The name suggests that Athelhampton House and Gardens are going to be pretty grand, and anyone who’s visited will tell you that they certainly are that. The house dates back to 1485 and the spectacular formal gardens have been carefully designed to wow those who see them. The gardens were built between 1881 and 1889 by Alfred Cart de Lafontaine, and their quiet woodland scenery softens the formal architecture that surrounds them.
The Great Court is one of Dorset’s most striking sights as its dotted with perfect Yew trees in the shape of pyramids. When they were first planted the idea behind the trees was that they would punctuate rose beds, but these days they’re the centrepiece of the gardens. Wander through The Great Court to discover the canal, the Private Garden and the octagonal pond, and you’ll soon feel as though you’ve stepped into the pages of a fairy tale.
Many choose to stroll the pretty river walk which makes its way through the landscape before taking visitors to the ancient Dovecote. Thomas Hardy used to live close to Athelhampton, and he was a regular visitor to the gardens, perhaps looking for inspiration for his latest novel or poem. He painted a stunning watercolour of the building while his father was working on it as a stonemason and his poem “The Dame of Athelhall” was set inside the house.