Walking

The Hardy Way, Dorset

Get to know the landscapes that inspired world-famous poet and novelist Thomas Hardy’s most renowned tales of love and tragedy along the Thomas Hardy Way.

 

Very much connected to the natural and cultural heritage of his home-county, Thomas Hardy regularly used Dorset as inspiration for his works. Having spent most of his life here, the velvety vales, Jurassic coastline and gorse-strewn heath of his so-called “Wessex” were regular stomping grounds for the wordsmith and remain much unchanged to this day – offering a great insight into his life and fictional worlds. 

The Hardy Way

The 217-mile Hardy Way is a long-distance trail that weaves through Thomas Hardy country, starting at his birthplace near Dorchester and finishing in his resting place of Stinsford. Covering many Hardy hotspots along the way, it includes many of the towns and villages featured in Hardy’s works, including Evershot (Evershead in Tess of the dʼUrbervilles), Sherborne (Sherton Abbas in The Woodlanders), Portland (The Isle of Slingers in The Well Beloved) and Cerne Abbas (Abbotʼs Cernel in Far From the Madding Crowd).

Outside of the route’s towns and villages, the surrounding natural landscapes are enough to inspire awe in even the most well-travelled. Following large parts of the Jurassic Coast (including 18 miles alongside Chesil Beach) and mile upon mile of glorious Dorset and Wiltshire countryside, there is drama at every turn. From the crumbling remains of Corfe Castle to the dramatic natural architecture of Lulworth Cove to the valley mires of Morden Bag National Nature Reserve, there is always something to see. 

If you are introducing yourself to the route for the first time, the diversity of the Hardy Way means that there is something for everyone. As it is so long, you can easily break it up into smaller chunks or challenge yourself to longer sections – helpfully detailed in a dedicated guidebook written by the original founder of the route, Margaret Marande, as well as through online maps. One of the highlights includes a visit to Bridport and its neighbouring West Bay, both featured in ITV's popular TV drama Broadchurch.

Making it easier to follow, the route (mostly footpaths, tracks and bridleways) is waymarked with distinctive green and white discs. At the end of the Hardy Way in Stinsford, you should definitely make time to visit St. Michael's churchyard. Before his death, Hardy requested to buried at the church, but conflicted, authorities wanted him to be buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey. A decision was made by his second wife and thus, his ashes are buried at Westminster while his heart remains at St Michael’s. 

Feeling inspired? Have a look at our luxury cottages in the Dorset here.

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