Dorset County Museum

Top choice in Dorset

The Thomas Hardy collection here is the world's largest, offering extraordinary insights into his creative process. You can see from text in Hardy's cramped handwriting 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 in which Siegfried Sassoon requests permission to dedicate his first book of poems to Hardy.

Jurassic Coast fossil exhibits include a huge ichthyosaur and 1.8m plesiosaur fore paddle. 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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Dorset attractions

1. Lucetta's House

0.06 MILES

Some say this grand Georgian house with ornate doorposts was an inspiration for Thomas Hardy as he imagined the home of the character Lucetta Templeman in…

2. Mayor Of Casterbridge's House

0.12 MILES

A red-brick, mid-18th-century building (now a bank) that's named as the inspiration for the home of Thomas Hardy's mayor of Casterbridge, in his book of…

3. Roman Town House


The knee-high flint walls and beautifully preserved mosaics here powerfully conjure up the Roman occupation of Dorchester (then Durnovaria). Peek into the…

4. Max Gate

0.92 MILES

Novelist Thomas Hardy was a trained architect and designed this attractive house, where he lived from 1885 until his death in 1928. Tess of the D…

5. Maiden Castle

1.84 MILES

Occupying a massive slab of horizon on the southern fringes of Dorchester, Maiden Castle is the largest and most complex Iron Age hill fort in Britain…

6. Hardy's Cottage

2.33 MILES

This picturesque cob-and-thatch house is the birthplace of writer Thomas Hardy. It features evocative, sparsely furnished rooms and a lush garden. It's in…

7. Sea Life

6.15 MILES

Highlights include sharks, penguins and seahorses, and talks and feeding demonstrations are held throughout the day. Tickets fall to £14 for adults and …

8. Cerne Giant

6.99 MILES

Rarely do you find such a nudge-nudge, wink-wink tourist attraction. Nude, full frontal and notoriously well endowed, this hillside chalk figure is…