The South: Places to Explore

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Dorchester

In many ways Dorchester, the Casterbridge of Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, is a traditional southern country town. The town owes much of its fame to its connection with Hardy, whose bronze statue looks westward from a bank on Colliton Walk. He was born in a cottage in the hamlet of Higher Bockhampton, about 3 miles northeast of Dorchester. "Hardy country" includes a number of hidden-away villages in the rolling hills of Dorest. Two important historical sites, as well as his former residence, are a short drive from Dorchester.

Dorchester has many reminders of the Roman presence in the area. The Romans laid out the town about AD 70, and a stroll along Bowling Alley Walk, West Walk, and Colliton Walk follows the approximate line of the original Roman town walls. On the north side of Colliton Park lies an excavated Roman villa with a marvelously preserved mosaic floor. The high street was tranquil in Hardy's day, but today it’s usually busy with vehicle traffic. The tourist office has walking itineraries that cover the main points of interest along quieter routes and help you appreciate the town's contemporary character.

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