Dorset Coast Thomas Hardy Walks Holiday
Walk in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy as you explore beautiful Dorset
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Meadows & hills
Choosing the level of your walks
Our easy grading system shows whether a region offer gentle strolls or more challenging routes to help you choose the right holiday for you. Difficulty is measured on many factors such as distance, ascent/descent, terrain, weather and more. There's no magic formula, but from our experience we grade our walks 1 to 5 (where 1 is easy and 5 hard). Our challenger holidays require a high level of fitness and stamina.
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
West Lulworth House has a wonderful elevated location just 200 yards from the sea. Its elevated location overlooking Lulworth Cove allows spectacular views from many of the rooms, the garden and the outdoor swimming pool. The house has undergone major investment with the completion of a new lounge and dining room
We have 20 newly refurbished bedrooms at West Lulworth House, many with wonderful views down to the sea.
These rooms are all ensuite and furnished to a good standard. They include:
These rooms are slightly larger and/or have a better view. They include:
Only an extra £15 per person per night
These rooms truly are the best in the house for extra luxury during your stay. They include:
Only an extra £20 per person per night
Choose Your Room: Our new “Choose Your Room” service is available at our UK country houses, providing the option to choose and confirm a specific room for an extra £30 per room. Supplements to upgrade to 'Better' or 'Best' rooms still apply. The choice of room number must be of the same room type as originally booked and is subject to availability.
At the house
|All holidays at our Country Houses are full board accommodation including evening meal on arrival to breakfast on the day of your departure. All of our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
√ Start your day with our extensive breakfast.
Just relax and take it easy, or if you'd like to continue to chat with our guides and fellow guests then why not grab a drink or take part in one of our optional evening activities.
All of our bars are stocked with locally sourced drinks so you can really soak up your surroundings.
Monday: Arrival day
Tuesday: Higher Bockhampton, Egdon Heath, and Stinsford (Mellstock) and Puddletown (Weatherbury)
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)
Wednesday: Cerne Abbas and The Woodlanders
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)
Thursday: Wessex Heights – around Bulbarrow in the footsteps of Tess of the D’Urbervilles
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)
Lulworth Cove is a justifiably popular destination, with day-trippers and holiday-makers drawn by the stunning local scenery. The Cove itself is a near-perfect circle which has been carved by the waves into the soft rocks. A 20 minute walk along the cliff path will take you to Durdle Door, the area's other geological wonder. This impressive natural sea arch has been carved from the harder chalk rocks. The free Heritage Centre next to the public car park is well worth a visit during your stay.
Facilities in Lulworth Cove are limited to a selection of pubs, cafés and souvenir shops. The nearest towns are Wareham, Dorchester and Weymouth, which all have a good selection of banks, chemists and supermarkets.
During your visit to Dorset you may enjoy visiting the following places of interest:
The Tank Museum
The Tank Museum at Bovington, 20 minutes' drive north of Lulworth Cove, houses a particularly impressive collection of tanks from around the world. Trace the history from the tank's origins in the First World War to the present day. www.tankmuseum.org
Situated just a couple of miles inland from the cove, Lulworth Castle is a 17th century mock medieval castle that was once the heart of an extensive estate. Having been gutted by fire in 1929 it was derelict for many years, but has since been completely renovated. www.lulworth.com/castle
The iconic ruins of Corfe Castle stand guard over a natural gap in the Purbeck Hills, about 30 minutes' drive from Lulworth. Dating from the 11th century it is now maintained by the National Trust. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle
Ride on this lovingly restored branch line through the glorious Purbeck countryside. Steam hauled trains run throughout the year. You may want to leave your car in the Park & Ride at Norden, about 30 minutes' drive from Lulworth, and use the railway to visit the attractive seaside resort of Swanage. www.swanagerailway.co.uk
Located near Wool, 20 minutes' drive north of Lulworth Cove, Monkey World is a great family attraction. Orginally set up to rescue mistreated monkeys from overseas, it is now home to a huge collection of primates of all shapes and sizes. www.monkeyworld.org
Brownsea Island is located in the middle of Poole Harbour – boats depart from Poole Quay and Sandbanks, about 40 minutes' drive from Lulworth Cove. The island is now a nature reserve, managed by the National Trust and one of last remaining places to spot red squirrels in the UK. Brownsea is also famous as the location of the world's first scout camp in 1907. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea-island
Weymouth is a fine Regency seaside resort with an ever-popular beach and bustling harbour.
Thomas Hardy’s Cottage
The writer Thomas Hardy was one of Dorset’s most celebrated residents who used the local towns and villages around Dorchester as the setting for many of his novels. His birthplace near Dorchester is around 30 minutes' drive away and now owned by the National Trust. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardy-country
Athelhampton House & Gardens
Located near Dorchester, about 30 minutes' drive away, Athelhampton House is a fine Tudor building dating from 1485. The surrounding formal gardens are also impressive and were built between 1891 - 1899. www.athelhampton.co.uk
This fine country house and estate is located near Wimborne Minster, about 45 minutes' drive from Lulworth Cove. Dating from 1665, and now managed by the National Trust, it houses a fine collection of antiques, with many notable examples from the Middle East and Egypt. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy
Kingston Lacey image ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey, Swanage Railway image © Brian Robert Marshall
Travel to Lulworth Cove
Our address is: West Lulworth House, Lulworth Cove, Dorset BH20 5RJ
We recommend getting the train to Wool and then a taxi transfer to West Lulworth House. However if you are planning on driving, please note that you can only park in a public car park. Please check the process below.
The nearest railway station is at Wool. For train times and route planning by train visit www.nationalrail.co.uk or phone 03457 48 49 50.
The 5 mile journey from Wool railway station takes approximately 15 minutes. Pre-booked taxis cost approx £13 per 4 seat taxi. The taxi company will arragen shared taxis wherever possible. Details of our current recommended taxi company and rates will be sent to you with your booking. The return taxi journey can be arranged on your behalf by the West Lulworth House Manager.
The recommended route is via Bere Regis and Wool – although slightly longer this avoids the traffic through Bournemouth and Poole. From Bere Regis follow signs to Wool. At Wool cross the level crossing and turn left following signs to Lulworth Cove and West Lulworth. Continue for a further 4 miles to Lulworth Cove. As you enter Lulworth Cove Village, there is a slip road on your left to West Lulworth House. Park on the slip road if you would like to take advantage of our bag drop off service, which is available from 10am to 6.30pm, on arrival and departure days. You can then continue to the public car park at the end of the slip road to park your car.
This car park is free for HF Holidays’ guests as long as book your car in with House staff within 30 minutes of arriving, failure to do this could result in a fine from the Lulworth Estate.
Travelling from overseas
If you're travelling from Europe the most convenient airport is at Southampton. From Southampton Airport Parkway station (adjacent to the airport terminal) there are direct trains every hour to Wool - journey time 1hr 20mins. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for details.
For most guests, travelling to either London Heathrow or London Gatwick airport is the best option. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for onward connections by train to Wool.