Our first trip in the Van: Dorset Coast Road Trip

Just before we left for Canada we headed South to Dorest for a week long road trip along the coast, with an added Wales stopover, with a of couple friends who also have a van. This would be Mango’s first real road trip and we were super excited to give her a test.

We didn’t quite get built what we wanted to before the trip but we got enough done that it was relatively functional. Our biggest thing was getting the bed (mostly) finished so we had a decent place to sleep, which we did but Will was working on it right up until the night before we were meant to be leaving!

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But, with the van sleepable and our bags and buckets packed we headed South early on a Monday morning. After a 5 hour drive and a couple of stops we got to our campsite early evening, cooked dinner and had an early night.

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After a great first nights sleep in the van, we started early and headed out for the day, starting at Old Harry Rocks.

Old Harry Rocks

We parked at the National Trust car park at Sandy Beach and then just followed the signs for Old Harry Rocks. By parking in a National Trust car park it actually allows you to park at other National Trust car parks for the rest of the day, so the price is worth it if you plan on visiting other sites in one day.

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Spyway Dinosaur Footprints

From Old Harry Rocks we drove to the Spyway Carpark (a National Trust car park), which is actually just a large field with a notice board and a sign telling you how to get to the dinosaur footprints. The walk is maybe 20 minutes. You can’t actually see the footprints in the photos but you can 100% see them when you’re there!

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Winspit Quarry

After the dinosaur foot prints we headed to an old quarry called Winspit Quarry. To get here is a realively easy all down hill walk but a solid up hill walk on the way back! We parked in a car park close to The Square & Compass pub in Worth Matravers and walked from there.

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We spent our second night at the same campground. It had great bathrooms and showers and a washing up area. The guy was super friendly and we’d definitely recommend it if you’re wanting to camp in that area.

Waking up Wednesday morning, for me meant waking up a whole year older (oh joy!), something I was not looking forward to. But a day I had been dreading actually turned into one of the best birthdays i’ve had.

We started the morning with coffee and breakfast and an ocean view. It was the best way I could have started the day 🙂

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Durdle Door

After breakfast and a slow start we walked down to Durdle Door, took some photos, and then walked further down to the beach/cove right next to Durdle Door, Man O War Beach.

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Man O War Beach

Man O War Beach is literally right next to Durdle Door, you can see both coves at the same time when standed looking at Durdle Door. Apparently this is a really good beach to hunt for fossils.

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Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove is also where you can park and then walk to Durdle Door if you want to do a little coastal walk. But our friends had done that walk for sunrise and didn’t feel like doing it again (fair enough!) later that day, so we just drove over instead.

Personally we thought Lulworth Cove was so nice! And definitely recommend not missing it! Take the walk up the hill to the right, when standing by the beach, for a great view.

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After Lulworth Cove we continued on to our new campsite, Sweet Hill Farms. This campsite is on the very top tip of the Isle of Portland, and pretty much just a field on someones farm, with a couple drop toilets and drinkable water taps, but with amazing views! We actually really liked this campsite, so if you’re fine with having just the basics, or if you’re fully self-contained, give this place a try!

We finished the night with beautiful weather and a BBQ. It was a great night 🙂 Not how I spent years imagining spending my 30th birthday, but it was one I am so thankful for.

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We woke up on Thursday to rain and high winds, and with plans to do the walk from Bowleaze Cove to the Smugglers Inn.

Bowleaze Cove to The Smugglers Inn Walk

We parked for free by the little theme park at Bowleaze Cove and then just followed the public footpath signs.

The walk takes about an hour, but with the weather it I think it took us a bit longer. By the time we got to the Smugglers Inn we were all soaked and windblown so we warmed up and had a small lunch at the pub.

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The Smugglers Inn is a historic pub dating back to the 18th century. Whether you do the walk or decide to drive definitely check it out! They’ve kept that old english pub vibe, with low ceilings and dim lighting, and they have great gastro style pub food!

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After walking back we were all pretty soaked, tired of the wind, and tired so we all just went back to the campsite and spent the evening trying to hide from the crazy strong wind.

 

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After spending the night feeling like the van was going to get blown over, the others started early and headed up to Pulpit Rock while my pregnant butt happily stayed in bed.

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock was a short walk away from our campsite and close to the lighthouse that is on the Isle of Portland. How the rock got in the position it is, is beyond me, but it’s pretty cool.

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West Bay Cliffs

Once all of us were up, we headed west along the coast again, stopping at West Bay Cliffs. We nearly didn’t stop here but I’m actually really glad we did. The cliffs here are right on the beach and jut straight up out of the sand, we’ve never quite seen anything like it.

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Colmer’s Hill

A small hill with a steap walk up and pretty nice views from the top.

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{ <- How the hill actual is VS How the hill feels -> }

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Golden Cap

The walk up Golden Cap isn’t hard or long and the views from the top are great. From the top you can see where the big (2021) landslide happened, which is pretty cool and slightly scary considering how many cliff walks we’d been doing.

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{ Stopped to try and save a bee }

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After Golden Cap we headed north to Wales, driving through Cheddar Gorge, and then over to Brecon Beacons where we found a place to camp for the night.

 

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We went to bed on Friday night with plans of hiking Pen Y Fan early the next morning because poor whether was meant to come in the afternoon.

Pen Y Fan

Pen Y Fan is the highest ‘mountain‘ in South Wales, and there are several ways to get to the top. And I say “mountain” becuase I’m sure there are people out there that will laugh at that fact based on looking at it, but it is indeed a mountain.

Anyway, we started from Pont ar Daf car park, which is literaly just right off the motor way. Apparently it’s the clearest way up due to the stone pathway that leads pretty much all the way to the top. There are 4 ways up altogether but I don’t think any of them are particularly easier then any others, considering it’s the highest peak in Brecon Beacons.

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The walk is entirely up hill, with no real flat breaks until you reach the top. Being 6 months pregnant and not the fitteset I’ve ever been, it was a slow climb with plenty of breaks inbetween; but I was determined as hell to get me and this baby belly to the top of that mountain!

All in all I think it took us about 2/3 hours round trip.

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Shit Weather, Went home early

By the time we reached the top of Pen Y Fan the weather had taken a major turn! It was so windy we could hardly stand up straight for a photo, it was blowing raining, and the top was pretty much cloud covered. By the time we reached the bottom we were soaked!

And with no better weather in site for the Brecon Beacons area and Wales for the next few days we all decided to head home earlier then planned.

 

This little road trip was just what we needed after all the lockdowns and lack of travel this year. It was great to get away, spend quality time with friends, and finally give the van a proper little test run (even though it is still very far from finished) before we head off to Canada and add one more little face to the party 🙂

 

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We choose to book campsites along the way for several reasons, but mostly because finding a free and legal place to park in Dorset can be a bit tricky.

Luckford Wood Caraven and Camping Park – We spent our first two nights here, location is great, it’s not too far from Wareham, and only a short drive from Old Harry Rocks, Durdle Door and that area. They have heated mens and womens toilet/shower blocks and well as washing up areas with sinks.

Sweet Hill Farm – We spent two nights here as well. It’s “nearly” wild camping, the place has simple drop toilets, and potable water taps, but thats it for facilities. But the views are great! We actually quite enjoyed it (when it wasn’t hella windy that is!)

Litton Lakes – We only spent a night here. The place is small with grass pitches, they have a couple toilets (flush, not drop) and were just opening a couple showers when we were there. They have a little lake that would be a nice little area to bring your own paddle boards, kayaks, etc, and they have a really cute little cafe on site.

Talybont Farm Campsite – We booked this place last minute, it’s just a few fields on someones farm, but it’s quite nice. They have heated shower/toilet blocks, power and water hook ups if you need them.

 

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