JAPANESE tour guides sampled the delights of Dorset in a bid to promote the county to visitors from the Land of the Rising Sun.

A group of UK-based Japanese Blue Badge guides from London enjoyed a day visit to Dorchester and the surrounding area.

The trip was aimed at helping them put together an itinerary for the county that they can offer to Japanese tourists visiting our shores.

The trip was led by Japanese-born Kayoko Hardwick, a Blue Badge guide of 18 years who now lives in Sherborne.

She said: “We are mainly looking at places connected to Thomas Hardy, inset above, and Lawrence of Arabia. I would like to introduce the Dorset area to Japanese tourists and get them coming down from London.”

Weymouth firm Extra Mile Chauffeur Travel and Penny- farthing Cars provided the transport for the day.

The first stop was the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester before the guides were taken to Thomas Hardy’s grave at Stinsford and the author’s birthplace at Higher Bockhampton as well as Lawrence of Arabia’s cottage at Clouds Hill.

They also planned to visit Lawrence’s grave at Moreton and enjoy a cream tea in Moreton Tea Rooms as well as enjoying some of Dorset’s picturesque villages and stunning scenery.

Guide Hiroko Miller said she was looking forward to experiencing the delights of Dorset for the first time. She said: “I’m very much looking forward to it with the Hardy connection and Lawrence of Arabia and seeing the coastline with the Jurassic Coast.

“I have heard lots of my English friends come to Dorset and they have lots of good things to say.”

Hiroko added that she hoped their trip would see more Japanese tourists making the journey to the county.

She said: “I hope so, Hardy is not such as well known author in Japan but for anyone interested in English literature I think he is very interesting.”

Thousands of Japanese tourists visit the United Kingdom every year and trip leader Kayoko said she hopes Dorset can capitalise on that and become one of the areas they visit outside London alongside the likes of the Lake District, Bath, Stonehenge, the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon.