This article has been produced in partnership with Outbuildings
Most of Dorset’s treasures are well known. Its beautiful Jurassic coastline that sweeps by cliffs and scoops around bays. Its rolling green carpet of fields. Its colourful market towns and delicious local food and drink. But there are some Dorset treasures that aren’t as well known – just yet.
They are the extraordinary places to stay in Dorset that are more than the sum of their parts; places that are becoming destinations in their own right because they have a singular purpose: to help you sink deeper into the sinew of this wonderful region – and not just skate on its surface. They are a new breed of modern UK staycations that help you form emotional connections with the regions they’re in.
We were lucky enough to stay in one of these recently – Outbuildings in Bridport, Dorset – and we left in no doubt that this place knows the true definition of extraordinary.
“At this humble farm, Dorset wraps around you completely. All you have to do is nestle in its beauty, whilst the owner-family go out of their way to ensure your time here is remarkable.”
As the name suggests, Outbuildings is a collection of 4 smart, dog-friendly studios housed in the converted buildings of a traditional family farm. The farm is set on 10 acres of beautiful West Dorset pea-greenery, just a short drive from the popular market town of Bridport and the coastal harbour of West Bay.
The brainchild of former Bridport hoteliers, Karen and Bill Whitehead, the Outbuildings opened its doors in 2009, born out of the family’s desire to preserve the dairy farm they call home and share the area they love with guests. Outbuildings is still run by Karen and Bill today, along with their two sons, Ed and George.
At the centre of Outbuildings is the family’s farmhouse home; the outbuilding conversions are adjacent to the farmhouse, with their own private gardens and patios and, of course, views. And it’s from the heart of this setting – the main house – that all the warmth of Dorset flows to you, delivered by the family (sometimes accompanied by the wagging tails of the family’s dogs).
The 4 gorgeous ensuite rooms of Outbuildings are extremely handsome and exceptionally comfortable; each one is decorated in slick rustic style personally by the family who clearly have a superb talent for interior design.
Antique chests of drawers sit alongside upcycled leather sofas (Karen upcycles and recovers most of the furniture herself); fur throws sleep next to faux-skin rugs, which cover flagstone floors. The walls hang with local prints and striking handmade art; and the windows are draped with thick black-out curtains – hand stitched by Karen.
The rooms feel grown-up and sophisticated, as if London was down for the weekend with its Chelsea boots firmly off.
Choose from The Sty, The Farrows, The Pressing Room, or The Cider Room – all of which come with large cloud-like double beds, sparkling en-suites, duck-egg blue farmhouse kitchens and living areas where you can kick back in front of log burners, with Netflix streaming on the Apple TVs.
The Pressing Room is the largest room to stay in, sleeping 3 adults and 2 children; the other rooms sleep two adults but are by no means small. We stayed in The Farrows and had ample space – enough, in fact, for a fireside yoga session (more on that shortly).
The Sty is the superior room with a king-size bed, a big smart TV and wonderful private terrace. And there are plans afoot to add to the family of outbuildings with something special launching in 2021.
You can feel the care that’s been taken by the owners to create spaces that are relaxed, cosy, and welcoming. They want you to sink into a deep sense of ease when you arrive; and you do, effortlessly.
With its clutch of chickens, veg patches, fish-filled ponds, sheep-speckled fields, and free-roaming family dogs who are always happy to nose around your suitcases, this beautiful place to stay in Dorset certainly delivers on the rural front.
The farm is a small working affair; not a huge commercial enterprise it once was, so you won’t be woken by herds of cows or the roar of tractors in the morning – and you don’t need to fret about forgetting your wellies or losing a shoe to the mud. The going here is firm underfoot.
You won’t see the sea from your room, but you can still expect a pretty vista: The Pressing Room and The Cider Room face south with views that roll out over the village of Bradpole.
The Sty and The Farrows benefit from private gardens surrounded by a wonderful collection of botanical wonders (all beautifully planted and looked after by Bill, the owner).
Although rural, Outbuildings is on the A3066: a main route carrying visitors from the north down towards Bridport. So you’ve easy, quick access to the town by car as well as the coastal hotspots beyond, such as Charmouth and Lyme Regis.
Because the family who run Outbuildings don’t simply give you a gorgeous place to stay in Dorset. They work flat out using their individual skills and talents to ensure your experience of staying on the farm they love is beyond your expectations – and your own passion for this part of West Dorset is well stoked.
Karen makes the cherry gin for your welcome hamper from the fruit grown on the farm (then serves it up in a crystal decanter). She also makes the fruit cake that’s waiting for you in your room, the beautiful velvet patchwork throw that styles your bed, and the incredible dinner that’s delivered in a wicker basket when you order it from the ‘extras’ menu.
And order a dinner hamper you must: as well as printed cooking instructions (so there are no disasters), it comes with homemade crumble and a bottle of red or white wine from the local vineyard, Furleigh Estate. All you need to do is turn the oven on and let the wine breathe.
Ed, the eldest of the two sons, lights your log burner before your check-in so you arrive to a crackling warm room. He lays out the Sunday papers neatly for you, logs into Netflix so it’s ready for you to watch, collects fresh hen’s eggs for your breakfast, leaves you a Sunday lunch voucher with a sprig of lavender and makes sure you have enough kindling, tea and coffee and local information in your room to not be left wanting.
He also emails you a downloadable local winter walks guide before you leave home so all you have to do when you arrive is lace up your walking boots and set off.
The family’s thoughtfulness doesn’t end there.
Outbuildings have arranged discounts with handpicked local businesses in the area so your stay is even better value for money (including a discount with the local taxi company so you can get back safely after enjoying Dorset hospitality at the local pub). They can bolt-on dinners out, pub lunches and unique experiences as part of your weekend – you just have to ask.
As part of our Winter Lie-In Experience package we tucked into a wonderful two-course winter lunch at a brilliant local restaurant, The Parlour. We also enjoyed fireside yoga one evening with local yoga teacher, Pip from Maitri Yoga. The perfect end to a perfect night.
At this time of year, West Dorset slows to a hush so it’s possible to explore it at a more restful pace. And to help you ease gently into the tranquillity, Outbuildings has launched a Winter Lie-in Experience – which we enjoyed during our stay.
The 2-night VIP stay comes with late check-out, the Sunday papers, free digital streaming, a two-course Sunday lunch, and a breakfast hamper of local food complete with your choice of champagne or homemade gin (naughty but very nice).
In short, Outbuildings has created a reason to come to Dorset, not just for the treasures you’ve heard about, but for experiencing and feeling its true heart.