A very English weekend at The Pig on the Beach, Dorset

July

The Pig on the Beach is easily our favorite hotel in all of England. For a country weekend getaway, its the perfect base to explore England's scenic Jurassic Coast, and the beautiful ruins of Corfe Castle.

Duration: Weekend

Before moving to England, we had heard about The Pig hotels from their infamous food and music festivals, Smoked and Uncut. We’ve since made it to stay at The Pig on the Beach twice (there are six Pig locations in total, and two on the way), and can say that it is hands down our favourite hotel in all of England. Described online as ‘a restaurant with rooms’, the pig has unbelievable food (they aim to source all of their ingredients within 25 miles of each location, and have beautiful kitchen gardens to back this up!) Visiting the Pig is like visiting rich British relatives who live in a rambling country manor that’s been updated just enough for maximum comfort (high thread count sheets, rain showers, Bamford bath products), but still retains its quirky British charm. The sofas are cushioned and comfortable, there’s always a fire blazing, the staff are exceptional, and the overall atmosphere is one of ease and relaxation, not fussiness. Add to this the beautiful surrounding coastline of Studland Bay, with hikes and biking trails to Old Harry Rocks, and the historic ruins of Corfe Castle nearby, and you’ve got just enough to keep you occupied for a perfectly relaxing weekend in the countryside.

  • Sight Seeing 90% 90%
  • Food 95% 95%
  • Ease of Transportation 85% 85%
  • Activities 90% 90%

We initialy came to Dorset just for the Pig, but quickly discovered dramatic coastal hikes, Old Harry Rocks, Swanage, and Corfe Castle, that are all worth a weekend visit in their own right. The Jurassic coast, with dramatic limestone cliffs perched high above the sea, is stunningly beautiful, and unlike other coastal topography we’ve seen. There is a 4 mile hike that leaves from the Pig, takes you up a trail overlooking the bluffs, and then through beautiful farmland where cows and sheep graze with views of Studland Bay in all directions. [Historical fun fact: Studland Bay is where Churchill, King George VI and General Dwight Eisenhower watched a D-Day test run, and a secret underground tunnel from the bayside bunker leads directly into what is now the Pig’s wine cellar!] After an indulgent breakfast at the Pig, hiking or biking this trail makes for a perfect morning. The trail ends by looping back into the town of Studland (‘the land of horses’), where you’ll walk through the cemetery and grounds of St Nicholas, the local church that’s been around for 1,000 years. Built on the site of an earlier Saxon church, it dates from the very beginnings of Christianity in Dorset, and is charming vestige of country life.

The Pig: We can’t emphasize enough how much we love the Pig. On weekends, the restaurant and grounds are filled with locals who come for a meal, and we can see why. There’s a casual outdoor bar and pizza oven where you can order flatbreads, glasses of rosé, and ice cold g&ts to enjoy on the lawn. There are long al fresco communal dining tables, and a number of Adirondack chairs scattered about, with views out to Studland Bay. The full A la carte menu can be ordered in the indoor conservatory, or enjoyed on the patio outside, and there’s a popular contingency of locals who come for family meals on Sunday. We once arrived too late for dinner, but were told they could rustle up a charcuterie and cheese platter which was easily one of the best we’ve ever had. Breakfast is a feast of croissants, toast, homemade granola and yogurt, eggs from the hens, and every assortment of homemade jam and local Dorset honey you could wish for. The cappuccino, served with cinnamon in the shape of a pig on top, is always a fun touch that we look forward to. As for the room, we’ve stayed in their smallest cheap and cheerful accommodations and had the best night sleep of our lives (we were searching for the tags on the mattresses and taking notes by the end of our stay). The bathrooms boast rain showers with the kind of water pressure we dare not dream of in these revamped old English buildings. And the Bramley bath products, and quality sheets and towels upgrade an average shower to a spa worthy experience. There’s also an onsite spa for massage treatments if you fancy. The staff are some of the best hospitality we’ve encountered in England. They remember you from years prior, they are knowledgeable, kind, relaxed, and competent. We’ve stayed at many hotels we had high hopes for, that didn’t come close to offering the level of competent service that is standard at the Pig. (We’ve also paid more for most of these hotels, at £165/night, the Pig is the best value in our experience). We’ve also stayed in scores of seemingly charming old English hotels that have been dismally refurbished with weird modern details that destroy the integrity of the beautiful old buildings, and missed the mark on food as well. (Examples here and here). In short, we are Pig fanatics, and hope to get to the other soon-to-be seven locations. The Pig is incredibly popular so you’ll need to book well in advance, or come for a mid-week getaway if you’re able. But whether you come just for a meal, or for an overnight stay, you’re sure to enjoy the best of English country living, quirky and comfortable decor, and phenomenal food.

Corfe Castle: If you drive to The Pig, you can’t help but notice the ruins of a beautiful stone castle perched high on a hill just a few miles away.  Corfe Castle, now part of the National Trust, is one of the best examples of a crumbling royal castle we’ve seen because enough of the building is still remaining to give a real sense of its size and beauty. There has been a castle of some sort on this site dating back to Roman times, but the stone construction dates to William the Conqueror in the 11th century. As the English Civil War broke out in the 17th century, the royalist owners of Corfe Castle sought refuge on site and managed to fend off Parliamentarians for six weeks, before the castle was finally taken and blown up, resulting in its current state of romantic decay. The castle is beautiful, as is the view of the town and landscape beyond. If you’re lucky, the restored Swanage Railway steam train will come bellowing by while you’re looking out from the castle (it did when we visited). One other point to note, we walked around the charming little town of Corfe Castle and happened to stop into Corfe Castle Village Stores, a convenience store boasting the best array of locally made ice creams, cheeses, smoked salmons, cured meats, honesy, jams, and locally made ales and ciders. This store is well worth stocking up for souvenirs, gifts, or just road snacks when you’re in the area.

Swanage: From our morning hike around Old Harry Rocks, we could see the little coastal town of Swanage decided to come for fish and chips. The Fish Plaice ended up being the best fish and chips (and fish cakes) we’ve tried anywhere in England, and we’ve since heard that Swanage has developed a bit of a reputation for superlative chippies. It’s not fancy, and there are no bells and whistles, just made to order crispy fish and chips on grease tinged, unprinted newspaper, and home-made fishcakes. For a quintessential taste of England, Swanage is worth a detour.

Practical Notes on Getting Here: If you want to explore the area, including Corfe Castle, and Swanage, it’s best to rent a car. We did the first time we came, and it allowed us to freely explore the little towns around Studland and The Pig. That said, the 2.5 hour drive down from London actually took us closer to 5 hours on a busy Friday night, as the rest of the city cleared out for the weekend. The second time we visited, we took the train from Waterloo to Wareham (2 hours, 20 minutes), and then arranged for a local taxi to meet us upon arrival and take us to the pig (£30 one way, 20 minute drive). The train and taxi combo was far less stressful, if a bit expensive. For maximum relaxation and minimal hassle, we would do this again, and bike or pay for a taxi to Corfe Castle. It does mean you’ll miss the fish and chips in Swanage though…

 

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