Staycation in the UK: a family glamping break on Dorset’s extraordinary Jurassic Coast

It took a bit of persuasion to get my 72 year old mum on a glamping journey. While camping vacations were a regular part of my childhood, it’s been years since she spent a night in a tent.

Fortunately, over the last decade camping has undergone a transformation and the invention of glamping has transformed a back to basics experience into something much more comfortable.

With my mum Margaret, a 9 and 12 year old girl, we traveled to East Shilvinghampton Farm near Weymouth in Dorset. It is part of the Feather Down Farms group – one of the pioneers of glamping on working farms. Originally from the Netherlands, it opened its first UK location in Hampshire in 2006 and the franchise now has 75 locations across Europe, including over 30 in the UK.

Majestic: Eve McGowan, with her mother, Margaret, and a child aged nine and 12, traveled to East Shilvinghampton Farm. Pictured is one of eight canvas “hiding places”

The farm, part of the Feather Down Farms group, is located near the 'golden sands' of Weymouth in Dorset (above)

The farm, part of the Feather Down Farms group, is located near the ‘golden sands’ of Weymouth in Dorset (above)

At East Shilvinghampton, eight canvas huts are generously spaced in a semi-circle around a gently sloping paddock. All have charming wooden verandas to enjoy the big sky and the panoramic views over the peaceful valley.

Glampers stay among the animals, which include goats, which children can pet and feed, chickens which provide daily eggs for children to collect, and alpacas which you can walk. But the Feather Down experience also offers plenty of luxuries to appeal to reluctant campers.

The huts all have real beds with duvets and pillows, the kitchen has a sink with running water, there are private toilets and some also have private showers.

The Feather Down Experience has 'plenty of luxuries to entice reluctant campers', including a kitchen with running water

The Feather Down Experience has ‘plenty of luxuries to entice reluctant campers’, including a kitchen with running water

Glampers can order pizzas to be baked themselves in the pizza oven

Glampers can order pizzas to be baked themselves in the pizza oven

“It’s not really camping, is it?” Mom said with relief. Lighting comes from tealights in hurricane lanterns, oil lamps, and charming candelabra above the dining table. The effect, once the sun goes down, is quite cozy.

Martin and Joby Bartlett run East Shilvinghampton, which has been in Martin’s family for three generations. Martin offers farm tours and Joby provides the glamping equivalent of room service, with meals to be heated up or delivered hot to your tent (dishes include beef casserole and lasagna).

There’s also a pizza night where patrons can order pizzas from Joby to be baked in the pizza oven, and breakfast baskets filled with local treats.

The farmhouse is ideal for exploring Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. The red cliffs of West Bay (of ITV’s Broadchurch fame) are less than half an hour’s drive away and Burton Bradstock is even closer, where the Hive Beach Cafe is a quaint spot for a cream tea.

Just five miles in the opposite direction are the golden sands of Weymouth, or head a little further to Lulworth Cove and the dramatic limestone arch of Durdle Door.

However, staying put while the kids enjoy an outdoor lifestyle is just as appealing, and the well-stocked honesty store (where you can also charge your phones, shh…don’t tell the kids) means you don’t even have to. venture to the supermarket.

Eve says the farm is ideal for exploring Dorset's Jurassic Coast.  West Bay's red cliffs are less than half an hour's drive away and Burton Bradstock is even closer (pictured)

Eve says the farm is ideal for exploring Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. West Bay’s red cliffs are less than half an hour’s drive away and Burton Bradstock is even closer (pictured)

Free Life: The family visited nearby Lulworth Cove and the spectacular limestone arch of Durdle Door.  Pictured above is Granny Margaret with Eve's children

Free Life: The family visited nearby Lulworth Cove and the spectacular limestone arch of Durdle Door. Pictured above is Granny Margaret with Eve’s children

The site is suitable for family groups with the central fire pit providing the perfect communal meeting point at the end of the day. Feather Down offers take-back weekends where glampers can have the place to themselves.

“Most guests are a round trip,” says Martin, “there is too much to see and do for one visit.”

As for Grandma? She says glamping is a great way “to enjoy the fun side of camping with grandkids without the fatigue of sleeping on the floor and visiting the bathroom late at night.”

So it’s likely that we’ll be back too, and maybe next time we’ll persuade the other grandparents to join our trip.

  • A three-night stay for up to six people (maximum five adults) costs from £365 (plumeduvet.fr).

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