Anyone who follows the blog or knows Nathan and I, will be aware that we love a spot of crazy golf! Like with National Trust properties, whenever we are away or visiting somewhere new we make sure we check out if there are any local adventure golf places nearby!
When we visited Brighton in June this was no different and we were quick to head down to the Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf course on the seafront. As the name suggests the course is jungle themed, complete with wooden animals and totem pole characters.
The golf course boasts two 18 hole courses and costs £7 per adult for 18 holes or £12 for both courses. The holes were well maintained and pretty challenging, really adding to the competition between us! There’s nothing like golf to get us betting against each other and into the fighting spirit. As per usual I lost meaning ice creams were on me later in the day!
What are your thoughts on adventure golf – something you like or not really your thing?
I love the National Trust and as both Nathan and I are National Trust members we often see if there are any NT places we can visit when we are away somewhere.
When staying in Sussex for my nephew’s christening one weekend over the summer, we visited Monks House in East Sussex – the previous home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.
Home Fit for an Author
The house is a 17th-century cottage and is really cute and quaint. It’s situated in a really lovely part of East Sussex too, a very enviable place to live for sure! Due to its size, the house has a limit to the number of people able to enter at once but we didn’t have to queue and went straight in. A warning to people hoping to visit though – the ceilings are rather low and despite being told to watch out for them Nathan still managed to donk his head rather hard on the entrance door!
I loved the feel of the house, there were various rooms to explore and the staircase was lined with Virginia’s famous novels which was a nice touch. I really liked all the cactuses in the entrance way too for some reason!
A Writer’s Dream
Apparently, famous novelist Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard lived at Monk’s House from 1919 until Leonard died in 1969. I can imagine it was a lovely place to live and a good place to draw inspiration and write from.
The house is surrounded by lovely countryside gardens and allotments. It was such a gorgeous place to wander around in the sunshine.
When we visited it was a sunny day and there were deckchairs conveniently situated on the lawn for us to have a little sit-down and admire the views!
As always this was a lovely little National Trust property to explore with beautiful and well maintained gardens. I liked all the references to Virginia’s work and enjoyed finding out more about her life and work as an author.
Before the summer school holidays hit, my big sister, my 3-year-old niece, my 7-month-old nephew, my eighty – something-year-old Nan and I all enjoyed a mid-week break at Holiday Resort Unity in Burnham on Sea, Somerset. It was quite the week filled with fun, memories and even a fall resulting in a trip to minor injuries! The less said about the later the better!
Our Holiday Home
We stayed in a 3 bedroom caravan which we were all really impressed with. We had to take our own towels and bed linen but apart from that the caravan had everything we needed and included a shower, two toilets, basic kitchen appliances and a large TV.
My nan used to own a caravan in Hythe, Kent and my sister and I have many fond memories of summer holidays spent “down at the caravan”. We had been looking forward to going away with my Nan in a caravan again and this time bringing the next generation of my niece Orlagh and nephew Cillian.
The site has lots to do and we made the most of the amenities on offer and the surrounding area. Orlagh loved spending time at the children’s play park which was just a short walk from our caravan. Cillian enjoyed chilling on the swings whilst Orlagh and I spent a good while climbing the frames and sliding down the slides.
Orlagh wanted me to go down one of the slightly bigger slides with her and so with her on my lap we slid down together, getting stuck halfway resulting in me grazing my arm on the plastic! I really am too big for children’s slides! Nanny sat and watched on as we enjoyed messing around and having fun together.
There’s a cute little farm onsite too complete with goats, rabbits, horses and chickens.
Orlagh enjoyed trying to touch all the animals and Cillian sat in his car sea simply chilling and smiling away!
Also on the holiday park site is an amusement arcade; great for spending a while frittering away Nanny’s pennies and watching the delight on Orlagh’s face when she won tickets out of the machines. Bless her, she won enough to get herself a little Peppa Pig ring at the amusement ticket shop and she wore it the rest of the holiday with pride.
One evening Orlagh and I went to the amusements on our own to give Nanny and Sarah a little break before dinner. We were both equally delighted when I put a pound into one of those grabber machine thingy’s and actually won a soft toy! That never happens! Orlagh loved it and cuddled it in bed each night for the remainder of our time on holiday. This made me a very happy Auntie!
Food Glorious Food
Whilst we did cook a few dinners at the caravan we visited the onsite restaurant RJ’s Venue which sells American style food one night. We treated ourselves to burgers and chips all round, although didn’t think too much of the evening entertainment and left after Orlagh enjoyed a round of duck-duck goose with the other children.
On our final night, after the children were tucked up in bed, we ordered a take away from the in site’s Chinese which was super tasty and a real naughty treat!
The holiday park is brilliantly located right opposite Brean Sands beach.
With a 5-10 minute walk from the caravan, we were on the wide sandy beach enjoying a traditional British seaside picnic.
It was really rather windy during our visit and we ended up with sandy sandwiches and very windswept hair; but we enjoyed it all the same!
Nanny enjoyed watching us head down to the sea and getting covered in sea mud which was rather unexpected and rather messy! The beach wasn’t very busy on the day we visited, probably because it wasn’t the school holidays yet and a little overcast – perfect for us to explore it without the hoards which I liked. I can imagine it would have got really busy in the summer holiday months – it’s so perfectly located next to the holiday park!
Brean Leisure Park
At one end of the holiday park is Brean Leisure Park – this consists of a theme park, golf club, waterpark, gym and indoor soft play area. We spent an afternoon at the Brean Theme Park where there were thrills aplenty. Nanny stayed at home (she had fallen and injured her foot by this time so we thought it best she rest!) whilst the rest of us enjoyed a low cost and not too busy afternoon at the theme park.
We got Orlagh a kiddie’s wristband which saw her enjoy lots of little rides, slides and laughs. We also got some tokens which meant Sarah and I could take it in turns to ride on the slightly bigger rides with Orlagh. We had so much fun, Orlagh was so brave going on what I thought were some pretty big rides for her age and she did so with such confidence! She and Sarah even went on the little rollercoaster which was great! The funniest ride I went on with Orlagh was probably the cowboy horse ride which for some reason was just hilarious and I was giggling the whole way round!
It wasn’t too busy when we visited and so we didn’t have to queue for any of the rides and I think we really got use out of Orlagh’s wristband.
We topped off the afternoon with post theme park ice creams before heading back to the caravan to check on Nanny and tell her about our theme park adventures!
One morning we decided to take the children to the Brean Splash Waterpark – basically a swimming pool which has a large outdoor area with slides when the weather is good. When we visited the weather wasn’t that great and so the indoor children’s area was being used – this saw us playing with the water guns, water fountains and Orlagh repeatedly going down the water slides for what seemed like a good few hours. Cillian enjoyed a little dip in the baby pool too and we all enjoyed our swim.
We also visited Brean Play – apparently the region’s largest indoor soft play area. Here we enjoyed the 3 different play areas and Nanny watched on as Orlagh led Sarah and I around the different zones tempting us to bounce on the trampolines and slide down all the slides.
Again, I was so impressed at how much confidence Orlagh had enabling her to go off on her own around the larger play area, even when there were groups of older children. Nanny enjoyed sitting with a Starbucks cup of tea whilst watching us all laugh and play together – such nice memories for all of us.
The rest of our little holiday was spent playing with the copious amount of toys Orlagh and Cillian had brought from home, chilling out playing cards and chatting about fond memories of days gone by. Orlagh enjoyed getting Nanny to play shops, mums and babies and reading story books.
I think we all thoroughly enjoyed our little trip, I know I for one really loved spending some much quality time with Orlagh and Cillian and this meant a lot to me given I don’t get to see them as often as I would like given how far apart we live. It was also nice to spend more time with my big sis and reminisce with her and Nanny on our childhood memories. We wanted to ensure Nanny had a lovely trip (!) away with us all and got to spend some precious time with us. I think we achieved our goal!
World famous for its collections of camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and more, Exbury Gardens are a delight to explore. With its own Steam Railway, children ’s play area and welcoming restaurant it offers the ideal day out for all. Read on to discover my adventures in the glorious 200-acre site and what I thought of the “magical place in the New Forest National Park”.
Welcome to Exbury
I arrived at Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway in Hampshire on a sunny September day. The gardens are well signposted and easy to find and there was plenty of free parking. I was excited as I entered the gardens and got my first peek of the steam railway! I instantly knew this was going to be a fun and interesting place to visit.
Before I take you round my adventures in the gardens I thought it would be important to tell you about the history of Exbury Gardens. The gardens were the inspiration and creation of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild who was an experienced horticulturist and created the gardens gorgeous designs. Lionel and one of his sons Edmund, were both awarded the highest possible honour by the RHS to celebrate their gardening achievements and today their legacies and gardening dreams live on at Exbury.
Glorious Gardens and Autumn Vibes
As I headed into the gardens I was greeted by copious amounts of lush green trees and easily accessible paths. Each way I looked there was an inviting path heading deeper into the gardens and I was grateful for my garden map to help me navigate and plan my visit!
First, I decided to explore the Bog Garden where I enjoyed reading about the Rothschild family tree and admiring the leafy colourful display. Given the time of year, the trees were just starting to change in colour which I thought looked utterly spectacular. I love Autumn, it’s my favourite season and this display gave me all the right feels!
Next up I took a look around the Rock Garden which had a well-placed bench for a sit-down. Here I enjoyed a moment of relaxation as I sat and admired the beauty around me and listen to the sounds of the steam train chugging along the tracks beyond.
Apparently, the Rock Garden took over four years to build – no mean feat by the sounds of things. I read on the Exbury Gardens website that it is probably the largest Rock Garden of its kind in Europe to given it spans over two acres!
I loved all the bright rhododendrons – so picturesque and pretty. Whilst I was walking around the Rock Garden a deep red leaf fell from the trees above and literally landed right infant of my feet. It remained me of a Canadian maple leaf and I just had to photograph it – a real symbol of Autumn in my eyes!
Next, I wandered around the Jubilee Pond and Jubilee Hill Cascade where I read all about Exbury’s connections with Royalty which was rather interesting! Again the Autumn colours bursting through the trees were so gorgeous I had to keep stopping every few paces to take more photographs! Be sure to check out the Exbury Gardens Instagram page for more pictures of the gardens.
After walking around for a while I felt it would be a good time to go on the guided garden buggy tour. Tours are run several times a day and cost £5 per person. They start from the entrance to the gardens and last approximately 40 minutes. I was joined on the tour by three other people and boarded the 12 seater buggy ready to venture deeper into the gardens.
Brilliant Buggy Tour
The buggy tour was chauffeur driven by a lovely lady called Jennifer who was very friendly and knowledgeable about the gardens. She guided us down a set garden route and was sure to point out certain trees, flowers and explained the different areas of the gardens. Jennifer was keen to impart her knowledge of the gardens and was able to answer any questions visitors had – she told us how the gardens were maintained by 8 full-time gardeners and a group of volunteers. With the gardens spreading across 200 acres I’m sure this is quite the project for them all!
As we passed through Camellia Walk and the host of beautiful camellias, Jennifer told us how Exbury have won an award for having them all labelled with their locations on a computer system – one of only 13 gardens in the world to have that accolade!
Jennifer took us down to the Winter Gardens and we stopped to enjoy the wonderful views overlooking the Beaulieu River. You can see all the boats floating around on the river and even pick out the Isle of Wight in the distance. Here you can see the Arromanches Memorial Plaque which commemorates the British sailors and Royal Marines who manned the landing ships and lost their lives during the invasion of Europe in 1944. The plaque is set in stone and is a lovely place to stop and reflect.
The buggy tour took us back up through the various different gardens and I made a mental note of areas I wanted to walk back to later. I really enjoyed the buggy tour as it was relaxed, informal and a great way to cover so much of the extensive gardens. I don’t think I would ever have been able to walk around them all in one day and feel if I hadn’t of gone on the buggy tour would have missed out on a lot! Jennifer was super friendly and the whole tour very relaxing and informative.
A Spot of Lunch
After enjoying the buggy tour it was time for lunch, so I made my way to Mr Eddy’s Restaurant and Cafe. The inviting restaurant is outside of the main gardens and so people can visit without paying the entrance fee to the gardens should they wish.
The restaurant offered a good selection of hot and cold lunches and a host of drinks and scrummy looking cakes! I opted for a caramelised red onion and cheddar tart with salad which was £7.50 and very tasty. I matched it with an elderflower & apple juice and sat outside in the patio area enjoying the afternoon sunshine.
All Aboard Exbury’s Steam Railway
Next, it was time to take a ride on the Exbury Steam Railway. Train rides happen at different frequencies throughout the year so be sure to check the current timetable at the start of your visit to ensure you don’t miss this additional treat. The railway has its own little station which was adjoined with gorgeous decorate hanging baskets and painted a lovely navy blue colour. I boarded a carriage on the train and was joined by a couple and their small dog. Exbury is a dog-friendly attraction and dogs are welcome in the gardens along as they are kept on a short lead.
With a loud whistle and a puff of steam, we were off. The train got going and we passed through the Summer Lane Garden full of glorious trees and flowering grasses. There are views down to the Rock garden and various animal statues and displays along the route for children to look out for too. I really enjoyed the journey, there’s nothing better than a relaxing train ride out in the open being able to smell the steam engine and hear it choo chooing along. The dog in my carriage appeared to be enjoying the ride too!
We reached the Exbury South station where the train stopped, and the driver came out and told us about the history of the railway. He told us how it was 12 and a quarter inches and was opened in 2001. The railway was apparently the inspiration of Leopold de Rothschild and has been very popular with visitors.
For all those steam train enthusiasts out there Exbury offers a floor plate experience where visitors aged 17+ can ride next to the train driver and learn about how the engine works. This experience costs £50 and sounds like a great gift for a loved one who enjoys all things trains!
After enjoying the 20 minute trip along the 1 and a half mile track we arrived back at Exbury Central station and disembarked the train. Here, I was able to explore the Engine Shed which is full of information and displays detailing the history of the steam railway, other engines and various displays of train memorabilia. I enjoyed reading about the construction of the railway and hearing how it was built.
Relaxation and Reflections
It was time for me to head back into the glorious gardens. I passed through Witcher’s Wood over the Gilbury Bridge to the Sundial Garden.
The Sundial Garden is a small, formal garden which is full of gorgeous wisteria, roses and other pretty flowers.
In the centre of the enclosed garden is the sundial. Again this felt like another nice place to stop, reflect and take in all the beauty around me.
After all this walking and wandering around the gardens I was in need of some refreshments, so I popped into the Old Tennis Courts where I had a piece of carrot cake and a can of soft drink. It was still nice and sunny, so I was able to sit outside and enjoy the September sun.
I made my way slowly back up through the gardens, admiring the beautiful Exbury House as I went. What a stunning looking house – I certainly wouldn’t mind living there. The house is private and so not open to visitors, so I had to imagine what I thought it looked like on the inside!
I think I left my favourite part of the gardens until last – the Herbaceous Garden – it was so blooming gorgeous! There were borders full of delightfully coloured flowers and I stopped here to take many photos! There were so many bees dancing among the flowers and enjoying their sweet nectar.
There was no one else in sight at this current moment and I was able to enjoy this part of the gardens completely on my own. I think that’s one thing I really loved about Exbury – the fact the gardens are so big and vast that you can find yourself exploring the gardens alone feeling like you have them all to explore however you wish.
I made my way to the exit as it was getting quite late in the afternoon and I knew I needed to drive to Bridport in Dorset for my overnight accommodation.
Entry to Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway costs £15.30 for adults and £8.95 for children when tickets are booked online. They are slightly more when brought at the gardens themselves so book in advance if you can to save a few pennies! Family tickets are also available as well as season tickets for entry to the gardens all year round. If I lived closer I think I would seriously consider getting a season pass as I bet the gardens are lovely to explore all seasons of the year.
Exbury offers various events throughout the year too. With Halloween coming up Exbury has some spooky events planned included a ride on the ghost train and Halloween crafts. There are also some traditional Christmas events lined up including festive crafts, carol singing and the Postal Express train ride. More information about upcoming events can be found on the Exbury Gardens Facebook Page and website.
The gardens are dog-friendly, accessible and have good toilet facilities. There’s a children’s play area for the little ones too. With various places to eat (some season dependent), glorious gardens and a steam railway I’m not sure what more you would want from a day out!
I left Exbury Gardens feeling relaxed, inspired and with tired feet after all the walking and exploring I did! It had felt so good to immerse myself in nature and to explore all the different gardens. I loved the buggy tour and really recommend this to visitors planning to head to the gardens. I feel it really enhanced my experience and I was able to see and learn so much more about the gardens than if I hadn’t gone on the tour. The ride on the steam engine totally topped off the visit and added a sense of excitement and nostalgia – any excuse to step back in time and feel like a big kid!
I really recommend Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway as a lovely day out for all ages – there’s something for everyone of all ages and interests. I would love to return in another season and see what the gardens have to offer! No doubt I’ll be back to Exbury soon!
***Whilst entry to the gardens, the train ride and buggy tour were provided to me on a complimentary basis, all thoughts, pictures and opinions in this post are entirely my own***
What’s it like to stay in an elegant, cosy and fully equipped shepherds hut in the middle of the Dorset countryside surrounded by nature? What’s it like to enjoy a homemade cream tea and chill out listening to the radio whilst admiring bunnies hopping in the fields below? Read on to find out in my review of ‘The Hideaway’ at Kingsland Farm, Dorset.
Welcome to The Hideaway
After spending the day exploring the impressive Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway in Hampshire I arrived at Kingsland Farm near Bridport in Dorset and was warmly welcomed by host Danette.
Danette showed me where to park my car and led me down to The Hideaway – a beautiful, cute, green-coloured shepherds hut. The Hideaway has its own little path away from the farm which is lined with trees and flowers. The first thing I noticed as we approached the hut were the amazing views over the lush Dorset countryside. It felt like you could see for miles and I later got completely lost in looking out to fields and trees beyond.
Outside the hut, there’s a lovely little garden area which features a picnic table which is perfect for eating al fresco. There was also a deck chair set up ready for me to relax and soak up the view in. It was just the most picturesque setup! I noticed there were lots of pretty pots of flowers lining the steps up the hut and even some seasonal pumpkins which gave me all the right autumn feels!
Danette was so lovely and welcoming and took the time to tell me about the hut and the rest of the farm. Danette told me about interesting local places to visit in Bridport and beyond and let me in on some exciting developments about some new accommodation the farm hopes to offer soon. I had been following The Hideaway at Kingsland Farm Instagram page for a few months and loved seeing all of Danette’s gorgeous pictures of the hut and surrounding area.
Danette had been so good with communication prior to my arrival and had sent information on places to visit and eat locally well in advance to help plan my visit. I always think this is a sign of a great host who wants their guests to have the best experiences possible and is keen to promote where they live. Danette’s enthusiasm for the hut and her commitment to her guests was evident. Her love of the local area and where she lived shone through too.
The Shepherd’s Hut Retreat
After we finished talking and Danette gave me the keys to the hut I was left alone to explore the shepherd’s hut and enjoy my surroundings. On entering the hut I was struck by how spacious it was – I couldn’t believe the hut had room for a full double bed, kitchen area, table and chairs and also housed an en-suite bathroom! Such clever storage was in use to ensure the hut provided guests with all they need without feeling over-cramped.
This might sound odd but one of the other first things I noticed when I entered the hut was how fresh and nice it smelt! I have stayed in similar types of accommodation before and often they can get a bit stuffy and smelly but not here – The Hideaway smelt lovely and added to how welcoming and special it felt.
Inside the hut there’s everything you need for a relaxing stay. There’s a full sized double bed with very comfy mattress, duvets and pillows. Everything is already made up for you so there’s no need to worry about having to bring bedding or worse make the bed – something I hate!
There’s storage under the bed with room to put your belongings along with a basket of blankets to keep you extra snuggly and warm should you need them. A bedside table holds a bedside lamp, DAB radio, some interesting books and colouring pencils. There are games on offer too and bits to keep children entertained which I think is a great extra touch! I really enjoyed sitting and listening to chilled evening tunes on radio two and keep thinking to myself how relaxed I felt – just what I had been looking for!
The handmade kitchen area is so well equipped. There’s an induction hob, microwave/combi oven, kettle, fridge, sink and a host of cutlery and crockery. Multiple types of tea and coffee are provided too along with added essentials such as washing up bits, tea towels and of course a bottle opener!
To make things even better Danette had left me some homemade scones, jam, cream and biscuits to enjoy! These were such lovely welcoming touches and went down very well!
As if that wasn’t enough Danette also provides breakfast for guests. Upon confirmation of my stay, Danette contacted me by email offering me the breakfast options, meaning it would be there ready and waiting when I arrived. In the fridge I found eggs, milk, granola, jam, fruit, butter and cream. I was also delighted to find some homemade bread which was super delicious too! I really like that Danette offers this option and it meant that I didn’t have to worry about bringing breakfast foods. I loved that it contained homemade items and that it felt nice and healthy too! My only regret was I wasn’t able to eat all of the lovely goodies left for me!
Opposite the cooking area is a garden table and chairs all ready for guests to enjoy their meals on. Here, I found the hut’ welcome guide which was full of visitor information and guides for the local area – another nice touch. I sat here in the evening and enjoyed my dinner and a couple of glasses of wine – perfect!
At the other end of the hut to the bed area is a door leading to the en-suite bathroom. I couldn’t believe the hut was big enough to house a toilet, sink and full sized shower.
Left in the en-suite were clean fresh towels on the heated towel rail and some lovely shower and skincare products from local supplier Love to b Skincare. I can tell you that the relaxing scent of the lavender and patchouli natural wash was divine and smelt amazing! Again, these additional little touches really add to the luxurious feel of the hut and really added to my stay here.
Chilling Outside Amid Nature
After exploring the hut and taking lots of photos I sat outside with the homemade cream tea and enjoyed the amazing views. A nice scone with cream and jam is definitely the way to my heart – especially when enjoyed with a good old cuppa and stunning countryside all around me!
The hut is in a perfect location for exploring West Dorset’s gorgeous countryside and also the nearby Jurassic Coast. There’s plenty of nice beaches in easy reach of the hut and the historic town of Bridport to explore too. From the hut, you can see the magnificent rolling hills of the Dorset countryside and Colmers Hill which Danette told me was a great place for a walk. If you like wine then only a ten-minute walk from the hut is Furleigh Estate where you can enjoy a tour of the vineyard and try their award-winning wine. If I had been here for a longer stay I’m pretty sure I would have ventured down there!
With the September weather providing me with a sunny, warm evening I was able to sit outside the hut for a couple of hours and enjoyed chilling in the deckchair reading my book.
It was great to use the binoculars that I found inside the hut to have a closer look at all the wildlife down in the fields below. I saw lots of different birds and some cute baby rabbits frolicking in the fields too.
It was so peaceful and relaxing, and I found myself frequently closing my eyes, basking in the sun and enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s so nice when you can visit somewhere that’s a real escape from reality and gives you the feeling of freedom to relax and restore. There’s nothing better than breathing in fresh countryside air and hearing nothing but the gentle breeze and rusting of leaves. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to take a break from real life once in a while and experience a retreat like this – it does wonders for the soul and is a real self-care opportunity. Whilst I visited on my own, which was a great solo stay, The Hideaway would be a perfect place for a romantic getaway to share with a loved one. I would love to visit again and bring Nathan with me next time as I bet he would fall in love with the The Hideaway just as much as I did!
After watching the sun go down and a big bright moon rise in the sky, it was time for me to retreat into the hut for some dinner and another glass of wine! The hut was so cosy and warm, and I again enjoyed listening to the radio and being at peace. Following dinner I enjoyed a hot shower in the huts ensuite – the shower was powerful and the water hot – just what I needed after a long day walking around Exbury Gardens.
Snuggled up in the double bed I enjoyed a warm and comfy nights sleep. The weather did turn somewhat stormy during the night and it was really windy! However, I quite enjoyed hearing the thunderous weather outside whilst being safe, warm and tucked up in the hut.
I woke up the next morning to a slightly less warm and sunny day than the day before but pulling back the curtains the view outside of the hut was just as gorgeous. I enjoyed breakfast al fresco outside on the picnic bench and felt fulfilled and ready for my drive home to Devon. I felt so relaxed and renewed I really didn’t want to leave – I only wish I could have stayed for longer!
I can’t recommend a stay at The Hideaway at Kingsland Farm more – it’s the perfect Dorset getaway. With the hut being warm, cosy, comfy and stylish it was a delight to escape to. The Hideaway has the added bonus of being surrounded by stunning peaceful countryside and boasts gorgeous views. Host Danette is lovely and welcoming and really seems to go the extra mile for her guests which is very much appreciated. Inside the hut was a visitor book for guests to leave comments in regarding their stay and recommendations for places to visit and eat for fellow guests. The book is packed full of glowing reports for the hut, area and Danette. Many of the reviews comment on how relaxing a stay at the Hideaway is and I read many entries from guests who have visited the hut and returned many times – this is a sure sign it’s a great place to stay!
For more information on The Hideaway and how to book be sure to check out The Hideaway’s website where you will find more details on the hut and local area. Visit The Hideaway’s twitter page too for more glorious photos and videos.
Huge thanks to Danette for having me to stay – I had a wonderful time and felt so relaxed and rejuvenated after visiting. I hope to visit again soon in the future, so I can experience another slice of the wonderful Dorset countryside and indulge in the hut’s peaceful atmosphere and of course enjoy more of those homemade scones and bread!
***Whilst my stay at The Hideaway was complimentary, all thoughts, pictures and opinions are entirely my own***
I visited the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum back in September when I was on my solo tour of the South West. I had researched the museum online and was excited to find out more about the history of justice and visiting the courtroom…
Welcome to Shire Hall
The courthouse museum is located in the centre of Dorchester in Dorset and is easy to find. There is plenty of parking available in the town centre and the imposing building facade really draws you in for sure.
I didn’t know before I arrived, but I had unintentionally chosen to visit on a Sunday where the museum was open to the public for free, otherwise known as the museums busiest day ever! I think it was part of the local archaeological celebration week or something, meaning it was rather busy and there was a queue to enter. The staff did well to ensure they didn’t let too many people enter at once, so it wasn’t too cramped.
Step Back in Time
The museum aims to share stories of people who experienced the justice system in Dorset from days gone by. With lots of history and stories to tell visitors are treated to an insight into what the criminal justice and injustice system meant to people through the ages. It’s probably one of the only chances people can see what prison cells from the ate 18th century looked like and experience what it feels like to walk into a courtroom!
Upon entering the museum a thought-provoking video introduces you to the courtroom and details its history and refurbishment. I found this useful to orientate myself to what I would be exploring and liked hearing it’s really interesting facts.
I found it interesting to learn that Shire Hall was once a real-life courthouse from 1797 to 1955 where it tried many prisoners. Apparently, there was a certain domestic abuse case in 1986 which led Thomas Hardy to write his famous work ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’. If you’re a history buff or simply interested in finding out more about Shire Hall then a more detailed history can be found on the museum’s website.
I really enjoyed looking at the informative exhibits detailing 200 years of justice and injustice to life. There are displays showing people who were tried at the court with explanations of their crimes and punishments– quite different to our criminal justice system today as you can imagine!
Down into the Cells
Inside the museum, there’s a chance to peek into the cells and imagine what it was like to be a prisoner detained here – cold, damp and rather depressing I think! You can take a closer look at some of the inscriptions left by former prisoners too! I can’t imagine this was a very nice place for criminals to await their fate before they faced the dock!
It’s crazy to think that both adults and children would have been detained and tried here, sometimes for what would seem like the smallest of petty crimes these days.
Up into the Courtroom
After exploring both the Victorian and Georgian cells and seeing what it would have been like to be detained at Shire Hall, visitors can follow in the footsteps of previous prisoners recreating their climb up into the courtroom dock. The courtroom is set out fully with the docks, witness stand and seats for the jury and public gallery.
The courtroom is complete with judge’s seat which includes a judge’s wig and magistrates gowns. You can even try these on should you really wish to get into character! I saw lots of children (and adults!) doing this and having lots of fun.
There are lots of old-fashioned hats with accompanying information placed around the courtroom detailing who would have worn the hats and other information about the courtroom.
Under each hat on the hat stands there are little mirrors, so you can check out how you look in the different hat styles! If it hadn’t been as busy I’m sure there might have been some silly selfies of me included in this post! Thinking back I’m glad it was busy to save my embarrassment!
Apparently, the courtroom has been recently refurbished and is now a clean, grey colour. Take a look at the Shore Hall Instagram page to get a sneak peek of what to expect!
I personally have never been into a courtroom before but have seen many on TV and in films and so it was really interesting to wander around it and experience what it would feel like to be at a real court case.
Normally, when the museum isn’t open to the public for free, included in the entry price is an audio guide which you can listen to as you walk around the exhibits. Unfortunately, as it was so busy they weren’t being used on the day I visited which was a shame as I’m a bit of geek and love a good audio guide! I have seen many reviews on TripAdvisor which sing the praises of the audio guides and state they really add to the experience. Apparently, you can follow four interesting criminal cases including selecting the character of a past prisoner to hear their experience of sentencing at Shire Hall. If I return in the future I will definitely make sure I use the audio guide to find out more about cases held at Shire Hall and to get into the stories of the prisoners a bit more.
Some Lunch and Shopping
After leaving the courtroom (luckily I wasn’t on trial for any naughtiness!) I visited the Shire Hall Café for some lunch. I enjoyed a tasty brie and cranberry panini which came with salad and crisps. It was really tasty and well-priced. There were lots of hot and cold food and drink options on offer and some very yummy looking cakes too!
Before leaving I made sure to pop into the gift shop for a look around. There were lots of interesting items including pretty jewellery, Dorset gifts, stationary souvenirs and local food and drink items. Entrance to both the gift shop and café are free so you can pop in there for some shopping or lunch without having to pay to go round the museum should you have already been before.
Additional Visitor Information
Entry to the museum costs £8.50 for adults and £4.40 for children. There’s also concessionary prices and a family ticket available for £20. All tickets include a free audio guide and allow you to free return visits for a year. The museum is open every day 10am – 5pm and has a spacious café and well-stocked gift shop too. Access information and details on groups bookings can also be found online. Check out the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum’s Twitter page for additional information and tweets from the courtroom!
There are various events and activities which happen throughout the year. With half term and Halloween coming up there’s a host of events coming up to thrill the little ones including scary face painting, slime making and spooky storytelling! After Halloween, there are some exciting looking Christmas events planned including Christmas wreath making and the chance to visit Judge Santa! Aside from festive events the museum also hosts regular behind the scenes tours, workshops and talks. For more information be sure to check out the what’s on page on the Shire Hall website and their Facebook page.
The Shire Hall Historic Courtroom Museum is a family fun attraction, suitable for all ages. I enjoyed having a look round the cells and exploring the courtroom. There’s lots of interesting information and a great video to get you orientated for your visit. It’s a great wet weather venue and I think with the added extra of an audio guide is a well-priced attraction. I only wish hadn’t visited on such a busy day as I think it meant I felt a little rushed around and couldn’t see all the displays, as well as I, would have liked. This is not the fault of Shire Hall though and I think it’s good that local people get the chance to visit attractions in their hometowns. I’ll just have to make sure I use this excuse to visit Dorchester and the museum again sometime soon!