Dorchester may have started as the Romans’ camp while they were besieging the native people of Dorset, the Durotriges, in their huge earthen fortress of Maiden Castle nearby. The square outline of the Roman walls is partly preserved and partly marked by the tree-lined Walks.

Though the town has overspread those limits, it is still neatly defined, by the River Frome on the north and east and the bypass road on the south. At the west end is Prince Charles’s adventurously developed village of Poundbury.

Many of the scenes of Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge can be recognized in the town, and Hardy’s house, Max Gate, is at the southeastern edge.