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.
- 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
- 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
Check-in starts from 2.30pm (Best and Better rooms from 1pm). All guests are invited to join us for afternoon tea where we’ll introduce your leader.
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)
Depart after a leisurely breakfast.
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.
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 Good, Better and Best 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 ‘Good’ rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ Rooms that are either larger or have a desirable view, a more luxurious mattress, larger television, enhanced toiletries and a fluffy bathrobe & slippers – upgrade your stay for just an extra £15-20 per person per night. You can choose a specific room for an extra £30 per room, subject to availability. Upgrade supplements still apply.
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 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.
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. Lunch is a chance to stock up on our famous picnic snacks. Food at West Lulworth House is hearty and has a strong emphasis on ingredients from the area and seasonal produce. Once a week the dining room hosts a Local Food Night, when, over a sociable evening, you might tuck in to flavours such as Dorset blue Vinney, pork fillet with Purbeck Cider and apple sauce and New Forest wild mushroom tagliatelle. Settle in under the large roof lantern or beside the panoramic double doors to dine in style – if the sun’s out they’ll even throw the doors open to let the outside in.
For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865
What to Bring
“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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
- Blister kit (eg Compeed) just in case
- Waterproof rucksack liner
All holidays are subject to availability. Prices are subject to change.
Prices based on two people sharing. Supplements may apply.
Non-member fee: £10 per person.
|Date (Start - End)||Nights||Itinerary||Price||Status||Trip Notes||Book|
29 Jun - 03 Jul
|4||2020 Itinerary||£575 £550||Save £25 Per Person||Trip Notes||Book Now|
12 Oct - 16 Oct
|4||2020 Itinerary||£535 £510||Save £25 Per Person||Trip Notes||Book Now|
4 nights from £535pp £510pp
...or call 020 3974 8865