Dorset Coast Thomas Hardy Walks Holiday

Man watching sunrise over Jurassic coast of Dorset, UK
Duration: 4 nights
Interests: Literary Holidays
Walking Grade: 3

Thomas Hardy understood, knew, and was loyal to Dorset, the countryside where he was born and lived most of his life.  Dorset’s wild uplands and quiet villages, tucked away beneath the Downs, have changed very little since Hardy’s day. We walk through Hardy’s landscapes and see it much as he would have seen it, and the paths we take are the ancient byways followed for generations by people going about their ways. These are the paths Thomas Hardy walked and the characters in his novels trod. An exploration on foot of Hardy’s ‘Wessex’ is surely one of the best ways of discovering Hardy’s land and work.

Holiday Highlights

  • Discover the beautiful homeland of Thomas Hardy and the landscapes that inspired him
  • Walks explore Hardy’s Wessex and his inspiration for novels such as Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Woodlanders
  • Admire the scenes of Hardy’s Egdon Heath, Mistover Knap, Rainbarrow, Mellstock, and Abbot’s Cernal
  • Follow in the footsteps of Hardy’s characters such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles. She was one of Hardy’s most intrepid walkers

What’s included

  • Great value: all prices include Full Board en-suite accommodation, a full programme of walks with all transport to and from the walks, plus evening activities
  • Great walking: explore Hardy's Wessex in the company of our experienced leader
  • Accommodation: our Country House is equipped with all the essentials – a welcoming and relaxing lounge and dining area, a drying room for your boots and kit, and comfortable en-suite rooms

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDF’s for each holiday, please click the button below to find the right trip notes for your departure date.

You're welcome to check in from 4pm onwards.

Enjoy a complimentary Afternoon Tea on arrival.


The walk starts at Higher Bockhampton where Hardy was born in 1840, and after walking through woodland to view his cottage, we continue through meadows and farmland which Hardy saw from his bedroom window, and which became the world of Far from the madding crowd, to arrive at Stinsford church where Hardy’s heart is buried in the grave of his first wife, Emma.

After exploring Stinsford, Hardy’s Mellstock, the location for Under the Greenwood tree, we walk the paths Hardy walked along the River Frome and then explore the landscape to the north which he immortalised as Egdon Heath in one of his most powerful novels, The return of the native. We will still be able to see many of the features of the heath he drew upon in the novel, including the possible site of Mistover Knap where Eustacia Vye lived, the pond close by where she met her straying lover, Wildeve, and the mighty old British burial place which Hardy named Rainbarrow. We end our walk in Puddletown, Hardy’s Weatherbury, at the church where Fanny Robin was buried and mourned by Sergeant Troy in Far from the madding crowd. 9½ miles (15km)


Our walk today starts and finishes in one of the most beautiful Dorset villages, Cerne Abbas, Hardy’s Abbot’s Cernal. From here we walk above the Cerne Valley and along the hillside to High Stoy, one of Hardy’s favourite viewpoints overlooking the Blackmore Vale. We continue along the crest of Little Minterne Hill, and as we walk through the beautiful valley with its rounded copses, by Minterne House, and where parts of old beech and oak forests shade our path, we enter the landscape of Hardy’s The Woodlanders, and its characters, Melbury and Giles Winterbourne.

The paths take us through farmland and woodland into the loveliest part of Cerne Abbas, with its charming black and white cottages, and to the Abbey ruins, possibly used by Hardy as the model for the great barn in Far from the madding crowd. 8½ miles (14km)


Today’s walk begins in the heart of Tess of the D’Urbervilles countryside in the Blackmore Vale. Appropriately, Tess is one of Hardy’s most intrepid walkers. We follow in Tess’s footsteps around Bulbarrow Hill whose summit is ringed by Rawlsbury Iron Age Hill Fort. It was near here that Tess was compelled to look for work at Flintcombe Ash Farm (Plush) after Angel Clare deserted her. We continue on paths and bridleways walked by Tess, with views of Blackmore Vale which Hardy loved so much, and into which Tess gazed and saw ‘an abyss of chaotic shade’. Our route then takes us through small copses, and farmland, and passes through the small hamlet of Hilton, the epitome of one of Hardy’s ‘part real/part imaginary’ village and through the Estate hamlet of Bingham Melcombe, all known by Hardy as he walked and cycled his beloved landscapes. 7½ miles (12km)


Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before making your way home.


West Lulworth House

Set just 200 yards from the sea, West Lulworth House has a highly coveted location just above the lake-still expanse of Lulworth Cove on Dorset’s iconic Jurassic Coast. Built in 1881 by the then Mayor of Weymouth, it has been perennially popular with walkers, twitchers and fossil hunters. As well as 22 delightful bedrooms, there’s a south facing garden and elevated terrace with cracking views, an outdoor heated pool and a pair of lovely lounges, perfect for a relaxing walking holiday exploring the Jurassic Coast. Step out the front door and on to the coast path. To the west lies Middle Beach and the picture perfect Durdle Door, with its massive rock arch and gently sloping beach. East lie the beaches of Mupe Bay and Arish Mell. But you’re here for the walking and what adventure you’ll have on the coast path or exploring the interior. Then there’s Lulworth Castle and the famous ruins of Corfe Castle standing guard over the Purbeck Hills to explore.

 

Need to know

We appreciate that COVID-19 continues to impact the nations.  The English, Scottish and Welsh governments are not always in sync, so measures in our country houses may vary between the nations. We thank all guests for adhering to the measures we have introduced to keep our guests, leaders and team members safe.

You can see our latest FAQs and guarantees at https://www.hfholidays.co.uk/coronavirus-travel-advice 

Ventilation, Physical Distancing Measures and Group Sizes around the Houses

We will keep our public areas well ventilated; for your comfort you might want to pack an extra layer to keep you comfortable.

With the relaxation of physical distancing, we will be allowing larger groups to dine and relax in the bar together.

Hand sanitiser stations will be made available in frequently used public areas for guests and staff use. It is advisable to bring additional hand sanitiser for whilst you are out walking.

We always follow the latest regional government advice, but our one recommendation is don’t forget your face mask! There is no requirement to wear a face covering in communal areas, but you may of course choose to. Some places throughout the UK may still require you to wear a mask even if the government legislation does not. With this in mind we suggest you bring a personal supply of face coverings for the duration of your stay.

Servicing Bedrooms:

At this stage we are not reintroducing our daily room servicing.  Extra tea, coffee, milk, towels and toiletries will be available on request from our team. Bins can be left outside your door for emptying.

COVID-19 Symptoms or Cases 

If a guest has symptoms of COVID-19 then they should inform the house team and immediately self-isolate to minimise any risk of transmission and make arrangements to request a COVID test. If a guest receives a positive test result, they should return home if they reasonably can. They should where possible use private transport but only drive themselves if they can do so safely. If a guest cannot reasonably return home, they should discuss their circumstances with the House Manager. Additional charges may be levied if a guest needs to self-isolate for longer than their planned holiday.

What can you do to help keep everyone safe?

  • Wear a face mask/covering where required and please bring plenty of face coverings for the duration of your stay
  • Carry/use hand sanitiser
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water when possible
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid passing round objects such as cameras & phones
  • If you are displaying symptoms of Coronavirus, please do not travel to an HF Holidays House

Rooms

Tea & coffee-making facilities, TV, Hairdryer, Toiletries, Wi-Fi

Stay in one of the main building’s bright, beautifully presented rooms or in the adjoining cottage. With 22 bedrooms, West Lulworth House has plenty of space and there’s a range of Classic, Premium and Superior Rooms to choose from: each room has an airy feel and the same cosy style. Opt though for Room 4 on the first floor of the main house for its weathered, pastel-painted wood panels and the lovely view looking over the cove, or squirrel yourself away in Room 23 in the cottage to the side of the main house for a large room with more sumptuous views to soak up.

All ‘Classic’ rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Premium’ and ‘Superior’ Rooms that are either larger or have a desirable view, a more luxurious mattress and larger television – upgrade your stay for just an extra £15-25 per person per night. You can choose a specific room for an extra £30 per room, subject to availability. Upgrade supplements still apply.

Check in:

Check in opens at 4pm for all guests. Guests will be unable to access any of the Country House facilities, including leaving luggage before 4pm.

We are delighted to invite you to enjoy a complimentary Afternoon Tea on arrival. Relax and meet your fellow guests and leaders. 

Check out:

Check out time: 10am

Please note, you will need to settle your bill before departure and payment will only be possible by card.  Gratuities and donations to the Pathway Fund can also be made by card.

Facilities

Free Wi-Fi, boot room and drying room, attractive garden, outdoor swimming pool, multi-purpose activity room, lounge, library and board games to borrow

After a day walking on the Dorset Coast or hunting for fossils, come back to the house and its specially tailored walkers’ facilities. Relax by sitting in the sunny south facing gardens or take a table on the terrace with matchless views of the cove below. Slip in to the heated outdoor pool (currently closed) then surface in time to retire to the cosy lounge and its squishy sofas and seafaring decorations to read up on the area or the attractive bar with its pretty tiled insets for a sundowner.

Welcome Information

A Welcome Information Pack providing details about the Country House and your holiday will be available in each bedroom. This personal pack of information will detail what to expect during your stay in the house, the menu for the duration of your stay, dinner & picnic lunch order forms and the guest registration form for completion.

Our houses are locked at night-time and accessible with a door code which is available in the Welcome Pack. However, we also recommend making a note of the Duty Manager number on arrival, in case of an emergency or getting locked out.

Evenings

Join our team after dinner on Wednesday evenings to see if you’ve got the knowledge to triumph in the HF Big Pub Quiz!  There will also be another evening of entertainment at the beginning of the week which will vary depending on the house you are visiting.

If there are leaders resident, they will be available to chat to guests about self-guided walks. You can borrow walking route notes and maps from our Discovery Point.

Walks Talks – Guided Walking Information Briefings

Self-Guided guests are always welcome to join our Guided Walking briefings to hear about the local conditions. 

Our leaders will deliver a Guided Walking Information Briefing on each arrival day before and after dinner followed by a group Walks Talk to let guests know about the following day’s walks. Walks Talks are usually before and after dinner prior to each walking day. The information is repeated so you can join whichever time suits you. 

If you are undecided which walk to do, our leaders will be available in the bar or lounge to answer any questions you might have. Our website contains up-to-date information about the walks for each holiday.

Before you leave for your walk your leader will run through a short safety briefing for the day.

Each day, the latest weather forecast will be displayed for all guests to check to ensure appropriate clothing is worn for the walks.

Please note, if you decide to do your own walks, or you are on a self-guided walking holiday, you must complete an Independent Walker Card each day. These can be found near the Discovery Point in the house.

Food & Drink

As at all our country houses, holidays are full board, from afternoon tea served as a welcome treat through that evening’s meal to a hearty breakfast on the day of departure. Food at West Lulworth House is varied with a strong emphasis on the use of seasonal British produce. Our experienced chefs create each dish using only the freshest ingredients and, when in season, use home grown herbs and vegetables taken from our own gardens to give a true taste of the local area.

Along with many hospitality business across the UK we are presently experiencing disruption to our food and drink supply chain. COVID continues to limit the ability of suppliers to deliver and the war in Ukraine (along with several other global challenges) is impacting availability of many basic products.  We are working hard to ensure that these challenges do not negatively impact your holiday but ask for your understanding should we need to make last minute changes to dishes or menus.

Accessibility

For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865 or view the accessibility information online for West Lulworth House

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Getting to West Lulworth House

Find out more about this location including travel details and room types.

More Information

Essential Information

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong type of clothing!” goes the adage. Come prepared for all eventualities and you’ll walk in comfort as well as safety. Britain’s famous for its changeable weather, so here’s our advice on what to wear and bring.

Essentials

  • Waterproof walking boots providing ankle support and good grip.
  • A waterproof jacket and over-trousers
  • Gloves and a warm hat (it can be chilly at any time of the year)
  • Rucksack
  • Water bottle (at least 1 litre capacity)
  • A small torch (everywhere in winter, year round in mountains)
  • Sun hat and sunscreen
    Denim jeans and waterproof capes are not suitable on any walks.

Recommended

  • Several layers of clothing, which can be added or removed
  • Specialist walking socks to avoid blisters.
  • A first aid kit inc plasters– your leader’s first aid kit doesn’t contain any medication
  • Sit mat (insulated pad to sit on when you stop for a break)

You might also want

  • Walking poles, particularly useful for descents.
  • Insect repellent
  • Flask for hot drinks
  • Rigid lunch box
  • Gaiters
  • Blister kit (eg Compeed) just in case
  • Waterproof rucksack liner

Guest Reviews

Duration:
4 nights
Interests:
Literary Holidays
Walking Grade:
3

Fully Booked

020 3974 8865

For group bookings of 10+ people click here

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