So we live in an incredible part of the country and I think quite an untouched area of beauty : Dorset. The less-glam sister of both Devon and Cornwall but this reason alone…..it can be the BEST place to come and holiday. It’s less built up, there is more breathing space and some of the most incredible scenery that this country has to offer I promise!
I recently wrote a post all about the best seaside places to grab a bite to eat in Dorset which you can READ HERE. This is more about some of the incredible surrounding areas around Dorset including both Somerset and Wiltshire and what we got up to day-by-day on our one week staycation / holiday from home a couple of weeks ago.
Why a staycation?
For us, it was a great way to save some money as everywhere is SO very expensive at the moment. We simply can’t afford a week away in the UK! It’s also an easier option with a feisty toddler. Margot has slightly different needs to most toddlers so things can turn and change pretty quickly and we often need to alter plans etc. It can be hard to do the normal things that most families do. For this reason it was good to have the option of ‘home time’ within an hour drive.
Monday : The Newt in Somerset
We started off with a trip to one of our favourites : The Newt in Somerset. We go here probably once a month for a walk around the gardens as Margot seems to love it and it’s truly stunning. It’s a hotel and a 800-acre working estate, with a lot of it open to the public to explore (with membership). It has expansive gardens, water foundations, woodland, deer parks, cafes, restaurants, a beezanthium, a gardening museum and one of the best farm shops I have ever stepped foot in. My dream is to stay here overnight and use the spa but I feel like I may need a lotto win to fund this. However, having a little slice of the action by walking the gardens and soaking up everything else it has to offer is good enough for me!
We went for the first time without Margot (who was at nursery) so we booked a table to eat in the Gardens Restaurant for the first time and it was such a treat! The amazing Beezanthium opened today too so we went to see that and also booked on the ‘Story of Gardening’ tour – just things we cannot do when we are with Margot. We had a lovely morning and it was nice to go in the week when it was nice and quiet.
Membership is £48 for 12 months. With this you can also take along guests for a day trip at a cost of £15 pp. The membership allows unlimited access to the garden, facilities and exhibitions.
Tuesday : Longleat
We recently bought annual memberships for Longleat as it’s not too far from us and it’s a good place to take Margot. It can get WAY too busy on the weekend and in particular since it has fully re-opened to the public so in the week is the best if you can. We just had a little mooch about and went to see the farmyard animals, had stop-off in the playground and they also have the ‘Under the Moon’ event on at the moment which is all the nocturnal animals.
Last time we did the safari but chose not to this time. That can be a great thing to do when you have more time and to be honest is probably the priority when you come to Longleat. Margot seems to prefer all the playgrounds etc in the main area so we tend to do one or the other as we have the benefir of the annual membership so can pop up whenever. If you are visiting as a one-off, definitely allow a good 4-5 hours to do both the safari and enjoy the other attractions Longleat has to offer…..and of course the infamous maze!
Annual membership costs £100 per adult, children 3-15 £75 and under 3’s are free.
A day pass is £35.95 per adult 3-15 years £26.20, children Under 2’s are free.
Wednesday : Lyme Regis (West Bay + Charmouth)
Today we planned to hit up Lyme Regis. It’s a stunning seaside town *but* it gets SO very busy. We left the house too late in the morning and by the time we arrived, maybe 10.30/11am it was absolutely chocka-block, we couldn’t park and we decided to leave it and go along to the less glam beach at Charmouth which is just down the road. This is a small town and the beach isn’t quite as pretty with only a cafe, so it was less busy and we had a little paddle and play on the beach. It was actually really lovely. We hadn’t packed *any* ‘beach’ things as we had just planned to walk along the front and have a mooch in Lyme but there is none of this at Charmouth. Fab for toddlers and children too as there’s a big grassy flat area where you can picnic next to the beach which is pebbly and without rock shoes it’s quite hazardous lol I’m old.
We then drove onto West Bay, once of my favourite places on the Dorset coast to grab some late lunch and we walked around the pretty harbour. One of my favourite places for fish and chips on the beach and doughnuts! There are also some great antique markets, lots of shops, cafes….all the usual UK seaside charms!
Thursday : Cheddar Gorge.
Me and Tom did a hike around Cheddar Gorge without Margot as she was in nursery and these kind of walks aren’t something we can do with her. We arrived nice and early so it was easy to park (it gets busy later!) and we did the 4-mile Cheddar Gorge Walk which was pretty hard-going and I definitely wasn’t prepared for such a steep climb in my measly converse (hello blisters!), but once I had huffed and puffed my way up the initial bit, the views were breath-taking and very much worth it. The walk took us maybe an hour an a half and we grabbed some sandwiches and cake from one of the many cafes at the bottom.
The caves and ‘inside’ things are closed at the moment. Walks etc are free you just pay for parking.
Friday : Beach Day @ Studland / Sandbanks.
We went to do a *proper beach day* today (with towels and cossies and SPF!) and left super early to get down to Studland. The weather was incredible so we knew it would be busy and arrived around 9.30am. This is also a great time to avoid the peak heat! We haven’t been to a sandy beach with Margot for nearly a year so we had no idea if she would like it or not and she LOVED it so much! We stayed for the morning and headed back before lunch and it was the best time to be on the beach.
We go to Knoll beach which is sheltered, has lovely flat sand, great for paddling and is big enough so it doesn’t get as busy as further along down in Bournemouth! It also is a stones’ throw from Sandbanks which also has a beautiful beach but can get busy with all that rich-people-spotting.
Saturday : Alfred’s Tower.
This is on the Stourhead estate and is a lovely little spot for walks. Plenty of parking and lots of different routes and paths. Again, it was a hot day so we arrived early to avoid the peak sun. The tower itself stands at 161ft and is quite fascinating to walk around. I’m sure it has some very intersting history of which I cannot tell you much about but it’s lovely for a walk and if you venture this way then it’s definitely also worth going to Stourhead for a walk around too. This is probably a more impressive day trip as there is much more to see and do (shops/cafes etc) but we have done this quite a few times…..and Alfred’s tower is FREE!
Alfred’s Tower is free and there is plenty of free car parks dotted around. Stourhead and gardens is National Trust and you have to pre-book and pay.
Sunday. A day of rest. At Home.
It was a full-on week! To be honest, we both feel pretty shattered after all the day trips and early mornings although it was SUCH a great week. Well worth the planning and drives. It didn’t cost much and we *almost* felt like we were on holiday for a split second! I’ve never done a ‘holiday-from-home’ staycation and it was actually quite a last minute idea and it was really great to see so many local places and discover some new hang-outs! All of these are in an hour-or-so drive from us and we are so very lucky to live in such a stunning part of the country.
I’m a huge fan of the UK Staycation and have been travelling so various places all over the country for holidays for many years now so I will be sharing my top 10 staycation locations very soon! I think with the pandemic, the travel bans and everything else in between, the UK is going to be super busy with people staying to holiday as opposed to trying to go abroad and there are SO many gems right here under our nose.
The only problem with that is that everywhere is so very busy now and the prices are sky-rocketing. I think we may wait until late on in this year to venture further afield and hopefully everything may have calmed down a bit by then.