Here is the shorter of our two suggested circular tours of Thomas Hardy's Dorset. You may want to open the map of Thomas Hardy's Dorset in a separate browser window to help you follow along the suggested itineraries. The names in parentheses are the fictional names given 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 church in West Stafford is the likely marriage place of Tess and Angel Clare in Tess of the d'Urberville'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 cemetary 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 Turberville window in the south wall of the church, and inside the church are the tombs of the Turbervilles.
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 Woodlanders and Tess of the d'Urbervilles. The tithe barn in Cerne Abbas may also be the model for the great barn in Far From the Madding Crowd.
For a longer tour of Thomas Hardy Country, click here.
Thomas Hardy Biography
A Three Day Slice of English Country Life