Where to stay in Dorset

If you’ve decided that Dorset is the perfect spot for a break and fancy staying away in this luscious county, forget hours scouring the internet and being bamboozled by excessive choice; Joanne Robinson has taken the hard work out of it and scouted out some family friendly gems.

Luxury hotel
Moonfleet Manor
Fleet Road, Nr Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 4ED

Tucked away behind the magical Chesil Beach, with a history wrapped in Dorset’s smuggling past and the relaxed décor of a comfortable colonial manor house, Moonfleet Manor solves that elusive family holiday dilemma. We understand the problem; you’ve either got a baby who needs more equipment for a night away than Elizabeth I took on a four month progress around her realm, or you’re busily occupied with a rampaging toddler who leaves you in a cold sweat in all public places. Either way, the idea of ever enjoying a night away in a luxury hotel seems a long forgotten dream. Are we talking about you? Well, read on; we’re rubbing our hands in glee because we’ve found the perfect place for an utterly relaxed family break where we can guarantee that you and your gorgeous offspring will enjoy yourselves. Moonfleet Manor is a world apart for families, with its air of relaxed informality, old world luxury, and not a moment where you’ll feel that your children are out of place or unwelcome. I’ll emphasise that last; yes, Not A Moment when you’ll worry about your offspring being unwelcome. Families are the raison d’être of Moonfleet; it’s with families that this hotel comes into its own.

Located in easy distance of all Dorset’s major attractions and right on the incredible Chesil Beach so that you can enjoy great family walks from the hotel itself, Moonfleet serves as both a fantastic base for a break in Dorset, or as a relaxing place to just put your feet up and unwind. For our family trip to this splendid hotel we had our hearts set on relaxing. We arrived at Moonfleet in our usual state of mind after a car journey with three kids; haggard, exhausted and yearning for gin. All three children had the boundless energy of three maniacs who’d been trapped in a steel box for, ooh, all of an hour and a half. We were guided through to the fab children’s indoor play area, where I flopped into a chair, grabbed a copy of the paper and watched my over-excited young ones run and squeal in excitement. They were having a whale of a time and only stopped to be shepherded off for a gorgeous children’s tea in their own dining room.

The children’s tea is true parental bliss; spaghetti can drop with no tut-tutting, all parents are in the same boat with recalcitrant children – yippee! Eating without embarrassment in a public place!!  The children’s meals are all home-cooked from local produce and, according to the empty plates my three usually reluctant eaters sent back to the kitchen, absolutely delicious. Moonfleet caters to even the youngest of weaning babies and they will sterilise bottles and warm milk. I can’t emphasise enough how well set up they are for young families, or how little of the usual trappings of parenthood you’ll need to bring for your break here.

As well as the excellent indoor children’s play room, there’s also a sweet play area in the garden, lots of room to run outside, games, trampolines and a quite splendid view. We managed to squeeze in a quick swim in the recently redecorated pool to thoroughly exhaust our offspring before bed. Then we popped back to our roomy suite, replete with the sort of ornate antique furniture that brings out the acquisitive aspect of my personality, and put the kids to bed.

Within half an hour the baby listening service had been activated and I’d managed to tart myself up sufficiently (ie no baby snot on cardie and no ladder in tights) to merit a champagne cocktail and my better half and I settled down to enjoy a few hours of unadulterated foodie bliss. You see, the thing about Moonfleet is that whilst the kids have the time of their lives, you get to enjoy it too; it’s got everything for everyone, all in the most tranquil setting imaginable. And the food… delectable, local, elegantly presented and simply scrumptious. Once you’ve reached the nadir of prandial ecstasy you can pop yourself down on the sofa or enjoy the summer evening on the terrace. What a perfect end to a lovely evening.

We had our Moonfleet morning planned. A lazy, long breakfast where the kids tried everything from the baby pain au chocolat to the local sausages, and then raced off to the Four Bears Den with glee. There’s plenty to occupy parents in search of a bit of ‘me-time’: spa, sauna, indoor pool, squash courts and outdoor tennis courts. My more energetic husband flirted with an exercise option. Me? I just sank into a chair on the sun soaked terrace, pulled my doorstopper of a novel from my handbag, ordered coffee and then sunk into the sort of bliss that only parents enjoying a rare moment of true relaxation can possibly appreciate. The children had a whale of a time in the Four Bears Den, they did crafts, coloured, played, were thoroughly entertained and had to be dragged away.

We left sighing, with a mixture of sadness that our break was over and of happiness having spent a bit of time having fun together, and a bit of time relaxing on our own. You see Moonfleet is a magic place. You feel cut off from the rigours of everyday life there, as though, just for a short time you’ve stepped outside time. I love the well worn luxury, the history, the sense of past glories and future pleasures, the happy and welcoming atmosphere. It is, quite simply, an enchanting place.

To check availability phone 01305 or see www.moonfleetmanorhotel.co.uk

Self Catering:

To be filled with advertiser, see list for possible fits

Tom’s Field
Tom’s Field Road, Langton Matravers, Dorset BH19 3HN

It’s summer, the blue skies are beckoning and you’re feeling inspired by our Camping feature and raring to discover the joys of life under canvas. We have a simply perfect campsite in one of the best spots in Dorset. Pack up the tent and head down to the coast! It was Tom’s Field that finally won my reluctant husband over to the glories of camping. We had wonderful sunshine, perfect cloudless days and just ambled around the site and took walks down through the fields to Durdle Door and Dancing Ledge. Tom’s Field campsite has been established for about 50 years and is well known for its stunning location. The campsite is situated amongst the beautiful Purbeck Hills on the Jurassic Coast and about 3 miles from Swanage seafront.

The fields are bounded by old stone walling and the pitches offer a variety of aspects with some views of Swanage Bay. The village of Langton Matravers is very close. You can wander down the footpath adjacent to Tom’s Field to the coastal path which will take you to the astonishing rock formations that make up the Dancing Ledge. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the field, longer with an ambling toddler!  Don’t expect a sandy beach, instead you’ll find a most incredible rocky area which featured in the recent BBC version of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.  The last part of the access to Dancing Ledge is quite a tricky climb down; we took our backpack for the toddler and were relieved we had! The nearest sandy beach is Swanage which is about 3 miles away. The campsite itself is peaceful but can get very busy in the school holidays, if you are as yet not having to plan your holidays around the school year then take advantage of the glorious June sunshine and enjoy the site out of the peak season. Bear in mind that you can only make a reservation for minimum of 5 nights in school holidays i.e. late May Bank holiday week and July 25th until first week in September, and only on part of the field, the rest of the field is always on a first come basis. The facilities are not state of the art but are functional and if you come here though, you will adore the location, the atmosphere and the total removal from everyday life!
Tel: 01929 427110 www.tomsfieldcamping.co.uk