I was seven-years-old the last time I woke up in Weymouth, Dorset. My mum and I went for a week to a caravan park with some dear friends and I can say hand on heart, that holiday is one of my happiest childhood memories. I remember water fights, disco balls, late light nights, sherbet pink sunsets and falling off the stage after winning the fancy dress competition… don’t ask! It was seven care-free, joyful, fun-filled days. It was everything a family holiday should be.
Since then, the Dorset that I’ve dreamed about has been a one illustrated by the photographic squares of social media. Indeed I’ve been desperately seeking the dramatic coastline of Durdle Door since the dawn of Instagram time.
So when Luxury Family Hotels invited us to stay at their storybook of a hotel Moonfleet Manor, a mere 20 miles away from said frontrunner from my British destination bucket list – I really did feel like all of my birthdays and Christmases had come at once. “It’s meant to be!” I told James excitedly. And as for the realisation that Weymouth was also the place of my disco ball childhood summer dreams – well that was just the icing on the cake.
But even without all of that, to me, Moonfleet Manor just sounds like a place of magic. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the fact that Luxury Family Hotels had me at the name alone! There’s something so poetically, silver screen gorgeous about those words married together, like they could be home to the setting of a fairytale or a classic love story. Now, having returned from our windswept Weymouth getaway I can report that Moonfleet Manor is every inch the happily ever after that I’d expected and hoped for – Dorset, we head-over-heels, adored you!
Having already spent an incredible jam-packed, whirlwind five days with Luxury Family at their two Cornwall hotels back in the spring, this latest collaboration in some ways felt like coming home. They truly are stand out you see, and because I knew exactly that, after experiencing it first hand in April, this time I could walk into the trip eyes closed, relaxed and confident that we were going to have a wonderful time. And I was right to be so at ease. Never has a hotel group that I’ve holidayed with been so committed to giving parents a well-deserved rest by providing childcare facilities, that in my opinion are second-to-none. They take the term ‘family holiday’, so very literally. It’s a break for each and every one of you.
So from the serene waters at daybreak, to the faultless service, to the giant bed, to the chocolate pudding to end all chocolate puddings, to what it was like to finally see Durdle Door with my own eyes – here’s the where and the what of everything we loved about our flying 48-hours at Moonfleet Manor Hotel and how holidaying here in Blighty has made me prouder than ever to call Great Britain my own.
Moonfleet Manor Hotel
Wrapped in a rich history and immortalised by J Meade Faulkner’s novel ‘Moonfleet’, the hotel is a Georgian manor house full of character that will charm your very socks off. Positioned in a prime coastal beauty spot in the village of Fleet, what struck me most on arrival was the grandeur of the building and the utter peace and quiet of its surroundings. Instantly I could feel the weight of day-to-day life lifting as we walked from our car to the hotel reception where we were given a mini tour of the house as we checked in.
For me, what I enjoy the most about staying with Luxury Family Hotels is that the properties live and breathe children. From toddlers to teens, they are celebrated. Little ones are encouraged to explore and be loud and enjoy themselves. There is no ssh-ing or shaking of heads. Children’s laughter regularly rings out through the rooms and at dinner time. Happy shrieks will percolate the peaceful outdoors of the hotel grounds. Moonfleet Manor, like the Cornish hotels I visited before it are wholly and committed to family holiday life and trust me, you wouldn’t want it any other way – that’s exactly what you’re there for and it’s quite the beautiful thing.
There’s also plenty to keep you busy and entertained from a heated pool to an indoor soft play, to tennis courts.
The staff at Moonfleet Manor were such a credit to the hotel and really impacted positively on our experience and stay. Nothing was ever too much trouble, and everything was handled with good grace and a smile. And what a lovely fuss they made of Oscar, who by-the-by, lapped up the attention with total delight!
We really made the most of the hotel’s surroundings and spent much of our time down by the water at Fleet Lagoon located just beyond the manor’s garden. In the calmness of Sunday’s daybreak the liquid landscape was especially glorious.
We also twice walked part of the neighbouring coastal path which has a wonderful vantage point for viewing the hotel from afar. And though Oscar was too young this time around, I can already picture us taking part in one of Moonfleet’s brilliant family-friendly fossil walks (hosted on selected dates during school holidays), when we return in the future.
We stayed in the John Gould suite on the second floor of the main house and what an absolute treat it was. With traditional décor, it was shaped to the rafters of the building and punctuated by four leaded windows, each boasting a pretty sterling coastal view.
The suite had two rooms and two bathrooms, the second bedroom a twin and intended for children. Oscar slept soundly there both nights and was made up with his “presents!” – a tote bag full of goodies that greeted him on his bed on arrival. The bucket and spade being the biggest hit, he spent the entire two days asking to build sandcastles.
Show-stopping views aside, and as so often is the way with me, it was the super-king-sized bed that wooed me the most. It was huge, cotton-clad, dressed in a welsh woollen blanket and even when Oscar climbed in for cuddles there was still room to spare. On the Saturday morning I’d set my alarm for 6am with the intention of getting up for sunrise to take photos, only to be greeted by the sound of heavy rain and a howling wind. I must admit… it was the best feeling I could have asked for to just snuggle up and cosy right on back to sleep. Bliss!
Listen up parents, because this is the really good and the important part! The childcare facilities with Luxury Family Hotels are superb and included as part of your stay.
You can book your children into the on-site crèche, known as The Den, which is open daily, either from 10am-noon or from 3pm-5pm where they will be in the care of excellent, fully qualified staff. What you then do with that precious you time is entirely up to you, but rest assured your little ones will be having quality play and crafts time and making new friends.
For us, James and I used the window to go exploring on foot beyond the hotel grounds. I utilised another of the sessions to have some real indulgent me time, and went for a manicure.
If for whatever reason your children are unhappy, the staff will call you immediately so you can collect them. For us, Oscar has attended The Den in all three Luxury Family Hotels properties we have now stayed in and each time he has wholeheartedly enjoyed himself. There has never been a need for the staff to get in touch.
I recall the first time we left Oscar at The Den in Fowey Hall Hotel in Cornwall and I was so anxious, as other than nursery which he’s accustomed to, we’d never left him anywhere before. But he had such a lovely time that from there on in, the process became so much easier for us as parents. It has to be said it was never not easy for Oscar – he was a fan from the get go.
This time at Moonfleet Manor, neither James nor I batted an eyelid. In fact both of us knew it was better for Oscar that we allowed him to go to The Den each day as it was two hours of fulfilling, dedicated play for him. When we arrived on the Friday we took him for the 3pm session and when we picked him up he was wearing a paper crown that they’d made. He went on to wear his beloved crown for almost the entirety of the rest of our trip, as demonstrated by the photos throughout this post!
On Sunday mornings the hotel also offers a breakfast club where staff collect your little ones from your room and take them for breakfast and a play session, so that parents get to enjoy a child-free breakfast if they so wish. Such a nice touch I thought! As Oscar is still just two, we decided we felt more comfortable dropping him off at The Den for the breakfast club rather than have someone pick him up, as again that is a scenario he’s never faced before.
In addition, if you decide you’d like an adult-only dinner in the restaurant, or a drink in the hotel lounges once your children are asleep, Moonfleet Manor offers a listening-in phone service that you can set yourself from your room that connects to reception. Staff will alert you if they hear your children rouse so you can go back to your suite to tend to them. We didn’t use this facility, but yet again – another brilliant perk!
Breakfast at Moonfleet Manor was a real highlight for us. We rarely have the opportunity to eat breakfast together as a family, so we enjoyed it very much whilst in Dorset. So much so that I’ll let you in on a secret… Oscar had two breakfasts on the Sunday – one with us and one with the aforementioned crèche breakfast club! Don’t worry – we restricted his food intake, but we just didn’t want to have breakfast without him or deny him of his play date at The Den.
Both mornings James opted for the hot breakfast buffet while I twice ordered the porridge and honey.
On the Friday evening we three also enjoyed a delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant, and boy did we feast! To start James had goats cheese boudin, pickled walnuts, sultana & lovage salad with caramelised apple puree while I had mackerel, saffron potatoes, tomato salad and cumin oil.
For his main course James had roast Jurassic beef rump pave, truffled pomme puree, shitake mushrooms and kale with red wine jus. I opted for the lamb with fresh herb polenta, roasted Mediterranean vegetables and salsa verde. Oscar announced he would like pizza so a margherita from the children’s menu is what he got!
Though I must say it was the grand finale of desserts where we really came undone. I had the dark chocolate and gingerbread sponge pudding, James had a summer berry pavlova and Oscar – still wearing his crown – had a smidgen of a specially made vanilla sundae. We were stuffed! But do you know, I’d return to Moonfleet Manor tomorrow just for another spoonful of that pudding… it was divine!
There’s an impressive beauty treatment list for the taking at Moonfleet Manor, including full to half-day pampering packages or single treatments such as a 30-minute hot stone massage.
I almost always indulge in a massage in any spa type situation – but having previously had massages at the Cornwall hotels, this time I opted for something completely different and had a manicure.
My beauty therapist Rachel, also made the experience extra-lovely as she chatted cheerfully throughout, recommending places we might like to visit locally when I asked her for suggestions.
As a side note, all Luxury Family Hotels’s spas are Elemis product led.
Exploring Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door
Given that our trip was 48 hours from arrival to departure with a six-hour drive either side, we could have happily stayed put at Moonfleet Manor for the entire time. And while my head was telling me to relax and do just that, my heart insisted we spend an afternoon being the tourists that we were and take the 40-minute drive to see Durdle Door at long last.
Another beauty spot that had been recommended pre-trip was Lulworth Cove which unbeknownst to us sits alongside Durdle Door, meaning there was enough time for both.
We started with lovely Lulworth where we bought boxes of clotted cream fudge from the Dolls House gift shop and ate buttered, toasted teacakes by the sea.
From there we trekked uphill and then down again to the spectacle that is Durdle Door. It was no easy feat with a flighty and excitable two-year-old, particularly given that we decided it would be best to do it buggy-free (which I still stand by!). But goodness was it worth it. I’ll let our photos do the talking, but the memory of that afternoon will stay with me for all the evers and more. It was perfect.
This sandless beach took us (and poor Oscar armed with his bucket and spade!) completely by surprise when we made a 30-minute detour here before embarking on the long journey home. The 18-mile long beach is made entirely of pebbles, which we hadn’t realised or expected, though once we’d gotten over the ‘no sand’ shock, we embraced it. The shape, volume and layout is pretty spectacular, particularly when you stand sideways on and take in the seascape on one side and the rolling cow-clad green hills on the other.
My son was 875 days old, the last time he woke up in Weymouth. It was October 2017 and James and I had taken him for an autumn weekend adventure to a hotel by the sea. I remember sherbet pink sunsets and late dark nights. I remember hotel staff calling Oscar the “little king” because he refused to remove his handmade paper crown that he’d crafted with his “friends” at the crèche of his dreams.
I remember how he cuddled me tightly and kissed my cheek when I held him as we stood above Durdle Door and James took our photo. How the three of us tried, struggled and failed to pose for a selfie in the same spot, before a nice chap stepped in and offered to take the photo for us. How Oscar squealed with delight as his daddy gave him a piggyback as we walked against the wind along Moonfleet’s coastal path. How he told anyone who would listen he was “on holiday” and would point to anyone in sight and call them his “friend”. How he cried big fat tears and wailed “no car!” when it was time for us to leave and drive home. How the water on the lagoon looked that Sunday morning, like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Thank you, Luxury Family Hotels for re-opening my disco ball eyes to Weymouth and beyond. What a privilege and an adventure it’s been.
This post is in partnership and sponsored by Luxury Family Hotels. All thoughts, words, opinions and photos are my own.