Tour One: Shorter Inner Tour
This inner Tour is the shorter of our two suggested circular tours of Thomas Hardy’s Dorset. The names in parentheses are the fictional names given to these places in Hardy’s novels. The Inner Tour should make for a nice day’s drive – or an afternoon if you really hurry. The Outer Tour deserves more of your time – perhaps two or three days. Of course, these tours can easily be combined to suit your preferences and interests.
At the edge of Dorchester is Max Gate, designed by Hardy in 1885, and his home for the rest of his life. Max Gate is now in the care of the National Trust. The Dorset County Museum has a fine collection of Hardy memorabilia, and numerous buildings in the town feature in Hardy novels.
Thomas Hardy was christened at the church here, and his first wife Emma is buried in the churchyard. Hardy himself wanted to be buried with her, but only his heart is interred in Emma’s grave.
Higher Bockhampton (Upper Mellstock)
The lovely thatched Hardy’s Cottage is the author’s birthplace – now run by the National Trust. The food at the nearby Yalbury Cottage is delicious!
The church in West Stafford is the likely marital place of Tess and Angel Clare in Tess of the d’Uberville’s.
Hardy’s father was engaged to repair the thatched Woodsford Castle in 1856. Hardy helped prepare the plans for the remodelling, and on the basis of this work he was offered an apprenticeship to the architect John Hicks, owner of Woodsford Castle.
In the cemetery here is the grave of Hardy’s friend TE Lawrence; Lawrence of Arabia.
Bere Regis (Kingsbere)
The town features in Tess and Far from the Madding Crowd. Tess set up her family’s bed under the Tuberville window in the south wall of the church, and inside the church are the tombs of the Tubervilles.
Hardy’s father worked on the restoration of the superb medieval hall at Athelhampton, and Hardy himself painted a watercolour of the house.
Hardy’s grandfather and great-grandfather were Puddletown natives, and the church gallery was celebrated by Hardy in Under the Greenwood Tree. In Far From the Madding Crowd, Troy spent the night in the church porch.
Cerne Abbas (Abbot’s Cernel)
The village, more famous for the ancient figure of a giant carved into the hillside, featured in The Woodlandersand Tess of the d’Ubervilles. The tithe barn in Cerne Abbas may also be the model for the great barn in Far From the Madding Crowd.
Tour Two: Longer Outer Tour
Weymouth (Budmouth Regis)
Hardy worked as an architect here in 1869-70, and the town features in Under the Greenwood Tree. Should you want to have lunch here, see further on for the list of recommended restaurants in Weymouth and Portland.
Woolbridge Manor was Hardy’s Wellbridge Manor, where Angel Clare and Tess spent their honeymoon.
Hardy worked on the restoration of St. Andrew’s church in 1863, and the church now hosts a permanent exhibition on Hardy’s life.
Hardy lived in Swanage in 1875-6 and it was here that he wrote of Ethelberta.
Tess lived here with Alec d’Uberville, and the town also features in The Well-Beloved and Jude the Obscure.
In the Mayor of Casterbridge, Newson landd here on his return from Newfoundland. The town features in two poems, The Chapel Organist and The Mongrel.
Wimborne Minster (Warborne)
Hardy lived here from 1881-83 with his first wife Emma.
In Jude the Obscure, Jude worked at Salisbury Cathedral, and Sue and Phillotson were married in St. Thomas’ Church. Sure attended the Teacher Training College as did Hardy’s Two sisters in real life. It was at nearby Stonehenge that Tess was arrested in Tess of the d’Ubervilles.
In Jude the Obscure, Philotson was schoolmaster here. Gold Hill in Shaftesbury offers superb views over the Blackmoor Vale.
Just outside the village is Tess Cottage, thought to be the model for Durbetfield’s home in Tess of the d’Ubervilles.
Sturminster Newton (Stourcastle)
Hardy and his first wife, Emma lived here at Riverside Villa in 1876-78. Hardy called his stay here “our happiest time”.
Sherborne (Sherton Abbas)
Giles Winterborne sold his apple trees in the Market Place here in The Woodlanders, and Sherborne Abbey also features in the novel.
Melbury Osmond (Great Hintock)
Hardy’s parents were married in the church here. And his mother grew up in a thatched house nearby. The Woodlanders final scene also takes place in the churchyard.
In Tess of the d’Ubervilles, Angel Clare’s father was vicar here.
Bridport (Port Bredy)
Bridport is the setting for the story Fellow-Townsmen, and the nearby secluded harbour of West Bay is mentioned in the Woodlanders.
Portland (Isle of slingers)
The Isle of Portland, joined to the mainland by the narrow strand of Chesil Beach, is the setting for The Well-Beloved.