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Downshay Farm, Haycrafts Lane, Swanage, Dorset
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Downshay Farm, Haycrafts Lane, Swanage, DorsetIt was William the Conqueror who commissioned the building of Corfe Castle on its lofty Purbeck perch, thinking it the prime location - with its views over vast expanses of Dorset countryside -from which to ward off any impending attacks.

But had his castle scouts taken the trouble to visit a superior spot in the neighbourhood, where Downshay Farm resides today, the landscape in these parts might have looked very different -perhaps even with a castle that's still intact.

The views from the sloping campsite at Downshay stretch out across this scenic part of Britain like a Turner painting. A palette of greens and browns forms a patchwork of fields that fold neatly behind one another where the shallow hills meet, and at the centre of this canvas sit the ruins of Corfe Castle, forming a stunning silhouette against the glowing embers of an evening sky.

The farm's large tent field lies beyond a rusty, rickety gate and is no modern, manicured camping ground. In fact, it's best to pitch your tent in a particular direction to ensure a good night's sleep, as the gradients are challenging - but just remember the views you'll be treated to in the morning. Pitch around the perimeter of the field as its middle is normally kept empty for games of footie or frisbee, and there's a flatter field below for caravans and campervans.
To reach Downshay Farm in a manner in keeping with the stylish views offered here, take an ancient steam locomotive from Swanage through the countryside, past Corfe Castle's iconic ruins.

COOL FACTOR Splendiferous views out across Dorset and its iconic Corfe Castle.

WHO'S IN? Tents, campervans, caravans, well-behaved groups, dogs (on leads) - yes. Transit vans, motorbikes - no.

ON SITE Room for about 90 tents. Caravan field has 12 pitches (all with hook-ups) and separate facilities block. Each block contains hot showers (5W, 4M, 2 unisex), and toilets. Hairdrying point; freezers for ice packs; washing-up areas. BBQs off the ground are okay; barrels available for fires.

OFF SITE On sunny days head to Swanage, Studland, or Shell Bay beaches - or take the ferry over to Sandbanks. When the weather isn't so good head to the Tank Museum (01929 462359; www.tankmuseum.org) in Bovington-a real winner with the kids with its vast array of tanks and interactive experiences - or the Teddy Bear Museum (01305 266040; www.teddybearmuseum.co.uk) in Dorchester.Then, of course, there's Corfe Castle (01929 481294).

FOOD AND DRINK Corfe Castle village has a good selection of pubs and a fantastic ice cream shop - Box of Delights (01929 481060).

GETTING THERE Take the A351 past Corfe Castle to the crossroads at Harman's Cross. Turn right into Haycrafts Lane and continue for 1/2 mile. Campsite signs are on the right.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Train to Wareham/Swanage then bus (no. 29/92/142/X43) to Harman's Cross, then a short walk up the hill. Or take a romantic steam-train ride from Swanage to Harman's Cross.

OPEN For 10 days around Whitsun weekend, then mid July-early September. Caravan field April-October.

THE DAMAGE Adult £ 5 per night; child (over-10) £ 2, (under-11) £1. Plus £ 2/£ 3/£ 4 for small/medium/large tent; car £ 1. Minimum fee per night £ 10.





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