The Long Weekend: The vast countryside of Dorset's Jurassic Coast is, weather permitting, a dream

Martin Gaston


Situated in the heart of Bridport’s Marshwood Vale, this hill-encrusted farmland quite happily resists modernity – horse ploughing was a common sight here well into the 20th century. Marshwood Manor itself is part of an ongoing renovation project from owners Romla and Julian, who bought the estate as a way of escaping London.

The outbuildings, now self-catering cottages with private rooms and shared bathrooms, are comfy and functional, although the older buildings, while certainly not lacking in charm, are a little threadbare when it comes to facilities. Still, those who find themselves lured by the countryside will feel right at home in a part of the world that’s satisfyingly full of wellies and wax jackets. Plus there’s a cat and two adorable Labradors to help cement the rural idyll.

Go for the more reliable summer months if you're rain-averse, mind, as the only reliable option for an indoor workout is the village hall, which is a little more dusty fête than weekend treat. .

­Working out:

The most vigorous exercise on the weekend comes from local personal trainer Mark Hughes, an ex-commando who specialises in outdoor training. Over the course of two days you’ll get four metabolism-spiking workouts, with Mark's sessions prioritising full body movements – a great way to find out which parts of your weekly training you've been slacking on. Those more into wheels and Lycra will also be delighted to know the manor (and accompanying Dorset countryside) also offer up a fine cycling weekend.

Elsewhere, there are daily hikes through the local sights and daily sessions of iyengar yoga under the reassuring guidance of local yogi Hannah Lovegrove. There are also, in my case, heat packs and a trip to the osteopath when an old rugby injury resurfaced.

The food:

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, included in the price, are served in the dining hall of the manor house.

The food is homemade and light, low on starchy carbs, with a lot of love for Indian spices alongside in-season produce, with chicken tikka followed by a pineapple and chilli dessert, which I’ve tried with varying success to recreate at home. Romla and Julian make for exuberant, welcoming hosts, too, and add a couple more friendly faces to mealtimes.

It's a strict alcohol-free menu, though, so the only way you'll be getting a glass of wine is if you smuggle it in with your exercise gear. But isn’t that what these weekends are all about?

And after that:

Drive 25 minutes to reach West Bay, part of the beautiful Jurassic Coast, where you can find canoeing, fishing and a Broadchurch sightseeing tour.

Need to know:

Marshwood Manor is a 20-minute drive from Crewkerne station, with hourly trains running from London Waterloo. Prices start from £400pp for a group of eight, and include a two-night stay, all classes and all meals.

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