Adventures in a Spaceship - Escape to the Coast - Dorset

In the first of my Escape the City articles, I have headed to the spectacular Dorset coast. In around 2.5 hours you can be enjoying some of the best coastal scenery the UK has to offer.

I all too frequently hear our BritBound customers say that it’s cheaper to fly to Europe than to travel around the UK. It is true that the UK can be expensive to explore, but with so many must-see destinations here too, I want to show you that there are ways to see the UK for much less than you’d think.

You won’t need to book any flights, any hop-on, hop off tours or attraction tickets, just hire a Spaceship Campervan, throw in a weekend bag and head off on your own UK adventure. So, for some inspiration and ideas of where to go, I’m going to share one my recent weekend getaways, along with suggestions as to how to make the most of your time there.

The first area of the UK I’d like to introduce you to, is Dorset, probably the nearest county you can visit from London to really experience rural England. The image below is a map of the English Counties, so you can see where the county of Dorset is situated. It is approximately two and a half hours from London, by car, or in my case a Spaceship campervan!

For my weekend, I decided to focus on the Purbeck area of Dorset. Purbeck is a sixty-mile piece of land jutting out into the English Channel. It is referred to the Isle of Purbeck and it is part of the ninety-five mile stretch of the Jurassic Coast.

Almost 40% of Dorset has been designated an Area of National Beauty (AONB) which also includes a World Heritage Site, the Purbeck Heritage Coast, known as Britain’s Jurassic Park. It’s called the Jurassic Coast as there are rock formations and fossils here that you can trace back 185 million years. It was the first ever area to be named a ‘natural’ World Heritage Site.

How to get here

If you really want to see this part of Dorset in full, then driving here is best as it’s going to give you the freedom to explore the different areas. With so many beautiful villages to explore you’ll find it much easier to get around them in a car. Then you can park up somewhere and explore the coastal areas on foot.

I hired a Spaceship Campervan for the weekend and from prices as low as £19 a day, you really can do this weekend on a budget.

I chose a Spaceship Campervan (model: Delta Premium) as their fleet has everything you need for a weekend getaway...double bed, bed linen, fridge, cooking equipment, crockery, attachable awnings, power hook ups and black out blinds! They also have 24-hour roadside assistance, unlimited mileage and comprehensive insurance options for additional peace of mind.

Mention BritBound and you might bag yourself a discount!

  • For quotes vist their website: www.spaceshiprentals.co.uk
  • For getting a bigger discount try calling them UK: 0208 573 2300
  • Calling them from outside the UK: +44 208 573 2300

For my journey I headed out of London via Richmond and the A316, which soon becomes the motorways M3 and M27, whilst it is a pretty straightforward drive, you’ll be happier having a GPS routing device to guide you.

I left on Friday evening, after showing off my new rental at our BritBound Friday Night Drinks – look how envious this lot were, trying to come along too!

Without traffic it is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive but leaving on Friday night meant it was closer to three hours. So, stopping was not something I wanted to do, but if I was taking my time to get there I would probably stop for a leg-stretch and a feed at the Green Man in Brook, a grade II listed, thatched-roof pub just off the A31 and on the edge of the New Forest. The New Forest is another area worth visiting as it is a vast area of open pasture land, designated a National Park and it was once the hunting ground of William the Conqueror.

Where to stay

One of the best things about this area is the number of places you can camp, you really are spoilt for choice. Most of the campsites have incredible views and provide a great starting point for many of the surrounding [pub] walks.

I stayed at the Woodyhyde campsite, I was joining friends who count this area as their second home, so I believe them when they say this is the best campsite in the area. Certainly, takes a lot to beat the location and the very authentic camping experience it offers! They have pitches with power outlets (£15 per person) or without (£10 per person). I chose without to save money, of course! Keeping the fridge cold and charging my mobile was my only concern not having a power outlet, but as I was using the Spaceship Campervan to tour around, everything stayed charged.

The campsite has three main fields, one of which is adjacent to the Swanage Steam Railway Line linking Corfe Castle and Swanage. With a steam train running right through the campsite, you get the added bonus of experiencing the sounds and sights of this heritage train service. Don’t worry though, there are not many trains, even less in low season and none of them are before 10am!

Just a pity the train doesn’t stop at the campsite! But you can easily walk along the road to Harmens Cross station or take the more scenic route through the fields. Definitely recommend experiencing the steam train, it's not expensive, about £5 for a single and £8 return, but its a great way to get into Swanage. You can check when the steam trains are running here and also the ticket prices here.

Woodyhyde Campsite.

Where to eat

As my Spaceship Campervan had a fridge (which you can leave on when on the campsite), portable hob and basically everything you need to cook with, there was no need to head out anywhere for dinner, so I just opened some wine and threw on some pasta. Too easy! In terms of grocery shopping, I decided to do my shopping before I left home but there is a small supermarket on the campsite if you haven’t had time or you could drive into Swanage where there is a large Co-op supermarket.

If I was going to go and grab something, I would probably head into Corfe Castle where you will have a choice of traditional pubs and places to eat, watch your time though as many of them stop serving around 8.30pm!

If you want to drive a bit further, then head into Swanage, there is a good selection of pubs, takeaways and restaurants so you’ll have a good choice of places to eat. You will probably need to book for one of the higher rated restaurants on a weekend. Check out Tripadvisor for some recommended places. Personally, if you are going to head to the seaside then it has to be fish and chips! I chose the Fish Plaice and they didn't let me down, YUM!

What to do whilst there

If this is a weekend trip, as mine was, then your time of course is going to be fairly limited. Based on my experience I would suggest you try and include a visit to a couple of the coastal landmarks, a drive (or cycle) through some picture postcard villages and a decent walk, or two, ending with a well-earned pub lunch.

Whilst you can visit Dorset any time of year, I would recommend trying to visit between September and May you’ll find the roads much quieter. During the tourist period June-August you should probably look to walk or cycle to some of the key landmarks. If you do drive to any landmarks in the peak season then head very early or late to get yourself a parking space.

Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are two of the most visited, and photographed landmarks along Dorset's Jurassic Coast, so including these on your trip is a no brainer! Get here early or late to get the best photos. Do not be put off by the fact that this is one of the most celebrated beauty spots in the area and therefore very popular! It really is a fantastic spot, and you’ll appreciate the view even more if you make this part of a walk.

Durdle Door is one of the Jurassic Coast’s most iconic landscapes. It is a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth and it stands almost vertically out of the sea. I recommend you do the walk east from Durdle Door,as then you will be able to see and photograph the Man O’War Cove and then you’re onto the equally popular Lulworth Cove.

Tyneham – Dorset’ s Ghost Village

Before the Second World War, Tyneham was just a typical isolated Dorset village, those that lived there led a simple life, farming and fishing for their livelihood...unaware of what lay in store for them! During the Second World War the Ministry of Defence ‘compulsory purchased’ the village, giving the 225 inhabitants just four weeks’ notice to leave! It was then turned into a firing range as part of the D-Day preparations. The villagers never returned.

If you have never visited a ghost village then prepare yourself for quite an eery experience! Each of the cottages have story boards telling you about the family that once lived. Inside the church and school you will find exhibitions (open 10am-4pm). Its completely free to visit and worth a visit.

As the village sits on the Lulworth Range, an area owned by the Ministry of Defence, access is only given when they are not firing (!!) – for opening times check the Government website out here.