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Upton Farm

Upton Farm

Ringstead, Dorset, England
Dorset's Jurassic Coastline may be famous for its fossils and historic castles, but this 17th-Century farm is still very much alive and kicking, discovers Simon Cresswell.

first impressions
Nestled in the rolling hills of rural Dorset just a stone's throw from England's first World Heritage Site, Upton Farm is an historic five-star retreat that has refused to give up the ghost – it's a luxurious blend of old and new.

Built in the early 17th Century using ships' timbers and local stone, it boasts a colourful past; it's as much a part of this area's coastline as the smugglers who used to work here. It's also associated with the late writer Thomas Hardy, who wrote about the region in countless novels including 'The Trumpet Major'.

It went on to become a radar station during the Second World War after it was acquired by the Government's Defence Department.

Today, this historic tithe barn has been converted and restored to the highest standard offering self-catering accommodation with all the mod-cons you'd expect. The 17th Century stone barns sits in the original courtyard and oozes character – from original ships' timbers to stone walls and King Post Roof Trusses.

There are six cottages to choose from, all of which are award-winning and have bundles of character: Owls Roost, Pheasant Pluckers, Ratty's Retreat, Poachers, Gamekeeper and Foxhole – try saying that quickly.

There's also telephones with voice messaging, and high-speed internet access in every room (broadband wireless is also available in the lobby), so you can keep in touch with loved ones – or loathed bosses – without leaving the hotel.

Upton Farm grounds

All are suitable for families and couples alike.

Pheasant Pluckers can sleep up to six, and features its own nursery complete with toys and teddies. The charm of Foxhole makes it an ideal choice for that romantic getaway, while Owls Roost – a traditional Dorset long house – is also perfect for families and children.

Blue List Hotels stayed in Poachers, a great spot for the smaller family or couple set aside from the main barn. Its French windows open out directly onto the wildlife garden complete with babbling brook. Here's a tip – take your binoculars and keep an eye out for wild deer, foxes, badgers and pheasants.

With the chance to explore the Jurassic Coast's crumbling cliffs and extraordinary landmarks, as well as nearby thatched villages and market towns, Upton Farm is perfectly located to enjoy all Dorset has to offer. A large range of modern equipment in homely, elegant surroundings will make your luxury cottage even more comfortable. Wake up for breakfast on the sun terrace with views over the hills towards the sea, relax with a book in the gardens and end the day with a barbeque for the family in the evening.

Each of the cottages has oil or gas, individually controlled central heating and double glazing throughout. The bespoke interiors also boast a mix of antique, contemporary and Art Deco furniture.

The cottages come fully equipped with fridge, freezer, dishwasher, microwave, tea and coffee making facilities and, modern oven. There's also a widescreen TV, DVD player, CD player and eco-friendly cleaning products.

If the sound of the babbling brook doesn't send you to sleep, you might try a spot of bedtime reading – a small library offers a selection of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen novels.

Rooms have large wrought-iron double beds complete with bespoke bedding and linen. Poachers cottage has an alcove sink area and an en-suite shower room in its master suite. Its second bedroom has a large double French bed, en-suite toilet and a spacious dressing alcove. Both bedrooms have views into the wildlife garden.

food and drink
Well-equipped, modern kitchens have everything you need to prepare traditional Dorset fare. What's more, fresh groceries and farm produce are delivered to your door on arrival. Non-cooks may take advantage of the direct-dial telephones – there's an abundance of local takeaways ... Stay here over Christmas and you'll also receive complimentary mince pies and sherry.

If you prefer eating out there are a host of traditional pubs and inns within a five-mile radius, all offering excellent home cooked food and local ales. A stroll through the paddock and along a footpath into Osmington Mills will bring you to the 13th-Century Smugglers Inn, a delightful old pub with open fires and friendly staff serving all-day food. The pub also sells real ales from Badger Brewery, made just half an hour away. Head into Weymouth, a 15 minute drive, and find some of the country's best fish restaurants such as Crab House Cafe overlooking Chesil Beach, and Mallams Restaurant on the harbour.

service with a smile?
If you think self-catering accommodation means poor service and little else, then you better think again. Upton Park features a host of little extras that make a stay so special. As mentioned above, fresh groceries are delivered on arrival ? as is a complimentary bottle of aged sherry.

If that's not enough, the owners will be happy to arrange any outdoor activities such as riding and trekking, a round of golf or even some fishing during your holiday.

local attractions
When it comes to local attractions, Upton Park really does have it all. The picturesque Ringstead Bay – the gateway to the Jurassic coastline, is just a short walk away. This 95-mile stretch of stunning coastline stretches from East Devon to Dorset. It became England's first World Heritage Site and it's easy to see why – every inch of this fossil-rich coastline really is a wonder.

Durdle Door

Take a hike along the breathtaking chalk-white cliffs to Durdle Door, a dramatic limestone arch and the perfect place for a holiday snap.

A few miles away also lies Lulworth Cove, a natural horseshoe-shaped harbour with beautiful blue waters where you can hunt for fossils in the cliffs surrounding the cove. Head west along the coast to find the spectacular Chesil Beach, 25 miles of barren, pebbled beach stretching from Weymouth to Bridport, separated from the mainland by the Fleet Lagoon.

Just a short distance from Upton Farm is the 1,000-year-old Corfe Castle, rising up from the Isle of Purbeck, with the village lying below the ruins. Visit Weymouth, host for the sailing events for the 2012 Olympic Games, and explore its ancient port. Dorchester, only a short drive away, is a traditional market town where the house of Thomas Hardy is open to the public. A visit to the coastal town of Poole will leave you staring into one of the world's deepest natural harbours, while nearby Bournemouth – famous for its sandy beaches and a growing student population – is a youthful and vibrant seaside resort.

will it break the bank?
This historic coastline may be famous for its pirates, but there?s nothing crooked about the prices of these luxury cottages.

Rates start at 320 per week for Foxhole cottage, and 520 per week for Pheasant Pluckers. You can get some excellent last minute bargain breaks and short break offers between October and May.

Upton Farm

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