Mansions, castles and beautifully manicured gardens, Dorset offers some fantastic diversions for weekenders. Settle into the comfort of Summer Lodge for a quintessentially English retreat and enjoy some well-deserved downtime. You’re in Hardy country here so make sure you get out and explore the local sites. With so much to see, we’ve done a little digging for you and selected our favourite National Trust houses in Dorset and its surrounding areas to enjoy on your next visit.

Montacute House

An Elizabethan Renaissance structure built by Sir Edward Phelips back in 1601, Montacute House makes quite the first impression. Set within some particularly picturesque grounds (perfect for frosty winter walks), this imposing building features local materials such as ham stone and soaring walls of glass. Take a peak into the Long Gallery, which houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits (many on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London) before warming up with a hot chocolate in the on-site café.

Distance from Summer Lodge: 20 minutes by car.


This spectacular 18th-century Palladian mansion offers all the allure of a country retreat with an added air of mysticism mixed in. Featuring ethereal lakes, temples and grottos, as well as the sprawling gardens filled with exotic plants and trees, Stourhead is surely one of the most unique National Trust houses on offer. Explore the grand Regency library and picture gallery before taking in the wonderful estate, which has been accurately described as a ‘living work of art’.

Distance from Summer Lodge: 45 minutes by car.

Max Gate

A stone’s throw from Dorchester town centre, Thomas Hardy designed Max Gate in 1885 and continued to live here until his death in 1928. A must for literature enthusiasts, many of Hardy’s most famous works were written here, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Relax with some tea and cake in the newly restored kitchen before setting off on a languid walk through the surrounding countryside.

Distance from Summer Lodge: 20 minutes by car.

Cloud’s Hill

‘I’ve a hut in a wood near camp wherein I spend my spare evenings’ – this little cottage was the tranquil Dorset residence of T.E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Cloud’s Hill is indeed one of the most intimate National Trust houses in Dorset, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for as a mine of information on Lawrence’s character and his ties to the Middle East. After taking a peak inside, set off and explore the woodlands on the Lawrence of Arabia trail, which will take you all the way up to St Nicholas Church – where Lawrence was laid to rest.

Distance from Summer Lodge: 40 minutes by car.