Head to Cranborne & Weymouth in Dorset for beach fun and food heaven

COVID may have denied us a holiday abroad this summer but a double date with Dorset more than made up for it.

With restrictions in place, we decided to get creative for our summer staycation, booking a family holiday then a couple’s weekend away in the same week.

My wife Esther and I hatched a plan for three nights in Weymouth with our daughters before dispatching them to their lovely godmothers while we escaped back to Dorset for a kids-free stay at the quaint La Fosse B&B/restaurant in the sleepy village of Cranborne.

For our girls, Weymouth was all about beach fun with buckets and spades — and our base was the perfect place for that.

The Gresham hotel sits on the Esplanade overlooking glorious Weymouth Bay, with the beach an eight-second stroll from its front steps (we counted).

Simple touches made our stay so much more straightforward — a box of beach toys sits by the front door for guests to use and beach towels are available on request. Perfect.

Beyond the beach, there is plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

The SeaLife Centre is an absolute joy, where you take in all manner of sea creatures.

Nothe Fort was another great day out.

Overlooking Weymouth and Portland harbours, there are panoramic views from the top, along with huge artillery to stun the kids.

But the undeniable highlight of our Weymouth jaunt was the Weymouth Bay Rib Charter speedboat trip out to famed limestone arch Durdle Door — complete with dolphin-spotting.

On our return trip, a couple of the little show-offs, known as Harry and Wills, darted around our boat for a good five minutes, sending both our girls into raptures.

“Daddy, that is the best thing I have EVER seen,” was eight-year-old Madeleine’s considered verdict.

We caught our boat from Weymouth harbour, my favourite area of the town.

During lockdown, the council narrowed the road along the harbour, allowing the bars and cafes to spill on to the pavement, lending a real continental vibe.

With benches along the water, too, you can enjoy seaside fish and chips without them getting sandy.

Fish ’n’ Fritz impressed, with huge portions and out-of-this-world cod.

For something healthier, hit the Ebike Cafe @ Deheers for lunch — delicious salady buddha bowls and smoothies make you feel a bit better about those fish and chips.

And if you’re still feeling the guilt, check out the e-bikes they sell.

For a real treat, fine-dining Italian Al Molo offers views over the bay from its position on what was once the bandstand.

You can’t go wrong with one of their fresh pasta dishes — the tortellini filled with braised lamb, gorgonzola, walnut and pancetta sauce was pure poetry.

And our visit coincided with fireworks over the bay ­— a fitting finale to a fantastic family trip.

Having dropped the kids off, Mum and Dad then headed back to Dorset for our weekend away.

Our destination, Cranborne, is an incredibly foodie place for some-where so tiny.

Within a few miles are the Book & Bucket Cheese Company and Orchard Bay Bakery, right next to the Sixpenny Brewery.

A wobbly 20-minute walk back through rolling wheat fields takes you to La Fosse — the undoubted foodie highlight of Cranborne.

Its handful of rooms are named after local cheeses and ours, Gold Hill, was spacious, comfortable and quirky, complete with a canvas picture of a huge hunk of the afore-mentioned cheese on the wall.

Delicious-smelling Cowshed bath-room products added to the feeling that our stay was a real treat.

That only continued with chef/owner Mark Hartstone’s work in the restaurant — his six-course tasting menu was one of my all-time favourite dining experiences.

Allotment tapas, melt-in-the-mouth plaice, stunning hogget, pineapple palate cleanser, hazelnut bostock with a rich chocolate ganache, all rounded off with a cheese-tasting board. A masterpiece.

And then there was breakfast, complete with the genius touch of giving each table their own toaster, so you can make it how you like it.

“Est, I think this is the best fry-up I have EVER eaten,” was my considered verdict to my wife.

Reviews for La Fosse — and a family holiday/couple’s break combo ­— don’t come much better than that.

Go: Cranborne & Weymouth

STAYING THERE: Rooms at La Fosse cost from £89 per night. See la-fosse.com or call 01725 517604.

The Gresham’s double and twin rooms are from £90 per night. See greshamhotel-weymouth.co.uk or call 01305 785897.

OUT & ABOUT: For Sea Life Weymouth Adventure Park and Aquarium, see visitsealife.com/weymouth

For speedboat trips departing Weymouth harbour, see weymouthbayribcharters.co.uk.

For Nothe Fort, go to nothefort.org.uk.

EATING OUT: See la-fosse.com, almolo.co.uk, ebikecafe.co.uk and fishnfritz.co.uk.

MORE INFO: weareweymouth.co.uk.

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