The return of Thomas Hardy’s favourite haunt, the King’s Arms, Dorchester – review


This newly-restored 16th-century hotel and inn, immortalised by the novelist, had a rocky start due to the pandemic. But, unlike most of his stories, there is hope of a happy ending

Dorchester is at the heart of what the National Trust calls “Hardy Country” – and he is everywhere. Not that I mind. I’m a big fan of his Wessex novels. And I was pretty excited to be spending the night in a newly reopened hostelry that gets a mention in at least one of them. Thomas Hardy was a regular at the King’s Arms. He is said to have devised, or even written The Mayor of Casterbridge in a room upstairs. Casterbridge is a fictionalised Dorchester, but he refers to the town’s “chief hotel” by name, describing a “spacious bow-window, projected into the street over the main portico” – exactly as it is now.

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