Dorset is probably one of the best places to visit in England, especially during the summer months, after all it has nearly 100 miles of the finest beaches of anywhere in the UK.
However, what happens to tourism in the winter months, when the sun is no longer shining, and the ice cream shops and seafront businesses have shut their doors on yet another frenzied season.
If you were to visit any seaside location during the colder months, you would probably return to your car in dismay thinking that there is no reason to explore, but I promise you, you may find some gems worth visiting once all of the tourists have retreated, especially if you are a book fanatic.
Why All Bookworms Should Visit Dorset
Many great authors have either lived or spent time on this glorious stretch of coastline, gaining inspiration from the varying landscapes and the dramatic change in seasons.
This English author has written many great classics including, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles which were often set in the semi-fictional county of Wessex. Wessex was a combination of many counties including Dorset, which according to Hardy’s writings was South Wessex.
Today, you can revisit many locations associated with Hardy including Maiden Castle, Cerne Abbas, Charmouth, Minterne Gardens and Tithe Barn at Abbotsbury which have all featured in film adaptations of his novels or perhaps you would prefer to wander around the town of Dorchester, which became Casterbridge to Hardy. This was where Hardy was firstly educated before moving into Max Gate, a house designed by his brother; where he went on to write several novels.
Make sure you also allow time to visit the cob and thatch cottage in Bockhampton where Hardy was born back in 1840. Built by his great-grandfather, this is also where he penned Far From the Madding Crowd.
If you do decide to visit during the summer months, head out to Lulworth Cove, a beautiful cove close to Durdle Door, which is said to be one of the finest bays along the Jurassic Coast Line, and is the setting for Hardy’s poem, At Lulworth Cove a Century Back.
Frightened you might miss something? Why not follow the Hardy Trail or if you want to find out more about the locations mentioned in his novels then pop into the Dorchester Tourism Office where you can pick up a guidebook dedicated to the writer.
A favourite childhood writer of mine, I spend many hours reading her magical stories about magical faraway trees and enchanted wood before moving on to read about the adventures of her famous five. She may have been writing some of these titles back in the 1930-40’s but as a child, they were just as innovative as any J.K. Rowling is today.
Even though she wrote over 700 books Enid Blyton still managed to find time to holiday each year on the Dorset Coast, specifically on the Isle of Purbeck where she gained inspiration for many of her novels.
During her holidays she would also visit the local area, and is said to have based Noddy’s Toyland on the area of Studland, close to Purbeck. A PC named Chrisopher Rone, who worked in Studland during the 1940’s is believed to have been the inspiration for Mr Plod, the now famous Noddy character.
Blyton also visited Corfe Castle, and whilst exploring the ruins that surround the village, conjured up the first inkling of a Famous Five Story. Visit today, and not only can you follow in her footsteps, exploring the castle, but you can also pop into the Ginger Pop Shop, directly opposite the entrance, where you can pick up several books, toys and even ginger beer, a favourite drink of the Famous Five.
The Ginger Pop Shop is also one of the only shops where you will still find a collection of Golliwogs, which were often featured in Enid Blyton’s books but today have become frowned upon for the racist connotations that are attached to them. It does need to be highlighted that Enid Blyton never once meant anything by her inclusion of them in her books. In fact, she saw them as a ‘innocent victim of well-intentioned political correctness’, but revised editions of her Noddy
series have since been made in order to remove all golliwogs from the stories.
Holidaying in Lyme Regis led to one of the most dramatic scenes in her novel Persuasion; it became the location where Louisa Musgrove fell. Such a famous scene, that even Tennyson has visited this area demanding to see the exact location where Jane Austen gained her inspiration for such a distressing event.
Today, once you have wandered the coast pathways, exploring the area, walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps, head to the Lyme Regis museum where you will find many objects on display relating to the great author herself.
For die-hard Jane Austen fans, one you have explored this area why not take a short drive north up to Salisbury where you will find Mompesson House, where the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet was filmed.
If you would like to visit other places where Jane Austen’s novels have been adapted for the big screen head to Wilton House where over 15 films have been recorded in the gardens including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, The Madness of King George, and The Young Victoria.
Whilst in Salisbury, why not wander around the Cathedral opposite Mompesson House, the spire said to have inspired William Golding to write his novel, The Spire, in 1964 or perhaps you would prefer to wander the city streets just like Daniel Defoe and Samuel Pepys would have done whilst on a stop-off on their way to Stonehenge.
Top Tip: Whilst in Lyme Regis head to Belmont, a house that the writer John Fowles once lived in and was used as a setting for his famous novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
Other Notable literary Links in Dorset
If you decide to spend a day or two in Bournemouth why not head to the Hotel Miramir for a stay in room 205, a favourite holiday spot for the world-famous author, J.R.R Tolkien. Alternatively why not pop in for a spot of Afternoon Tea and enjoy the views out over the beautifully tendered gardens leading to the sea. Lyme Regis is also a spot where he would spend many childhood holidays exploring with his Aunt.
Although she had no connection with Bournemouth or the Dorset coastline, there was obviously a draw for Mary Shelley to this area of the world. You can now find the Frankenstein author buried, along with other family members, in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church, right in the heart of the town.
Alice Lidell may not be known by many, and she is definitely not an author but it would be wrong not to mention this lady when writing about the literary connections of the area.
Alice Lidell, who lived most of her life in Lydnhurst, in the New Forest, was the woman that inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when he was still known as Charles Dodgson. Therefore, to visit this area and not seek out St Michael and All Angels Churchyard in Lydnhurst could be a big mistake for any Lewis Carroll Fan.
John Le Carré
Probably one of the best known Spy novelists of all time, John Le Carré was born in Poole, Dorset. The author of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, once known as David Cornwell, spent a great deal of time visiting his aunt and uncle, formed Mayor of Poole, in Mount Road, Parkstone, and spent summer days at Poole Park on the boats.
Clearly, the striking landscapes and sea breeze, the picture postcard villages and the ability to hike the Jurassic Coast have inspired many writers to pen some of the best-known works in British literature.
So next time you take a wander along the promenade, perhaps take a moment or two to sit and take in your environment because you just never know, maybe you will be the next great writer or artist inspired by the picturesque Dorset Coastline.
Looking for a place to stay whilst exploring the Dorset area? With many places to choose from it can be difficult to know where to head. If you are after a cheap hotel why not head to the Travelodge on Bournemouth cliff front, which is in a prime location to explore all of the above mentioned sights.