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The much-anticipated rejuvenation of Dorchester's iconic King's Arms Hotel, famed for it's literary links to Thomas Hardy, has been four years and £5 million in the making.

The wait has been worth it - Stay Original's most ambitious pub-hotel development to date has been well received since the doors were pushed open in September 2020, with a big thumbs-up from curious Dorchester folk, local foodies, travel journalists, and our Inn Curator following his very comfortable overnight stay.

Having once entertained and hosted monarchs (Queen Victoria) and musicians (The Beatles), new life has been breathed into this striking, 300-year-old building on the High Street following years of neglect. Ali Guttridge's interior design flair has cleverly transformed the once faded interior without losing the period style and retro feel of the place.

Modern fabrics and vintages touches blend effortlessly - think, soft hues, Victorian patterned tiles in the lobby, revealed during restoration, original red brick and timbered walls in the cosy snug, polished wood floors, velvet and bright patterned upholstered armchairs in the Old Smoking Room, quirky, fringed lampshades, and etched glass (note the door to the Gents). The bar is a fabulous space with an impressive long servery, cosy green walls, open fires, relaxing sofas, jazzy fabrics on wallbench seating, and sought-after windows seats to watch the world go by.

Rooms from:

27 doubles: £105; suites from £190

Good to know

Major credit cards accepted (except Amex)

Alfresco & private dining

Disabled access; lift; rooms not equipped

Parking available

Dogs stay: £10

A touch of culture

Thomas Hardy designed and built Max Gate, a short walk from the town centre, and lived in the house for 43 years, writing Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge here. There are some mementos in the dining room and drawing room - his original study has been rebuilt at the Dorset County Museum.


Twenty-seven individually designed rooms ramble across two floors of this grand building.

Rooms vary in size from 'snug' and 'cosy' doubles to spacious 'fancy' and 'plush' rooms and the impressive 'Epic' Rooms, stunning suites with roll-top tubs in the bay windows, where you can soak and sip fizz with views up and down the High Street.

Like downstairs, decor successfully combines a period feel with retro touches and Scandinavian influences - a jumble of styles that really work. You may find vintage wardrobes, art deco lamps, retro radiators, rich golds and greens, upholstered headboards, and subtle, stylish floral wallpaper. Modern comforts include super-comfortable mattresses, Smart TVs, Roberts radios, reading lights, telephone, and a Nespresso machine. Brilliant bathrooms have ceramic printed tiled floors, vast walk-in storm showers and posh Bramley toiletries.

Restaurant & bar

The white-brick tiles fronting the impressive open-to-view kitchen come as a real surpise as you step from the grand, period-style entrance foyer into the spacious dining room.

It's a fabulous cooking space, a bold nod to the present and the enviable domain of chef Steve Yates (ex-Charlton House, Shepton Mallet), who delivers an equally bang-up-to-date modern British menu. With European and North African influences he combines pub classics with more inventive dishes, his menu evolving with the seasons and the availability of quality ingredients from local suppliers.

We kicked off a delicious supper with a scrummy lamb scrumpet served with aubergine, chermoula and spiced yoghurt, before tucking into hake with smoked mackerel and crab fritter, white beans, confit fennel and chorizo. Alternatives may include pork, pumpkin seed and leek terrine, pan-fried bream with clam and sorrel sauce, and chargrilled beef burger, bacon, Barber's cheddar and chips. For pudding, perhaps try vegan brownie affogato or blackberry, apple, yoghurt and sunflower crumble tart with cinnamon ice cream.

Private dining

The Casterbridge room is the perfect event space for presentations, meetings, and get-togethers - it can host up to 70 guests and is a very adaptable space. Named in Thomas Hardy's honour, the novelist wrote much of The Mayor of Casterbridge in the light-filled and stylish bow-windowed room.

Things to do

A short drive from Dorchester brings you to the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, one of Britain's greatest writers. Hardy wrote his early novels here and today this modest National Trust cottage illustrates the primitive conditions and simple daily routine of his youth.

One of the finest 15th century manor houses in the country, Athelhampton is surrounded by amazing Grade 1 listed architectural gardens, with fountains, topiary, and a 15th century Dovecote. The River Piddle runs through the landscaped grounds. The house contains many finely furnished rooms including the Great Hall, the Great Chamber and don't miss the Library & Billiard Room.

There's a full day's worth of things to see and do in the beautiful village of Abbotsbury, with historical sites, tea rooms, art galleries and craft shops, all with spectacular views - across Chesil Bank to the Island of Portland. For 600 years, a colony of mute swans has made a home here, sheltered by the famous Chesil Beach. See too the magnificent 20 acres sub-tropical gardens, with rare plants from all over the world.

Getting here


Nearest railway station: Dorchester

Taxi from station: 5min

Drive: Bournemouth 44min; Yeovil 28min; Exeter 1hr 22min


30 High East Street, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1HF

Prices & availability