England: Dorset – 5 nights
Dorset - In the footsteps of Thomas HardyBack to Routes
The Jurassic Coast from Thorncombe Beacon
Cottages and millponds
Through the fields
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury
Cricket match at Milton Abbey
On Hambledon Hill
Milton Abbas village
Cerne Abbas Giant, ancient chalk hill figure
The Cobb at Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis harbour
Fossil hunting in the cliffs at Charmouth near Lyme Regis
We wanted to write and let you know what a wonderful trip we had. All of the bookings, luggage transfers and route maps & notes were faultless and extremely helpful. Thank you again for organizing such a fantastic holiday. It was everything we hoped for, and the routes and accommodations were wonderful. Trust me, we've been on a lot of holidays and the service you provide is exceptional. Keep doing what you do!
Scott and Sue, Sheffield, UK - September 2023
Walking the footpaths through fields, farms, and gardens was unique - an experience that I don't think one could get any other way than walking. The chosen route is also one that only an insider would ever be able to devise.
Peter and Felice Soorenko, Brookline, USA - September 2023
The countryside was beautiful and On Foot had picked some really interesting sites and villages along the way. On Foot's attention to detail was terrific. We really appreciated being able to adjust the length of our walk.
Gordon Ure, Port Elliot, Australia - July 2023
We had the most perfect weather in Dorset. Honestly, we couldn’t have wished for three better days. We had a blast! The beautiful farmlands, the green fields far and wide
Kathy Tripp, Avalon Beach, Australia - May 2023
I love the On Foot Holidays team! Everyone is not only efficient and responsive but also kind and thoughtful. They make one feel as if there's no limit to their willingness to help ensure your trip is perfectly organized and greatly satisfying.
Susan Gaits, Basking Ridge, USA - September 2022
Everything was absolutely perfect. The stunning walks which led me through the most amazingly gorgeous countryside. The small hamlets with houses draped in roses, to the welcoming inns with their well appointed rooms that served up delicious meals.
I discovered that I love walking alone. Yet, I felt that should I need help, OFH was only a phone call away.
Elke Muller, Portland, USA - June 2022
We were impressed by how On Foot Holidays managed to thread lovely footpaths and bridleways together to cover the ground between destinations. Very little road walking and then on quiet lanes.
It is very difficult to see how this holiday could be improved; we enjoyed everything.
Gordon Allan, Isle of Wight, UK - May 2022
Shirley and I have just completed your ‘In the Footsteps of Thomas Hardy’ walk and I would like to thank you for a really excellent trip, aided somewhat by the incredible weather - dry underfoot throughout and not a drop of rain falling on us! In particular, whoever devised the route did a fantastic job - there’s no way a stranger to the area could have devised such a complex route on their own, over relatively minor public footpaths, many of which were simply not signed.
We are very keen walkers, so have phone access to the full set of Ordnance Survey maps, but such was the accuracy of the ‘line’ on your maps (which sensibly, but unusually, was set alongside rather than on top of the footpath symbols) and clarity of directions, we rarely needed to look at our OS app.
Stephen Amies, Cheshire, UK - April 2022
We absolutely loved this holiday. It was our first time on such a trip in the UK and we were blown away by the stunning scenery, remote rural hamlets and excellent accommodation and food. We barely knew Dorset and were so impressed by farm fields full of bees and butterflies, ancient villages and the gorgeous coast. Walking along the Wessex ridgeway with views in all directions was unforgettable.
The OF notes instill a huge amount of confidence that we won't get lost! There wasn't anything we didin't like or would change. Just can't decide where to go next!
Janice Wallace, Chiddingstone, UK - July 2021
Dorset is as beautiful as we've been led to believe. Loved the rolling hills and so many meadows. Generally a fab choice of accommodation, and the food (well, it's important) mostly either good or excellent.
Clare Segal, Lewes, UK - June 2021
It was our first walking holiday, and, being in our 60s, wanted something manageable, and in a pretty area (we loved the Dorset Countryside), and with our bags transported. As soon as I spoke to one of your wonderful staff, I knew it was the company for us.
Jackie Ashurst, London, UK - June 2021
A walk of many highlights.
Each day offered something special - whether Old Wardour Castle, the very pretty Aunt Mary's Bottom (which was a real highlight. So beautiful and tranquil), Gold Hill, seeing Compton Abbas airfield, Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorset Gap, Hambledon Hill, Golden Cap, the Mapperton tea garden and chance to delight in rural, unspoilt Dorset.
Neil and Ros Somerville - September 2020
We would like to thank you for all the excellent service and fab holiday you have organised for us. It was a really wonderful experience, a part of England neither of us knew and which we both loved. I would definitely give the whole thing a 5-star rating, including the team at On Foot Holidays.
Simon Cockbill, Rutland UK - July 2020
A wonderful, terrific hike and trip. The countryside was really the star. I've read about Dorset/the Downs/the south English coast in all those wonderful novels and British crime mysteries etc but really never been there or seen it. And it definitely more than lives up to its reputation.
We really loved going through the countryside, trying to figure out how many shades of green we were seeing, having it all to ourselves - just astonishingly beautiful and peaceful. Ending the trip walking from Bridport to Lyme Regis on a near perfect day - well, hard to forget. So thank you all - you did a great job.
Robert Lurie, Asheville, USA - May 2019
Beautiful English countryside.
It was a wonderful experience walking through fields of barley and wheat, through farms with sheep and cows. We crossed stiles and went through gates. Because of pre-existing right of way since medieval times, we were free to wander through private fields and farms. The little English villages like Cerne Abbas and Evershot were delightful.
Mags - August 2019
At a glance
5 nights (4 days walking). Extra nights possible at all accommodation. See 'Prices' tab for what's included.
Suggested route pairing: Devon, Coastal Exmoor, Cornwall
Dog-friendly with alternative accommodations.
How much walking?
Full days: 12-22km per day, 4-7 hrs walking
Using shortening options: 12-18km per day, 3-5 hrs (using lifts)
From Hardy's Dorchester to the Jurassic Coast
Dorset in style! Our route discovers the Wessex that Thomas Hardy knew and loved so well.
Following an overnight stay in the beautiful town of Dorchester, a short taxi transfer takes you to the village of Milton Abbas. From here, you walk through its rows of beautiful thatched cottages; through remote Bingham’s Melcombe and then Melcombe Bingham (yes, really) to idyllic Plush. A visit to the always-ready Cerne Abbas giant then a night at Hardy’s Sow and Acorn Inn in Evershot is followed by a ramble over rolling hills to the bustling town of Bridport. Your last day is spent exploring the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, and enjoying the views from high up on Golden Cap, all the way to journey’s end, the fishing village of Lyme Regis. Hunt for fossils on the beach and walk along the Cobb (à la The French Lieutenant’s Woman), before feasting on a well-earned celebratory supper.
Dogs: this version is suitable for small or medium sized dogs subject to accommodation changes in Dorchester and Lyme Regis. Supplements apply (see “prices”).
Walked by On Foot staff: Mary, Harriet, Emma, Simon, Fi
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
Watch our short film about Dorset, giving a taste of the green hills, pretty villages and cosy pubs, and the traditional English seaside town of Lyme Regis:
- The county town of Dorchester with its noteworthy museums and excellent eateries!
- Idyllic rolling and unspoilt countryside with constant Thomas Hardy references. Don’t be surprised to see Tess walking forlornly in the distance…
- The imposing Cerne Abbas Giant – supposedly Saxon era hillside chalk figure
- Mapperton House and Gardens, used in the 2015 Far from the Madding Crowd film
- Quintessential English villages and inns with a great variety of food from sophisticated offerings in Evershot to fish and chips on the Cobb at Lyme Regis.
- Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, Golden Cap and Lyme Regis – unofficial UK capital of fossil hunting!
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Coast, Villages and farms, Dog friendly, History
Things you should know
- Expect to encounter livestock – we will provide advice.
- There are limited taxis on some days, so shortening options are only as described.
- Be prepared for unpredictable weather! There could be rain or sun at any time.
- The navigation requires concentration – use of GPX files (provided) is recommended.
An extra night in Lyme Regis is strongly recommended as this intriguing seaside town has so much to offer - it is also home to some of the finest accommodation on the route. Also consider an extra day to relax and explore the local countryside at Thomas Hardy's "Sow and Acorn" in Evershot; a good mid-point to break up the walk and lots of local free-walking to do.
Eating and Drinking
A great chance to taste real English ales, hearty food and even the infamous Dorset Knob. The restaurants at the Brace of Pheasants and the Acorn are excellent. Also try Mark Hix’ Oyster and Fish House on Cobb Road in Lyme Regis (online reservations) and don’t miss fish and chips eaten al fresco on the seafront in Lyme (but watch out for hungry seagulls).
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 12-18km per day, 3-5 hrs (using lifts)
Some smaller footpaths are used, mostly signed, though some not – careful attention to note details needed. Excellent maps. Basic compass skills essential.
Medium: Average CUSs per day 445m (320-640m, using shortening options 350m (250m-430m). Note: Coastal option on Day 5 – 750m.
Acrophobia/vertigo warnings: Only on the final day’s coastal walk (alternative option available).
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: May, June, July, August, September, October
Other possible months: March, April, November
This walk is best in spring and autumn, but beware of shorter days at the beginning and end of the season, when it may also be rather wet and muddy! In August it may be hard for us to secure accommodation.
Important: our accommodations in Evershot and Lyme Regis are unlikely to accept a one night stay on a Friday or Saturday. Please consider this when selecting your holiday start date, or ask us for advice.
Temperature and rainfall chart for Salisbury
Day 1 - Arrive in Dorchester
Time your arrival to allow you to explore historic Dorchester and the birthplace of Thomas Hardy. Don't miss the excellent Dorset Museum and then stretch your legs on a short walking trail around the town to enjoy the shops and have a meal in one of the city's pubs and restaurants.
Day 2 - Milton Abbas to Plush
A veritable feast of a day for connoisseurs of Thomas Hardy, country churches, and the English landscape at its best. First a short transfer (included), explore much-photographed Milton Abbas complete with ancient abbey. Then walk through picturesque Dorset countryside, discover the church at Hilton, and feudal and almost inaccessible Bingham’s Melcombe (more Hardy), before heading for the heights at the Dorset Gap and supper and overnight at the perfect thatched pub. (Easy-medium: 4 hrs walking (allow 5¼ hrs), 14 km (9 miles), CUSs 315m)
Day 3 - Plush to Evershot
A switchback day of five valleys and four ridges, taking in lunch at pretty Cerne Abbas, famous for its virile giant carved in the chalk. Then a lovely walk up through Cerne Park and over to the Sydling valley, remote and agricultural, and to the next – Frome St Quentin and its old church, before finally reaching Evershot, and staying in Hardy’s old “Sow and Acorn”. (Medium-hard: 7 hrs walking (allow 9¼ hrs), 22 km (14 miles), CUSs 640m, OR Medium: 4 hrs walking (allow 5¼ hrs), 14 km (9 miles), CUSs 400m using lift at start)
Day 4 - Evershot to Bridport
This beautiful and easier walk takes in some gorgeous countryside – ancient lanes, former parkland, a country house garden and a watermill. Garden lovers should visit Mapperton; take tea at the Mill at Mangerton, and the final walk into Bridport will surprise you in its tranquility. At journey’s end, explore Georgian Bridport too – in July you might catch its annual folk festival, with music and Morris dancing in the streets. (Medium: 5 hrs walking (allow 6¾ hrs), 20 km (12½ miles), CUS 320m OR Easy-medium: 4¾ hrs walking (allow 6¼ hrs), 17 km (10½ miles), CUSs 255m using lift at start)
Day 5 - Bridport to Lyme Regis
A day of two options – either join the South West Coast Path at West Bay and enjoy an undulating (!) walk with fabulous views along the Jurassic Coast (Medium-hard: 5¾ hrs walking (allow 7¾ hrs), 19 km (12 miles), CUSs 750m) or continue your treat of unspoilt Dorset countryside, villages and churches, with lunch at Whitchurch Canonicorum before joining the end of the Wessex Ridgeway as it snakes its way craftily through Lyme’s back door. (Medium-hard: 6 hrs walking (allow 8 hrs), 21 km (12½ miles), CUSs 430m)
Depart for home (or choose to stay further nights)
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway station:
ARRIVING BY CAR
Budget approx £75 for seven days’ parking (or ~£30 for Axminster, max stay seven days).
Park in Lyme Regis – drive to Lyme Regis, bus/taxi to Axminster then train to Salisbury; collect car at end.
Park in Axminster – drive to Axminster then train to Salisbury; bus/taxi to Axminster at end to collect car.
Park in Salisbury – park and walk to first hotel; at end take bus/taxi to Axminster and train back to Salisbury to collect car.
ARRIVING BY AIR
The best “local” airport is either Bournemouth, Southampton or Bristol. Intercontinental flights use London Heathrow or London Gatwick.
Land by: 16:00 for public transport connections to Salisbury (~2 hrs).
Return flight earliest: 12:00 for public transport connections from Axminster (~3 hrs)
In view of the large number of suitable airports in the south of England, if your inward flight lands after 16:00 or your return flight takes off before 12:00, please contact us for transfer advice.
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “Getting to the start of the walk” below for transfer information.
Getting to the start of the walk
The first hotel is in the medieval city of Salisbury and the last in Lyme Regis, a lovely old fishing village. Transfer times and methods are suggestions from London Gatwick and London Heathrow airports, but if you arrive at either Bristol, Bournemouth or Southampton airports, then transfer times will be shorter in most cases.
Outward: Train to Salisbury (2½ hrs) then short walk or local taxi to first hotel
Return: Bus or local taxi to Axminster, then train to London Gatwick (~3½ hrs)
Outward: Bus to Woking, then train to Salisbury (~2½ hrs), then short walk or local taxi to first hotel
Return: Bus or local taxi to Axminster, train to Woking then bus to Heathrow (~3½ hrs)
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
The accommodation along this route varies from small-and-friendly B&Bs and picturesque pubs to a newly-renovated townhouse hotel in Lyme Regis, with surprisingly spacious rooms.
Upgrade hotels/rooms available in Dorchester, Bridport and Lyme Regis. Accommodation in Evershot and Lyme Regis requires a 2 night minimum stay at weekends (Fri/Sat nights).
Please note: walkers bringing dogs may not be able to do all route versions (check the tabs at the top of the screen) or have the same choice of accommodation. For this version, walkers with dogs require upgrade rooms/accommodation in Dorchester and Lyme Regis. Supplements will apply (see “prices” tab).
Dorchester – The King’s Arms (B&B)
Town-centre hotel with comfortable rooms and good facilities. Upgrade to 'Comfy' or 'Fancy' rooms for a little more space. On site bar and restaurant.Website
Evershot – The Acorn (B&B)
Traditional hotel with Hardy connections. Small rooms but full of character. Two night minimum stay at weekends.Website
Bridport – The Bridge House Hotel (B&B)
Well appointed family-run hotel with excellent facilities. Rooms are thoughtfully furnished, welcoming and comfortable.Website
Bridport – The Bull Hotel (B&B)
Stylish hotel with individually designed rooms. Two night minimum stay at weekends.Website
Lyme Regis – Lyme Townhouse (B&B)
Compact contemporary rooms in a Grade II listed building, close to the center of Lyme Regis. Two night minimum stay at weekends.Website
Lyme Regis – Dorset House (B&B)
The place to stay in Lyme Regis. Boutique B&B with outstanding breakfast. Most rooms have (distant) sea views. Normally min. 2 night stay. Standard rooms are lovely but upgrade to a premium room if you feel like pushing the boat out. NB: Extremely limited availability in 2021.Website
Lyme Regis – The Rock Point Inn (B&B)
Small but well-furnished rooms, some offering a sea viewWebsite
Alternative accommodation in Bridport
There are many wonderful places to stay in Bridport and we have selected our favourites above. We also use…
The Tiger Inn is an atmospheric and lively pub in the centre of town. We usually use the rooms on the third floor which are well protected against noise from the bar below.
Alternative accommodation in Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis has some excellent places to stay but can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays. In the event that our usual accommodation is full, we also use…
Lyme One Hotel, a recently refurbished Georgian townhouse with eight individually decorated rooms. Situated near the town centre, this is a great option for two-night stays. Continental breakfast is served in a bespoke hamper and delivered to your door in the morning.
Dorset House is a fantastic place to stay with elegant rooms and meticulous attention to detail; one of the On Foot team’s favourite accommodations. However, securing availability is challenging as the rooms become booked several months in advance. If you wish to stay here, you will need to plan ahead! Minimum two night stay – sometimes longer in July and August.
Total 5 nights in double/twin room, 5 breakfasts, short transfer at the start of Day 2 and luggage transfers from Dorchester to Lyme Regis; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £380
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £220
Large party saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £30 per person
Maximum party size: please enquire
Please note that weekend stays (Fri and Sat nights) in Evershot and Lyme Regis may be subject to a minimum 2 night stay and a supplement.
Dogs: As only certain accommodation accepts dogs, the nights in Dorchester and Lyme Regis are at alternative/upgraded accommodation so please allow an extra cost of £25 per person plus a dog supplement of around £10 per dog per night.
Extra nights in any hotel along the route: Contact On Foot Holidays (seasonal pricing)
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK: £20-£60 (per pack, location dependent)
Our local team
On Foot Holidays team
This route has been designed by the staff team at On Foot Holidays in Salisbury.