The somewhat sleepy market town of Sherborne may not be on your to-visit list yet, but if you do happen to find yourself anywhere near Dorset, it’s worth a visit for The Eastbury Hotel & Spa alone.
This family-run boutique hotel – part of the De Savary collection that also includes Devon’s Cary Arms & Spa – is one of the most charming country retreats we’ve encountered, especially for those travelling with a four-legged friend.
The property was originally designed as a Georgian gentleman’s residence in the 18th century, and as such, has overflowing buckets of character. The decor is a wonderfully bonkers blend of period features and modern aesthetics – pink chintz in the welcome lounge, but crushed velvet chairs and leopard print carpet in the dining room.
The bedrooms, meanwhile, have a calmer quality, each boasting its own tasteful traditional touches – think beamed ceilings, antique furnishings and even freestanding bathtubs in some of the more luxurious suites.
The well-appointed Potting Sheds in the Walled Garden offer a more contemporary way to experience your stay, and come with your own private terrace, ideal for basking in the sunshine during stays that are blessed with warm weather. And, of course, they’re exceptionally dog-friendly – dog treats, toys and even their own bed await your four-legged friend on arrival.
If you’re travelling as a family or larger group, you can also opt for a booking at Eastbury Cottage, a newly refurbished 17th century stone period property with three generous bedrooms, which reopened its doors last year. Children will particularly love the outside ‘den’ bedroom, and the vast selection of board games provided as standard.
Self-catering is an option in the cottage, but we’d highly suggest you don’t depart without dining at least once in the double AA Rosette-awarded restaurant Seasons, which has been overseen by executive chef Matthew Street for the last 12 years, and offers an imaginative menu that you’ll remember for a very long time (a particular shoutout to the famed tomato butter that comes with your basket of bread, which our waiter couldn’t replenish quickly enough).
As with every area of The Eastbury, pups are just as welcome as their owners – as we tucked into our own (fresh, seasonal, delicious) dinner, a gorgeous 10-month old puppy at the table opposite also served a chicken-and-rice spread of his own.
The facilities are undoubtedly done well, with attention to detail around every corner – guests are encouraged to make use of the gardens, where you’ll find everything from badminton and table tennis to croquet and lawn chess, plus the indoor games room and other communal spaces to offer a real ‘home from home’.
But it’s the staff that who really set the tone for this comfort and familiarity, going above and beyond to create an amazingly warm welcome, both for man and his (or her) best friend.
Perhaps the only place you can’t enjoy with your pooch is the spa, tucked away towards the back of the grounds. It’s a neat, petite hideaway with a cute Hobbit-house vibe, and the perfect place to while away an hour or two, either with a soothing treatment from one of the Eastbury’s expert therapists, or a soak in the indoor and outdoor hot tubs.
For those in search of a true tourist’s experience, Sherborne itself boasts plenty of attractions, including its own castle and abbey, and plenty of National Trust and English Heritage Sites to admire.
You can also drive to famed Dorset locations including Chesil Beach, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove within 45 minutes, making the Eastbury a great base for exploring further afield. But to do so, you’ll have to manage to tear yourself away from the Eastbury itself, and after trying it out for ourselves, we’d say that’s easier said than done.
Doubles from £195 B&B per night; +44 01935 813131, theeastburyhotel.co.uk
Reviewed by Eleanor Jones.