A hidden gem in Dorset | Our family trip to Caalm Camp
We’ve just returned home from a long weekend break at Caalm Camp – a multi-award winning ‘glamp’ site just outside of Shaftesbury in Dorset, where we stayed in one of six of their traditional Mongolian yurts.
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not one to ‘rough it’ and camp, I like my home comforts too much, not to mention that I wouldn’t know where to begin putting a tent up and you certainly wouldn’t find me traipsing across a muddy field to have a wee and a shower in a shared shower block. So when we were invited to stay at the family-run, Caalm Camp, I had no expectations.
We arrived later than planned after a few wrong turns down the windy country roads, in the pouring rain and with weather warnings of potential snow surrounding us. The atmosphere in the car upon our arrival was slightly tense to say the least! However, all of our apprehension and possible hypothermia worries were soon wiped away when we were greeted by Mark, one of the owners of Caalm Camp, who showed us where to park the car and gave us a tour of the facilities. A truly, lovely, personable chap who was only to happy to share his knowledge of the local area…as well as his fire making skills!
Once we’d had a tour, he kindly showed us to our Yurt. We were the only guests at the former dairy farm for the weekend and we were housed in the beautiful Daisy with her hobbit sized green door. Each of the six hand painted yurts are different colours and named after wildflowers – you will also find Foxglove , Snowdrop, Cowslip, Bluebell and Buttercup.
What is a Yurt?
A yurt is a traditional, portable house made of a wooden lattice structure and are traditionally used by Nomads in Central Asia and Mongolia – luckily, you don’t have to trek that far to experience one as you get the real deal nestled in the deepest, darkest countryside of stunning Dorset. And ours was called Daisy.
Daisy was everything we had hoped for and more. The deceivingly small door was thrown open to a spacious, large, warm inside which had a wrought iron double bed and two day beds all made up with crisp white linen and additional blankets. Traditional touches were all around us with each piece of lattice wood held together with horse hair string and the intricate hand painted designs on each piece leading to the roof.
The centre piece was the very welcoming wood burner in the middle of the room, which sat directly under the clear roof, so you could literally star gaze from bed. Truly magical!
Daisy, like the other five yurts has a traditional wood burner inside and when it’s lit the yurt is super toasty (yes, even in the winter months!). A nice touch is that fire wood is included – no hidden charges. Buckets of coal can be purchased for £3 which should keep the fire burning for the night.
I was pleasantly surprised by all of the ‘mod cons’ provided in the Yurt – electricity, where lamps lit up the area creating a beautiful ambience and set the atmosphere for the evening, a coat peg to hang our soggy coats, two wicker chairs, an induction countertop hob and some mugs to enjoy a late night hot chocolate or a morning brew, additional storage boxes under the day beds and bedside tables with ample plug points – for a social media addict like me, I was glad to see my phone wouldn’t go uncharged!
Outside the front door you’ll find your own private picnic bench, BBQ and firepit and a drinking water tap – which was so convenient. In the summer months, there’s also the option to hire out the pizza oven.
Glamping in style – The Haybarn
In true ‘glamping’ style, Caalm Camp has the luxury of 24 hour facilities in the form of The Haybarn. The Haybarn is a purpose built building which houses a dedicated lockable wet room with super toasty underfloor heating and heated towel rail – which was so welcome, along with the fluffy towels.
As well as your own personal bathroom, there’s also a communal kitchen; as we were on a short break we opted to eat out each night – however, if you’re there longer or there as a group then the kitchen is very well equipped; you’ll find two ovens, hobs, sinks, kettles, toaster and microwaves plus crockery and cutlery. You also get a dedicated cupboard and fridge too. No student living here!
There’s also a lounge/diner complete with six dining tables as well as comfy sofas, TV and a kids play corner complete with books, DVDs and games. There was also a number of IKEA highchairs available, which were a great bonus for breakfast times.
Through the back of the haybarn is another hidden gem – an undercover games room complete with pool table and table tennis table..though there may be some bleeting supporters joining you!
What did we do during our stay at Caalm Camp?
On Friday night we headed out to the Kings Arms pub that Mark recommended, it was the closest one so we decided as the kids were with us and we were pushing our luck time-wise that we would just head there – it was a typical locals pub, a bit like Cheers – where everybody knows your name [bet you’re singing that now aren’t you?]. Food was OK, really cheap and the staff were all super friendly.
The rain continued to pour all night, it must have acted like white noise as the kids didn’t wake until 8.30am. That is unheard of. So we briefly considered selling up and buying a Yurt. Hammering it down did throw a spanner in the works as all of the plans we’d had to explore the site and the surrounding areas didn’t look so appealing. And Stuart has no wellies *eye roll emoji*
Saturday morning we headed to the Haybarn for a warm shower, breakfast and a visit to the goats before deciding to venture to Wookey Hole Caves for the day. It took around an hour to get there, though we did stop off at a supermarket enroute to pick up some essentials that we’d forgotten to pack.
We spent most of the day busying ourselves at Wookey Hole and then headed back to base. It was great timing as the kids had a sleep the whole way back which meant they were on top form for us taking them out that evening.
We had been told about a pub in Shaftesbury called The Half Moon so we decided to venture there for dinner. This pub was more up our street and we both had a lovely steak – the kids enjoyed their meals from the kids section so we were all winning.
Infact, the kids were so well behaved that a lady came over to us and said ‘I just needed to come over to let you know how beautifully behaved your children are‘. Proud parent moment, so we thought again about selling up and either buying a Yurt or perhaps a chamber in Wookey caves.
Sunday morning we woke to glorious sunshine which really showed the camp off in all its stunning glory.
My parents, who live in Salisbury, came down to check out the site and they were SO impressed with not only the Yurt but also the facilities. With the sun beating down, the kids spent the morning exploring the toy shed (after a visit to the goats of course) and loved the Little Tikes ride on cars – seeing them giggling and playing together in the beautiful surroundings gave me all the feels.
We then headed over to the wooden park area, luckily there is wood chips down on the floor and due to the rain of the previous couple of days it was slightly waterlogged – still, Arlo got fully involved jumping in woodchip puddles!
We then headed for brunch at local (it’s about a mile away) farm shop and restaurant, The Udder Farmshop, unfortunately we arrived at 11.10am so we just missed breakfast – even after much pleading they weren’t budging on letting us have a bit of bacon, but unfortunately they weren’t serving food until midday either. So that put paid to our brunch plans.
We decided to head into Shaftesbury, but there wasn’t a whole lot of things open unfortunately – and the shops that are there seem to all be closing down. We did the famous ‘Hovis Hill’ walk, it’s not actually called that it’s ‘Gold Hill’ – made famous for being in the Hovis adverts in 1973. We couldn’t resist a picture of the stunning cobbled street (Arlo was firmly strapped into his buggy at this point!)
There are heaps of other places you can visit, come rain or shine, that’s the real beauty of Caalm Camp’s location. You can be chilling back in ultimate relaxation and then head out in the car to get a bit of liveliness if that’s what you’re after.
What’s included in your Caalm Camp stay?
- A comfy bed and crisp sheets
- Free wood for the Yurt’s wood burner and your outside fire pit (you simply help yourself from the wood store)
- Your own private shower room complete with cupboards and fluffy towels
- Use of a spacious communal kitchen including dedicated cupboards and fridge
- Communal lounge and dining area complete with toys, games and TV
- Outdoor play area with swings, slides, trampoline, toy kitchen, wendy house and ride-on toys
- Indoor, undercover games room with sofas, table tennis and pool
- Farm animals to pet and visit
What should you pack for your Caalm Camp stay?
Aside from the obvious things like your family – or maybe not, I can imagine it would be heaven on earth enjoying a Yurt to yourself with no moaning husband or kids to ruin the tranquility – but if you have to take them along, then here are a few bits that you may want to pack!
- Toilet rolls
- Washing up liquid
- Scourer/sponge for kitchen
- Washing tablets/powder if you’re there for a while – there’s a washing machine and iron etc located in the Haybarn
- Cot linen if little ones aren’t quite at bed stage (travel cots are available on request)
- Firelighters – they do sell these at 20p each but it may be more economical to take a box
- Matches – again, there are some provided but you may want to take a spare box
- Some change for the ‘honesty pots’ for coal (£3) and firelighters (20p)
- Slippers – you shouldn’t wear shoes in the Yurts and the floor is quite scratchy underfoot
- A man that can keep a fire going all night when it’s sub zero temps outside
Overall thoughts on Caalm Camp
We loved it! It was something so different to what we would usually do and a nice ‘toe dip’ into sleeping under the stars. The camp was unbelievably clean, had more facilities than you could hope for and a lovely family-run feel to it. Another plus point is that it is completely child-friendly as no cars are allowed on site. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the experience as much if it wasn’t for the Haybarn, not necessarily for the communal areas but having your own huge private, lockable bathroom really made the stay stressfree and so much easier getting the kids ready in the warmth.
My biggest tip? Read the manual on keeping the fire burning! We quickly learnt that Stuart is no Bear Grylls and even with umpteen firelighters and matches, this man could make no fire.
Some pictures of our stay – words struggle to do it justice!
With no cars allowed onsite, it’s safe to let the kids roam free.
Mark and Caryl – thank you so much for inviting us to your beautiful camp. We had an amazing time & we hope to return soon!