Travel Report: Dorchester, England.
April 2011. My one and only visit to the English town of Dorchester in Dorset was a fleeting one! It was my old friend Ad’s wedding weekend and I’d flown over from Amsterdam to join the festivities. Arriving in the city by car, the first thing I saw was St. Peter’s Church, a fine, fifteenth century structure located right on the High Street. Architecturally St. Peter’s flaunts a pleasing mix of old and new, from the grotesque gargoyles scowling across the exterior, to the shiny glass sliding doors at the entrance.
April 2011. My Dorchester base the Sydney Arms hotel and pub on St. Thomas Road. Rooms at this three star joint are simple and comfortable and they have solid wifi, so it’s a really good option for those looking for a private room on a budget.
Another plus for The Sydney Arms is that you have a functioning pub downstairs for cooked breakfasts, maybe a ploughman’s lunch and of course as much draft beer as one could wish to consume. At the time of my stay here the place was gearing up for Prince William’s upcoming marriage to Kate Middleton. The big day was just a week away and so the pub was decked out in Union jacks, blow up corgis and life-size cutouts of the bride-and-groom-to-be. For more on The Sydney Arms, have a look here.
April 2011. This statue of renowned English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy stands just north of High West Street. Born and bred in Dorchester, Hardy was inspired to draw heavily upon his hometown for the fictional community in his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. You can also visit Hardy’s childhood home just outside of town along with Max Gate, his main Dorchester residence, which is open to the public and owned by The National Trust.
April 2011. A leisurely wander around Borough Gardens is also a must, a perfectly kept public park dating back to 1896. In 2007 the gardens were extensively restored to the tune of a whopping £1.4 million. The project was overseen by Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes, creator of the TV drama Downton Abbey. The gardens’ focal point is the handsome, cast-iron clock tower painted in red, green and gold.
April 2011. An unusual feature of Borough Gardens is the remains of this Romano British townhouse. The ruins were discovered back in 1937 by Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. The entire area was then fully excavated and the building reconstructed with steel, glass and a stone tiled roof. I would imagine this little spot is pretty much school group catnip.
April 2011. The remainder of my Dorchester experience played out at the spectacular Athelampton House, a 15th century manor located just five miles from the town centre. Built in 1485, it’s possible to tour both the immaculate interior with its Tudor architecture and wander the grounds with its pyramid-shaped Yew trees. Take the time to walk all the way around the house and you’ll find a walled garden, an octagonal pond and a narrow canal flanked by benches and rosebushes.
April 2011. The wedding itself played out as weddings always do. It was great to reunite with the old gang and Athelampton House proved to be the perfect venue as people sang, danced and got very, very drunk. There were inappropriate in-jokes, cheesy speeches and awkward small talk mingling with people I had nothing in common with.
In any case it was great to see my old mate Ad get hitched and to experience a pleasant little corner of England that I might have otherwise missed. For more info on Athelampton House, have a nosey at their website here.
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