Loose Reins

UK England West Country Dorset

Loose Reins, Ridgeway Farm, Shillingstone, Dorset DT11 0TF

Western chic finished to perfection.

Smack in the middle of Dorset, and pinned between two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Loose Reins is a glamping site for slackening those chaps, hanging up the holsters and kicking back in the utmost, Western luxury. Giving a new meaning to the phrase “riding in style”, this high-end glamping haven is a retreat for those who fancy not only some serious outdoor comfort but also a little horsing around at the same time.

Onsite, an experienced and qualified trainer provides Western riding or horsemanship lessons, while more experienced riders can take to the surrounding landscape, with varied trails and excellent guided routes. You can even take a 4-hour ‘Pioneer Trail’ ride, where you’ll tie up the horses and enjoy a Loose Reins lunch in the forest before continuing again in the afternoon.

Of course, there’s more to the place than trotting through the countryside. What you’re really coming for is a chance to camp out beneath the stars with marshmallows frazzling over the campfire. On this they certainly don’t disappoint. Their glamping accommodation is more ‘Sherriff of the town’ than ‘cowboy in the field’ though, with a selection of glamorous Pioneer Cabins accompanied in the summer season by luxury Canvas Lodges.

All have a certain sense of permanence, with king sized beds (including four-poster beds in the lodges), en suite bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchenettes and comfortable living spaces with sofas and wood-burning stoves. It certainly seems more than the average cowboy could pack back onto his horse in the morning! Yet for all its Western-themed aesthetics – wagon wheels lean against the wooden cabins and gold panning trays adorn the exterior walls – it never feels overdone. The place is thematic without becoming gimmicky and the resulting accommodation is, ultimately, an incredibly warm and thoughtfully crafted place to stay.

The cabins are handmade by local artisan craftsmen and finished to perfection, each one varying slightly in style. The “Ranchers” cabin boasts burnt wood walls and quaint, Victorian glass light shades, while the “Trappers” cabin is crowned with a fantastic antler chandelier. Small touches like jams waiting in the fridge, board games ready to be played and a collection of toiletries in each bathroom means everything is accounted for. You really can just turn up with a toothbrush – in fact, forget your toothbrush and they’d probably nip of and buy you another one! (We don’t recommend trying it though. Take some clothes and things while you’re at it too.)

For those less inclined to saddle up, the perimeter of the natural coombe that the whole site sits in has been recently coppiced and opened into various clearings, ideal for a little den building and wildlife stalking, while beyond, the site also has direct access to hundreds of acres of forest. Stay firmly on two feet and practice your lassoing with the site's roping bull, Rodney, or play horseshoe games set up by the firepit where communal gatherings are regularly held during summer, with cookouts and barbecues, plus music from a visiting wrangler-cum-musician. All this and you haven’t even left the site yet!

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