The Acorn Inn in Evershot is the perfect base to explore the beautiful villages and countryside of Dorset with its connections to the writer, Thomas Hardy. In June, travel blogger, Heather Cowper stayed at the Acorn Inn and shares some of the things that she enjoyed during her weekend stay.
1. A walk around the Melbury Estate
The countryside of Dorset is green and lush in the early summer so we borrowed a map and followed the circular walk through the village and nearby Melbury estate. We passed pretty wild flowers in the hedgerows and admired the view across the fields with sheep grazing. The route took us back again past thatched cottages and horses in the paddocks by Melbury house and we returned to the village through the deer park. The walk took around 2 hours and was a great way to work up an appetite for our dinner at the Acorn Inn.
2. The village of Cerne Abbas
At the village of Cerne Abbas we found the viewpoint just outside the village to see the Cerne Giant, a male figure carved into the chalk hillside. No-one knows when this phallic figure was carved; some say it’s prehistoric, other that it has only been there for a couple of hundred years, but you can walk up the hill if you want a closer look. We also walked around the remains of Cerne Abbey (entrance £2), a medieval Benedictine monastery. The tall tower of the Abbot’s Porch has impressive leaded windows and through the churchyard we discovered St Augustine’s spring, a shallow pool of water, which was the source of drinking water in the village before the war. After an enjoyable lunch at the New Inn we shopped in the gift shop for cheeky postcards of the Cerne Giant.
3. Minterne Gardens
From Cerne Abbas we drove to Minterne Gardens (entrance £5). When we visited in early June the woodland garden was full of pink, orange and scarlet rhododendrons and azaleas, as well as the handkerchief trees with white leaves draped on the branches. At the bottom of the valley we found colourful primulas beside the streams and green and yellow leaves of hostas planted beside shady pools. The garden is known for having wonderful autumn colour from the many acers and it’s a lovely garden if you enjoy woodland plants and shrubs.
4. Explore Thomas Hardy Country
At the Acorn Inn you are in the heart of Hardy Country and the inn was mentioned in several of Hardy’s novels. We followed the Hardy trail to Thomas Hardy’s birthplace and Max Gate, the house that he built for himself and his wife.
The Thomas Hardy birthplace in Higher Bockhampton is a thatched cottage with a pretty English cottage garden at the front. The cottage has modest rooms and is simply furnished, as it would have been in Hardy’s day with just a few pieces of furniture and patchwork quilts on the bed.
We drove on the 3 miles to Max Gate, a red brick Victorian villa, which was quite a contrast to the simple cottage of his birth. Comfortably furnished and stuffed full of pictures and ornaments, this was where Hardy entertained many famous writers of the day and wrote his later novels and poetry. At the top of the house are the attic rooms where Hardy’s first wife Emma spent much of her time. Although in the later years of their marriage, Thomas and Emma lived separate lives, when she died Hardy wrote much of his best love poetry showing how much he missed her.
For those who’d like to explore more of the Thomas Hardy trail, the Acorn Inn offers a Thomas Hardy Experience package and you can also take afternoon tea at Summer Lodge in the drawing room that Thomas Hardy designed.
Sherborne is a pleasant Dorset market town, full of mellow stone buildings including the medieval almshouses, the famous public school and of course Sherborne Abbey where we enjoyed the beautiful vaulted stone ceiling and carved stone tombs. There are plenty of small shops and cafes where you can have a pleasant lunch, but my tip is to visit to Monday to Saturday, as on Sunday we found most of the shops closed and the town rather quiet.