At the beginning of August, my friend Fliss and I booked a spontaneous camping trip to Dorset to get away and to enjoy the upcoming heatwave we were about to have. Fliss owned a tent, I have a car it made sense to be flexible and book a few days off when the weather was going to be nice in a location not too far away. We settled on Dorset, a 2.5 hour drive away from my home in the midlands, reassured by the knowledge that if thunderstorms did threaten we could seek shelter and head back to London for a few days instead.
The trip was really easy to plan. Dorset had been at the top of my UK travel list for years so I had a list of landmarks I wanted to see. We based our campsite nearest to those. Fliss found the perfect spot a 10-minute drive from Lulworth called Primrose fields, it is a family run site with nice hot showers, clean toilets, a little food hut and plenty of space. All of the families there were kind and respectful and it was always so peaceful at night. I had three of the best nights sleep despite the lack of airbeds ( our pump would not work). The campsite was really affordable at around £43 between us for the three nights, location and service were above and beyond what I expected from my first camping trip, highly recommend. Very Wholesome.
We arrived on a Sunday morning, set up our tent in a matter of minutes and were on our way to the beach. We parked at Durdle door holiday village, the pricing was fair at £5 for half of the day a short-ish walk away. We made our way to Durdle Door but decided to take the coastal path to Lulworth cove to start with. Lulworth is a pretty little pebbled cove with small boats and yachts peppered by the shore, the water is crystal clear and a dream to swim in. Having not swum all summer and 35-degree heat blazing down jumping in for a swim was the first thing I did. After a few hours here, and an ice cream stop on the way we made our way slowly, painfully and regrettably back up the hill towards Durdle door, ( the blisters have still not healed). We had fully expected Durdle door to be busy, it was a heatwave on a Sunday in the school holiday but the noise coming from the beach was unbearable so we went to Man o War beach instead, another very picturesque pebbled cove.
Durdle door is one of the UK’s only World Heritage sites, it really is spectacular but there are a few things I learnt. One the beach is not accessible at all which is a real shame you have to be of good health to want to climb those steps and hill in the 30-degree summer heat, two, there is also nowhere to get drinking water when you are down there.
Durdle door had been on my list of places to see for years and I was keen to not have this hot, busy, loud day as my only experience so I pitched to Fliss about getting up at 4:30 am the next morning to go chase the sunrise around Lulworth and Durdle door. It did not disappoint. We saw some of the most beautiful sites and we had the whole of Durdle door beach to ourselves. By 7 am the sun was up and the air was already warm, the ocean in the cove looked as though it had been poured straight from a waterfall is was so peaceful and clear so we went for a morning swim. It was honestly one of the most wholesome mornings I have ever had if I could start every morning there with a swim there I would.
If you are visiting Durdle door especially to enjoy the site, have a swim and take photos I would recommend arriving around 7:30/ 8 am to get time to yourself there. We also went back for the sunset, it was a little too cloudy to get the photos we wanted but the water was so nice to swim in. Again it was very quiet and it would be the most amazing view if the sky is clear. It did go fall dark very quickly and it is a long unlit coastal walk back to the car which was a little scarier than we had expected it to be. Wasn’t quite as good an idea.
Along with Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove the other highlights of our trip were Sandbanks, known as the most expensive place to live in the UK you can really see where it gets its reputation from. The houses are enormous and the beach is beautiful. It was probably one of my favourite sand beaches in the World. The water is clear and stretches back for miles making it very family-friendly. The beach is very clean with great amenities all around. I felt safe enough leaving our bags and going for a swim. We also visited Knoll beach a National Trust site which I really enjoyed. You are supposed to be able to see Old Harry Rocks from this area on a good day, in hindsight we should have factored going to see them on the same day but we had packed in so much instead went to the Pig on the Beach for pizza accompanied by gin and tonics. Knoll beach had a lot of water sport activities on offer such a paddle boarding, surfing and little pedalos if that is your thing.
Where to eat
We thought we had planned this trip well with the eat out to help out scheme but not many places in Dorset actually joined in on this which was a shame for my monzo account. A lot of places in Bournemouth were offering it and the pub we ate at in Wareham did as well so they became my favourite two places. If you are planning to visit Dorset before the end of August check out on the map who is offering.
Sunday we ate at the Castle inn in Lulworth, A traditional country pub with a good menu, nice drinks, plenty of indoor and outdoor sitting, good social distancing policies in place, with an app to order food and drink from. I booked in advanced and would really recommend.
The pig on the beach in Studland came very highly recommended. In the summer months, you don’t have to book you can arrive on the day to eat and drink in the Garden, pizzas and salads available with a great drink selection and amazing views. It was quite expensive and it wasn’t the best food we had but the views were great, it was a stone throw away from some of the nicest beaches and a lovely escape for a refreshing drink, You have to pay for parking down at the National Trust car park.
On Monday evening after visiting Swanage (my one and only trip to this town, it wasn’t the place I had imagined it to be) we went back to Lulworth Cove for fish and chips. There is a small fish and chip takeaway near Lulworth Cove car park, which is not too expensive, they were nice enough fish and chips, I am sure there are nicer fish and chip shops around but the location meant we could walk with our food down to the cove and eat them watching the sunset over the water, it was definitely worth it.
Monday we visited Sandbanks, one of my favourite days of the trip. Sandbanks beach is amazing, clean, white sandy beach with stretches of clear ocean to swim in. We parked for the day near the beach and let time speed past us. Whilst in sandbanks we went to Jazzcafe on the beachfront, the service wasn’t particularly great here but I will give them the benefit of the doubt because it was busy and the food was good but mainly because the girl at the icecream store attached was so lovely, gave us massive ice creams and put ice in our water bottles, I am fickle like that.
Our campsite was located just outside the small town of Wareham. We drove through here on a whim to find somewhere light for dinner and came across quite a few quaint pubs with large beer gardens. The first place we had come across that week offering the eat out to help out scheme. A very picturesque village which was rather quiet considering the weather and time of year.
The last stop of our trip was Bournemouth for the morning on the way home. Bournemouth being the large town it is had loads of restaurants to offer. Not knowing what the rest of the week would have had in store I booked Twelve eatery before the trip. A new vegan and vegetarian restaurant in the centre of the town. Twelve is exactly the type of place we like, overly instagramy, lots of plug sockets for our phones, made.com interiors amazing cocktails and delicious food. I would definitely return.
That was our few days in Dorset. There are a few highlight reels on my Instagram if you haven’t seen them already. One of my favourite parts of the UK which I am definitely going to return to soon.
The don’ts of Dorset
I was only there for a short time so didn’t learn much but mainly don’t go to the popular places at peak times if you want to get photos of empty beaches. Don’t assume you will be able to get water everywhere you go (although when we asked everyone was happy to fill our bottles up for free) don’t wear Birkenstocks on coastal paths, your feet will never heal, don’t take a car plug air pump to pump up your airbeds because you will have to sleep on yoga mats, don’t assume everyone will be offering the eat out to help out scheme.