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A Taste of Hardy's Wessex

The verdant scenery of Cranborne Chase
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.
A Taste of Hardy's Wessex. 4 nights
A Taste of Hardy's Wessex. 4 nights

Holiday information


A walking holiday in Dorset

King John and Henry VIII used to hunt on Cranborne Chase, but that’s probably not the reason that you may recognise the chalk landscapes either side of the Dorset-Wiltshire border. If the rounded green hills, high-hedged lanes, ancient woodland, chalk escarpments and thatched villages do seem familiar, it’s more likely to be because this is scenery that inspired Hardy and formed the backdrop to novels such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Our short walking break, designed with the help of Margaret Marande, champion of Britain’s first literature-related long-distance path, follows parts of The Hardy Way across these seductive landscapes. Whether you have read the great novelist’s works or not, walking in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) brings a feeling of wellbeing that matches that of the sheep munching contentedly on the lush carpet of grass – topped off by the atmospheric inns of character at which you stay.

Book now for autumn 2020 or summer 2021

The easing of travel restrictions for UK citizens means that we are resuming this holiday from the start of September 2020.

Looking further ahead, we are keeping our prices the same, 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 Inn at Cranborne (where you spend one night). 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.
  • Cranborne to Farnham or Tollard Royal: 19km (12 miles), 6hrs
    Setting off from 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.
    Walking from Cranborne
    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 (6miles), 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
    The Museum Inn, Farnham
    Circular route from Tollard Royal via Larmer Tree: 10km
    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 night at La Fleur de Lys. With a reasonably prompt start, you can spend some time pottering around Shaftesbury on arrival (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.
    Enjoy excellent views from Shaftesbury
    Farnham to Shaftesbury: 17.5km
    Tollard Royal to Shaftesbury: 14km


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 an gastronomic option in Cranborne. Please indicate your preference at the time of booking.

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.
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  • 4 nights: 01 April 2020 - 31 October 2020

    Start any day except Thursday, Friday or Saturday | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    1 - 30 Apr 2020 £490 £205
    1 May - 30 Sep 2020 £510 £215
    1 - 27 Oct 2020 £490 £205
    3rd & 4th person discount -£30
    Single traveller supplement £30

    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 Inn at Cranborne, Cranborne
    Luxury: 01 Apr - 31 Oct 2020 £22
    Museum Inn, Farnham
    'Feature': 01 Apr - 31 Oct 2020 £8
    'With View': 01 Apr - 31 Oct 2020 £18
  • 4 nights, staying in La Fosse (2 dinners)

    1 April - 31 October 2019, Mon - Wed Price Single room
    1 - 30 Apr 2020 £515 £220
    1 May - 30 Sep 2020 £535 £230
    1 - 27 Oct 2020 £515 £220
    3rd & 4th person discount -£30
    Single traveller supplement £30

    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 is included
  • 4 nights
  • 1 dinner
    2 picnics
    4 breakfasts
  • luggage transported
  • route notes and maps
  • transfer back to first accommodation to pick up car
Last fetch time is : 8/4/2020 6:44:12 AM