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Tour Director
Practical Information

  • Discover the county’s rich legacy of country houses of many periods, including the unusual Jacobean manor house at Warmwell

  • Visit notable gardens of the early 20th century, from the Arts & Crafts gardens at Waterston Manor to those at Mapperton House, voted Historic Houses Garden of the Year 2020

  • Explore the magnificent abbey church in Sherborne, as well as other charming churches throughout the county

"Charles Hind was excellent – erudite, friendly and always ready to chat and discuss what we saw"
"The concerts were fascinating and Ashley’s lectures and discussion added an extra dimension"

- ACE customer on a previous tour with Charles Hind

Dorset has remained an overwhelmingly rural county, still dominated in many ways by the traditional estates of private country houses. The landscape is exceptionally varied, and almost always of great beauty, whether the rolling chalk downs that occupy the centre of the county, the austere limestone hills of the Isle of Purbeck, the dramatic ‘Jurassic Coast’ that forms the southern edge, or the lush pastures of Blackmore Vale in the north. Throughout, one senses the impact that these different landscapes made on Dorset’s most celebrated literary son, Thomas Hardy.


From an architectural point of view, the county’s particular forte is its country houses, which range in date from the medieval period to the present day, and in size from the charmingly modest to the grandiose. During this five-day tour we visit a selection from across the spectrum, including two great houses that evolved from monastic beginnings: Milton Abbey, a handsome late 18th century mansion that incorporates the hall of late medieval abbots, and Forde Abbey, where in the mid 17th century reception rooms of considerable splendour were threaded through the early medieval and Tudor remains of a Cistercian monastery.


From the Tudor period comes romantic Wolfeton House, with its rather French-looking gatehouse, and nationally important interiors of the later 16th century. The manor house at Mapperton combines Tudor and Stuart phases, whilst somewhat idiosyncratic Jacobean styles can be seen at Warmwell House and Waterston Manor.


We also look forward to a special visit to Purse Caundle Manor, a private home. The manor house originates from the 15th century with some later architectural additions. It was originally built under the instruction of Richard Long, who purchased 575 acres of land in the village of Purse Caundle in 1428. The site of the manor was recorded in the Domesday Book. Moving forward in time, the Edwardian era is represented by Minterne, a remarkable house with Arts & Crafts touches.


Dorset’s churches also offer plenty of interest, and our tour will take in a selection, including the superb abbey churches of Milton and Sherborne. The latter boasts the earliest major fan vault in existence. Folke Church is a rare and complete ensemble of the early 17th century, whilst Puddletown was beloved of Hardy, and Moreton is famous for its set of etched glass windows by Laurence Whistler. Book-ending our time frame are the mysterious and unexplained Cerne Giant, and the still-evolving township at Poundbury on the outskirts of Dorchester.


We will stay at the three-star Lanes Hotel, a country house hotel located in a former rectory in the village of West Coker. The hotel is decorated in a comfortable contemporary style and is surrounded by lawns, with the Somerset countryside beyond. Please see the ‘Tour Accommodation’ box for more details.


This tour will be led by Charles Hind, MA, FSA, who holds the positions of Chief Curator and H J Heinz Curator of Drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects. He is a specialist in Palladio, has published widely on architectural history from the 16th to the 20th centuries and has curated a number of exhibitions. Charles is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Visiting Fellow at the Centro Palladio in Vicenza, and a Trustee of the Georgian Group, the Lutyens Trust and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Tour Code
Places are limited.
Please contact the office
for more details.

Included: Acommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, breakfast, five lunches, dinner with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities.

Not Included: Travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £200, two-bedroomed apartment for twin/double use supplement £70 per person.

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