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Dorset - Eating and sleeping
Dorset is ideally suited to the growing and savouring of seasonal, traditional and local food; its fertile soils, long farming history and food heritage combine to provide a rich variety of tasty treats, from fish caught off the Dorset coast, to artisan cheeses, breads and ciders. A visit to Dorset would not be complete without sampling Dorset Blue Vinny cheese, Dorset apple cake and Moores Dorset Knob biscuits. And remember, Devon does not have a monopoly on cream teas – the Dorset version is just as delicious. You will find many artisan food producers and suppliers plus numerous local food festivals.
Self-caterers are spoilt for choice when it comes to stocking up the pantry, and a picnic is a great way to enjoy the Dorset countryside. Rather than trudging around the supermarket, you can make gathering your ingredients into a treasure hunt by calling into local bakeries, farmers’ markets and farm shops. As you are exploring the country lanes, look out for handwritten signs promising free-range eggs, homemade jams, honey, gooseberries and the like, which usually sit on a wonky table next to an honesty box. For dessert you can pick up one of the local farmhouse ice creams, such as those made by Barford Ice Cream and Purbeck Ice Cream.
To wash down your Dorset meal, you could try a locally made cider, like Cider by Rosie. In early October, apple pressing days are held around the county, and many places invite you to bring your own apples for pressing.
My retired farming friend, Alf Wallis, remembers the days when badger leg was eaten in Dorset pubs; happily these days when you hear someone ordering a half a Badger in the pub they are after a beer from the Hall & Woodhouse Brewery. Dorset is well stocked with breweries, such as the Piddle Brewery and Palmers. Details of other local breweries and beers are available at www.dorsetbreweries.com.
Thanks to its temperate climate, the county even produces its own wine, available at farm shops, delicatessens and independent supermarkets. Furleigh Estate (Salway Ash DT6 5JF; 01308 488991; www.furleighestate.co.uk) near Bridport is a dairy farm that has been transformed into a winery producing white, red, rosé and sparkling wines; cellar door sales and winery tours are available on Fridays and Saturdays. Wines from the Sherborne Castle Vineyard (www.sherbornecastle.com) are available at the castle shop and other local outlets, while Melbury Vale Vineyard (Redmans Lane, Melbury SP70DB; 01747 850773; www.melburyvaleco.co.uk) sells its wines in shops and restaurants in the Shaftesbury area. With 30 acres of land and 38,000 vines, Langham Wine Estate (Crawthorne, Dorchester DT2 7NG; 01258 839095; www.langhamwine.co.uk) is the largest vineyard in the southwest of England. On Fridays between June and September, guided tours of the vineyard are available.
As we all know, dairy farmers have had to diversify. A creative diversification is Black Cow vodka (01308 868844; www.blackcow.co.uk), a smooth vodka made from milk and with a distinctly creamy quality. It is available in delicatessens and farmshops around Dorset.
For our author’s selection of recommended places to eat see Slow Travel Dorset.
North Dorset – the Blackmore Vale, Cranborne Chase & Sherborne
Dorchester & the Piddle & Frome valleys
The Marshwood Vale & West Dorset
Weymouth & the Southern Coast
Isle of Purbeck
Poole, Bournemouth & the east
The accommodation listed below is by no means exhaustive; rather, it is my selection of places to stay, with no fee having been paid by the businesses concerned. I have selected a variety of accommodation options covering a range of budgets and styles, including campsites, B&Bs, self-catering and luxury boutique hotels. Each has been selected because I feel it is special in some way, perhaps for its location or historical connections, and because it aligns with the Slow Tourism ethos.
© ian woolcock, Shutterstock
Prices change regularly, so are not included but I have tried to give an idea as to whether a place is an upmarket option or more suited to the budget-conscious. Some accommodation providers keep their prices consistent all year but many, especially those by the coast, charge peak rates in July and August.
Many of North Dorset’s farms offer true countryside breaks, with good B&B and self-catering accommodation. Staying on a working farm can be a great way to get a feel for the area, which was built on the agricultural industry. There are also some enticing upmarket country house hotels and plenty of pubs. North Dorset receives fewer visitors than the coast and so tends to be less expensive, although Sherborne can be pricey. The Blackmore Vale is relatively central for exploring the rest of Dorset, so makes a good base.
Crown Inn Crown Rd, Marnhull DT10 1LN; www.thecrownatmarnhull.co.uk. This thatched, 16th-century pub on the outskirts of Marnhull appeared in Thomas Hardy’s writings as ‘The Pure Drop Inn’. Outbuildings house 5 spacious en-suite rooms, 1 of which has disabled access. The B&B packages represent good value for money.
Eastbury Hotel Long St, Sherborne DT9 3BY; www.theesastburyhotel.co.uk. A 23-room, family-run hotel on one of Sherborne’s quieter streets, within walking distance of the shops, castle and abbey. Many of the building’s Georgian features have been preserved and, as a result, it has plenty of character. Each room has its own individual style, with the rooms in the extension having a much more modern feel. There is a pleasant walled garden, a good restaurant and, importantly, a car park.
Grosvenor Arms The Commons, Shaftesbury SP7 8JA; www.thegrosvenorarms.co.uk. A boutique 16-room hotel in the centre of Shaftesbury, which has been refurbished in recent years and offers a high standard of accommodation and a lovely, country atmosphere. There is a range of rooms, some of which are exceptionally spacious. A good restaurant, relaxing bar and courtyard area enhance the appeal. One of the more upmarket options in the Shaftesbury area.
Museum Inn Farnham DT11 8DE; www.museuminn.co.uk. In the centre of the village of Farnham in the Cranborne Chase is this highly regarded gastropub with 8 en-suite rooms (either around a courtyard or in the main building) and a self-catering cottage. The most elegant and expensive room is known as ‘The General’s’ and has a four-poster bed. The décor throughout evokes a shooting lodge; dogs are welcome in some rooms.
Plumber Manor Sturminster Newton DT10 2AF; www.plumbermanor.co.uk. Upmarket accommodation in an elegant country house belonging to the Prideaux-Brune family. In the main house are 6 comfortable en-suite rooms; converted outbuildings contain another 10 rooms. Facilities include a tennis court, croquet lawn and popular restaurant. Dogs are allowed in some rooms. One of North Dorset’s more expensive options.
Stock Hill House Gillingham SP8 5NR; www.stockhillhouse.co.uk. A Victorian country house hotel run to a high standard for over 20 years by Austrian chef Peter Hauser and his wife Nita. In a quiet location on the edge of Gillingham and set in well-maintained grounds, the hotel has an air of exclusivity and is beautifully furnished. There is an excellent restaurant.
Glebe Farm Ashmore SP5 5AE; www.glebefarmbandb.co.uk. Tucked away in an old farmyard opposite Ashmore pond is this contemporary and architecturally striking farmhouse with 2 en-suite B&B rooms. Tessa Millard is a likeable hostess and very knowledgeable on the local area, having lived here for many years. The location is peaceful and being in the highest village in Dorset there are expansive views from the rooms and breakfast room. The rooms are equipped with super-king beds, TV, fridge and Wi-Fi. The Aga-cooked breakfasts use produce from the farm, and Tessa can also provide dinner, including local game in season. Tessa is happy to accommodate guests who bring their own horses in summer; she has ridden all her life and can provide guidance on riding in the Cranborne Chase.
Golden Hill Cottage Stourton Caundle DT10 2JW; www.goldenhillcottage.co.uk. A cosy thatched B&B in the centre of this quiet village between Sherborne and Sturminster Newton. Anna and Andrew Oliver are extremely accommodating, thoughtful hosts. The cottage dates from the 16th and 18th centuries. There is just 1 twin en-suite bedroom and guests have their own nicely furnished sitting room, which means plenty of privacy. Afternoon tea and breakfast, including the jams and marmelades, are homemade by Anna. Reasonable value for money.
Ellwood Cottages Woolland, Blandford Forum DT11 0ES; www.ellwoodcottages.co.uk. Converted farm buildings house 3 self-catering units designed for people with disabilities. There are spacious gardens with expansive views to Bulbarrow and Ibberton Hill, an indoor splash pool and a therapy room. Reasonably priced.
Todber Manor Manor Farm, Todber DT10 IJB ; www.todbermanor.co.uk. Offers coarse fishing lakes, self-catering cottages and a small campsite for Caravan Club members. Farm buildings have been converted to 8 comfortable self-catering cottages. The fishing facilities are extensive, with well-stocked lakes and a large tackle shop. No pets allowed in the cottages. Reasonably priced.
Whistley Farm Milton-on-Stour, near Gillingham SP8 5PT; www.whistleyfarm.com. Tim and Debbie Allard offer exceptional self-catering accommodation on their peaceful farm in the Blackmore Vale. The 2, 3-bedroom Scandinavian-style wooden lodges are beautifully furnished and maintained, and overlook an attractive lake where guests can fish. The newly converted barn provides a gorgeous 2-bedroom getaway with all mod cons, including woodburner, and high-quality fixtures and fittings, as well as far-reaching expansive views. The Allards like to spoil their guests, and their philosophy is to put as much care into furnishing and maintaining the accommodation as they would their own home. Footpaths criss-cross the farm, meaning you can explore the countryside without turning the key in your car. There is also a 4-hole pitch-and-putt golf course. Dogs are welcome in one of the lodges. Very good value for money, and will appeal to all, including families.
The Ark Naish Farm, DT9 5LJ; www.honeybuns.co.uk. Quirky accommodation in a vintage caravan at the farm where Honeybuns Bakery has its base. The caravan’s interior is a cheerful celebration of all things vintage. Guests have use of a kitchen, their own bathroom a short walk from the caravan, and a firepit. Honeybuns makes sustainability and protection of the environment a priority.
Inside Park Fairmile Rd, Blandford Forum DT11 9AD; www.theinsidepark.co.uk. A great option for lovers of camping and the countryside. The campsite is open from April to October, and is set within 14 acres of park- and woodland on a farm. The site facilities are far more elegant than the average, being within an 18th-century stable and coach house. There is an outdoor play area, games room and shop, as well as 6 miles of signed walks through the farmland, where you are likely to encounter local wildlife. Pet-friendly. Reasonably priced.
Stock Gaylard Yurt Holidays Stock Gaylard Estate, Sturminster Newton DT10 2BG; www.stockgaylard.com. Luxury yurt camping from April to September on the 1,700-acre Stock Gaylard Estate, which includes an 80-acre deer park. Expect abundant wildlife and plenty of peace and quiet. Local furniture maker, James Ross, crafted the yurts from ash grown on the estate. They are grouped in 3s, 2 for sleeping and 1 with a kitchen, so you need to book all 3. Solar power minimises the impact on the environment. Guided nature walks available. You can eat the estate’s venison and have organic food boxes delivered to your yurt. Not your average camping experience so expect to pay substantially more than at a typical campsite.
Dorchester & the Piddle & Frome valleys
Dorchester is a handy base if you are travelling by public transport, but there are also some lovely out-of-the-way villages with good accommodation which will really allow you to experience what this unspoilt area has to offer. Cerne Abbas is one such place and well positioned for exploring Dorchester, Sherborne, the Blackmore Vale and even the coast. For those with an interest in Hardy, Higher and Lower Bockhampton will appeal. The Landmark Trust lets out two beautifully restored properties in this area, Wolfeton Gatehouse and Woodford Castle.
Fox Inn Ansty, near Dorchester DT2 7PN; www.foxinnansty.co.uk. There are 11 comfortable en-suite rooms in this popular pub. In a handy location for visiting the Blackmore Vale and Dorchester areas, and it has a good restaurant.
New Inn 14 Long St, Cerne Abbas DT2 7JF; www.thenewinncerneabbas.co.uk. A characterful 16th-century coaching inn in the centre of the village, with 12 elegantly renovated rooms and 2 suites. One of the more expensive options in the area.
Abbots B&B 7 Long St, Cerne Abbas DT2 7JF; www.abbotsbedandbreakfast.co.uk. Offering 5 clean and comfortable en-suite rooms in the centre of the village. Owner Nicola Wilkes is highly professional and welcoming, and takes great care over the accommodation and tea rooms below. Rooms are nicely furnished and equipped with Wi-Fi, TV and tea- and coffee-making facilities. The breakfast, served in the tea rooms, is excellent and uses good-quality, locally sourced produce in generous proportions. Represents very good value for money.
The Old Mill West St, Bere Regis BH20 7HS; www.theoldmillbereregis.co.uk. A converted mill houses 4 attractively furnished en-suite rooms. It has the character of an old building but feels clean, modern and fresh on the inside. The breakfast room is where the mill wheel used to sit, and the glass panel in the floor showing the mill stream below is a clever reminder of the building’s former use. A shepherd’s hut and field camping are also available. A colourful, mixed flock of chickens in the garden provide the eggs for breakfast.
Dorset Resort Bere Regis BH20 7NT; www.dorsetgolfresort.com. Located south of Bere Regis, you can take advantage of 3, 9-hole golf courses, coarse fishing lakes and an indoor bowling green here, and non-golfers are welcome too. It has 12 spacious and well-appointed Swiss chalet-style wooden cabins (sleeping up to 8), each with sauna and fireplace, in a secluded setting backing on to woodland: deer sightings are common. No pets.
River Cottage at Athelhampton Dorchester DT2 7LG; www.athelhampton.co.uk. An appealing thatched self-catering cottage in the grounds of the house. It is nicely decorated and has 3 en-suite bedrooms. A small private golf course is available for use. You pay a slight premium for the location.
Wolfeton Gatehouse Dorchester DT2 9QN; www.landmarktrust.co.uk. The Landmark Trust lets out the gatehouse of the privately owned medieval Elizabethan Wolfeton House. It is a stately building full of character and the guesthouse sleeps up to 6 people. Wolfeton House, but not the gatehouse, is open to the public between June and September.
Woodsford Castle Near Dorchester DT2 8AS; www.landmarktrust.org.uk. An unusual thatched castle, which dates from 1370. The castle was in the same family for 600 years, until it was taken over by the Landmark Trust, which now lets it out. The castle sleeps 8 and dogs are allowed.
Green Valley Yurts Longmeadow, Godmanstone DT2 7AE; www.greenvalleyyurts.com. Now this is my kind of camping! At the southern end of the village of Godmanstone, on the A352, Heather and Roy have set up 3 gorgeous yurts and 3 equally gorgeous, if slightly smaller, bell tents, on the family farm. Both Heather and Roy have creative backgrounds, in textiles and photography respectively, and it shows in the charming way they have decorated the yurts and tents. Each has a woodburner, a barbecue pit and soft furnishings handmade by Heather. Little touches like lanterns and marshmallows for toasting on the fire make all the difference. Guests have use of a well-equipped communal kitchen area and shower block, complete with a bath, boardgames and blackboard wall for the children. The River Cerne, which is a gentle stream here, runs along one side of the field. There is a farm shop on site with a small tea rooms. The bell tents sleep 4, the yurts sleep up to 7 and are slightly more expensive. You will need to bring your own linen. Well located for walks around the Cerne Valley, visits to Dorchester and the coast.
The Marshford Vale & West Dorset
The West Dorset coast has an abundance and variety of accommodation. If you are after peace and tranquillity during the summer months, consider looking beyond Lyme Regis for a place to lay your head. The area between Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury has some good, quieter options. There are also some nice places to stay inland, including some good B&Bs.
Acorn Inn 28 Fore St, Evershot DT2 0JW; www.acorn-inn.co.uk. This 16th-century coaching inn has a warm and welcoming feel in the main areas but the 10 en-suite rooms are finished in the style of a luxury hotel, which is perhaps unsurprising as it shares the same owners as Summer Lodge. In the evenings, guests and locals enjoy the bar and restaurant. Reasonably priced.
Bridge House Hotel 3 Prout Bridge, Beaminster DT8 3AY; www.bridge-house.co.uk. A very inviting combination of history and modern comfort. The 14 rooms of this 13th-century former priest’s house are full of character and finished to a high standard, some with four-poster bed. Cosy sitting rooms and pleasant gardens are an added bonus. The service is excellent, as is the restaurant. Pet friendly.
Bridge House Hotel 115 East St, Bridport DT6 3LB; www.bridgehousebridport.co.uk. A family-run hotel in a Georgian building on the edge of town. The 10 en-suite rooms are cosy and full of character. Pet-friendly. Prices are mid-range.
Fernhill Hotel Charmouth DT6 6BX; www.fernhill-hotel.co.uk. An AA 3-star hotel between Lyme Regis and Charmouth. Thoughtfully refurbished, with relaxing public spaces and 10 pretty rooms, including a studio for families. Owners Jo and Rob pride themselves on their friendly service and their focus on local and green living, and have won a Green Tourism gold award for their efforts. They employ local staff and source local produce for their restaurant. There is an emphasis on relaxation and health, with an outdoor pool, holistic therapies and wholesome, homemade food. Guests also have access to 36 acres of woodland and fishing ponds. Unusually for this area, there is plenty of parking. In many ways the hotel exceeds expectations with nice touches like remote control lights and fans in rooms, making it good value for money.
Hensleigh House Hotel Lower Sea Lane, Charmouth DT6 6LW; www.hensleighhouse.co.uk. A small, friendly hotel around 300 yards from Charmouth Beach. There are 8 simple but comfortable en-suite rooms and a conservatory restaurant serving breakfast and cream teas. The hotel has parking and Lyme Regis is a short bus ride away. For the budget-conscious this is a great option. Pet friendly.
Manor Hotel Beach Rd, West Bexington DT2 9DF; www.manorhoteldorset.com. Located 400 yards up the hill from West Bexington Beach. This 16th-century manor house is now a hotel with 13 individually decorated en-suite rooms, most of which have sea views. The building was extensively refurbished in 2011 but retains many character features. The rooms are upstairs so not suitable for those with limited mobility. Has a cosy bar and restaurant, and beer garden with sea views. One of the more upmarket options in the immediate area.
Summer Lodge Country House Hotel Restaurant and Spa Summer Lane, Evershot DT2 0JR; www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk. A very elegant 24-room hotel in the heart of this lovely village. The property was home to the Earls of Ilchester from 1789 and retains the feel of a fine country house or shooting retreat thanks to luxurious furnishings and artwork featuring handsome horses and gun dogs. As well as rooms and suites, the hotel offers sophisticated self-contained cottages in the village. In 1893, Dorset author and architect, Thomas Hardy, designed an extension to the house, which now contains the drawing room. You can indulge yourself in the spa, which has a range of relaxing treatments, an indoor pool and sauna. The gardens are beautifully maintained – one guest told me she planned to spend the day admiring the hotel’s garden rather than pay to visit a garden open to the public. The service is excellent and there is a very good restaurant. One of Dorset’s most upmarket hotels, so expect to pay accordingly.
Abbey House Church St, Abbotsbury DT3 4JJ; www.theabbeyhouse.co.uk. Guesthouse accommodation in a historic building overlooking the millpond and the Tithe Barn, with 4 en-suite rooms and 1 with separate private bathroom, all decorated in country style. One of the rooms has a sitting area – handy for longer stays. The garden has good views of St Catherine’s Chapel. Reasonable value for money.
Abbotsbury Tearooms and B&B 26 Rodden Row, Abbotsbury DT3 4JL; www.abbotsbury-tearooms.co.uk. A 17th-century cottage in the village centre, on the corner opposite the turning to the swannery. The 3 en-suite rooms are thoughtfully decorated in a country style. Owner Lyn, who has lived in Dorset all her life, makes every effort to ensure her guests are content. The gardens are the perfect place to sit on a summer’s evening after a day exploring the coast. Good value for money.
Dorset House Pound Rd, Lyme Regis DT7 3HX; www.dorsethouselyme.com. A first-class B&B in a beautifully restored Georgian house close to the town centre. Lyn and Jason Martin have decorated each of the 5 rooms individually with high-quality fittings and furnishings; some of the rooms have sea view. The large, communal breakfast table means you can share stories with fellow travellers. The breakfast is outstanding, with plenty of healthy, freshly cooked and locally sourced options. Guests can relax in the gorgeous sitting room, or on the veranda.
Sea Fret B&B Coast Rd, Puncknowle DT2 9DQ; www.seafret.co.uk. Standing alone on a hill on the coast road near Swyre, this B&B has stunning views of the sea, seen to full effect from the upstairs sitting room, which is glass on all sides. The 2 ground floor bedrooms are suitable for those with limited mobility. Owners Elizabeth and Tony Edwards are extremely friendly and accommodating, while their small alpaca herd provides added interest. Small pets are welcome. One of the most reasonably priced B&Bs in the area.
Norburton Hall Shipton Lane, Burton Bradstock DT6 4NQ; www.norburtonhall.com. The kind of self-catering accommodation travellers always hope to find and seldom do; in a quiet village location about a 20-minute stroll from Burton Beach. This 16th-century property was originally a farm and over the years has been transformed into a fairly grand home with a strong Arts and Crafts influence. Owner Karen Venn has thoughtfully converted parts of her home and outbuildings to provide 4 self-contained units, which sleep between 2 and 10 people. Modern facilities and a touch of luxury are combined with period charm. Guests receive a very warm welcome and Karen is always happy to share her extensive knowledge of the local area. She is a great proponent of the Slow Food and Slow Tourism movements, and in-keeping with this philosophy, guests can choose to pre-order from a selection of boxes containing local produce. Every effort has been made to follow sustainable living principles and Karen even provides a compost bin for guests. If the crowds at the local beaches get too much, there are 6 acres of well-maintained gardens at the hall in which to relax. Given its location, oodles of character and exceptionally well-appointed accommodation, Norburton Hall is very good value for money.
Washingpool Farm North Allington, Bridport DT6 5HP; www.washingpool.co.uk. Converted farm buildings provide 2 comfortable holiday cottages on this family-run farm on the outskirts of Bridport. Guests are welcome to wander around the farm and see how it is run. The large farm shop on site means you can stock up easily on local produce, and there is a coarse fishing lake.
Downhouse Farm Downhouse Lane, Higher Eype DT6 6AH; www.downhousefarm.org. A 380-acre organic farm on a hillside with spectacular views of the coast close to the South West Coast Path. Quirky, simple accommodation is available in 2 shepherd’s huts and a modern pod. The lack of electricity means you can truly disconnect from everyday life, but you do have access to a basic shower and toilet nearby. Wholesome food is served in the café, including a hearty breakfast. You can bring your own barbecue and cook up some organic meat from the farm, or head to the local pub for dinner. Access is down a very narrow lane.
Golden Cap Holiday Park Seatown DT6 6JX; www.wdlh.co.uk. A well-equipped campsite in an outstanding location around 100 yards from Seatown Beach, which is nestled between cliffs. The views of the surrounding coastal farmland are absorbing. On the west side of Seatown is Golden Cap and the campsite is a good starting point for the walk up to the hightest point on Britain’s south coast. As well as caravan and tent pitches, there are modern, well-appointed static caravans for hire. There is a pub opposite the campsite and a shop at reception.
Highlands End Holiday Park Eype DT6 6AR; www.wdlh.co.uk. Quietly located on a hill above Eype, this site has views of the coast. Caravan holiday homes and camping are available. Extensive facilities include a bar/restaurant and indoor pool (payable for campers). Prices are typical of the area, with a hefty supplement in peak season. Eype Beach is dog friendly, even in summer.
Mangerton Mill Mangerton, Bridport DT6 3SG. Peaceful camping behind the 17th-century working mill, alongside the river. Just 10 caravan sites available. Trout fishing is available in a lake on site, and the mill has a tea room. No website at the time of writing.
Weymouth & the Southern Coast
Accommodation in Weymouth is typically of the cheap and cheerful variety; there are innumberable B&Bs and guesthouses along the seafront.
Smugglers Inn Osmington Mills DT3 6HF; www.smugglersinnosmingtonmills.co.uk. In a quiet spot right on the South West Coast Path, this pub with rooms is perfectly located for walkers . It has 4 reasonably priced, comfortable en-suite rooms and a decent restaurant.
Beach House 51 Chiswell, Portland DT5 1AW; www.thebeachhouseweymouth.co.uk. This B&B backs on to Chesil Beach at the Portland end and is close to the National Sailing Academy. The attractive house was built in the 1800s. Of the 6 rooms, 5 have en-suite bathrooms. Not luxurious but quite comfortable. Slightly below average B&B prices.
Contemporary Cottages 4 Weare Close, Portland DT5 1JP; www.contemporarycottage.co.uk. Offers 2 modern houses sleeping up to 10 people; clean, fresh and modern décor. Each of the properties has sea views. Available for short breaks and by the week. Reasonably priced.
Old Higher Lighthouse Portland Bill DT5 2JT; www.oldhigherlighthouse.com. The location is what makes these 2 self-catering cottages special – in the grounds of the disused lighthouse, which is now a private residence. As you would imagine, the cottages have splendid sea views. The pretty gardens with barbecue, outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi are a bonus in the summer months. Guests also have access to the lighthouse tower observatory for seagull’s-eye views. A relatively inexpensive option.
Old Lower Lighthouse Portland Bill DT5 2JT; www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk. Basic, hostel-style accommodation for up to 24 people in a former lighthouse, now a bird observatory, and its annex. Also a self-contained cottage for 4. Aimed at birdwatchers, naturalists and walkers, and those on a tight budget.
Rosewall Camping Osmington Mills DT3 6HA; www.weymouthcamping.com. Grass pitches for tents and campervans at Osmington Mills. Ideally located for an overnight stop while walking the South West Coast Path; horseriding and coarse fishing also available.
Isle of Purbeck
For many visitors to the Isle of Purbeck, Wareham will be their first stop, but not necessarily their base because it doesn’t feel as if it’s in the Isle of Purbeck proper. Corfe Castle is a peaceful and picturesque place to stay, right in the centre of the peninsula and allowing easy access to all the local attractions. Swanage, like many British seaside towns, is crammed with guesthouses and hotels of varying quality, but is a handy place to stay if you are travelling by public transport. Studland is a quieter option and within easy reach of the Sandbanks ferry, although accommodation is limited. The whole of the Dorset coast is busy in summer, but in Lulworth Cove the overcrowding is exacerbated by the single road in and out. As well as the enormous campsite at Durdle Door, the Lulworth Estate has cottages for rent (www.lulworth.com). Lists of accommodation in the area are available at www.isleofpurbeck.com.
Limestone Hotel & Restaurant West Lulworth BH20 5RL; www.limestonehotel.co.uk. In the village, a 10-minute walk from Lulworth Cove. The walk up from the car park is steep, but its elevated position means there are good views of the Purbeck Hills. A comfortable, small hotel, decorated in country house style.
Mortons House Hotel 45 East St, Corfe Castle BH20 5EE; www.mortonshouse.co.uk. A 16th-century manor house in the centre of the village, which has been converted into a cosy 21-room hotel. The hotel’s atmosphere is nicely old-fashioned, with plenty of character features, including an elegant wood-panelled drawing room. The restaurant serves a good breakfast, and the hotel is accessible to those with limited mobility.
Pig on the Beach Manor Rd, Studland Bay BH19 3AU; www.thepighotel.com. One of a group of hotels, this one occupies an 18th-century house in an enviable position overlooking the bay and Old Harry Rocks. Stylish accommodation from four-poster rooms to a shepherd’s hut; it has a trendy feel to it and attracts a ‘cool’ crowd. There is a decent restaurant.
Purbeck House Hotel 91 High St, Swanage BH19 2LZ; www.purbeckhouselouisalodge.com. A 38-bedroom 3-star hotel within the atmospheric, castle-like building George Burt built as his home in 1875. Rooms are either in the original Victorian building or Louisa Lodge, which was built in 2003. The prices are mid-range, consistent with the hotel’s rating.
Bindon Bottom Main Rd, West Lulworth BH20 5RL; www.bindonbottom.com. An imposing Victorian stone house with 5 elegantly furnished en-suite rooms, each with their own character and some with lovely countryside views. Nice touches include the organic toiletries in the bathrooms and the owners’ efforts to run an environmentally sustainable business; a ground floor room is suitable for those with limited mobility. An upmarket B&B option but realistically priced.
Challow Farmhouse B&B Sandy Hill Lane, Corfe Castle BH20 5JF; www.challowfarmhouse.co.uk. This luxurious B&B opened in 2011. It is in a quiet location on the edge of the village and within walking distance of Corfe Castle. Accommodation is either in the main house or in 1 of 2 attic rooms in the converted barn. The rooms are finished to a very high standard, their elegance perhaps reflecting owner Kate’s years living in London. Breakfast and afternoon tea can be taken in the very pretty and peaceful garden. Kate endeavours to minimise her business’s impact on the environment by using clean energy and water from the well in the grounds. Reasonable value for money.
Swanage Haven B&B 3 Victoria Rd, Swanage BH19 1LY; www.swanagehaven.com. Just 300 yards from the beach and a pleasant 800-yard walk along the seafront to the town centre, this is not your average suburban B&B. Thoughtful touches like contemporary décor and complimentary Chococo chocolates make the 7 en-suite rooms feel a little bit special, plus you can luxuriate in a hot tub in the garden or indulge in spa treatments. Breakfast is homemade and locally sourced, right down to the eggs produced by the hens in the garden, and has earned the B&B a ‘Direct from Dorset’ accreditation: there is even a licensed bar. No children. Prices are reasonable.
Clavell Tower Kimmeridge; www.landmarktrust.org.uk. You get astonishing sea views from this pretty, circular tower, right on the South West Coast Path. Dating from 1830 and leased by the Landmark Trust, it is available to let as a romantic retreat for 2, for short breaks or a week. Parking is 180 yards away, at the foot of the cliff. Book well in advance; it isn’t cheap.
Durdle Door Holiday Park Lulworth Cove BH20 5PU; www.lulworth.com. A huge and very popular campsite on the Lulworth Estate above Durdle Door, with direct access to the coast. Uninterrupted sea views and easy access to coastal walks. Cabins, touring sites and tent pitches available. Dogs are allowed. It may be a little dearer than some campsites but the location is hard to beat.
Tom’s Field Camping Langton Matravers BH19 3HN; www.tomsfieldcamping.co.uk. Field camping from March to October in a peaceful and picturesque location surrounded by stone walls and a short walk from the village. There are a couple of basic cottage-type options. There is also a shop on site.
Wareham Forest Tourist Park North Trigon, Wareham BH20 7NZ; www.warehamforest.co.uk. A popular and well-equipped campsite on 43 acres within Wareham Forest. The park is open all year, has a heated swimming pool and easy access to the forest’s walking and cycling trails.
Poole, Bournemouth & the east
Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch have an extensive range of accommodation from self-catering apartments and cottages to upmarket hotels. The coastal region is very busy in summer, although Christchurch is slightly quieter than the Poole and Bournemouth conurbation. Brownsea Island is a very special place and a National Trust cottage is available for rent there. Staying in rural East Dorset allows you to be within easy reach of the coast without being in the thick of it.
Haven Hotel Sandbanks BH13 7QL; www.havenhotel.co.uk. The Haven is 1 of 3 hotels in Sandbanks owned by the same group. This 4-star hotel’s best features are its location on the tip of the Sandbanks peninsula and the presence of a spa. The 84 rooms are modern and comfortable, and most have a balcony with sea view. The pool and restaurant also overlook the sea. Relatively expensive, especially in summer.
Hotel du Vin Thames St, Poole BH15 1JN; www.hotelduvin.com. A boutique hotel in a handsome Georgian building in Poole Old Town, offering 38 stylish en-suite rooms finished to a high standard. There is a French bistro here and plenty of other restaurants within walking distance.
Langtry Manor 26 Derby Rd, East Cliff, Bournemouth BH1 3QB; www.langtrymanor.co.uk. Reputedly built in 1877 by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, for his mistress, Lillie Langtry, this is now one of the most upmarket hotels in the area. The rooms are elegantly furnished and have a luxurious and romantic air. This is a couples’ retreat rather than a family hotel. Rooms with four-poster bed and spa bath cost considerably more than standard rooms.
Number 9 9 West Borough, Wimborne Minster BH21 1LT; www.number9wimborne.co.uk. Accommodation in 3 elegant rooms above the restaurant. Other local businesses had a hand in creating the rooms, in particular the paint and wallpaper company Farrow & Ball, which decorated them. Thoughtful touches like organic bedding and towels and organic toiletries from Neal’s Yard in Gillingham make it feel a little special.
Weston Cottage 6 Macaulay Rd, Broadstone BH18 8AR; www.westoncottage.org.uk. This B&B north of Poole has an organic focus. The 4 en-suite rooms are comfortable and well-equipped.
524 Pamphill Green Cottage Little Pamphill Green BH21 4EE; www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk. A delightful semi-detached 2-bedroom thatched cottage tucked away in a quiet part of the Kingston Lacy Estate. There is a cosy sitting room with wood-burning stove, dining room and kitchen. Reasonably priced, but the cost rises steeply in summer.
Deans Court Cottages Wimborne Minster BH21 1EE; www.deanscourtcottages.co.uk. Accommodation is in a peaceful location on the Deans Court Estate in 2 self-catering cottages, a shepherd’s hurt or a yurt. The cottages date from the 18th century and have plenty of character. All of the accommodation is nicely presented. It’s an easy walk into town.
Quay Cottage Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour; www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk. The only holiday cottage on Brownsea Island is on the sea, and has 3 bedrooms and a private garden. There is parking for 1 car at the National Trust car park in Sandbanks and although there are regular ferries during the day, there are none in the evening. The cottage is closed over Christmas and the New Year. Expensive for self-catering but certainly memorable.
Round Island Cottages Poole Harbour; www.roundisland.co.uk. Self-catering accommodation in a special location, on a privately owned island in Poole Harbour. The 3 cottages are simple but fully equipped, 1 sleeps 8, 1 sleeps 7 and the other 6. No pets. Reasonably priced given its location.
Grove Farm Meadow Holiday Park Stour Way, Christchurch BH23 2PQ; www.meadowbank-holidays.co.uk. On the river and the main road into the town centre, this offers touring pitches and very good quality on-site vans with modern interiors and everything you could need. Coarse fishing is available for a small fee. There is a shop, a launderette and a games room. Good value for money.
Wilksworth Farm Caravan Park Cranborne Rd, Wimborne Minster BH21 4HW; www.wilksworthfarmcaravanpark.co.uk. An exceptional caravan park in the grounds of a Grade II-listed building recorded in the Domesday Book and once owned by Henry VIII. In a quiet setting, it offers pitches for tents and caravans, and the Olde Cart Shed serves meals and snacks. Other facilities include a pool, games room, tennis court and children’s play area. Pet-friendly. Reasonable value for money.