This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

Notice: The new new visitor centre at Thorncombe Woods car park has just opened. Like the car park, the centre is owned by Dorset County Council and run as a partnership between the National Trust and Dorset County Council. Opening times (up to the end of October): Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm; Saturday, 9am – 5pm; Sunday, 10am – 5pm.

Evocative cob and thatch cottage - birthplace of Thomas Hardy

Few authors have such strong associations with the natural and cultural heritage of their local area as Thomas Hardy. This cottage, where Hardy was born in 1840, was built of cob and thatch by his grandfather and has been little altered since the family left.

Despite training as an architect, writing was Hardy's first love, and it was from here that he wrote several of his early short stories, poetry and novels including 'Under the Greenwood Tree' and 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.

The garden reflects most people's idea of a typical cottage garden, with roses around the door, and the sound of birdsong, even in winter. Once inside you will discover that 19th-century rural life, with its open hearths, small windows and stone floors, was not always idyllic.

The cottage sits next to Thorncombe Woods, owned and managed by Dorset County Council. This is an ancient woodland and nature reserve that opens out onto heathland and the beginning of Hardy's Egdon Heath.

What's on

Performer and musician Tim Laycock returns to Hardy's Cottage and Max Gate this season with the sort of 'tuneful stories' that filled the cottage in Hardy's novel 'Under the Greenwood Tree'. Join us for entertaining and informal music, singing and poetry readings exploring Hardy's work and the music he knew and loved.

When you arrive

From the car park it's a 10-15 minute walk to the cottage, either by bridle path or through the woodland. The woodland path offers a tranquil approach but is uneven in places and muddy in wet weather. The level bridle path has a rough gravel surface with some potholes. There's limited parking for blue badge holders.

For longer visits

You'll want to take your time exploring the Hardy landscape. Book a break in a National Trust Holiday Cottage and discover Hardy Country and our West Dorset places at your leisure. Will you choose a cosy cottage or a majestic Art Deco villa? There's also a no frills campsite or a basic bunkhouse for 'hardy' types.

Walk in Hardy's footsteps

The stark beauty of this landscape inspired Hardy’s work

The stark beauty of this landscape inspired Hardy’s work

How about exploring the landscape which provided inspiration for Hardy's work? Take a walk through the woodland and heathland surrounding the cottage, just as Hardy once did himself.

You can also tick off some 50 things activities along the way, including build a den, make a trail with sticks, create some wild art and hunt for bugs. Perfect for a family adventure in the great outdoors.

Hardy Country

Follow Hardy’s story from his place of birth here to his home at Max Gate, and final resting place at St Michael's Church in Stinsford. Learn more about his life and work at the Dorset County Museum, get your photo taken next to the Hardy memorial, and round off your trip with a tour of Clouds Hill, home of Lawrence of Arabia, a great friend of Hardy.