Dorchester is most important. In fact, Higher Bockhampton should really be the starting point of their journey, since the long, low, thatched house where he was born lies just outside the main village centre. His cottage is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.

When heading for Higher Bockhampton the signs for Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park cannot be missed, a fabulous house built for George Pitt a cousin of William Pitt the Elder in 1720. The beautiful garden is set amongst 35 acres of classical 18th century parkland and lawns. Laid out in the ‘Jardin Anglais’ style popularised by Capability Brown, it features lakes and gardens from diverse eras, designs and cultures such as the Japanese Garden and the Elizabethan Walled Garden.

This family friendly day out is ideal for little ones and won’t break the bank either! There are so many animals to see including goats, ponies, lots of different types of birds, pigs, ducks and poultry. The grade 2 listed gardens are fantastic open spaces where little kids (and big ones too) can run free. The Park Café sells snacks, light refreshments and fresh coffee, and during term time the Coach House Café serves hot meals, salads and snacks next to the Main House.

An impressive and enjoyable day out for all the family with seasonal events throughout the year and Keeper for the Day and Junior Keeper experiences available.

Continue along the A35 and you’ll soon see the signs for the small village of Puddletown, known as ‘Piddletown’ before it morphed into its modern form, its original name appears to be of Old English origin, translating as ‘the pool in the valley’. There has been a settlement here as far back as the Bronze Age, and by the late Saxon period it was a village under the ownership of Earl Harold.

The village as we see it owes much of its appearance to the efforts of Squire John Brymer, who, in 1864, undertook to rebuild many of the buildings in Gothic style often replacing older cottages that we might today regard as more interesting or picturesque, with Gothic Revival alternatives.

Travel just a mile further westwards and you arrive at the magnificent, Athelhampton House and Gardens. The House is an excellent example of an early Tudor Manor house, with its majestic Great Hall built in 1485, and added to in the C16th. The house, offers a selection of stunning rooms, with a collection of antiques, paintings and soft furnishings. On the second floor, is the Gallery, which currently displays work by the Russian artist Marevna who lived at the house in the 1950s.

Athelhampton’s gardens make your visit a real day out, with several acres of gardens designed in the 1800’s. Many of the gardens are contained in architectural ham-stone compartments, each exquisitely planted and each with a water-feature, beyond the gardens open up with more water features and stunning vistas.

The visitor to Athelhampton is well catered for with a superb gift shop and plant sales area, and the cleverly enclosed courtyard creates a superb restaurant for morning coffee, lunch and tea and serves a popular carvery on a Sunday.

A few events take place each year, a plant sale, classic car day, village fete, flower festival and outdoor theatre. Athehampton’s website is the best place for up to date information.

As you continue along the old Dorchester road you’ll soon cross the River Piddle and reach the village of Tolpuddle, which will always be symbolic of the struggle for freedom by which poor labouring men began to forge our democratic processes. In 1834 six agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle were sentenced to seven years deportation for administering illegal oaths while founding a trade union to protect their falling wages.

However, the outrage about their punishment helped change the face of employment rights across Britain. Every July their actions are remembered at a festival in the village.

Great Hall – Athelhampton House

Now more peaceful and ideal for a rural holiday, The Martyrs Inn can be found at the heart of the village. Comfortable and relaxed, serving a range of excellent home cooked food, fine real ales and a great selection of wines this pub makes a great destination at the end of a busy day exploring.

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