Dorchester and West Dorset

Dorchester - the County Town

Dorchester is the county town of Dorset. Originally sited on the spectacular Iron Age hill fort of Maiden Castle, the town was developed by the Romans into one of the most important towns in England (interested visitors can visit the excavated Roman Town House).

Dorchester is also world famous for its strong connection with the writer and poet Thomas Hardy, who was born at Higher Bockhampton and lived in Dorchester at Max Gate for most of his later life.  Both Max Gate and the birthplace are owned by the National Trust and open to visitors.

Historically Dorchester has been the setting for some very dramatic events – Judge Jeffreys’ ‘Bloody Assize’ trials took place here in 1685 and the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried in the Old Crown Court in 1834 (the Dorset County Museum is a good place to direct those who want to learn more).

Today, Dorchester is a vibrant town especially on a Wednesday when there is a weekly market. Shopping is an important tourist activity as there are many gift stores and independent retailers as well as high street favourites. Other attractions in the town include the Dinosaur, Tutankhamun, Teddy Bear and Terracotta Warrior Museums, and The Keep Military Museum.

The Brewery Square project is a new development for the town and will provide brand new luxury apartments, a multi-screen cinema, shops, restaurants, and Britain’s first entirely solar-powered rail station.   

On the western edge of town,  Prince Charles’ internationally renowned Poundbury has become a stylish, eco-friendly ‘model’ village – a pioneering example of traditional architecture and modern town planning.