Dorset County Museum

Lonely Planet review

The Thomas Hardy collection here is the biggest in the world, offering extraordinary insights into his creative process – reading his cramped handwriting, it's often possible to spot where he's crossed out one word and substituted another. There's also an atmospheric reconstruction of his study at Max Gate and a letter from Siegfried Sassoon, asking Hardy if Sassoon can dedicate his first book of poems to him.

As well as the superb Hardy exhibits, look out for Jurassic Coast fossils, especially the huge ichthyosaur and the 6ft fore paddle of a plesiosaur. Bronze and Iron Age finds from Maiden Castle include a treasure trove of coins and neck rings, while Roman artefacts include 70 gold coins, nail cleaners and (toe-curlingly) ear picks.