“It’s sick!” exclaims Poppy, 10, very excitedly as we are shown how to move the electric beds up and down in our super fancy motorhome.
We’re in Poole to collect our home on wheels for the weekend, and we’re heading to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Rosie, 13, can’t wait to unpack and fill all the lockers and compartments, and we’re all looking forward to a bit of a road trip.
With the stress of airports, Covid and flight cancellations, we are happy to have a holiday at home, but hiring something like this takes the stay to a whole new level.
We rent it from Camplify – which is to motorhomes what Airbnb is to homes. Our motorhome is a luxury Roller Team T-Line 700. Brand new in April (it has done less than 3000 miles), the front seats swivel to the table and the rear seats where the girls sit as we nervously drive off.
I will not drive. It’s pretty scary being a passenger as my husband James pushes this huge beast through downtown and I try to figure out how to keep the sat nav on, while grabbing flying water bottles and preventing things from making rattling noises. But once we’re out of town and James gets into driving a 23-footer, it starts to feel more relaxing.
We stay at Pilsdon View – a friendly campsite, run by Terry and April, who make the rounds every night delivering fire drums and wood, so we can gather, keep warm and roast marshmallows for our s’mores.
With rave reviews online, it’s a great setup, with better showers than many of us have at home, flush toilets, hot water and a decent washing up area . There’s no electric hook-up here, and noise is discouraged late into the night, meaning it’s popular with families. The small playground, inflatable hoppers, and unicycles keep the kids busy, and there’s an on-site van selling hot breakfasts in the morning, and burgers and hot dogs at night.
As we drive, our names are all on a welcome sign, and as we leave one day, April comes running after the RV, telling us that our skylights are open (not allowed when driving … we are such newbies).
But we’re here to explore, and Dorset is full of glorious sandy beaches, lush countryside and endless skies, whatever the weather. To really take in the views, we head to West Bay and board a Dash of Lyme RIB Lyme Bay Charter (£19pp; lymebayribcharter.co.uk). Uncontrollable screams and laughter erupt from our mouths, as Skipper Milo reads the crowd, providing the perfect balance of thrills and thrills as we skid and hit the waves. Dashing across the ocean, the stunning surroundings form one of the most beautiful coastlines I have ever seen. Steep cliffs tower over sandy shores, until we reach the highest point on the south coast, Golden Cap.
Adrenaline making us hungry, we bite down on the road to Baboo Gelato (baboogelato.com) – an ice cream stand with such a gripping story you may never buy Mr. Whippy again.
“We don’t think ice cream is done well in Britain,” director Sam Henbury, whose wife Annie started the company in 2015, tells me. After studying Gelato University (yes, really) in Bologna, Italy, Annie has embarked on making ice cream “properly”, using more milk than cream, so less fat and more flavor, because there is less air in the ice cream – all the more reason to have a second ball.
They wanted to sell it at kiosks manned by caring people, like Ruby, who hands me a huge cone overflowing with award-winning maple pecan ice cream (£4.50 for two scoops). She lives in Leeds, but travels to Dorset every summer to work at Baboo.
“It’s an emotional product,” Sam continues. “When you eat ice cream, you create family memories that you’ll remember forever. Life can be very sad – we want to bring joy; ice cream is Affordable luxury.I wholeheartedly agree, as we sit on picnic benches by the river, eating ice creams almost the size of our heads.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, the Watch House Cafe (watchhousecafe.co.uk) is right on West Bay beach, offering a great brunch menu, pizza, seafood and even DJs on Thursdays evening (mains around £15). Its beach-chic vibe emanates from the wood-slat cabin, with plants and giant glass bulbs hanging from the ceiling and windmills whirring in the window. The four-hour bottomless brunch (daily, 11am) is an absolute bargain at £26.50, and particularly popular at weekends.
Back in the van, we weave our way through pretty quaint villages as we drive through Dorset: the bustling market town of Bridport, pretty Abbotsbury, the rolling coastal roads that take us past Ringstead and Martinstown.
Trampling the stones of Chesil Beach, kitesurfers glide into the sea while paddleboarders try not to wobble, as tiny boats pass by. We head to Chesil And Fleet Nature Reserve and discover the Ferrybridge Sandbanks, a vital area for birds and sea life. Seagulls bathe in puddles, while an attentive heron waddles beside them.
Sea spurge shoots up from the ground, reaching into a baby blue sky framed by cotton candy clouds. The water zigzags on the ground next to a sea of pebbles. The girls charge upwards, jump into the fresh air and take smiling selfies, as they look out across the Atlantic. The breeze carries away the cobwebs as nature ignites our souls.
Another day we walk from The Smugglers Inn in Osmington along the path to the coast where we scramble over the rocks and into the sea. There are only three other people on this part of this beach. I sit on a steep rock and watch the light dance across the water like a shimmering ball, as Poppy’s shifting shadow dances in the warm evening sun.
We drive the van to Weymouth – a bustling seaside town with plenty of rides, sand castles and rock sticks. But adults might prefer the view of Rockfish, Mitch Tonks’ fish restaurant (www.mitchtonks.co.uk/rockfish), which is opposite the seafront.
Decorated in sea tones of turquoise and white with maps of the world adorning the walls, their own brand Rockfish Sea Cider (£4.95, made by Salcombe Brewery) is super drinkable and glides beautifully with sourdough and seaweed butter salted.
We feast on a feast of salt and pepper halloumi (£7.95), freshly caught haddock (£18.95) and sea bass (£26.96), grilled calamari (£17.95) and mountains of fries. The deliciously intriguing pea curry (£2.95) is also an absolute must.
On our last morning, we were awakened by the sound of summer raindrops hitting a tin roof. Seems like a fitting end to our first van escape. Our bodies are tired from late night campfires and early morning starts, but we all agree that Poppy was right, life in a van is pretty “sick”.
Camplify (camplify.co.uk) is one of the largest motorhome and motorhome sharing communities in the world. The Super Lux 6 Berth motorhome is available to hire from £149 per day, sleeping up to six people.
Pilsdon View Camping can be booked via pitchup.com and costs from £18.50 a night for a non-electric grass tent or two-person campervan pitch. The site also offers bell tents and yurts from £40 for two people.
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