The traditional market town of Dorchester was immortalized as Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy in his 19th-century novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. In fact, the whole area around here, including a number of villages tucked away in the rolling hills of Dorset, has become known as "Hardy country" because of its connection with the author. Hardy was born in a cottage in the hamlet of Higher Bockhampton, about 3 miles northeast of the town, and his bronze statue looks westward from a bank on Colliton Walk. Two important historical sites, as well as the author’s birthplace and a former residence, are a short drive from Dorchester.

Dorchester has many reminders of its Roman heritage. A stroll along Bowling Alley Walk, West Walk, and Colliton Walk follows the approximate line of the original Roman town walls, part of a city plan laid out around AD 70. On the north side of Colliton Park is an excavated Roman villa with a marvelously preserved mosaic floor. While the high street in the center of town can be busy with vehicular traffic, the tourist office has walking itineraries that cover the main points of interest along quieter routes and help you appreciate the character of Dorchester today.

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