A stay at the Old Dairy House, Arne
A few months ago a gaggle of friends and I stayed at the loveliest cottage. On the edge of Purbeck in Dorset you’ll find the Arne Peninsula, and at the edge of that, the tiny village of Arne. And at the edge of that you’ll arrive at this wonderful sprawling cottage, which feels like uncovering a secret and looks like a throwback to the glory days of the Famous Five. The Old Dairy has been stood here a while – it’s almost 500 years old and dates from 1560 when, unsurprisingly, it was a working dairy. Everything about the house is on the charming side – outside are pastel blue windows and flowers creep up the walls, inside is all warm, wood-clad rooms. Downstairs there are two roomy sitting rooms, each with log stoves and squashy sofas perfect for chilling out with a book. There’s also a low-ceiling-ed dining room and a farmhouse kitchen. Upstairs, bedrooms are snug and cosy and look out over the lawn.
A weekend at the Old Dairy feels more like staying in someone’s family home than a holiday cottage – a big family home, though, as the Old Dairy is perfect for groups of up to eight. A gang of us stayed for a weekend in late March, just in time for the last of the long winter to dissappear and flowers to start to bloom in the cottage’s huge garden.
The garden was one of my favourite parts of the Old Dairy – it’s huge, but is broken up in the separate sitting areas perfect for lazy breakfasts. It also sports a barbeque, a big table for eating together and even a view down to the sea on a clear day. Clear days weren’t very forthcoming during our trip, and it poured with rain for a lot of our stay. but that just made staying indoors with the fires blazing all the more appealing, and we made good use of the big piles of games and books dotted around the cottage.
And if you can tear yourself away from the cottage, all of Dorset’s delights are on your doorstep. You can walk straight to Poole Harbour, explore Arne Nature Reserve, which is on the doorstep, or if you’ve got a car, head for the coast. We drove over to one of my favourite places in the world, Dancing Ledge, and went for a hike along the cliffs, watching angry ocean waves crash against the rocks, before heading for pints of cider and pasties at the Square and Compass, one of my favourite pubs on the planet. A recipe for a very happy weekend.
STAY THERE: The Old Dairy House costs from £862 for a week and sleeps eight, plus one dog.
Dorset day out favourites
RSPB Arne nature reserve: Just down the road from the cottage is the beautiful wild heathland of Arne, home to rare bird species and perfect for rambling around. A sprawling 586 acres of heath and ancient oak woodland, you could spend all weekend just exploring here and still only see a small slice of it.
Dancing Ledge, Swanage: So called because when waves wash over the ledge’s horizontal surface it seems to undulate, this once heavily quarried bit of coastline feels like it was literally cut out of the rock. It’s only a few miles along the cliff path from the village of Worth Matravers but feels far removed from modern life. I love swimming in the tidal pool cut into the ledge here – at low tide it’s the perfect place for a dip.
Durdle Door: It’s popular on sunny days but so iconic that it’s worth a visit. This mindblowing limestone arch is a wonder to behold, and if you fancy a sea swim there’s nothing like swimming right through it on calm days.
Square and Compass: My favourite pub in Dorset overlooks the far-off sea and serves pretty much three things: cider, pasties and Dorset apple cake. A must-visit if you’re climbing or hiking along the coast, or after a swim at Dancing Ledge.