Dorset, with its chalky grasslands, broad hedgerows and rolling hills, is the English countryside at its very best. Scattered with geological curiosities and beauty spots, deep in Thomas Hardy’s heartlands, it’s nevertheless its historical sites that attract the most attention. And highest on the heritage list is definitely Melbury House, until 1964 the seat of the Earl of Ilchester. Within easy reach of Summer Lodge and Acorn Inn, stay with us on your next trip to Dorset and discover this spectacular property for yourself by walking the public footpath around its grounds.
Offering mile upon mile of parkland and a rather handsome Ham Hill stone façade, Melbury House last changed hands over 500 years ago, when it was sold to Henry Strangways. Almost entirely rebuilt by his son Giles – Henry VIII’s right-hand man when it came to the dissolution of the monasteries in Dorset – its pièce de résistance is undoubtedly its hexagonal tower (or Prospect), which looms behind the main house with its mock battlements and ornamental finials.
Located just outside Evershot in West Dorset, it’s a grand country house of the first order and possesses an A-list guestbook to match, with the likes of Horace Walpole complimenting its art and rooms, and the pioneer of photography Henry Fox Talbot growing up in its verdant environs. Even its literary reputation stets it apart, having been the inspiration for Thomas Hardy’s King’s Hintock Court in both A Changed Man & Other Tales and A Group of Noble Dames. While not open to public, the houses grand beauty is a testament to traditional English architecture and style that makes this area so wonderful to behold.
As well as bringing visitors in view of Melbury House, this public path goes through the 300 hectares of deer park and surrounding woodland to give a genuine view of the exquisite beauty of the English countryside. While enjoying this picturesque walk through the beauty of deer park, visitors can, depending on the season, experience the wildflowers in bloom, spot the wild rabbits and squirrels that make their homes in the park and perhaps hear the call of the English Barn Owl. Dorset offers a true rendition of the romantic English countryside where architecture, nature and history all await you. For these reasons and many more, the countryside of Dorset remains one of the most charming areas the country has to offer.
The Grade II listed property Summer Lodge is a suitably grand place to stay when walking through the public footpath that crosses the grounds of Melbury House and its expansive parkland, while the 16th century Acorn Inn is just moments away.