The Acorn Inn is a real treat, a place you can confidently present to a loved one as a thoughtful weekend getaway.
Nestled in the pretty village of Evershot, this 16th-century former coaching inn features in three Thomas Hardy novels as ‘the Sow and Acorn’ and wears its heritage proudly. Built of faded honey-coloured local stone, the Acorn boasts a well-stocked bar, oak-panelling, flagstone floors and exceptional food, as well as 10 attractive rooms named after characters and settings in Tess of the D’Ubervilles.
Lions and deer
Exit the Acorn by the front door and turn left, heading downhill. Where the road forks, keep left, heading into the Ilchester Estates. Continue on the paved road to Lion Gate, guarded by two giant stone cats, and climb over the stile on the right. The paved path wends through Melbury Park estate – look out for fallow, red and sika deer, as well as grazing sheep. Continue past the great house on your right to the far side of the park, emerging at the bottom of the village of Melbury Osmond.
The Acorn Inn in Evershot, which Thomas Hardy reimagined as the ‘Sow and Acorn’ in ‘Evershed’ in his writings (credit, Philip Hartley)
Continue briefly on the road to a few pretty thatched cottages; here turn right between the cottages along a narrow bridleway. Overgrown with hanging foliage, this passage feels magical. Where the path splits, take the right-hand path under the low stone bridge, and follow the route along and over a small wooden bridge.
After the bridge, the track climbs a bank and emerges in a field with three gates on the opposite side. Take the middle gate, marked with a blue arrow, and follow this path fringed by trees as it runs between fields. Keep heading south along the path as it crosses over a paved road by Chetnole Lodge and through woodland and fields.
Author Maria walks beside the meadow by Lucerne Lake (credit, Philip Hartley)
Home sweet acorn
As you enter a field, keep right and take the gate on your right at the end, before immediately turning left through a second gate to stay on the bridleway. This bends around to the left alongside Lucerne Lake. Follow the path past the lake, through the gate and onwards past Banger’s Moor until the road forks – here, take the right hand bridleway all the way uphill and down again until you rejoin the road that returns you to Evershot and the Acorn Inn.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.
Main image © Philip Hartley