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The Hardy Way

The verdant landscapes of Wessex
This self-guided walking holiday, with luggage transported, offers idyllic Downs scenery and high-quality accommodation. Amble through the rounded hills, ancient woodland and charming villages that inspired Thomas Hardy, then indulge in excellent dinners of fresh local produce.

Holiday information


A walking holiday in Dorset

Cranborne Chase. If the name isn’t familiar, the scenery probably will be, for this former royal hunting ground straddling the Dorset-Wiltshire border is the epitome of rural England, as described in the novels and poems of Thomas Hardy. There are rounded green hills, lanes bordered by cow parsley and high hedges, ancient deciduous woodland filled with birdsong, chalk escarpments, and villages of thatched cottages clustered around a duck pond and Norman church.
Our holiday, created in collaboration with Margaret Marande, champion of Britain’s first literature-themed long-distance path, follows parts of The Hardy Way across these idyllic chalk landscapes which are nowadays recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whether you have read the great novelist’s works or not, walking here brings a feeling of contentment that matches that of the sheep munching happily on the lush carpet of grass – topped off by the charming inns of character along the way.

Book now for autumn 2020 or summer 2021

Our flexible booking arrangements, commitment to safety and financial protection mean that you can book with confidence. We are also keeping our prices the same next year, so you can book for summer 2021 at 2020 prices.

What we’re doing so you can book and travel with confidence >


The key to Inntravel holidays is flexibility. You can start on almost any day of the week, and are free to add extra nights.
  • The average maximum daytime temperatures and monthly rainfall relate to the nearest weather station and are intended as a guide only.

    You should always be prepared for wet weather, whichever month you are travelling.
    Average temperatures and rainfall
      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    °C 7 7 10 13 16 19 21 21 18 15 10 8
    mm 77 53 62 45 56 52 41 57 62 68 73 83
  • Arrival in Cranborne
    Night 1: at The Fleur de Lys Inn (the first of two nights here). For something more gastronomic, we also offer La Fosse.
    As your first night’s accommodation is on the day of travel, Day 1 is your first day of walking.
  • Circular route from Cranborne: 17.5km (11miles), 5.5hrs
    We suggest a circular route south-west of Cranborne through rolling arable land and picturesque villages with equally pretty names (Wimborne St Giles and Gussage All Saints). You also pass the fascinating 12th-century church ruins at Knowlton, built on a Neolithic earthwork. Alternatively, if your stay here falls on a Wednesday, you could visit the exquisite Cranborne Manor Gardens (pay locally).
    Circular route from Cranborne: 17.5km
    Countryside around Cranborne
  • Cranborne to Farnham or Tollard Royal: 19km (12 miles), 6hrs
    Leaving Cranborne, you follow sections of The Hardy Way up to Penbury Knoll, a good vantage point, and past charmingly named Sixpenny Handley. You then walk along the border between Dorset and Wiltshire, following an aptly named wooded trail called Shire Rack. Keep your eyes peeled for fallow deer, tree creepers and nut hatches, and listen out for woodpeckers and nightingales. If your next base is the Museum Inn, the last leg takes you south to Farnham, but if you are staying in the King John Inn, you head north to Tollard Royal.
    Cranborne to Farnham - Tinkley Bottom
    Cranborne to Farnham: 19km
    Cranborne to Tollard Royal: 19km
  • Choice of routes from Farnham or Tollard Royal: 9.5km-12km (6-7.5 miles)

    Circular route from Farnham via Larmer Tree: 9.5km (6 miles), 2hrs OR
    Circular route from Tollard Royal via Larmer Tree: 10km (6 miles), 3hrs

    The Larmer Tree Gardens, created in the 1880s by General Pitt-Rivers, the father of modern archaeology, make an enjoyable day out on foot from both Farnham and Tollard Royal. The gardens (pay locally) were created as a “pleasure grounds for public enlightenment and entertainment”, and feature manicured lawns, colourful flowerbeds, ponds, mature woodland, a bandstand and stone pavilions. Thomas Hardy visited the gardens in 1895 and described them as “Quite the prettiest sight I ever saw in my life”. On days when the gardens are closed (Fridays, Saturdays and for events – see the Larmer Tree website for up-to-date information), anyone staying in Tollard Royal can simply complete our circular walk without stopping at the gardens.

    Alternative circular route from Farnham: 12km (7.5 miles), 3.5hrs
    If you are staying in Farnham and the gardens are closed, we suggest an alternative walk westwards across gently undulating downs and through the handsome medieval villages of Tarrant Gunville and Chettle.
    Circular route from Farnham via Larmer Tree: 9.5km
    Circular route from Tollard Royal via Larmer Tree: 10km
    The Museum Inn, Farnham
    Alternative circular route from Farnham: 12km
  • Farnham to Shaftesbury: 17.5km (11 miles), 6hrs OR Tollard Royal to Shaftesbury: 14km (9 miles), 4.5hrs
    Although the first part of the walk differs depending on whether you are coming from Farnham or Tollard Royal, the two routes soon merge, and you’ll find it is easy to imagine yourself in the pages of a Hardy novel as you cross remote valleys patrolled by buzzards. The highlight is the approach to Win Green, at 277 metres the highest point in the Chase, from where the views stretch for some 80 miles as far as the Isle of Wight. It is referenced in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, as is your target, Shaftesbury (or Shaston, as Hardy called it), where you spend your last two nights at La Fleur de Lys.
    Win Green-Cranborne Chase
    Farnham to Shaftesbury: 17.5km
    Tollard Royal to Shaftesbury: 14km
  • Circular route from Shaftesbury: 6km (4 miles), 2hrs
    Either spend a relaxing day pottering around Shaftesbury (we provide notes for an hour-long town trail), taking in the famous cobbled street of Gold Hill and the fabulous views over Blackmore Vale, so typical of Hardy’s Wessex, or take a bus or taxi (pay locally) for a final short circuit through the chalk hills around Melbury Beacon.
    Circular route from Shaftesbury: 6km
    Above Shaftesbury


The inns of character at which you stay are as charming as the scenery that you explore, and are one of the highlights of the holiday. Occasionally, due to availability, we may offer an alternative hotel, as shown below. You will be informed of any change to the usual hotel (along with any price implication) prior to us confirming your holiday to you.
We offer a gastronomic option in Cranborne. Please indicate your preference at the time of booking.

Options to extend or shorten your stay


Summer 2021

We are keeping our prices the same, so you can book for summer 2021 at 2020 prices.
Prices & travel options
All prices are in £ sterling (GBP). If you'd like to see what they equate to in your currency, use the converter. For general information on pricing, see the 'your holiday price explained' page.
Currency converter

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  • 6 nights: 01 August 2020 - 31 October 2020 & 01 April 2021 - 31 October 2021

    Start any day | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    1 Aug - 30 Sep 2020 £695 £285
    1 - 25 Oct 2020 £670 £270
    1 - 30 Apr 2021 £670 £270
    1 May - 30 Sep 2021 £695 £285
    1 - 25 Oct 2021 £670 £270
    3rd & 4th person discount -£35
    Single traveller supplement £35

    Please note: dogs are not permitted on Inntravel holidays

    Included travel: transfer Shaftesbury-Cranborne to collect car OR Shaftesbury-Gillingham railway station

  • Room upgrades (£ per person per night)

    The Fleur de Lys Inn, Cranborne
    Luxury: 01 Aug - 31 Oct 2020 £22
    Luxury: 01 Apr - 31 Oct 2021 £22
    Museum Inn, Farnham
    'Feature': 01 Aug - 31 Oct 2020 £8
    'Feature': 01 Apr - 31 Oct 2021 £8
    'With View': 01 Aug - 31 Oct 2020 £18
    'With View': 01 Apr - 31 Oct 2021 £18
  • 6 nights, staying in La Fosse (2 dinners), 1 August - 31 October 2020 & 1 April - 31 October 2021

    Starting Price Single room
    1 Aug - 30 Sep 2020 £710 £315
    1 - 25 Oct 2020 £685 £300
    1 - 30 Apr 2021 £685 £300
    1 May - 30 Sep 2021 £710 £315
    1 - 25 Oct 2021 £685 £300
    3rd & 4th person discount -£35
    Single traveller supplement £35

    Upgrade to 6-course taster menu: add £22pp

  • Prices below are based on 2 people travelling together. If you are travelling solo or as a party of 3 or more and our arrangements include a taxi, please contact us for prices; additional passengers often pay less.

    Connecting travel options - out via Salisbury, home via Gillingham

    Outward route Price per person Latest train
    arrival time
    taxi Salisbury station to hotel (0h40) £14 flexible
    Homeward route Price per person Earliest train
    departure time
    taxi hotel to Gillingham station (0h20) included flexible
What's included
  • 6 nights
  • 1 dinner
    2 picnics
    6 breakfasts
  • Luggage transported
  • Route notes and maps
  • transfer back to first accommodation to pick up car

If you've experienced this holiday first hand, why not write a review?

We are keen for as many customers as possible to review their holiday. To make it easier to do so, we include a specific review section on our post-holiday questionnaire, and this is what we publish here, unedited. Read our full review policy >



If you have any questions relating to this or any other Inntravel holiday, our friendly travel experts will be happy to help. You might also find our General FAQs section helpful.
  • We sincerely hope that your holiday experience will be as enjoyable as it would have been before the pandemic – walking holidays are ideal in these times of social distancing, and we’re not operating holidays if the key highlights can no longer be delivered – but, naturally, there will be some changes to ensure your and other people’s safety.
    Your holiday experience: what to expect >
    Safety measures being taken by hoteliers & others >
  • We’ll send you route notes and maps 2-3 weeks before your holiday. The route notes not only contain directions to get from hotel to hotel, but also include practical information about places of interest and eateries along each route, plus cultural information about the area. If/when you are moving between hotels, you leave your luggage in reception as you leave, and it will be transferred ahead to your next accommodation, meaning that all you need to take with you are a camera, sun cream, drinks, food and waterproofs.

    For more detailed information, see our walking holidays in Europe page.
  • Yes, absolutely. Over the years, we have arranged a great many walking holidays in the UK for customers living in the USA, Canada, Australia and beyond.

    If you've never travelled with us before, it's worth reading the web pages which explain how we can cater for customers who live outside the UK. The main thing to bear in mind is that our tour operator's licence doesn't allow us to book flights that originate outside the UK, and nor are we able to book rail travel in the UK, so we can't make travel arrangements for you, other than pre-arranging taxis between the local railway station and the accommodation – see the ‘prices & travel options’ section for the options available.

    As regards entry requirements, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents, with the correct validity. Our essential travel information page provides links to websites where you can find out about the applicable requirements, along with general official travel advice.
  • Since our holidays are self-guided, we recommend calling us for a chat about your plans before making a booking, especially if it’s the first time you’ve booked with us.
    The price panel shows the supplement for a single room and also the single traveller charge (this covers (luggage) transfers and other costs which are usually shared between two people).
  • Once you’ve decided on your exact itinerary (our travel experts will be happy to offer advice), you need to provide us with your party’s details, either by phone or via our booking form. At this point we also ask you to pay a deposit so that we can secure a room for you immediately on confirming availability with the hotel(s). If it turns out that we can’t secure the accommodation for the holiday you’ve requested, or offer an acceptable alternative, we’ll refund your deposit promptly and in full. After booking your accommodation and other key elements, we'll then book your travel (or you can do so if you’re making your own arrangements) and send you a Booking Confirmation and Invoice.

    More information about the booking process >
    Information about accommodation, general practicalities and more >
    Booking conditions >
  • Yes, it’s something we insist on, even for holidays in the UK. The vast majority of holidays go smoothly, but when things go wrong, it can be expensive to put them right. Buying a new pair of walking boots after your suitcase is stolen mightn’t seem so bad, but the bill for being airlifted down from a mountain with a broken leg or flown home while still recovering from an illness or accident can cost tens of thousands of pounds.

    You don’t have to buy our travel insurance policy (if you live outside Europe you’ll definitely need to make your own arrangements, as the policy is only for UK and EU residents), but you do need to make sure that you’re covered for medical emergencies – including falling ill with Covid-19 while on holiday – and repatriation. We also recommend that you are covered for other eventualities, such as cancellation and loss of luggage and passports.

    We'll ask you for the details of your alternative policy (insurer, policy number and medical emergency phone number) so that we can help out if the worst happens while you are on holiday. It's up to you, though, to check that your policy covers the activities you'll be doing on holiday and that it is adequate for your own individual needs; we don't check alternative policies.
  • You are the best judge of your child’s/children’s capabilities. We are happy to take bookings for families of older children/teenagers if they walk regularly, love the outdoors and are comfortable with the distances and ascent/descent involved. Please note that the bedrooms at most of the accommodation we use will normally only sleep a maximum of 3 people, and sometimes only 2.
  • Unfortunately not. The Inntravel team includes many dog owners, but the extra considerations – such as whether taxi firms accept dogs for transfers to the start of walks, whether routes cross private land on which dogs are not allowed, and proximity to a vet’s – would add another layer of complexity to what are already quite complex holidays.
Last fetch time is : 10/25/2020 8:06:24 AM