For most people, the pleasant little market town of Dorchester with its streets of Georgian and 17th-century buildings is inextricably linked with Thomas Hardy, whose former house Max Gate sits on the outskirts of town. However, there’s more to Dorset’s county town than being home to one of Britain’s greatest writers: it’s an ancient place, steeped in historical sites, many of them still visible and free to wander around today. The oldest discovered site is the Neolithic Maumbury Rings dating from around 2500, while the vast Maiden Castle overlooking the town to the south is one of Europe’s best-preserved Iron Age hill forts. Moving forward in time, England’s best-preserved Roman town house, dating from the 4th century, is tucked away in the back streets, while the Old Crown Courts on the High Street is where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to transportation for founding Britain’s first trade union in 1834. Dorchester also has a slew of museums – some fairly eclectic – to keep you entertained on a wet afternoon, including the Dorset County Museum, the Keep Military Museum, the Terracotta Warriors Museum, the Teddy Bear Museum and the Tutankhamun Exhibition.
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