure that we can secure our first choice accommodation.
What's included
  1. 9 night's accommodation on B&B basis
  2. Transport of luggage between guest houses
  3. Transfer back to Dorchester on last day
  4. Detailed walking notes with information about the local sites and Thomas Hardy related information along with poetry and prose.
  5. OS walking maps
What's not included
  1. All lunches and evening meals
  2. Drinks (except at breakfast)
  3. Transport to and from Dorchester
  4. Transport to start of walk on Day 4 (either local bus or train depending on your choice of walk)
  5. Travel insurance
  6. Any entrance fees
  1. Other self-guided walking holidays in the south of England: Wonders of Wessex Walk
  2. Hart of the Cranborne Chase
  3. Dramatic North Cornwall Coast walking holiday
  4. South Cornwall Coast: Falmouth to Plymouth
  5. Jurassic Coastal Path and Ridgeway
  6. The Mendip Way
  7. West Mendip Explorer: Somerset Heights to Somerset Levels

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.

Find out more about the stunning Dorset Jurassic coastline and the Dorset weather.

Walking Profile

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.

map location of dorset coastal walk

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
Option 2: From Moreton walk via the burial place of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) (a valued friend of Hardy’s) and St Nicholas’ Church, known for its 13 windows, engraved by the poet and artist Sir Laurence Whistler, to Clouds Hill, T.E. Lawrence’s residence. 15+km, +140+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

Departure after breakfast, transfer to Dorchester

Up Cerne Manor

cerne abbas house

hardys cottage

cerne giant

athelhampton gardens

Rawlsbury Hill

Rawlsbury Hill Fort

Moreton St Nicholas Church






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.

Name Type Details Rating  
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 Accommodation Acorn Inn Evershot dorset walking holiday UK
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.   fox inn ansty dorset English independent walking holiday
Travel Options

Travel Options

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.

By Air

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.

By Car

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.



Hardys Cottage, Lower Bockhampton
Above Cerne Abbas Dorset
Rawlsbury Hill Fort Dorset
old manor kingston maurward dorset
Above Cerne Abbas
Clouds Hill