No Car? No Problem!
Athelhampton is simple to reach by car, being just off the main A35 – but it’s also remarkably easy to get to without a car, thanks to a bus service almost on its doorstep! There are also good links to trains and attractive approaches on foot and by bike.
OUR FOUR TOP PICKS
Full details, and more ideas, listed below:
BUS Dorchester to Athelhampton and back (weekdays only). About 25mns each way; bus stops almost outside. Timings allow a full day, a morning, or an afternoon.
WALK ONE-WAY Dorchester to Athelhampton in the morning, bus back in the afternoon. About 3hrs out, 25mns back.
TRAIN+BUS/TAXI via Dorchester stations. Frequent trains to Bournemouth, Winchester, London & Bristol (and beyond with one change).
BIKE+TRAIN via Moreton or Dorchester stations. About 30mns bike ride.
From Dorchester, route 187 brings you to right outside Athelhampton on weekdays. It’s scheduled as a twenty minute journey (can take a bit more in rush hour) and the timings allow a full day at Athelhampton, or alternatively you can opt for either a morning or an afternoon.
At the time of writing (March 2023), the morning bus leaves Dorchester South Station at 8.50am, and you could go back at 2.30pm or just after 5pm. If you just want to come for the afternoon, the lunchtime bus departs the station at 12.50pm, and you’d go back on that same bus just after 5pm.
To support visitors using buses, we will gladly let you into the cafe when you arrive even if we’re not officially open – if possible, please call ahead to let us know! And equally, we’ll let you wait inside for the last bus home.
Coming from Weymouth or Blandford, you can use the weekday X12 service – but it doesn’t pass right by our entrance, you will have to walk from/to Puddletown (about a mile along the road, taking great care of traffic) or take the 187 bus there and change. Passengers from Blandford have another option: take the morning 187 service direct to Athelhampton, then home on the X12 via Puddletown.
Of course, it is essential to check times.
Here is one site that seems up to date (though sadly we can’t guarantee its accuracy).
WALKS FROM AND TO DORCHESTER & MORETON
There are broadly two walking routes to Athelhampton from Dorchester town centre (and its stations) to Athelhampton. They are between 7 and 8 miles and might take about 2 hrs 30mns to 3 hrs each (depending on walking speed). You could combine these with a bus ride in one direction (see above), or link them to make a longer circular walk. We give short summaries, followed by links to websites giving detailed instructions:
1. IN THE STEPS OF THOMAS HARDY.
About 7 miles. Set off approximately Eastwards across the Frome River water meadows, turn north-east past Kingston Maurward Park and reach Thomas Hardy’s cottage (see below). Go through Puddletown Woods, through Puddletown Village (the inspiration for Hardy’s Weatherbury), and then along the former Turnpike road parallel to the Piddle River which Hardy describes walking along on one of his many trips to Athelhampton. Just over 7 miles, around 3 hours.
Hardy’s Cottage (National Trust), his birthplace, was open for pre-booked guided visits at the time of writing, please check: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/dorset/hardys-cottage. (Separately, the house that Thomas Hardy built for himself, Max Gate, lies south of this route and could also be visited, but would add around an hour’s walking time.)
2. OVER THE DOWNS.
Nearly 8 miles. Set off approximately North across the Frome River water meadows and then climb the downs. Head Eastwards along the Ridgeway, with fine views, before descending to Puddletown village and the road to Athelhampton.
In the steps of Thomas Hardy:
Over the Downs:
3. MORETON TO ATHELHAMPTON
A different walking approach to Athelhampton is from Moreton (Dorset) station. It’s shorter than from Dorchester (around 5 miles), and takes you across fields, along country lanes over the River Frome flood plain, then up the hills and into the woods that used to form Sir Nicholas Martyn’s enclosed Deer Park, before descending a sunken lane to reach Athelhampton. Walking boots or stout shoes are strongly advised; take care at all times, noting that this includes a significant stretch along a country lane in the middle.
Please take great care on these walks, especially on roads, notably the length of approximately half a mile on the last part of the road to Athelhampton where there is no footpath. No responsibility can be taken for the details given in the website links below, but feedback is welcome.
Athelhampton can be readily reached from three railway stations:
Dorchester South and Moreton (Dorset) are on the main line from London Waterloo via Basingstoke (for cross-country connections to the Midlands and North), Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole, continuing to Weymouth. Dorchester South usually has a half-hourly train service, with weekday buses connecting it to Athelhampton (see above) and reasonable access to taxis, but is about 7 miles away; Moreton usually has an hourly service and is in a remote rural area about 5 miles away, with taxis being difficult to find. See above for walking instructions to Athelhampton from these two stations.
Dorchester West is on a branch line that starts at Weymouth to the South, then meanders gently Northwards through Wessex via Yeovil, eventually turning West to reach Bath and Bristol. The service is idiosyncratic. It is a few minutes walk from Dorchester Town Centre and Dorchester South for the buses, and about 7 miles walk to Athelhampton (see above).
For train times and fares:
Combining train with bus:
Outward: The morning bus currently leaves Dorchester South before 9am, so longer-distance rail passengers would need to start early to get this. The lunchtime bus currently leaves a bit before 1pm, making this a convenient choice for those arriving on trains from a distance.
Return: the evening bus is currently due at Dorchester South around 5.30pm (but may be delayed by rush hour traffic), allowing connection into many evening trains for a journey home.
CYCLING (INCLUDING ACCESS TO TRAINS)
The comments here are intended as a starting point for further planning and research – all cycle routes can, unfortunately, be dangerous and users should make their own assessment.
There is a five-mile route to Athelhampton from Moreton station along minor country roads, with the notable exception of the first half mile or so, which is along a B-road with noticeable traffic. This can be avoided by using an off-road route that starts a few metres from the station, but this includes a narrow plank bridge over a stream and rutted paths across a field.
There is a route of about seven to eight miles to Athelhampton from Dorchester South (exit on the south side, Weymouth-bound, if possible) and West stations, initially along fairly quiet urban roads and cycle tracks, then along country link roads and lanes through Puddletown forest and Puddletown village to Athelhampton.
For those who want to include Athelhampton in a longer ride there are many possibilities. Here are a few comments that may be helpful in conjunction with route planners (eg CycleStreets, Komoot).
North towards Shaftesbury and beyond: there are fine cycling routes through beautiful Dorset countryside along lanes, many with low traffic volumes; some hills are steep and high. North of Shaftesbury, Tisbury and Gillingham have stations on the Exeter-Waterloo line. Avoid the A354.
East towards Wimborne Minster or Poole and beyond: a busier area. Reach Bere Regis via an obscure cycle track beside the A35 dual carriageway, or by minor roads and off-road tracks parallel to the River Piddle. Poole can then be approached via Wareham and the Studland ferry or by wiggling along country lanes. Wimborne Minister is accessible by off-road tracks (soggy after rain) or country lanes, beyond which a cycleway leads to Ringwood and the New Forest. Avoid the A35.
South to the coast: Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove can be reached via Winfrith Newburgh, but roads are narrow and busy at holiday times. To the east, a large area may be closed by the Army.
West to Beaminster and beyond: Follow the route between Athelhampton and Dorchester described above; leave the town north-westward on the minor road to Bradford Peverell. Head south towards Winterbourne Abbas, but before reaching it and the busy A35, turn towards Powerstock. From there the fine house at Mapperton is in easy reach and beyond that, Beaminster.