London Diary – Easter Weekend in Dorset!

Apr 22, 2017

Easter weekend is one of two longer public holidays in UK, lasting from Good Friday to Easter Monday, it is an extra-long weekend. We were some of the many taking road trip this past Easter weekend, and Dorset was the destination.

Stunning coast that is part of Jurassic Coast, lovely interior of rolling hills and valleys, charming towns and villages, Dorset has plenty to wow visitors. Its literary link to Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy had been the reason for my choosing Dorcester and vicinity this time.

Fine weather was definitely icing on the cake. Spring floral abounds and you can’t miss the large patches of Rap seed and Gorse field here and there.

We stayed at Little Court in Charminster, a small village on northwest outskirt of Dorcester. It is a charming house with lovely garden and peaceful surrounding. Little Court served good breakfast. I belive I had the best scrambled eggs there, rich, creamy and moist to perfection. Nearest restaurant is Sun Inn, a nice pub several minutes away on foot. For more options, Dorcester is minutes away. We tried on the first night Duchess of Cornwall, hotel plus pub in a beautiful building located in Docester’s new neighborhood of Poundbury. Both the neighborhood and pub are pleasant.

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Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door

Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door never fail to impress. First time we were there was summer of 2014 but we did not walk the coastal path in between. Back this time, we again had beautiful weather, took up the walk and fully enjoyed the scenery and people watching along the way.

Being Easter weekend with fine weather it was busy, but not more so than summer of 2014. Quite a number of families there with young children. While it is relatively easier to get to the beach at Lulworth Cove, it takes effort to safely down the narrow steps to reach the beach at Durdle Door. Some children played at the beach, with sand bucket, shovel or other beach day paraphernalia, others flew kites on the fields. It was lovely to see children and adults alike having fun.

The two attractions are 1 mile apart from each other and there is parking lot at each end. You pay for parking per car but no other admission charge. There is however more service options at Lulworth Cove, where there is the pretty Lulworth village, a visitor center, cafes and shops. We parked at Lulworth Cove, picked up some Cornish beef pasty and sausage roll from the Coffee Shop next to the visitor center and had a nice picnic at Durdle Door before heading back.

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Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a picturesque seaside town on the hill. Its water front area, featuring promenade, garden, and beach, was lively with visitors and holiday makers alike. Towards the western end is its harbor. Famously known as the Cobb, it owes its fame to being featured in novels like Persuasion and French Lieutenant’s Woman. From the Cobb, you enjoy lovely views of the town, sea, and Golden Cap, the highest point of south England.

Jane Austen holidayed in Lyme Regis herself. We did a Jane Austen tour with Literary Lyme. It was a 1 hour walk starting from the black metal anchor on the water by Rock Point Inn. The tour stayed mostly close to the seaside and ended at the Cobb. The material was interesting enough but the delivery and commentary by our guide was a bit of a lack luster.

The Spittles is a National Trust owned natural area located on the hill top northeast of town where you can look down to a nice picture of Lyme Regis. It is free to the public.

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Stonebarrow Hill and Golden Cap on Lagon Hill

East of Charmouth, a town east of Lyme Regis, there is Stonebarrow Hill, also National Trust owned natural area on the clifftop. There is ample parking at this site. Follow the path to the cliff, you’ll be rewarded by beautiful views, including that of Charmouth and Lyme Regis further west. Parking is free here and there is no charge to do the walk.

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Further eastward is Logan Hill. Another National Trust owned natural area on the clifftop, parking here is a minimal of 50p and there is no charge for taking the walk. A short walk will take you to Golden Cap where another set of stunning views await.

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Hardy Country

Dorset, where Thomas Hardy was born and lived most of his life, is Hardy’s inspiration and in turn most of his novels are set in towns and villages of Dorset. Hardy Trail is a circular route that features all of them. Thanks to my neighbor and friend Carole, I was armed with a detailed guide to the trail. Although we did not get to visit all featured destinations, I thoroughly enjoyed those I visited.

Higher Bockhampton/Stinsford/Lower Bockhampton

Thomas Hardy was born in Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet 10 minutes north east of Dorcester. The cottage built by his grandfather and father is now a National Trust property open to the public. In addition to the cottage itself, surrounding area has been preserved as natural area for a peaceful walk. Higher Bockhampton is featured in Hardy’s novel as Higher Mellstock.

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Stinsford is a cute little hamlet few minutes south.  While Thomas Hardy is interred at Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, his heart was and some of his family were buried at St Michael’s Church in the village. Stinsford is Mellstock in Hardy’s novels.

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Lower Bockhampton is another small hamlet a few minutes southeast of Stinsford. Thomas Hardy was believed to be one of the first pupils at the Old School.

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Nestle between Stinsford and Lower Bockhampton is the grand house of Kingston Maurward House, featured in Hardy Novel as Knapwater House, and is now property of Kingston Maurward College.

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All 3 hamlets are atmospherically quiet, no sign of hustle and bustle at all.

Dorcester

Dorcester, Dorset’s county town and heart of Hardy country, is an interesting mix of new and old. Poundbury, west of the town, a recent urban extension to the town, is a pleasant neighborhood with handsome buildings and wide roads.

High East and West Street along with Trinity Street are where you’d find many historic buildings and sites featured in Hardy novels, The Dorset County Museum, St Peter’s Church, The King’s Arm’s Hotel, The Corn Exchange and the Antelope Hotel, etc. Trinity Street is a pedestrian only street lined with shops, restaurants and more historic buildings. Dorcester itself is featured as Casteridge in Hardy novels.

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Maxgate House east of town is Thomas Hardy’s former home from 1885 to 1928. It is now a National Trust property and house museum open to the public. It is a comfortable house that had seen many distinguished guest, including Edward VIII when he was Prince of Wale. As you learnt about the novelist and his great work, the man and his life, the not so great ending for his first wife Emma came into light. Humans are so full of contradiction!

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Thomas Hardy’s statue can be found on the corner of The Grove and High West Street.

Hardy’s Monument

This is however a different Thomas Hardy, a Royal Navy officer, Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, 1st Baronet GCB (5 April 1769 – 20 September 1839).

The monument is built on top of the hill in Portesham. The monument itself is average, the far reaching panoramic view atop of the monument is very fine indeed.

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Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury is one of the prettiest little villages I’ve ever seen. Arriving just before the last light of the day faded away, it was a charming picture of idyllic serenity. Although the only people around were a few last minute tourists like us, we were in good company of many sheep, a few pheasants, a swan and a flock of ducks.

Abbotsbury is also home to its well-known Swannery and Subtropical Garden. Alas we missed them this time.  St Catherine’s Chapel located on top of a hill is supposed to offer an advantage view of the village and surrounding area. We didn’t hike up to the hill this time. Luckily you can also get a great view of the village on B3157 approaching the village from the west.

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Weymouth

Weymouth is not far south of Dorcester. We made a brief stop at its water front and were pleasantly surprised by the flat, long stretch of beach, an unusual but impressive sight, the long row of buildings lining the beach front is equally impressive. After that we drove by the old harbor which was quite lively, with music wafting out of pubs and pub goers spilling out on to the street.

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Osmington White Horse

Intrigued, we drove to a look out on A353. If you want to get up and close, it is possible to do so by foot.

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Corfe Castle

Castles, ruins and treasure hunting are my husband’s fantasies and Corfe Castle fitted the bill perfectly.

With Corfe Castle towering over, the Village is picturesque and evocative in equal parts. The castle itself is impressive even in its ruined state. A National Trust property, we as members benefited a free entrance. You have to take a walk through the ruin and get close up to its various parts to appreciate its former glory and the political intrigue behind its destruction.

Being a tourist hot spots, there are nice restaurants and shops in the village center. Dinner at Grey Hound Inn was great. I had Crab Gratin with kale and mash potatoes and it was very good. I’d rate it a gourmet pub.

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2 Responses

  1. Amazing writing the details again! It was such a pleasure reading each of your good articles
    on traveling! Keep it up! We are waiting for the next one:-)

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