Dorset is a wonderful place with many unexpected delights. Explore Iron Age forts just a short drive from Norburton Hall. The impressive Eggardon Hill (north of A35 via Askerswell) is the site of an Iron Age settlement over 2,000 years old and has spectacular views to the sea. Other Iron Age sites can be seen at Pilsdon Pen, one of the highest points in Dorset, and Maiden Castle, among the finest known examples of a pre-historic fort settlement.
Visit Althelhampton House and Gardens, a fine 15th century manor house set in superb Grade 1 listed gardens with fountains laid out as a series of ‘outdoor rooms’ on A35, one mile east of Puddletown. Other notable country houses and estates include Montacute House, Kingston Lacey and Forde Abbey as well as Hardy’s Cottage and Birthplace at Higher Bockhampton, east of Dorchester - click here for Literary Trail incorporating places associated with Thomas Hardy, Jane Austenm, John Fowles, TE Lawrence, John Fowles and J Meade Faulkener.
And here are some of our secrets that we’ll share with you. Amongst many hidden treasures a picturesque site in Little Bredy makes a wonderful spot for a picnic or quiet lazy afternoon with a book. Another place for contemplation is at the stained glass windows decorated in the Arts & Crafts Style by E S Prior in St Mary’s Church, Burton Bradstock. And a favourite, for views of the coast, is the iron age fort above Abbotsbury with a commanding vantage point over both Weymouth Bay and Lyme Bay and perhaps the best views of the Fleet at Chesil Beach. All are within a short journey of less than ten minutes from here by car or you might enjoy walking to them.
John Fowles lived for a time in Lyme Regis and set perhaps his most famous novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman here. You can stand at the end of the atmospheric stone Cobb and experience the force of the elements, especially in the autumn and winter months. And all around the historic town, discover the places that influenced him to write so evocatively.
Lyme Regis first captivated Jane Austen in 1804 when she visited for a holiday with her family. During her stay she wrote to her sister, Cassandra, about walking along the Cobb, dancing in the Assembly Rooms and overdoing it whilst bathing from a bathing machine. Her affection for Lyme is shown in Persuasion, published in 1818.
Chesil Bank to Weymouth
Visit many of the villages and coastal walks described so vividly in Moonfleet, the gripping tale of smugglers and life on the high seas by J Meade Faulkner. Still a classic after almost 100 years, it is set in the coastal villages that run along the length of Chesil Bank and down to Weymouth.
Thomas Hardy was born in a small traditional cottage in Higher Bockhampton in 1840 and this was where he wrote Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd. While in Hardy Country, visit Max Gate in Dorchester, the home that he designed and where he died. Stinsford Church is where Hardy’s heart is buried, ‘under the greenwood tree’. And Dorchester Museum has recreated Thomas Hardy’s study, complete with books, letters and poems.
Cloud’s Hill and Bovington Camp
TE Lawrence (better known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’) rented this little brick and tile cottage in 1923 as a retreat from nearby Bovington Camp, when he rejoined the Air Force. He later bought the cottage and found the solitude he needed to write The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - the rooms are as he left them which gives a real sense of the person.