The King's Arms

Dorchester, Dorset, United Kingdom
Book from GBP Book from £70 per night

The King's Arms

Dorchester, Dorset, United Kingdom

Old grandeur meets urban sophistication at this revival of an elegant coaching inn, located in Thomas Hardy’s hometown

Old grandeur meets urban sophistication at this revival of an elegant coaching inn, located in Thomas Hardy’s hometown

As we saunter down Dorchester’s handsome high street, a sign on a wall reads ‘Hyde Park Corner: 120 miles’, a sweet reminder of the town’s strategic position on an old main route into London. In the late 19th Century, stagecoaches would pass through here, transporting passengers from the South West to the capital. To break the journey, some travellers would check themselves into The King's Arms, a prestigious coaching inn with a handsome Georgian façade and a reputation for attracting the elite. Queen Victoria and Edward VII both stayed here in the mid-1800s; Audrey Hepburn brought the attention of Hollywood; The Rolling Stones made it cool. And, of course, local icon Thomas Hardy was a regular guest, often using the reading room to write his novels. Consequently, The King's Arms features in some of Hardy’s greatest works.

Sadly, the hotel fell into disrepair in the late 20th Century, so we were thrilled when we heard that local hotel group Stay Original Co (the masterminds behind The Swan Wedmore and a string of other boutique hotels) announced they were bringing it back to life. Old rooms and bow windows have been carefully restored, oversized retro lampshades hang from high ceilings, and characterful Art Deco styling hints at the hotel’s former glamour. Of course, the owners have weaved in their trademark touches: a fine-dining restaurant headed up by an ex-River Cottage chef, a buzzy bar that’s great for cocktails and late-night whiskies, and quirky bedrooms with luxurious additions like clawfoot bathtubs, Bramley toiletries and antique trunks. This is proper urban sophistication, and we revelled in it!


  • The hotel’s illustrious history is fascinating, having served as a key coaching inn for the rich and famous
  • Rooms are creative and full of character, with bold colour schemes, retro wallpaper, velvet upholstery and lots of antiques
  • The food at the restaurant is top notch – we couldn’t fault it
  • Staff are brilliant: attentive, helpful and very friendly
  • Dorchester is a smart town, famous for its Thomas Hardy connections. There are fascinating museums, Roman ruins and pretty pleasure gardens, plus the Jurassic Coast beaches are nearby


  • Due to their location on the high street, light sleepers might be disturbed by traffic noise in the front bedrooms, but the windows are double glazed and we slept soundly
  • The food at the restaurant isn’t the cheapest, but it’s well and truly worth the price tag
  • The restaurant terrace is adjacent to the car park, but high walls obscure it from view

Best time to go

Dorchester is popular all year. If you're hoping for sunshine and swimming on the Jurassic Coast you'll want to come in the summer, though this time of year also brings heavy crowds. Those seeking a romantic break will be happier in spring or autumn; both bring pretty scenery. Of course, great food and festive aperitifs make for a great winter stay as well.

Dorchester Market takes place every Wednesday. The Dorset County Show usually takes place in the town on the first weekend of September.

Our top tips

The hotel restaurant is open to the public and is a very popular local hangout. Make sure you book in advance if you want to eat here.

Being so close to the Jurassic Coast, the seafood in this area is seriously good. Look out for haddock casserole or mackerel baked in cider on restaurant menus.

Great for...

City Style
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 28 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Air conditioning in front rooms
Room: 203


Each of the 28 rooms is different in shape, layout and design. They are categorised according to their size, with Snug being the smallest and Epic being the largest. In each, you can expect kingsize beds (some rooms can be set up as twins on request), beautiful shower bathrooms and floral-scented Bramley toiletries.

Colour schemes are bright and bold, with lots of patterned wallpapers, heavy use of velvet fabrics and decorative houseplants throughout. Roberts radios, televisions, mini fridges and coffee makers feature in all. We thought one of the Comfy Rooms looked particularly striking, with its olive-green walls, floral prints and star-tiled bathroom. Our room (Epic) was very indulgent, with royal blue and mustard interiors, and a clawfoot bath in the bay window. The beautiful bathroom had faux Portuguese tiles, an enormous rain shower and a gorgeous shabby-chic wall mirror. We enjoyed a very lazy morning, sipping Nespresso coffee and reading the Sunday paper – hand-delivered to our bedroom door.

If you’re a light sleeper, request a room at the back of the hotel, which faces away from the high street. The old walls are pretty solid though – we were directly above the bar and didn’t hear a peep from downstairs.

Features include:

  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar
  • WiFi


The restaurant at The King's Arms has already gained quite a reputation among locals, making it buzzy and atmospheric. Its styling is modern and bright, with ochre fabrics, navy panelling, an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, and an open kitchen. There’s a terrace for more casual dining in summer months.

The food here is divine. Breakfast is a la carte, featuring brunch-style dishes like granola and berry compote, smashed avo with harissa, and one of the best fry-ups we’ve had in a long time. Dinner was just as fabulous. We gorged on succulent local scallops, crispy brie croquettas, tender pork belly with dates, and the smoothest, richest, darkest chocolate cheesecake to finish – yum!

Allow time for aperitifs at the bar, decked out in a moody-green colour scheme. Ensconce yourself in a plump armchair by the fireplace and sip cocktails made with Dorset gin. For digestifs, move into the Smoking Room - you can just imagine the old intellectuals conversing here over whisky and cigars in the hotel’s former life as a coaching inn.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee maker
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby


  • Go for a leisurely stroll around pretty Dorchester, with its boutique shops, quaint tea rooms, two cinemas and Iron Age hillfort. There are lovely trails along the River Frome, and the Borough Gardens – a classic example of a Victorian pleasure garden – make a fine spot for a picnic.
  • Discover all things Thomas Hardy. Visit his Cottage and his home at Max Gate, following the National Trust trail between the two as you walk in his footsteps.
  • Explore one of the town’s eight museums. See the collections at the Military Museum, where the Dorset Regiment was based until the 1950s; discover Roman ruins at the Roman Town House; or see Hardy’s collections at the Dorset County Museum.
  • Visit Sculpture by the Lakes, a tranquil garden with sculptures by Simon Gudgeon; or the 15th-century manor and gardens of Athelhampton - both just outside town
  • Drive the short distance to the great beaches of the Jurassic Coast. Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are 30 minutes away.


Children are welcome at The King's Arms, though it does have quite a stylish, sophisticated vibe. The larger rooms can fit extra beds or cots, there’s a kids’ menu at the restaurant, and high chairs are available to borrow. Dorchester has plenty to amuse children, including museums and gardens with a play area. With the Jurassic Coast nearby, there are great beaches in the area, making this a brilliant (but popular) spot for a UK break in the summer holidays.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The Epic Rooms are the largest, each with space for an extra bed or baby cot. All rooms except those in the Snug and Cosy categories can be setup as twins.


  • Airport One hour
  • Hospital: Five minutes
  • Supermarket: Five minutes
Kid Friendly:


The King's Arms is on the high street in Dorchester, a historic market town just inland from the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.

By Air:
Bournemouth is the closest airport (52km), or you could fly into Exeter (80km), Southampton (88km) or Bristol (99km).

From the Airport
Take a taxi or hire a car. The hotel has a private car park. There's no EV charging point, but they do have a three-point plug outside which can be used for charging.

By Train:
Dorchester has two railway stations. Direct trains from London take approximately three hours.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.


  • Bournemouth 52.0 km BOH
  • Exeter 80.0 km EXE


  • Beach 12.0 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests


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