Loose Reins

UK England South West England Dorset Blandford Forum

  • Campfires Allowed
  • Groups welcome
Western chic finished to perfection
Smack in the middle of Dorset, and pinned between two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Loose Reins is a glamping site for slackening those chaps, hanging up the holsters and kicking back in the utmost, Western luxury. Giving a new meaning to the phrase “riding in style”, this high-end glamping haven is a retreat for those who fancy not only some serious outdoor comfort but also a little horsing around at the same time.

Onsite, an experienced and qualified trainer provides Western riding or horsemanship lessons, while more experienced riders can take to the surrounding landscape, with varied trails and excellent guided routes. You can even take a 4-hour ‘Pioneer Trail’ ride, where you’ll tie up the horses and enjoy a Loose Reins lunch in the forest before continuing again in the afternoon.

Of course, there’s more to the place than trotting through the countryside. What you’re really coming for is a chance to camp out beneath the stars with marshmallows frazzling over the campfire. On this they certainly don’t disappoint. Their glamping accommodation is more ‘Sherriff of the town’ than ‘cowboy in the field’ though, with a selection of glamorous Pioneer Cabins accompanied in the summer season by luxury Canvas Lodges.

All have a certain sense of permanence, with king sized beds (including four-poster beds in the lodges), en suite bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchenettes and comfortable living spaces with sofas and wood-burning stoves. It certainly seems more than the average cowboy could pack back onto his horse in the morning! Yet for all its Western-themed aesthetics – wagon wheels lean against the wooden cabins and gold panning trays adorn the exterior walls – it never feels overdone. The place is thematic without becoming gimmicky and the resulting accommodation is, ultimately, an incredibly warm and thoughtfully crafted place to stay.

The cabins are handmade by local artisan craftsmen and finished to perfection, each one varying slightly in style. The “Ranchers” cabin boasts burnt wood walls and quaint, Victorian glass light shades, while the “Trappers” cabin is crowned with a fantastic antler chandelier. Small touches like jams waiting in the fridge, board games ready to be played and a collection of toiletries in each bathroom means everything is accounted for. You really can just turn up with a toothbrush – in fact, forget your toothbrush and they’d probably nip of and buy you another one! (We don’t recommend trying it though. Take some clothes and things while you’re at it too.)

For those less inclined to saddle up, the perimeter of the natural coombe that the whole site sits in has been recently coppiced and opened into various clearings, ideal for a little den building and wildlife stalking, while beyond, the site also has direct access to hundreds of acres of forest. Stay firmly on two feet and practice your lassoing with the site's roping bull, Rodney, or play horseshoe games set up by the firepit where communal gatherings are regularly held during summer, with cookouts and barbecues, plus music from a visiting wrangler-cum-musician. All this and you haven’t even left the site yet!

Details

Facilities

Cabins feature a kingsize bed and 2 single bunk beds which are created from the seating area. A kitchenette includes sink, oven, hobs, fridge and all the dining and cooking equipment needed for 4 people. A wood burner, lighting and sockets, private internal bathroom with flushing loo, sink and shower. Covered porch with rocking chairs, a dining table and benches. Plus basic larder essentials are provided as well as everyday kitchen consumables. The Canvas Lodges feature a large kitchen, dining and sitting area with sofa, armchair, chest of board games, dining table and benches, wood burning stove with oven above, combination microwave, hobs, fridge and all the dining and cooking equipment needed for 6 people. A raised king size cabin bed with children’s play area underneath and opposite, through a sliding door, an internal bathroom with flushing loo, sink and shower. 2 further separate sleeping areas, one with a 4 poster, king size bed and one with 2 singles. The lodge has wood partition walls and curtains to separate the sleeping areas. Bedding, linen and towels provided in all accommodation. Riding on site includes professional tuition, trail riding and Western handling skills. See website for full details.

Suitable For

Glampers only, with no additional tents or caravans allowed. Large groups permitted but must book entire site (sleeps 30). No stag parties. No pets.

Nearby

The campsite is located in the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale – made famous in Thomas Hardy's literature. It's around a half hour drive to the author's cottage (01305 262366), just outside Dorchester, now owned by the National Trust. While there, visit St Michaels Church, featured in Tess of the D'urbervilles and now home to Hardy's grave. Dorchester itself is packed full of museums – perfect for a rainy day – and fabulous architecture for daytime wanderings. Closer to base, explore the ancient hill forts of Hambledon Hill and Hod Hill or visit the UK Bike Park (07719 335076) in the woods just behind Loose Reins for some seriously extreme downhill cycling. The site is also around 45 minutes from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, home of countless famous natural landmarks including Durdle Door, Kimmeridge Bay and Lulworth Cove – drive to the coast then walk a stretch of the coastal footpath. Also nearby, the Tank Museum (01929 462359) in Bovington and Monkey World (01929 462537) near Wareham are around 25 mins drive away. 

Food & Drink

Some essentials are already provided in the kitchen for your arrival, plus cooking essentials such as oils, condiments, foils, films, bin bags, washing up essentials and sauces. Guests will find fresh herbs growing in a pot on their porch and your hosts will have popped a few bits and pieces in your fridge or cupboard for a drink and nibble when you arrive. For fuel you will have some charcoal for the fire bowl and a basket of logs and kindling on the porch. A small, onsite honesty shop has all your other camping basics – bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, milk, butter, juice, preserves, cereals, bread, biscuits, cakes, rice, pasta, marshmallows, chocolate and a range of home made meals made from high quality local ingredients and frozen. Pub-wise, the nearest is The Royal Oak (01258 861561) in Okeford Fitzpaine – nearly 2 miles by the wiggly roads, but about a 1 mile walk by footpath.

Opening Times

Cabins open all year round. Canvas Lodges open March–November.

Accommodation

3 pioneer inspired cabins and 3 canvas lodges.

No availability showing at Loose Reins.

Location

Contact Loose Reins, Loose Reins, Ridgeway Farm, Shillingstone, Dorset DT11 0TF

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Getting There

Train station on the Waterloo to Exeter line is Gillingham (08457 484950) in Dorset. Taxi’s are £23 or Loose Reins sometimes arrange a collection for the same money if arranged in advance.

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