Photo of Dorchester

About Dorchester

A historic market town in Dorset, Dorchester is the ideal destination for a romantic weekend away or a family holiday. Full of fascinating historical sites, excellent museums and gorgeous countryside, it is the quintessential getaway town. Whether you're paying homage to one of its greatest sons, Thomas Hardy, strolling through wooded sculpture parks or marvelling at artefacts dating back to the days of Rome, there is plenty to do in this beautiful and quaint old town. The best places to stay in Dorchester tend to be just outside the town itself in the picturesque countryside.

Dorchester has its roots in Roman times when Durnovaria was built there in 43 CE. You can see the remnants of this era in both the County Museum and the Roman Town House, where a treasure trove of fascinating artefacts are housed. Maiden Castle, on the outskirts of town, provides an interesting detour into Iron Age history. An old Saxon fort with enormous earthworks dug around it, it allows you to glimpse into the lives of our ancient ancestors. Two events define Dorchester's history. In 1685, following the defeat of Monmouth's rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor, a judge sentenced 74 local men to be hanged for their part in the revolt. The deportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs is another such event, where a group of tradesmen were sent to Australia in 1834 after attempting to form a trade union.

While walking through Dorchester's streets you may well feel that you've been plunged into a Regency-era period drama. The quaint thatched cottages, elegant Georgian townhouses and charming little churches are truly stunning. Take some time out to visit Hardy's cottage - which attempts to encapsulate the essence of what it was once like - and is a fascinating insight into 19th-century quotidian life. Hardy is Dorchester's most famous son, born on the outskirts of town, in his later years he built his own house in there where he lived until he died. There is a statue dedicated to him in the centre of town which is worth checking out.

If you want a taste of old-world life, then the Wednesday market is a must, when local farmers come to town to sell their wares and you can buy anything from rare objet d'art to locally-made cheeses from the many stalls. The countryside surrounding the town are beautiful. If you fancy a rural ramble, head out to Thorncombe Woods, a local nature reserve teeming with dragonflies and mighty oak trees. Plus, during springtime, the forest floor becomes alive with blue and white speckled flowers, making it both a scenic and romantic walk.

What not to miss

  • Visit Maiden Castle on the outskirts of town, an old Iron Age fort with enormous earthworks.
  • Learn about local military history at The Keep Military Museum, detailing the brutal and brave histories of local Dorset regiments.
  • Go for a stroll in Thorncombe Woods amongst oak trees, dragonflies and ponies.
  • Check out the Wednesday market and sample some local produce!
  • Immerse yourself in Roman history at either the County Museum or the Roman Town House.
  • Walk through the sculpture park at Sculpture by the Lakes.
  • Pay homage to Dorchester's greatest son, Thomas Hardy, by visiting his cottage.

The relative proximity to London makes this a popular weekend destination so in order to ensure one of the best places to stay in Dorchester we recommend planning your trip well in advance.

The best places to stay in Dorchester

Quaint country escape

  • Little Court: a pretty Edwardian house on the outskirts of town, offering traditionally-furnished rooms complete with antique furniture and heavy wooden four-poster beds. Guests can enjoy the sumptuous award-winning breakfast or a game of tennis. Ideal for couples looking for charm and intimacy.
  • Duchess of Cornwall Inn: in Poundbury on the outskirts of Dorchester, set in a glorious Georgian-style building. Poundbury is an experimental new town created by Prince Charles as a reaction to post-war town planning, embodying Georgian and classical architectural aesthetics. Ornate, with antique furnishings and period oil paintings. The restaurant serves simple British fare.

For an apartment or cottage

  • Our partner Booking.com has a wide range of cottages and apartments in the nearby area.

Travel information

  • The best time to go is during the summer because Dorchester's weather is always exceptionally clement, the temperature ranging from 12 to 19 degrees.
  • Fly to Exeter International Airport and get a train to Dorchester.
  • If you want to rent a car, contact our partner Rentalcars.

Still not sure?

Best Hotels in Dorchester

  • Duchess of Cornwall Inn 20 rooms from CA$152

    Dorchester (South Dorset)

    Set in a glorious 18th century property, the Duchess of Cornwall Inn is a spectacular hotel in Poundbury just outside Dorchester. History and heritage permeates through the hotel with antique furnishings, period artwork, ornate beds and a real country house ambience. A stunning Dorset gem.

    Local exploring  -  A great base for exploring the Dorset coast.
    Birdwatching  -  The nearby Dorset coastline is a haven for birdlife.
    Great walks  -  The surrounding countryside is great for walking.
    Sights nearby  -  Visit local sites such as Athelhampton House.
    Check prices
  • Little Court 8 rooms from CA$165

    Dorchester (South Dorset)

    A pretty Edwardian country house set in a charming part of rural Dorset. Individually styled rooms are light and spacious and filled with antiques; the best have heavy wooden four-posters. An award winning breakfast, swimming pool and tennis court make this a special stay.

    Country Escape  -  A charming country house set in the heart of Dorset's Thomas Hardy country
    Great walks  -  Take long walks along the spectacular World Heritage Jurrasic coastline.
    Swimming Pool  -  Heated outdoor pool situated in the walled garden
    Full of character
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