Thomas Hardy

© The Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society

Literary Dorset an inspirational place for writers

Have you always wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen and her characters around Lyme Regis or visit Whispering Island from the Famous Five? 

A visit to Dorset will soon tell you why this wonderful, contrasting landscape has been the inspiration for some of Britain's favourite writers.

Dorset’s best known author

Thomas Hardy, internationally renowned poet and novelist, spent most of his life here adopting Wessex (Dorset) as the fictional setting for his novels including 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' or 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'.

Set amongst scenic woodland a short drive from Dorchester is Hardy's Cottage, a small cob and thatch cottage built by his great-grandfather where he was born and raised. Max Gate, the Dorchester town house where he lived his later years is also a must on any Hardy fan's list. Both properties are owned and managed by the National Trust and are free for members to visit.

Discover the heart of Hardy's Wessex by following the Hardy Trail.

Lashings of Ginger Beer!

Enid Blyton was a huge fan of Dorset and it’s where she spent many a happy holiday. The Isle of Purbeck in particular provided the inspiration for many of the characters and locations in Enid’s books.

Corfe Castle itself is popularly believed to be ‘Kirrin Castle’ from her Famous Five series, Brownsea Island is rumoured to be ‘Whispering Island’ and Stoborough heath is ‘Mystery Moor’.

Follow the Enid Blyton Trail for your own Dorset adventure!

Literary legends

Dorset has inspired many a novelist.

Jane Austen was a frequent visitor to Lyme Regis where she wrote 'Persuasion' and John Fowles set his classic novel 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' in and around the town.

William Barnes, friend of Thomas Hardy and T.E. Lawrence, famously wrote in Dorset dialect putting Dorset landscape into poetry. You can see Barnes' commemorative statue at St Peter's Church in Dorchester.

T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) lived at Clouds Hill near Bovington and is laid to rest in the village of Moreton. To find out more about T.E. Lawrence, why not go on an adventure along the Lawrence of Arabia Trail.

The classic novel 'Moonfleet' by John Meade Faulkner was based in Chesil Beach as was Ian McEwans's 'On Chesil Beach', set to be a Blockbuster film in 2017!

Modern writers

Most recently, local writer Chris Chibnall (United, Law and Order: UK, Doctor Who) has found inspiration from the Jurassic Coast and written and created Broadchurch. Chris says "It's a love letter to the landscape of West Dorset, where I've lived for the best part of a decade. The landscape informs the drama: the cliffs, the sea, the beach are all key elements of the story".

Dorset resident Julian Fellowes became internationally famous when his 'Gosford Park' screenplay won an Oscar. Fellowes has also written 'The Young Victoria', a 2009 film starring Emily Blunt, 'From Time to Time', a 2010 film adaptation starring Dame Judy Dench and the hugely acclaimed TV series, 'Downton Abbey'.

Visit and be inspired!

With all this literary heritage, it's not surprising that there are many literary festivals across the country which celebrate the power of the pen. If you're a keen reader, the best time to visit is in the Autumn when the majority of the events take place.

So if you want to find your own artistic inspiration, track down locations used by these great authors or simply relax with a book on holiday - look no further than Dorset!

Discover literary Dorset

Enid Blyton

Explore Enid Blyton's Dorset and the places that inspired her and her work.

Thomas Hardy

Discover more about the Dorset writer and poet Thomas Hardy.

T.E. Lawrence

Discover more about the adventurer, Army Colonel and author T.E. Lawrence.

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