Dorchester Travel Guide

  • Where T.Hardy was born in 1840.
    Where T.Hardy was born in 1840.
    by CDM7
  • Front of the cottage.
    Front of the cottage.
    by CDM7
  • Hardy's Cottage.
    Hardy's Cottage.
    by CDM7

Dorchester Highlights

  • Pro
    ettiewyn profile photo

    ettiewyn says…

     So much history and pretty places to see, and outstanding Maiden Castle! 

  • Con
    ettiewyn profile photo

    ettiewyn says…

     Busses to Maiden Castle do not go often 

  • In a nutshell
    ettiewyn profile photo

    ettiewyn says…

     Discover three different historical cities within one :-) 

Dorchester Things to Do

  • Visit Thomas Hardy's birthplace.

    This delightful cob and thatch cottage,which is situated in woodland close to the town of Dorchester is where the famous novelist and poet Thomas Hardy was born.Although trained as an architect working in London he soon became successful at writing and gave up architecture.It was at the cottage he wrote "Under the Greenwood Tree" and "Far from the...

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  • Visit Athelhampton House

    This is a 15th century privately owned country house which is open to the public from March to October - Sunday to Thursday.The house was built by Sir William Martyn,the earliest parts of the house are Tudor.The great hall is an excellent example of early Tudor architecture.Thomas Hardy was a frequent visitor to the house and painted a water colour...

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  • Roman Town House

    The Roman Town House was my favourite attraction in Dorchester, besides Maiden Castle of course. I found it really fascinating and interesting and stayed here for a long time. Unfortunately the self-serving machine selling guidebooks did not work.The house was only discovered in the 1930s. It dates from the 4th century A.D. - construction began at...

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  • Holy Trinity Church

    Holy Trinity Church is a catholic church in the centre of Dorchester. It was not open to visitors when I was there, but what I loved was the beautiful small garden located at the back of the church. It looked so inviting and was a great place for a short break in the sunshine. According to the town walk this area is called Grey School Passage, but...

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  • Dorset County Museum

    Dorset County Museum is one of the main sights in Dorchester and it shows many things of very different topics connected to Dorset.First of all, the building itself is interesting from the outside, and parts of the interior are very beautiful. The Victorian Hall is one of the main exhibition spaces and it is wonderful. It was built in 1884 when the...

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  • St Peter's Church & William Barnes...

    St Peter's Church is located directly in the town centre, next to the Dorset County Museum. I thought it looked very interesting and so I had a look and found out that it was open to visitors. The original building dates back as far 1454, but it was substantially altered and renovated in 1856 and now looks very Victorian, although there are still...

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  • The Roman Wall

    The town of Durnovaria was surrounded by a strong wall, and parts of this wall can still be seen. There is a long piece of it south of The Grove, between Princes Street and High West Street. It is supposed that the wall was built at about 200A.D., and reinforced about a hundred years later. It was originally 6m high and 2,5m thick. There were...

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  • The Mayor of Casterbridge House

    The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of Thomas Hardy's most famous novel (as I said, I have not read it so far). Of course it is fictional, and it takes place in the fictional town of Casterbridge, but because this town was based on Dorchester, it is still possible to identify places in the town that Hardy used. I came across one of these, the house...

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  • Thomas Hardy statue

    Dorchester is famous for is connection to Thomas Hardy, who based his fictional town of Casterbridge on the town, and his fictional county of Wessex on the Dorchester region. The real area is now often called "Thomas Hardy country", and the writer is mentioned everywhere (there is for example a big section of the Dorset County Museum devoted to...

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  • Mill Stream Walk

    This is a very nice walk in the north of the town centre, it is very idyllic and pretty. The Mill Stream is a branch of the Frome and walking here I felt like being in the country side, although I was actually still in the town. I think it must be even prettier when it is another season, and everything is green, or when the leaves turn red and...

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  • Old Crown Court

    I had never heard about the Tolpuddle Martyrs until I read about them on Cathy's Tolpuddle page, but I suppose that their story is more widely known in the UK. They were a group of six agricultural labourers living in Tolpuddle who in 1832 formed something like the first trade union in the world, the "Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers"....

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  • The Grove

    The Grove is the equivalent to the South Walks. It is a long tree-lined street that is located upon the old Roman down defenses. Actually, the road where the cars go is located within the former ditch, while the pedestrian way is located upon the earth embankments. Apart from the cars going past you it is a very nice walk and I also saw many...

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Dorchester Hotels

Dorchester Restaurants

  • A cafe/restaurant with history

    Nappers Mite is a piece of local history,originally built in 1615 by Sir Robert Napper as a set of Almshouses for 10 old men.It is now a cafe/restaurant and the oldest building in South Street,Dorchester.Inside it is full of old worlde charm with its stone walls,stone mullioned windows,original stone doorways and the nail studded oak door.Outside...

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  • Great Indian but stay off desserts

    At the top of the High Street there are two Indian restaurants opposite each other. We looked at the one on "our side" of the street but it was an upstairs restaurant and impossible to see how popular it was. It also had a specials board outside and according to my Bourdain-fan hubby this is an act of desperation so we settled for The Rajpoot even...

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  • Former Almshouse

    Robert Napper built this former almshouse in Dorchester in 1615 for 10 poor people to live after a town fire in which 300 houses were destroyed, during the reign of James I. When the poor laws changed in 1835 this building went through a series of changes. The front of the building was rebuilt in 1842, but the Jacobean style can still be seen in...

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  • Little Chef

    We stopped at this little chef at Winderbourne Abbas which is a couple of miles west of Dorchester. This restaurant chain is dotted all over the UK. Not known for its culinary achievements but an ideal pit stop.I would however recommend the French red onion tart, its gorgeous!! Prices are average, £6-8.00 for a main course. It is not unusual to see...

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  • Wessex Royale Hotel

    This is the restaurant at our hotel, We didnt eat an evening meal here, but the menu looked great, higher than average prices.Breakfasts were fine, the usual toast, cereal, and/or cooked english breakfast. One little moan is the vegetarian breakfast is just the normal one minus meat, no vegetarian substitutes. Staff were very pleasant, couldnt do...

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  • Cheap Eats

    After failing to find an Italian restaurant we settled on the Kings Arms, on the Dorchester High Street. This 300 year old coach house, was full of architectural atmosphere, if a little rough around the edges. As well as the specials board you can order 2 meals for 10.00 pounds which we ended up doing. A Spinach Fritiata with a strong tomato sauce,...

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Dorchester Transportation

  • To Dorchester by train

    While exploring the south of England for ten days, I stayed in Bournemouth and from there did day trips by train. My first one was the one to Dorchester. It was a very convenient trip because the journey only takes about 45 minutes. I booked a return ticket online in advance which was £11. This is an off peak ticket which means that you can only...

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  • Bus to Maiden Castle

    I really wanted to visit Maiden Castle, but I knew that it was a few kilometres out of town, so I went to the tourist information and asked about public transportation. To get to Maiden Castle, you need to take bus No 2 at Trinity Street (bus stand C2), very close to the tourist information. It leaves at eleven minutes past the hour from 09.11am to...

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  • Dorchester Hotels

    28 Hotels in Dorchester

    101 Reviews and Opinions

Dorchester Shopping

  • Several nice and small shops

    Antelope Walk is a small arcade with several small shops. Most of them are individual shops, not chains. It is a nice place to stroll around because everything looks very old-fashioned, almost like in a period drama. The emblem of the arcade shows an antelope, and the walk was named after the Antelope Hotel, a coaching inn that was located here. It...

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  • Museum Shops

    All the museums we visted had gift shops which you seemed to ba able to visit with out actually going in to the Museum. The only one I really look much notice in was The Tutankhamun Museum shop, the prices seemed very reasonable, They had a great Egyptian books section too.The link below allows you to buys online from some of the museum shops in...

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  • All kinds of goodies!

    Dorchester's street market, which takes place on a pedestrianised street in this busy town on Saturdays, sells all kinds of things.It isnt very big and has a few of the usual stalls, but some interesting crafty ones too. I particularly liked the jewellery stall, as did my sister... lots of bead and glassware items.My hubby really liked the...

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Dorchester Warnings and Dangers

  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    by CatherineReichardt Written Oct 17, 2011

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Visiting churches is one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Europe, and provides a fascinating insight into the culture which has shaped European cultures of the past couple of millenia.

    Unlike some other religions - where access to places of worship may be restricted to members of that religious group or a specific gender - the vast majority of Christian churches will allow tourists to visit at most times, including routine services (although some may charge an admission fee for doing so, and access may be denied for private events such as weddings and funerals). However, tourists need to bear in mind that most churches are still active places of worship, and so visitors need to exhibit a certain sensitivity to display respect to the culture and avoid giving offence to people at prayer.

    The following guidelines are based on wonderful advice offered by Homer (homaned) - who does this for a living - in a forum response, and although specifically written for Christian places of worship, would apply equally to places of worship for other religions

    So, here is a general list of do's and don'ts for people wishing to photograph during a church service:

    READ THE SIGNS
    If photography is not permitted - because, for example, it may damage paint on delicate murals - this will usually be indicated by a pictogram of a camera with a red line through it. Under most circumstances, you can assume that photography will be allowed (unless otherwise indicated), but may not be permitted during services. If in doubt, ask for clarification - this shows respect and will very seldom be met with anything other than a helpful response.

    TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!
    Every camera on the market has a button on it which will turn off the flash. The number one most alarming and distracting thing that can happen during a liturgy, and one which will even get you kicked out of some churches, is the bright flash that goes off when you take a picture. Not only is it distracting, but it usually makes the picture turn out dark, because your camera's flash only has about a 10-15' range. Turn off the flash, and hold the camera up against your eye, using the viewfinder, and you will likely get a better picture (and you definitely won't have any red-eye problems!).

    DON'T MOVE AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE! (UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION)
    Instead of walking all over down the main aisle and in front of everybody, pick a good place from which to take a picture at the beginning of the liturgy, and stay there. Unless you're a professional photographer with practice at stealthily moving during liturgies, you're a distraction, and you're being disrespectful. Even if you're a pro, try to stick to one out-of-the-way place, and use a zoom lens and zoom in to get pictures. Walking in front of people is a surefire way to distract and disrespect and closing in on priests or other celebrants just to capitalise on a photo opportunity is offensive.

    TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S SOUND!
    Every camera has some way to mute all its 'cute' beeps and clicking noises. If you press a button, and hear a beep, or if you take a picture and hear an obnoxious shutter clicking sound, you need to turn off those sounds (the muting option is usually in one of the menus). Along with the flashing, it's an obvious sign that someone is taking pictures and not showing much respect for those trying to pay attention to the liturgy.

    TURN OFF the 'focus assist' light!
    If your camera can't focus without the little laser-light that shines in everyone's eyes before your camera takes a picture, then don't use your camera. You have to turn that light off! It is very distracting to be watching a lector or priest, and see a little red dot or lines pop up on his face all of the sudden. It's as if some rifleman is making his mark! Turn the light off (again, look in the menus for the option to turn off the 'AF assist' or 'focus assist' light). If you can't turn it off, put a piece of duct tape or some other opaque material over the area where the light is, so the light won't shine on someone.

    TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S LCD!
    You should never use the LCD to compose your shots anyways; just put your eye up to the viewfinder, and that will not only not distract, it will also steady your camera against your face, making for a better picture (especially if you don't have the flash on). And if you must review the pictures you've taken, hold the camera in front of you, down low, so people behind you don't notice the big, bright LCD display on your camera

    CERTAIN PARTS OF THE CEREMONY ARE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE
    Photographing the blessing of the eucharist (bread and wine) and distribution of communion to the congregation are considered to be particularly sacred parts of the service, and it is offensive to photograph these activities.

    The main thing is to try to be respectful of the culture and of other people present at the service. Don't distract. And, if you are asked to not take pictures, or if there's a sign saying 'no photography allowed,' then don't take pictures. You can always ask a priest's permission before the liturgy, but if he says 'No,' put away your camera and enjoy the freedom you have to focus on the privilege of being able to share an experience with people who consider these religious rituals core to their culture and identity, rather than focusing on your camera's LCD!

    Homer's Rules ... Homer rules!

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Dorchester What to Pack

  • Shoes!

    If you plan to visit Maiden Castle, you should take some good walking shoes. Sneakers are fine, you don't need real hiking shoes, but it would not be good to walk around Maiden Castle wearing sandals, flip-flops, high heels or similar. The ground is very uneven and slippery, and sometimes you need to climb a little in order to get onto the earth...

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  • What to bring with?

    Luggage with wheels is always a good idea, wherever you are travelling. Whether snowy/wet/sunny/warm or cold weather, layer your clothing. Wear thermal underwear (these are easily bought at the local clothing shops), with warm leggings and a top under a toasty jacket for the cold. I have my trusty grey duffle coat, plus a white snow jacket for...

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Dorchester Off The Beaten Path

  • Maiden Castle - Walk along the outer...

    After I had explored the interior parts of Maiden Castle for more than an hour I was very tired and tried to make my way back to the car park. I ended up on a part of the outer ramparts and walked along them a little, and when I found that I was walking away from the car park, I decided to continue because I liked this walk so much. Parts of these...

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  • Maiden Castle

    Maiden Castle is an Off The Beaten Path destination in the south of the town centre which is not visited by that many tourists (at least there were non at all when I visited), but to my mind it is a real must see if you are travelling to Dorchester.The term "castle" is somewhat misleading, though, as it is an iron age hill fort and not a medieval...

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  • Maumbury Rings

    I had never heard about Maumbury Rings when I came to Dorchester, but the lady in the tourist information centre told me about it when she heard that I was interested in prehistoric and Roman history. Maumbury Rings was originally a neolithic henge, constructed at about 2500B.C.After the Romans had established their town of Durnovaria, the henge of...

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Dorchester Favorites

  • Tourist Information Centre

    My first stop in Dorchester was the tourist information, on the one hand because I did not have any map of the town and wanted to ask for one, on the other hand because I needed info on how to get to Maiden Castle.This tourist information was maybe the best one I have visited so far! They were very, very friendly and gave me a very good map, told...

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  • What I still have to do...

    Always leave something for the next visit! These are the things I didn't do in Dorchester so far and that I want to do when going back: Hardy's Cottage - Thomas Hardy's birthplaceMax Gate - a house designed by Hardy, he lived there from 1885 to 1928Dinosaur Museum - stood in front of it and decided that, given that I was short on time, I should go...

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  • Thomas Hardy country!

    This is the heart of Thomas Hardy country of course, and there are references to him in a few places as one walks around. There was also an impressive statue of him, seated, as we entered Dorchester. Not as much as the Shakespeare references in Stratford-upon-Avon (tons!), but a good few!

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Explore Deeper into Dorchester
Maiden Castle - Burial Mounds
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Fountain marking the Roman aqueduct
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Teddy Bear Museum
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Town Pump and town walks
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Hangman's Cottage
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The Keep
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John White's House
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Judge Jeffrey's Lodgings
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South Walks and Dorset Martyrs Statue
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Cenotaph & Victorian post box
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The Dinosaur Museum
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Durnovaria Town Walk and Wall
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Roman Town House
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Dorset County Museum
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The Dorset Teddy Bear Museum
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Blue plaques
Favorites
Mummies
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Howard Carter
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Ginger Mummies
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The Mummy Exhibition
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Antelope Walk
Shopping
Displays
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Who Murdered Tutankhamun?
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The Tutankhamun Exhibition
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Thomas Hardy
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William Barnes
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Dorset County Museum
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Dinosaur Museum
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Borough Gardens
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The Terracotta Warriors
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The Terracotta Warriors Museum
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The Keep
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Map of Dorchester

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