If it's been a few years since you took a holiday in the UK - check out the charms of a rustic Dorset cottage. You might just be surprised.
“There's no place like home,” sighed Dorothy happily in The Wizard of Oz having eventually returned to Kansas after her adventurous journey to the Emerald City. Sometimes it's worth pressing the pause button and remembering that grass often grows just as green on our own doorsteps. The very best spring and summer holidays are often those that don't involve travelling far. Britain may be emotionally battered and financially bankrupted but physically it's in great shape and I had forgotten the joys that come with being a stay-at-home tourist.
As an adult I've focussed on visiting increasingly far-flung places, often for just a few days, in a one-woman quest to go just that bit further; yet in these belt-tightening times we're being encouraged to stay at home - a phenomenon which has been dubbed by some as a 'staycation' - and enjoy the delights that the British Isles have to offer in the way of holidays - thus saving money, our economy and the planet all at the same time.
I wasn't always a globetrotter. As a child it didn't seem my parents had left an inch of Devon, Cornwall or Wales unexplored. My brother and I trawled throughout the south-western counties of England year after year, staying in cottages, apartments and once a caravan / converted garage. My brother and I loved the shaky walls and wobbly bunk beds, my parents were less convinced by its charm.
I recently revisited my roots and drove to Dorset for the weekend with boyfriend and dog in tow. We headed to Cobweb Cottage, an ancient thatched property in the sleepy village of Winfrith Newburgh, three miles from Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast and nine miles from the county town of Dorchester.
And what a chocolate box perfect cottage it turned out to be. Eyebrow dormer windows peeking out from underneath a thatched fringe, a Rayburn range, flagstone floors, gingham-cloth covered dining table and an open inglenook fire in the living room, Cobweb Cottage was everything you could possibly hope to find when renting a traditional English cottage. Even the low-slung front door frame had a certain charm, despite nearly concussing us both.
I assumed travelling to Dorset would probably involve a few walks on blustery beaches, long pub lunches and cosy nights in front of an open fire watching films. However thanks to a week-long spell of freak sunshine, Dorset was basking underneath cloudless blue skies.
Naturally this led to a frenzy of unexpected activity, as we felt compelled to make the most of the incredible scenery surrounding us and our temporary home ticking off an impressive array of local sights including the sheltered pebbly beach at Lulworth Cove; the wide sandy National Trust beach at Studland; a fish and chip lunch on the quayside in Swanage; the grand ruins of Corfe Castle; the craggy rock arch Durdle Door and its sweeping shingle beach; and the more refined charms of Weymouth's sandy beach.
On both evenings at Cobweb Cottage, all grand plans of going to explore the local pubs were swiftly abandoned. The lure of a soak in the roll-top bath and sitting in front of the roaring fire were too much to resist.
The seemingly random temperament of the Rayburn range meant we had to keep a close eye on supper. Luckily we had been warned - the Dorset Coastal Cottages management team reassuringly dubbed the trouble encountered by novices trying to master the foibles of a cooking range for the first time as being “aga-phobics”. We definitely fell into this category, and after waiting for half an hour for something to happen I'm ashamed to say we abandoned the aga and opted for the conventional oven instead. However the Rayburn had its uses. It was perfect for simply leaning against with a glass of red while waiting for dinner to cook.
We enjoyed a weekend full of beaches, stunning scenery, sunshine and eating far too much. Everything in essence a good holiday should involve - only without the need to queue in airports or facing the risk of losing your luggage along the way. I think there is a lot to be said for 'stay-cations'