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Thomas Hardy's Dorset by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in DESTINATIONS By Maggie O' Sullivan

Main Image CareyI admit my head was turned for a while by Poldark’s Cornwall, but my true love will always be Gabriel Oak’s Dorset, and I can’t wait for the new screen version of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd to open tomorrow. If the film inspires you to get to know Hardy country better, here's where to start.

Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester has one of the world’s largest collections of Thomas Hardy memorabilia, with more than 7,000 items and a reconstruction of the author’s study. The museum’s new exhibition includes three of the dresses worn in the film by actress Carey Mulligan (above) as well an original manuscript of part of Far from The Madding CrowdAlison Howell’s Foot Trails 

The walking-holiday specialist offers short and longer walking trails visiting the towns, villages and fields featured in Hardy’s novels. The Tess’s Journey (Hardy’s Tales) inn-to-inn walk traces the steps of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, following the river Stour and calling at Marnhull (which Hardy renamed Marlott) and Shaftesbury (aka Shaston), both of which also feature in the new movie. The tour is available as a four-, five- or six-night trip, from £565 per person.Hardy’s Cottage

Max Gate, in Dorchester, is where Hardy lived as an older man, but the pretty cottage in Higher Bockhampton is where he was born and where he wrote several of novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd. You can wander round the cottage (it’s surprisingly small), then explore the nearby woods which open onto heathland featured in The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge. The cottage currently has two costumes from the new movie on display. Mapperton 

Much of the new film version of Far from the Madding Crowd was shot at Mapperton (it stands in for Everdene, Bathsheba’s farm), near Beaminster. The sandstone manor house is the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich and only open on weekdays in May, July and early August. However the best thing about Mapperton really are the glorious Italiante gardens which don’t feature in the film, but are open between March and October. Summer Lodge Hotel 

There are lots of hotels and inns in Dorset with Thomas Hardy associations. The best connected is probably the The Kings Arms in Dorchester which featured heavily in The Mayor of Casterbridge. But if you’re looking for somewhere more comfortable, try Plumber Manor in Sturminster Newton, or Summer Lodge in Evershot (above). The latter has has a rather unusual Hardy connection: when the house was enlarged in 1893, it was Thomas Hardy, an architect by profession, who drew up the plans.

Further information

Visit Dorset produces an excellent Hardy Trail, with a map and masses of information on locations both in Hardy’s novels, and featured in the screen adaptions of his work. You can also pick up maps, booklets and trail leaflets at the Tourist Information Centre in Dorchester.

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