Downshay Farm

UK England South West England Dorset Swanage & Isle of Purbeck

  • Dogs welcome
  • Groups welcome
  • Beaches nearby
  • Good walks nearby
Shepherds hut, bell tent and camping with stunning views across the Dorset countryside to Corfe Castle.

A trip to Downshay Farm is a little like embarking on a journey back in time. An ancient steam locomotive services the nearest train station to the campsite, huffing and puffing the six miles between Swanage and Norden. It’s a fitting way to arrive, aboard a relic from the bygone era of romantic and memorable travel, a time when a large part of the thrill of the trip was the journey itself.

From Harman’s Cross station, it’s a short uphill walk through narrow country lanes where you may not even see a car nor any other sign of modern life, except in peak summer. Turning right into the farm and on past the old stone farmhouse, you’ll find the camping field through a rusty, rickety gate.

Campsites with sprawling views, wide-open spaces and big skies don’t come much better than Downshay Farm. The hospitable owners – who live in the large Victorian farmhouse – have struck gold with their location, near to the historically rich Jurassic coastline in one direction and stunning Corfe Castle in the other. This is a campsite with stately views, in fact; the castle perches on the Purbeck Hills in sight of campers and looks eerily spectacular shrouded in early morning mist.

But it isn't all about the campers here. The newest addition to Downshay Farm is a pair of gorgeous glamping abodes. The creation of the lovely Andrea Pike (daughter-in-law of Downshay's owners), Andrea's Farm Breaks sees a charming shepherds hut and bell tent plotted in a peaceful pocket of the farm for those campers who like things decidedly hassle-free. A basically-furnished but well-equipped bell tent sleeps a family of four on one double and two single raised beds. Essentials like fairylights, lanterns, and trunk for storage are supplied and extras like bedding and a gas stove can be hired too, while that all important firebowl and BBQ outside are included alongside a picnic table. The Keeper's Hut is a cosy self-contained cabin, sleeping up to two on a comfy double bed and boasting a cute kitchenette with Belfast sink and a few basic appliances (kettle, toaster, coffee machine, cutlery, crockery, glasses, cool bag and icepacks and tea and coffee) for making breakfast. There's a BBQ and firepit included outside from which to enjoy lazy al fresco lunches (complimentary fire-starter kit provided). And, perched atop a dry-stone wall framed patio, the views from the shepherds hut out to the sea and iconic Corfe Castle are cracking. 

The facilities, a mixture of modern pre-fab and older-style wooden blocks, are fantastically clean (guests must mop up after their own shower and it works, the cubicles are spotless) and the pitches are sheltered and un-numbered, bordered by tall trees. It’s positively sloping in places, so finding a good pitch is key, as is pitching in a direction to ensure a good night’s sleep on these challenging gradients. But sloping campsites are often on higher ground and higher ground often means views, and so we’ve arrived at the crux of our journey. The views from Downshay Farm stretch out across the Dorset countryside like an age-old landscape painting.

Despite the gradient across much of the camping area, flatter pitches can be found on the lower ground, around the edge of the site, but the trade-off will be a lack of views. The large tent field offers about 60 unmarked pitches (there is no specific limit – the owner just brings out the ‘full’ sign when he thinks it’s time) and the field is usually left empty in the centre for games of football or frisbee.

Walks across the Vale of Purbeck also run right by the campsite, including an unmissable – if energetic – day-trek to Studland Bay and Lulworth Cove. Sadly the site is only open for camping during the school holidays, and you have to be quick or lucky to grab a decent pitch at this wildly popular Dorset haven.

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Details

Facilities

Keepers Hut has a double bed with bed linen provided. There is electricity supply for sockets, heating and facilities in the compact kitchen area, which include a kettle, toaster, coffee machine, cutlery, crockery, glasses, cool bag and icepacks and tea and coffee. A sink with running water provided. You'll also find a here is a BBQ, picnic table and campfire bowl outside. A pack of logs, kindling, charcoal and firelighters are provided. Additional wood can be purchased at the local shop. The bell tent has a double bed and single raised beds (bedding extra), a picnic table and chairs, cutlery and crockery, kitchen unit and gas stove (stove extra), a BBQ, cool box, a trunk for storage, fairy lights, lanterns and a campfire bowl. Like the hut, a fire-starter kit is provided and additional wood can be purchased at the local shop. There's room for about 60 tents. There is no specific limit – the owner just brings out the ‘full’ sign when he thinks it’s time. The caravan field has 12 pitches (all with hook-ups) and separate facilities block. Each well-maintained block contains hot showers (5 women's, 4 men's, 2 unisex), and toilets. Hairdrying point; freezers for ice packs; washing-up areas. BBQs off the ground are okay, and barrels are available for fires. A football and frisbee play area.

Suitable For

Glampers, tents, small campervans, caravans (in a separate field), well-behaved groups, dogs (on leads) – yes. Transit vans, motorbikes – no.

Nearby

On sunny days head to Swanage, Studland or Shell Bay beaches or take the ferry to Sandbanks. Plus there is the evocative ruin of Corfe Castle (01929 481294). Take a steam train ride on Swanage Railway (01929 425800) to Corfe Castle. Trains depart regularly from Harmans Cross station, 5 minutes walk from the campsite.

Food & Drink

Corfe Castle’s ice-cream shop – Box of Delights – sells Purbeck specialities and Dorset cream teas (01929 481060). The real ales and ciders at The Square & Compass (01929 439229) in Worth Matravers are well worth seeking out, as are more castle views from the pleasant garden at The Scott Arms (01929 480270) in Kingston. Both are a 10-minute drive from the site.

Opening Times

For 10 days around Whitsun weekend, then again for school holidays (mid-July – early September). A separate caravan field is open April –  end October.

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The Owner Says

Spacious fields in the heart of Purbeck  allow you to spread out, relax and enjoy the views. We have three toilet blocks comprising washing up areas, 10 showers, and 16 toilets. 

Accommodation

Shepherds hut (sleeps 2) and bell tent (sleeps 4). In addition to our popular campsite, we also run a small 12 pitch caravan site from Easter to November. As well as caravans we welcome VW camper vans from £14 per night (low season) including electric hook-up.
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Location

Contact Downshay Farm, Haycrafts Lane, Swanage, Dorset BH19 3EB

Show Map

Getting There

From Wareham, take the A351 following signs to Corfe Castle. Continue past the castle on the A351 for 2 miles. At the crossroads at Harmans Cross, turn right into Haycrafts Lane. Continue on this road for 1 mile and look out for the signs on the right.

From Wareham train station, catch the Swanage bus to Harmans Cross, or to Gallows Gore between Kingston and Langton, from where it’s a short walk up (or down)Haycrafts Lane .

Reviews

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Rated ★★★★★ over 14 reviews

★★★★★

A seriously lovely campsite with stunning views !

Our first time at Downshay farm and we just loved it ! Such a beautiful location and beautiful views. . We were there as a group of friends in August and there was more than plenty of room to spread out. The showers and toilets were constantly cleaned and spotless. The owners were friendly and easygoing. There was also the bonus that the farmhouse offered (excellent, apparently) B&B accommodation for our non-camping friend so we could all stay in the same place together. Fantastic walks to the coast, Corfe Castle etc direct from the campsite (and never forget the Square&Compass pub in Worth Matravers...) - no need to drive anywhere unless you wish to. Yes the site was on a slope and quite exposed, but that didn't spoil our stay - we'll definitely be back ! Thank you Justine and Martin for a lovely stay .
Sep 2, 2018 by daydreamer
★★★★★

A perfect getaway with amazing views

I love this site. Relaxed and peaceful. It is on a bit of a slope but that’s no problem. The views of Corfe Castle are as good as you will get. You can not book for tents, but they regularly update their voicemail. We arrived just after lunch in the summer holiday and found plentiful spots. You can have fires as long as they are contained and there is a mobile shop that pull on selling essential stuff. The Swanage steam railway station is just down the hill with Corfe Castle (national trust) 2 miles away and the quaint town of Wareham 5. Blue pool is a nice day out with the Isle of Purbeck worth exploring. Lulworth cove not too far and The deserted village of Twynham on the MOD firing ranges worth a visit plus a beautiful little cove a short walk on from Twynham.
Aug 27, 2018 by Chris
★★★★☆

Little Gem of a Place

Just returned form this place and had a very happy stay. The views are fantastic, the sites toilets and showers are very clean and there is loads of space to spread out. We had a large bell tent , awning, a dog and family of 4 all for only £19 per night. Its a very chilled out site and the owners are very nice but leave you alone - we didnt see anyone for the first 2 days! . You can have camp fires in fire pits and there doesnt seem to be any rules as long as you respect each other. Obviously the site is located close to the  lovelly Corfe Castle, Swanage and Studland so a great destination if you want to venture out. My only criticism about the site is that its very hilly. I spent ages looking for a flat pitch and even then it was still sloping. This did effect our sleep a bit. It is also very windy to a point where i couldnt enjoy sitting outside but not always so dont let that put you off.  Overall a good site and for the money one in which ill be returning.

Jun 1, 2016 by nichider
★★★★★

Fantastic camp site

We have just got back from a great weekend from this fantastic camp site , there is a great thing to know , I'm on the EE mobile network, I was getting 4G speeds down speed of 109 Mbps , upload 79 Mbps never get that even in central London , 

Aug 2, 2015 by Paul Bevan
★★★★☆

Lovely campsite- beautiful veiw!

I loved downshay farm- the campsite is hilly (so be prepared for a slightly wonky sleep) however what it lacks in flatness it makes up for in beauty. The farm overlooks corfe castle and the hills and greenery of dorset- which is a fantastic site to wake up to! The only thing to bear in mind when staying in Downshay is that it is on top of a hill and so is very exposed. Come prepared, bring warm clothes for the evenings and expect windyness! The facilites were fine, bit of a walk from the campsite but everything you need! Will be back as soon as the sun is out again :)
Oct 7, 2014 by jj259
★★★★★

Trainspotter paradise

Lovely site - aim for the furthest spots at the top of the hill for the flattest pitches. Run by decent people, facilities are spotless and the views of the steam trains make for toddler heaven. It's a lovely walk down to the train station which takes you into Swanage in a few minutes. Nice local play park too. 

Aug 1, 2014 by NKF
★★★★☆

A field with a view

I doubt you'll find a campsite with such a far reaching views. Corfe Castle is almost dwarfed by the surrounding landscape.  I have made 2 visits to this campsite and have never been disappointed. It is slightly sloping so finding a completely flat pitch is challenging but overall you get reasonably flat!!  It can be quite windy but again the site is well screened with large trees. The facilities are a mixed bag but are clean functional and provide good showers and loos. You can queue at peak times but otherwise absolutely fine. Probably the biggest selling point is the family friendly atmosphere and the fact your child(ren) just disappear to run around and play with other children. There is a great central collection of trees with rope swing which seems to be the hub.  Each morning a mobile shop visits the site and sells general sale items - including chocolate doughnuts - my daughter's favourite!!  Location couldn't be better as the site is walking distance to Harman's Cross which is on the Swansea Railway - steam trains to Swanage in one direction and Corfe Castle in the other.  Both local pubs - Square and Compass and Kings Arms are recommended.

May 19, 2014 by Clare
★★★★★

Our 'local'

Summer for our family isn't complete without a stay at Downshay- no bells and whistles just a really friendly, relaxed spot with the perfect combination of stunning views and plenty to do nearby. You can't book ahead so it can be a bit of a gamble getting the perfect pitch in high season (although we often choose the August bh so we are around for the fab Harman's Cross Village Fete!). The kids love hanging out in the little clump of trees with the tyre swing; visiting the horses in the neighbouring field; walking to the great kids playground at Harman's Cross (obviously spotting the Steam trains coming through the station on the way); catching the aforementioned train to Corfe or Swanage. As for the grown ups...a glass of wine whilst watching the sun set behind the ruined castle, train puffing through the valley just can't be beaten...this is chilling out at it's best.  

Mar 28, 2014 by Dorsetquad
★★★★★

Beautiful piece of Purbeck

This campsite is perfect for a weekend trip to Purbeck.  It is a "camp anywhere" site so you can roll up on a Friday evening and always get a pitch, although it is slopey so the earlier in the day the better your campsite.  You can sit and look out to Corfe Castle while a steam train goes past the bottom of the field - lovely.

It is also possible to walk to the Square and Compass pub from here - truly great pub.  It's a fair walk across some fields but do-able, and all downhill on the way back once you have your cider coat on.

Bathroom facilities are good, basic but clean and never had too much problem queueing. 

Highly recommended :-)

Mar 6, 2014 by EmmaB
★★★★☆

Great place to stay and will definitely return.

Stayed here over the August Bank Holiday, lovely campsite with wonderful views of the surrounding area including that of beautiful Corfe Castle. Harmons Cross on the Swanage Steam Railway is a short walk just outside the farm (You can buy discounted train tickets from the farm house) and is a lovely way of travelling to either Corfe Castle or down to the beach at Swanage.

The toilet and shower facilities were clean (although not enough for the amount of people staying there) but this is a working farm which only opens up its field for camping during the summer holidays.

Great place to stay and will definitely return.

Aug 27, 2013 by RichH
★★★★★

Amazing Views & Great Price

I would recommend this site and would definitely go back here. We pitched our tent right at the top of the hill, not great for walking to and from the toilet but the view is amazing. Each morning we sat outside our tent and had breakfast with Corfe Castle in the distance and the trains running along the line below us.

The facility's are very basic but are so very clean. There are two blocks. One has two showers and two toilets for ladies (and I'm guessing the same for the men). The other block has two showers for the ladies and three toilets (again assuming there is the same amount for the men). There are then two additional showers in this block which anyone can use. I have to say (due to previous comments) I didn't have to wait for the showers at all during my 4 night stay.. There are also sinks for washing up at both blocks. The morning van is an added bonus and there are ample water points across the site.

I think the cost for is site is very reasonable and I'm looking to stay here again for 2014 swanage festival! 

Aug 8, 2013 by sueysuey
★★★☆☆

It's OK

Pros: Plenty of room (19-20/07/13). Friendly. Good views. Central.

Cons:  Sloping ground. Windy. No shop. Not enough showers or toilets.

Would I go back - yes if no alternative.

Jul 23, 2013 by Glyn W
★★★★★

Downshay Farm

We loved it here, so peaceful & relaxing. We have 4 boisterous kids and there was so much space for them. Van in the morning is great as well, selling milk, papers, iced do-nuts etc. Owner is v laid back, basically you just turn up & pitch where you want! My top tip, take a fire pit with you as it can get chilly in the evenings. Views are spectacular, facilities great.
★★★★☆

Downshay Farm

yes the views are lovely, there’s plenty of space (although downshay seems to be getting busier post its cool camping fame). the owner comes along in the morning for money with the biggest smile on his face :-) free showers but expect a wait to get into them. great kids play area a short distance from the site and swanage railway in easy acces (tho not cheap).

Aug 5, 2010 by fionabobjamesanded

Why book with Cool Camping?

  • Best Price Guarantee, with no fees
  • Instant booking confirmation
  • Trusted for over 10 years
  • A chance to win prizes in our regular competitions

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