Stylist’s Anna Hart discovers a working farm in Dorset that will win over even the most confirmed city girl
Much as I adore a sleek, chic, achingly hip city hotel with staff so spiffy that you find yourself sitting straighter and walking taller, sometimes my soul craves something altogether more warm, reassuring and wholesome. It’s then that I’ll google two magic little words: ‘farmhouse’ and ‘B&B’ – the delightful subgenre that the UK does perhaps better than anywhere else in the world.
This time, though, I don’t need to google; Launceston Farm in Dorset is where the Stylist team decamped to produce the ‘Simple Life’ issue back in June, so I know what I’m in for. Namely, peace, quiet and some serious wellie time.
Launceston is down a lane scattered with chocolate-box cottages the likes of which you might find in The Holiday. And it’s a cosy family affair; the owner, Sarah, was born here and, although the family’s dairy herds are long gone, the 800-acre farm is now fully organic, focused on sustainability and balancing the rearing of rare-breed pigs and goats et al with preserving the natural surroundings. Sarah’s son Jimi works full-time on the property (he’s the friendliest man EVER, so don’t pass up the chance for one of his farm tours) and her daughter Eve is a gardener with a keen eye for foraging, although we didn’t meet her when we were there.
With the farm buildings opposite, the exterior of the old brick farmhouse has been ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’d’ up, with a walled garden that’s perfect for stargazing while wrapped in woollens. Beyond sits a huge lawn, charming tree swing and swimming pool (it has restricted hours for guests and is closed from September to June), where goats meander past to bleat hello.
Inside, an original 19th-century cast-iron spiral staircase leads up from the hall to the bedrooms above, where furniture is a characterful cocktail of Sarah’s auction house spoils and souvenirs from her travels (ornate framed mirrors, silk drapings and oriental sideboards).
Rooms are generous, with sash-style wooden shutters that make you want to close them (and open them, and close them), with a miniature blackboard waiting on your mattress, with instructions to chalk on your breakfast choices for the next morning at a time that suits. And if you don’t want the B&B feel and prefer to pretend you’re a countrydweller proper, book into The Bothy, a self-catering cottage built for two within the grounds where you can get seriously creative in the kitchen with local produce bought straight from Sarah. The Bothy will also give you more freedom as the main house isn’t really a lounge-aroundall- day-by-the-fire-and-read place – and guests are encouraged to get out and about.
In this spirit, I make the hourlong drive to the Jurassic Coast for a blustery stretch of the South West Coast Path, before returning to Tarrant Monkton for a dinner of steak pie with Dorset beef (£15.50) at The Langton Arms, just a five-minute stroll from the farm. An autumnal walk around Poole Harbour and Sandbanks beach (both half an hour’s drive away) is another option but to be honest, simply setting off from the farmhouse and seeing where you end up is just as enjoyable – beautiful part of the world that it is. I return with a spring in my step and a string of Instagram shots of goats. What more could a city girl ask for?