As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Dorset, Harriet O'Brien picks out a selection of characterful places to stay, including B&Bs, hotels, self-catering and campsite, in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in southern England.
Finding a place to rest your head in Dorset is not difficult – the AONB is peppered with beautiful places to stay, from lovely self-catering cottages, to warm and cosy B&Bs, and to family-friendly campsites and charming hotels. Whether you're after a home-from-home B&B experience with owners on hand for local recommendations, a remote cottage with sweeping valley views where children can run riot, or a romantic break for two in a luxury hotel, we're pretty sure you'll be able to find something that suits you in our collection of green and gorgeous places to stay.
Crafty Camping and Treehouse
Luxury, adult only glamping in a magical woodland setting. Hand crafted yurts, tipi, treehouse and shepherds hut with en-suite, proper flushing loos, piping hot 'tree showers' and a sauna yurt and 'Out of Africa' field kitchen with wood fired pizza oven. Guests enjoy the privacy of their own clearing in this magical woodland with their own deck, bbq, hammock and table and chairs. Communal facilities include a fully equipped catering kitchen, traditional games yurt and sauna complex. Crafty Camping is all about peace and quiet in a natural environment. The Jurassic Coast (World Heritage Site) is just 10 miles away at Lyme Regis as is River Cottage HQ and Canteen at Axminster. Our reviewer Anita Pati says: "A wonderful, woodland grotto of luxury outdoor living ideal for semi-urbanite adults who don’t want to get their hands mucky doing real camping. From the visitors book: “The perfect balance of luxury with being in the elements." mallinson.co.uk
Monkton Wyld Court
A welcoming B&B and campsite, amid rolling hills and within walking distance of the Jurassic coast. Visitors return time and again, secure in the knowledge that the hosts are doing everything they can to make their stay a green and relaxing one. Solar thermal and photovoltaic panels are used on site and the common areas are heated by wood burners. A number of guest rooms are heated by radiators from the new solar and wood-fired boiler system. They have separate bins for recycling, cooked food, compost and landfill. Rainwater is collected for the organic vegetable and fruit gardens where much of Monkton’s produce is grown. Monkton Wyld Court has a number of compost loos; two of which have won awards for design, construction and best views! Only environmentally friendly cleaning products and natural toiletries can be used on site – they have a reed bed sewage system which would be damaged by anything else. All produce is seasonal, local and organic (from the onsite walled garden and other area smallholders) and dry goods are purchased in bulk through a regional organic wholesale distributor. They also serve milk, yogurt and cheese from their own grass fed and hand milked jersey cows, Milou and Follie. Preserves are made from their own produce and traditionally pressed juice from their own apples. The eggs come from their chickens or other local free range suppliers. To minimise their impact on the natural environment and biodiversity including the nearby protected areas, Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park, Guests are encouraged to arrive by foot, bicycle or public transport. Station pickups may be available for the cost of petrol (a vast reduction from taxi rates) to encourage travel by train. monktonwyldcourt.co.uk
YHA Lulworth Cove
Just a one-mile walk from the glorious Lulworth Cove, this hostel is also well positioned for walking the South West Coast Path. As well as standard single dorm beds you can hire private rooms, plus it includes a licensed restaurant. You can also camp by the side of the hostel. Discover the Jurassic Coast, walk to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, learn about fossils in the fascinating World Heritage Centre and explore Lulworth Castle. yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-lulworth-cove
Swanage is the perfect spot for a family beach break and this elegant Victorian villa offers bargain accommodation in the heart of it all. Sleeping up to 101 people (4 in private rooms and the rest scattered across 3 - 8 bed dorms) with splendid views across Swanage Bay it is minutes from a safe, sandy Blue Flag beach for a frolic with your buckets and spades. Keep an eye out for dinosaur footprints along this stretch of Jurassic Coast! The hostel is just a few minutes walk from the town centre and you’ll find excellent food available in the licensed restaurant. During term time, you may want to avoid the weekdays as frequently you may find yourself cheek by jowl with school trip groups. Access is via a very steep hill. yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-swanage
YHA Litton Cheney
There’s a great combination of character and setting at this 22-bed hostel (a six-bed dormitory, three four-bed rooms, and two doubles). It has been fashioned from a former dairy and sits above a brook to the south of a picturesque village of thatched cottages. It couldn’t be better positioned for walkers, with the South West Coast Path running almost directly behind the building. Chesil Beach and Abbotsbury Swannery are nearby, so it’s a good base for families, too. The hostel doesn’t have a café, but there’s a well equipped kitchen while the White Horse next door offers a happy combination of log fires and traditional pub food. yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-litton-cheney
Close to the sea, this well-positioned campsite has many attributes, including ease of access by public transport. The Purbeck Breezer bus (no 40) between Swanage and Poole stops at Langton Matravers, with Tom’s Field just to the south. Once installed you can walk out along the Jurassic Coast: Swanage and Studland Bay are close by. Or visit the Steam Railway, Putlake Adventure Farm and Corfe Castle. Facilities include a shop and a breakfast café, while the village offers two pubs. There’s a dynamic approach to the environment, with summer workshops from butterfly conservation to beekeeping and a policy that ranges from recycling everything possible to limiting the use of artificial light – so take a torch. tomsfieldcamping.co.uk
Marston Holiday Flats
Marston, three self catering holiday apartments, is set on the clifftop at the north end of Swanage Beach in the beautiful county of Dorset. A great base for family holidays, walkers, bird watchers and cyclists - pets are very welcome too! Welcome pack contains coffee and sugar which are Fair Trade, Dorset Tea and Dorset Flapjacks, the milk is sourced from Craig's Dairy in Ossmington near Weymouth. Locally produced chocolates and wine are provided for special occassions. There are also close links with the Purbeck Deli which can provide hampers of local produce for any celebration. Information and links on the website for public transport and how to plan a journey to Swanage. There are also many ideas for car-free days visiting the many and varied attractions in the surrounding area. Operating a customer pay-back scheme, Marston supports the Jurassic Coast Trust, matching the amount donated by guests. Part of the organsing committee for the Swanage Walking Festival, now entering its fourth year, Marston holds a Gold Award from GTBS. marstonholidayflats.co.uk
Just above the centre of Burton Bradstock, Norburton Hall began as a farmhouse. In 1902 it was redevised as an Arts and Crafts country residence with sweeping grounds. When Karen and David Venn acquired it in 2005 they converted the outbuildings into five rental cottages sleeping from two to 18. These they run with much zeal for environmental matters. They offer breakfast boxes with wonderful local produce, and encourage guests to explore on foot – the sea is a 20-minute amble away. This is a generous place: most of the accommodation is quietly stylish and the gardens are gorgeous, complete with pond, chickens, and lots of pretty sitting out places. norburtonhall.com
Stand on the terrace of this handsome stone-and-slate house and you take in wonderful views over Kingcombe Meadows nature reserve. Sleeping up to nine, the prettily secluded property is about 10 miles from Bridport and is well devised for small groups: there’s a spacious sitting room with woodburning stove; a conservatory ideally positioned for watching great sunsets; a well equipped kitchen (from the window you may see deer grazing); and five bedrooms – one suitable for wheelchair use. Beech Cottage is part of the Kingcombe Centre, which is run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and offers inspirational courses on the natural world from a separate complex. kingcombe.org/beechcottage
You stay in quite some style at this working farm where four cottages, sleeping from four to 10, have been sympathetically converted from outhouses, all with underfloor heating and features such as woodburning stoves and barbecues. (Meantime the farmhouse offers B&B in a double/family room.) Bookham Court is also a terrific sanctuary for wildlife watching. There’s a heated hide for observing badgers; there are about 40 bird boxes for kestrels, owls and more; and there are well marked walking trails. The 650-acre farm is between Dorchester and Sherborne and lies on the edge of the South Wessex Downs. bookhamcourt.co.uk
Channel View Guest House
A terrific bed and breakfast, based on fresh local produce, in warm and comfortable surroundings described by many previous guests as a 'home from home'. Situated on Weymouth seafront directly opposite the award winning central beach. Our reviewer Lynn Morris says: "The Channel Guest House is one of many on Weymouth's picture perfect Esplanade but the friendly owners give it a family feel and will genuinely do their level best to make your stay as comfortable as possible." channelviewweymouth.co.uk
The Pig on the Beach
Formerly the Manor House Hotel, the building has a glorious location over Studland Bay and this latest venture offers 23 revamped, uber-stylish bedrooms along with a spa and other luxuries. It is the ethos of the owners, though, that is creating the big buzz, particularly over the food factor. The Pig hotels (in the New Forest, in Southampton, and near Bath) delight in emphasising really fresh ingredients and in supporting local producers. Much of it is grown in their own kitchen garden, and the rest is sourced within 25 miles - a true taste of the finest and freshest food the area has to offer. thepighotel.com/on-the-beach/explore
There’s an appealing mix of attributes here: superlative views over Eype Downs towards the sea in one direction and up to lovely Colmers Hill in another; glorious breakfasts, served whenever possible on the patio; and easy access to some of the most iconic features of Dorset. You’re within walking distance of the South West Coast Path and the high point of Golden Cap, while the beaches of Eype and Seatown are both a mile and a half away. Owners John and Pauline Bale exude enthusiasm for the area, and in addition to offering four comfy B&B rooms they run country living workshops such as hedgerow basket making.
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Dorset