Downshay Farm

UK England South West England Dorset Swanage & Isle of Purbeck

  • Dogs welcome
  • Groups welcome
  • Beaches nearby
  • Good walks nearby
Shepherds hut, bell tent and camping with stunning views across the Dorset countryside to Corfe Castle.

A trip to Downshay Farm is a little like embarking on a journey back in time. An ancient steam locomotive services the nearest train station to the campsite, huffing and puffing the six miles between Swanage and Norden. It’s a fitting way to arrive, aboard a relic from the bygone era of romantic and memorable travel, a time when a large part of the thrill of the trip was the journey itself.

From Harman’s Cross station, it’s a short uphill walk through narrow country lanes where you may not even see a car nor any other sign of modern life, except in peak summer. Turning right into the farm and on past the old stone farmhouse, you’ll find the camping field through a rusty, rickety gate.

Campsites with sprawling views, wide-open spaces and big skies don’t come much better than Downshay Farm. The hospitable owners – who live in the large Victorian farmhouse – have struck gold with their location, near to the historically rich Jurassic coastline in one direction and stunning Corfe Castle in the other. This is a campsite with stately views, in fact; the castle perches on the Purbeck Hills in sight of campers and looks eerily spectacular shrouded in early morning mist.

But it isn't all about the campers here. The newest addition to Downshay Farm is a pair of gorgeous glamping abodes. The creation of the lovely Andrea Pike (daughter-in-law of Downshay's owners), Andrea's Farm Breaks sees a charming shepherds hut and bell tent plotted in a peaceful pocket of the farm for those campers who like things decidedly hassle-free. A basically-furnished but well-equipped bell tent sleeps a family of four on one double and two single raised beds. Essentials like fairylights, lanterns, and trunk for storage are supplied and extras like bedding and a gas stove can be hired too, while that all important firebowl and BBQ outside are included alongside a picnic table. The Keeper's Hut is a cosy self-contained cabin, sleeping up to two on a comfy double bed and boasting a cute kitchenette with Belfast sink and a few basic appliances (kettle, toaster, coffee machine, cutlery, crockery, glasses, cool bag and icepacks and tea and coffee) for making breakfast. There's a BBQ and firepit included outside from which to enjoy lazy al fresco lunches (complimentary fire-starter kit provided). And, perched atop a dry-stone wall framed patio, the views from the shepherds hut out to the sea and iconic Corfe Castle are cracking. 

The facilities, a mixture of modern pre-fab and older-style wooden blocks, are fantastically clean (guests must mop up after their own shower and it works, the cubicles are spotless) and the pitches are sheltered and un-numbered, bordered by tall trees. It’s positively sloping in places, so finding a good pitch is key, as is pitching in a direction to ensure a good night’s sleep on these challenging gradients. But sloping campsites are often on higher ground and higher ground often means views, and so we’ve arrived at the crux of our journey. The views from Downshay Farm stretch out across the Dorset countryside like an age-old landscape painting.

Despite the gradient across much of the camping area, flatter pitches can be found on the lower ground, around the edge of the site, but the trade-off will be a lack of views. The large tent field offers about 60 unmarked pitches (there is no specific limit – the owner just brings out the ‘full’ sign when he thinks it’s time) and the field is usually left empty in the centre for games of football or frisbee.

Walks across the Vale of Purbeck also run right by the campsite, including an unmissable – if energetic – day-trek to Studland Bay and Lulworth Cove. Sadly the site is only open for camping during the school holidays, and you have to be quick or lucky to grab a decent pitch at this wildly popular Dorset haven.

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Details

Facilities

There's room for about 60 tents. There is no specific limit – the owner just brings out the ‘full’ sign when he thinks it’s time. The caravan field has 12 pitches (all with hook-ups) and separate facilities block. Each well-maintained block contains hot showers (5 women's, 4 men's, 2 unisex), and toilets. Hairdrying point; freezers for ice packs; washing-up areas. BBQs off the ground are okay, and barrels are available for fires. A football and frisbee play area. Keepers Hut has a double bed with bed linen provided. There is electricity supply for sockets, heating and facilities in the compact kitchen area, which include a kettle, toaster, coffee machine, cutlery, crockery, glasses, cool bag and icepacks and tea and coffee. A sink with running water provided. You'll also find a BBQ, picnic table and campfire bowl outside. A pack of logs, kindling, charcoal and firelighters are provided. Additional wood can be purchased at the local shop. The bell tent has a double bed and single raised beds (bedding extra), a picnic table and chairs, cutlery and crockery, kitchen unit and gas stove (stove extra), a BBQ, cool box, a trunk for storage, fairy lights, lanterns and a campfire bowl. Like the hut, a fire-starter kit is provided and additional wood can be purchased at the local shop.

Suitable For

Glampers, tents, small campervans, caravans (in a separate field), well-behaved groups, dogs (on leads) – yes. Transit vans, motorbikes – no.

Nearby

On sunny days head to Swanage, Studland or Shell Bay beaches or take the ferry to Sandbanks. Plus there is the evocative ruin of Corfe Castle (01929 481294). Take a steam train ride on Swanage Railway (01929 425800) to Corfe Castle. Trains depart regularly from Harmans Cross station, 5 minutes walk from the campsite.

Food & Drink

Corfe Castle’s ice-cream shop – Box of Delights – sells Purbeck specialities and Dorset cream teas (01929 481060). The real ales and ciders at The Square & Compass (01929 439229) in Worth Matravers are well worth seeking out, as are more castle views from the pleasant garden at The Scott Arms (01929 480270) in Kingston. Both are a 10-minute drive from the site.

Opening Times

For 10 days around Whitsun weekend, then again for school holidays (mid-July – early September). A separate caravan field is open April –  end October.

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The Owner Says

Spacious fields in the heart of Purbeck  allow you to spread out, relax and enjoy the views. We have three toilet blocks comprising washing up areas, 10 showers, and 16 toilets. 

Accommodation

Shepherds hut (sleeps 2) and bell tent (sleeps 4). In addition to our popular campsite, we also run a small 12 pitch caravan site from Easter to November. As well as caravans we welcome VW camper vans from £14 per night (low season) including electric hook-up.

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Location

Contact Downshay Farm, Haycrafts Lane, Swanage, Dorset BH19 3EB

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Getting There

From Wareham, take the A351 following signs to Corfe Castle. Continue past the castle on the A351 for 2 miles. At the crossroads at Harmans Cross, turn right into Haycrafts Lane. Continue on this road for 1 mile and look out for the signs on the right.

From Wareham train station, catch the Swanage bus to Harmans Cross, or to Gallows Gore between Kingston and Langton, from where it’s a short walk up (or down)Haycrafts Lane .

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Why book with I Love This Campsite?

  • Best Price Guarantee, with no fees
  • Instant booking confirmation
  • Trusted for over 10 years
  • A chance to win prizes in our regular competitions

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