Places To Visit

Abbotsbury Swannery

World famous sanctuary for hundreds of nesting swans. From mid-May to the end of June you can watch the cygnets hatching. Open 7 days a week during spring, summer and autumn. Tel: 01305 871858.

Bovington Camp

Home of the Tank Museum, the world's largest and finest collection of armoured fighting vehicles (open 10 am - 5 pm daily). Tel: 01929 405096. Nearby is Clouds Hill, the home of Lawrence of Arabia (National Trust). Lawrence was going from Bovington to his home on his Brough motorcycle (on display at the museum) when he had his fatal crash in May 1935 at the age of only 46.

Monkey World

Founded by American, Jim Cronin, who died in March 2007, this is 65 acres of sanctuary for over 150 primates. Has featured on many TV programmes. Close to Bovington Camp. Open 10 am - 5pm daily. Tel: 01929 405414.

Corfe Castle

The ruined castle stands on a natural hill guarding the principal route through the Purbeck Hills. Nothing could pass in or out without going past the Castle. Held for the King by the Bankes family during the Civil War, it was subsequently blown up by the Parliamentarians. Bequeathed by the Bankes family to the National Trust in 1982. To see a representation of the castle in all its glory, go to the Corfe Castle Model Village and Gardens within the village itself. From just below the castle a steam railway runs regular services to Swanage.

Brownsea Island

Recently-voted Britain’s favourite nature reserve, this haven for red squirrels has been owned by the National Trust since 1963. In 1907 Robert Baden-Powell held an experimental camp on the island, which is seen as the start of the Boy Scout movement. The island is one and a half miles long and the 248 acre nature reserve on its northern side is managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

The Piddle Valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there are many walks and cycle trails close at hand. On the nearby coast the stretch of land between Portland and East Devon has been designated the Jurassic Coast and is a haven for fossil hunters.

Local Parts of Hardy’s Wessex

Puddletown (Hardy’s Weatherbury). The main location in Far from the Madding Crowd. Fanny Robin was buried in the churchyard and Troy spent a night in the porch.

Waterston Manor (Weatherbury Farm).  Just before the hamlet of Lower Waterston on the B3142 in the direction of Puddletown. Home of Bathsheba in Far from the Madding Crowd.

Cerne Abbas (Abbot’s Cernel).

Piddletrenthide (Longpuddle).

Cerne Giant

The famously well-endowed, club-bearing and aggressively all-male hill figure – 180 feet tall – was originally thought to be cut into the turf of the hillside about 1500 years ago and to be connected with ancient fertility rites. However the latest theory is that it is a mocking portrait of Oliver Cromwell. The best view is from a lay-by north of Cerne Abbas.


Hardy’s Casterbridge. Lots of museums: County Museum, Dinosaur Museum, Roman townhouse, Tutankhamun, Regimental Museum. Also Maumbury Rings (Roman amphitheatre). On the outskirts, you must see Maiden Castle (Britain’s largest Iron Age settlement). Tourist Inforrnation in Antelope Walk (off the High Street).


Essentially a medieval house, surrounded by walls and courts, Athelhampton has been a family home for centuries. Thomas Hardy painted a watercolour of the buildings. His father probably worked on the restoration of the fine timbered roof in the Great Hall, one of the best examples of 15th century domestic architecture in the country. Location for the 1972 film, Sleuth, with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.

Hardy’s Cottage, Higher Bockhampton

This was the birthplace of Thomas Hardy in 1840. The cottage was built in 1801 by Hardy’s great-grandfather and Hardy wrote Under The Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd here. Acquired by the National Trust in 1947.

Milton Abbas

Joseph Damer, later Lord Milton and Earl of Dorchester, after converting the local mansion, formerly Milton Abbey, decided that the village spoilt his view. It was therefore demolished between 1770 and 1790 and he employed Capability Brown to landscape the area and rehouse the inhabitants in this ‘model’ village out of sight in the next valley. The wide village street therefore has 20 pairs of identical cob and thatch cottages little changed since that time.

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