Set in the charming town of Sherborne, in the very heart of Thomas Hardy’s Dorset, is the Eastbury Hotel. Surrounded by sprawling countryside that will make any urban dog-walker swoon, this red-brick Georgian residence provides the perfect retreat that warmly welcomes pups of all shapes and sizes.
Comprising 26 individually appointed rooms, which are either modern and sleek, or Regency-inspired. We stayed in one of the five new Victorian Potting Shed Suites, each furnished in vibrant tartan fabrics, exposed bricks and washed wooden floors. The walk-in shower-slash-wet-room will accommodate muddy paws, while sumptuously fragranced White Company toiletries are soothing after long rambles.
We were greeted by a spoiling selection of Caudalie products, while our poodle was delighted to discover a bowl of treats, a squishy bed and a letter from the hotel owner’s chihuahua Monty waiting for him.
The Eastbury is only a few minutes away from Sherborne Abbey, an imposing 1,000-year-old monument, encircled by independent boutiques. Head further afield for Montacute House, a Renaissance manor with Elizabeth and Tudor works from the National Portrait Gallery; or visit the natural wonder of Durdle Door on the coast. Nearer to the hotel, you can explore Walter Raleigh’s lodge with 12th-century ruins in its grounds.
Book in at the Eastbury Spa on your return – set within a pretty, manicured garden, the thermal suite includes a hydrotherapy tub, outdoor Jacuzzi, steam-room, sauna and a mini gym. Opt for a rejuvenating Caudalie facial, which will leave your complexion clear and radiant; or try the restorative deep-tissue massage, from which you will emerge restful and renewed.
The hotel’s Seasons restaurant fashions its menus on locally sourced ingredients and fresh British flavours. The chef Matt Street has created a creative menu, with dishes that are as pleasing aesthetically as they are to the palate. The tasting menu is an excellent way to experience the breadth of the kitchen’s skills, but going a la carte will certainly fare you well, too. Starters of Camelot cheese brulée with pear and pickled chicory, and Devon crab with wasabi and grapefruit were exciting and delectable, while memorable mains included charred monkfish with baby leeks and toasted almonds, and Tandoori spiced lamb with black daal.
Sensible portions leave room for dessert, the offerings for which include a mouth-watering peanut parfait with tonka cream and an indulgent chocolate crémeux with passion-fruit cream. As dogs are not to be left unattended in rooms, the chef will also prepare your pooch a delicious dinner of chicken and rice.
At night, we returned to the Potting Shed suite, and used the logs provided to create a blaze in our terrace’s cast-iron firepit, which we gathered around to bask in its glow as we reclined under the stars.
The Eastbury Hotel, from £195 a room a night, B&B. Bookings for Christmas are now available, and cost from £1,475 a room for three nights, based on two people sharing. For more information, visit www.theeastburyhotel.co.uk.