Archive for the ‘Dorset/Somerset’ Category

Far From the Madding Crowd: Thomas Hardy’s Dorset

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
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As the newest re-make of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ hit the cinemas this Bank Holiday weekend, audiences across the country have been captivated by its tragedy, its romance- the novel was described by the Guardian as one of the greatest love stories of all time- and its evocative account of rural life in nineteenth century England.

Far From the Madding Crowd was Thomas Hardy’s first major literary success and like many of his novels, it’s set within one of the most picturesque (but often also one of the most overlooked) parts of the UK- West Dorset. Hardy used Dorset’s ancient Saxon name, Wessex, in his work and described it as a “partly real, partly dream country”. For a long time, Dorset has been in the shadow of its honeypot neighbours but thanks to the likes of the new film release of Far From the Madding Crowd and ITV’s Broadchurch, Dorset is deservedly taking its place in the limelight. Much of rural Dorset has remained unspoilt and unchanged over the years, making it the perfect place to step back in time and visit some of the places that inspired Hardy’s masterpiece.


The pretty Dorset village of Puddletown, just 5 miles from Dorchester, was Hardy’s inspiration for Far From the Madding Crowd’s setting, Weatherbury. Many of Hardy’s family came from this village, including his grandfather and great-grandfather. St Mary’s Church in Puddletown is where his grandfather played cello in the gallery and where his uncle is buried. The church features regularly in Far From the Madding Crowd; Fanny Robin was buried in St Mary’s churchyard and Troy sleeps in the church porch overlooking her grave.


The county town of Dorchester is the centre of Hardy’s Wessex and it features in many of his novels, though throughout he refers to it as Casterbridge. Many of the town’s buildings are associated with Thomas Hardy’s characters including the Corn Exchange, (pictured above) where Bathsheba shocks everyone by selling her own wheat and where she meets William Boldwood. There are also plenty of buildings here that are associated with Hardy himself such as Max Gate, a house that he designed and his brother built, where he lived from 1885 onwards. The Dorset County Museum also holds a fantastic collection of Hardy memorabilia including the original furnishings of the study in which he wrote Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Higher Bockhampton

Although not featured in Far From the Madding Crowd itself, it was in Higher Bockhampton that Hardy was born and lived for the first 22 years of his life. The cottage in which he lived was built by his great grandfather; now owned by the National Trust, it remains largely unchanged since the family left. It was at this cottage that he wrote his first five novels, including Far From the Madding Crowd, in his bedroom. You can still visit the cottage today and look out of the right hand dormer window of his bedroom to see Hardy’s view while he wrote his first literary masterpiece.

You can read more about locations in Dorset associated with Thomas Hardy and his other novels in the Hardy Trail guide created by Visit Dorset. If you’re visiting on holiday then make sure you also check out our fantastic collection of holiday cottages in Dorset. Sykes Cottages have a dedicated team of reservations specialists that are on hand to help seven days a week, from 9am until 9.30pm.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Five Facts About Dorset

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
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From the extraordinary coastline to the quaint villages and masses of family attractions, it is no surprise that Dorset is such a popular county to visit! Whether you prefer lounging on a blue flag beach, walking rural paths or scouting out history you won’t be stuck for things to do in this beautiful part of Britain. As an ode to Dorset, we’re sharing a few facts that you may or may not have known about the area.

1. The Jurassic Coast was the first natural site in England to make it onto the World Heritage List as selected by UNESCO. The Jurassic Coast received this status due to the variety of geological periods that it depicts; Jurassic, Cretaceous and Triassic.

Image from Flickr

2. England’s oldest post box in Bishops Caundle is still used and dates from 1853.

Image courtesy of Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

3. There are over 6,000 listed buildings of historical or architectural interest in Dorset and around 71% of West Dorset has been defined as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Image from Flickr

4. Dorset’s coast is so stunning that 34% of people taking our Britain or Abroad quiz thought that Durdle Door was abroad!

Image from Flickr

5. The Dorset Naga, grown in Dorset, is the hottest chilli in the world. It has an average score of 923,000 Scoville Heat Units, which is almost twice the heat of the current Guinness world record holder.

Image from Flickr

Visit Dorset

If you’d like to walk the Jurassic Coast, pop a letter in England’s oldest post box or dare to try the Dorset Naga why not take a look at our self catering cottages in this stunningly rural county to see all that Dorset has to offer!

Old Higher Lighthouse Stopes Cottage: Reference 124949

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Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Sunday Snapshots: Durdle Door, Dorset

Sunday, March 10th, 2013
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Today’s Sunday Snapshot comes from the glorious Durdle Door near Lulworth in Dorset. The dramatic Jurassic Coast stretches 95 miles along the Dorset coastline and provides stunning panoramas at every turn that have you reaching for your camera. It’s also one of my Mum’s favourite places for a holiday in the UK and as today is Mother’s Day in the UK, why not treat your Mum to a lovely coastal walk? I can personally recommend the stretch between Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door; a perfect spot for a picnic whatever the weather!
Durdle Door - Looking Westwards

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Sykes’ Spotlight on Bournemouth

Monday, February 11th, 2013
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Following in the footsteps of Kim Kardashian, Arnold Schwarznegger and David Beckham, the Bournemouth Tourism Marketing Group have produced a hilarious spoof of the Visit California advert. Featuring famous local residents like football manager Harry Redknapp, Blur musician Alex James and comedienne Debra Stephenson, the advert attempts to challenge the misconception that Bournemouth is a retirement community, just like the Californian original.


If you haven’t seen the advert yet, here it is!



If you’re anything like me, you’ll be dreaming of a holiday in Bournemouth so here’s the Sykes’ guide to making the very best of this south coast gem.


Brilliant Bournemouth

Bournemouth may have a reputation as being the retirement destination of choice but with great shopping, beaches and attractions if I had days of free time to fill, Dorset would be top of my list.  With seven miles of golden sand, Bournemouth’s beach is a great choice for families with lifeguards 365 days a year, a pier packed with amusements and a land train to take you to pretty Boscombe.  The fabulous seaside tradition of hiring beach hut is said to have originated in Bournemouth so why not hire your very own hut while you’re on holiday?  Away from the beach, the area’s award-winning parks and gardens are the perfect spot for some quiet reflection while the city centre arcades are ideal for a spot of retail therapy.  As the sun sets, Bournemouth is the place to be with a fantastic year-round schedule of entertainment and events at the Pavilion Theatre and International Centre.  The bustling university town guarantees a great night-time vibe in the many bars and restaurants located in The Triangle.


Gorgeous Beaches

Dorset’s Jurassic coastline is a huge draw for those visiting the south coast with stunning beaches at Bournemouth, Poole and Swanage to name a few.  England’s first natural World Heritage Site stretches for almost 100 miles and offers keen geologists a glimpse of dramatic rock formations at Old Harry Rocks and Durdle Door.  The average California temperature may beat the warmest of Bournemouth days by almost 10 degrees but on a warm day you’ll find the beaches packed with sun worshippers.  Nearby Poole is a haven for watersports enthusiasts with windsurfers and sailors flocking to the harbour.  There’s plenty to keep you entertained at the beach aside from sunbathing; stroll or cycle along the prom from Bournemouth to Poole for wonderful coastal views and enjoy an ice cream at one of the beachside huts.

Durdle Door

Delicious Food

So Dorset may not be able to cater to those with a Californian macrobiotic diet, but the south coast does boast seriously good food.  Often overlooked in favour of foodie Cornwall, Dorset is well worth exploring from a culinary point of view.  The mantra ‘the local the better’ is evident in most of the region’s restaurants with Poole Bay sea bass, Portland crab and oysters regularly featuring on menus across Dorset.  While the cream tea may be more familiar further south, Dorset is no stranger to delicious clotted cream and it’s best enjoyed with the local apple cake.  With the wealth of great produce on offer, it’s little wonder that a growing number of celebrity chefs are queuing up to open restaurants in Dorset meaning you’ll be spoilt for choice when choosing where to eat.

Bridport 2011: Dorset-shur Apple cake was consumed

So what are you waiting for?  Why not view our great holiday cottages in Dorset and start planning your trip to Bournemouth today?

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A Local’s Guide to Bath

Friday, November 23rd, 2012
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As a newcomer to the North West, I often hanker after my old stomping ground of Bath.  This Roman City attracts tourists in their droves throughout the year but venture just a little bit off the beaten track and you’ll experience a different Bath; the Bath enjoyed by its locals every single day.

Now is the perfect time for a getaway to Bath when the late autumn sunshine somehow makes the city look even more beautiful.  Find a wonderful cottage in Somerset and explore the county at your leisure.  Cheer on Bath Rugby or enjoy a pint in a traditional pub or follow our guide for an insider guide to Bath.

Sydney Gardens

As soon as the sun makes an appearance, the vast majority of visitors to Bath make a beeline to the gardens just in front of the Royal Crescent.  Who can blame them; the architecture is simply stunning.  But, if you’re looking for a quieter spot to spread out your picnic rug, why not try Sydney Gardens.  Just a five minute stroll along Great Pulteney Street and you’re in the heart of 12 acres of lawns, trees and flower beds.  Wide pathways make this an ideal spot for an autumn stroll and the feeling that you’re miles away from the city.  The recently refurbished Holburne Museum on the outskirts of Sydney Gardens is well worth a visit if you fancy something to do.  Try their cafe for a lazy lunch with spectacular views over the Garden of Lights as the sun goes down.
Kennet & Avon Canal At Sydney Gardens, Bath


The Little Theatre

Hidden away behind the popular Thermae Spa, you’ll find one of Bath’s treasures; the Little Theatre.  Showing a range of films from blockbusters to foreign offerings with subtitles, enjoy a film in comfortable and intimate surroundings with a locally-sourced treat.  Much nicer than the nearby multiplex, the Little, as referred to by the locals, is the place to head for an afternoon of entertainment or if the skies cloud over.
popcorn and movie

Follow the Mayor’s Guides

Approaching Bath Abbey, you can’t fail to notice the hordes of tourist queuing to enter the Roman Baths Museum and the Pump Rooms.  Usually hidden behind security guards you’ll find a small plaque advertising guided walking tours run by the Mayor’s guides.  This free, two hour tour of Bath is well worth your time and you’ll leave with many new and interesting facts; for example, where does the expression ‘you can’t see the wood for the trees’ come from?  You’ll have to take the tour to find out! Even as a local, this is a must-do on my returns to Bath.
Mendips from Mark Moor, Somerset
Choosing a self-catering cottage for your trip to the West Country is the best way to explore Bath.  Eat wherever takes your fancy at one of the city’s many great bars and restaurants.  Once you’ve explored Bath, venture into the West Country and enjoy leisurely walks across the Mendips or a stroll along the beaches of Watchet and Brean.  Discover the region’s other historic cities like Wells or Glastonbury for an enjoyable cultural mini-break.  Start planning you next short break with Sykes and have a wonderful time in beautiful Bath.

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