The market town of Sherborne, in north-west Dorset, has perhaps one of the most characterful main streets in England. Framed by the verdant Dorset countryside, as a distant backdrop, it is dotted with quirky antique shops, hip delis and traditional inns – and it seems so perfectly curated it’s as if it’s been taken from a Richard Curtis movie set.
Completing Sherborne’s sense of rural idyll are two historic heavyweights which dominate the town’s landscape: the honey-gold Sherborne Abbey, renowned for its rich choral heritage and famous bell ringers, and Sherborne Castle, a 16th century Tudor mansion built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594, complete with swoon-some gardens designed by Capability Brown. While Dorset may be most famous for its stunning Jurassic Coastline, (with Durdle Door – a 200ft limestone arch perched over azure seas – as its most visited masterpiece), a stay in this quaint town – a 50-minute drive inland – offers the best of both country and coast.
Found just off the high street is the prettiest bolthole – The Eastbury Hotel –from which to explore the area. The 26-room boutique property is part of the De Savary stable, and offers a charming take on country-house living.
Each room boasts the inimitable style of Peter and Lana De Savary, the legendary hoteliers. Inside, it’s all about cosy comfort: with heritage colours mixed with rich textiles and one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture bringing a timeless personality. New for this summer, and ideal for those after privacy and seclusion, the hotel has opened another gem – a homestay cottage, which is perfect for our times.
The three-bedroom Eastbury Cottage oozes period details across all its rooms. Located next-door to the hotel, it means that guests have their own private address, yet are able to dip in and out of all the facilities on their doorstep.
Open the aged wooden door and you’ll find enough historic references, from creaking stairs to original flagstones, to transport you back in time. There’s an impressive inglenook fireplace, for instance, with wood-burning stove, decorated with brass horseshoes, pans and kettles. Original, darkened beams add further character, while carefully-chosen antiques – such as mahogany, carved throne-like chairs; a large, polished dining table and traditional, heavy wardrobes – bring the right sense of heritage. While much care and thought has been put into all the details – from the framed prints depicting the local area to the collection of bone china (found in a dresser) – there’s also enough modern-day comforts, and enough balance between antique and new, to keep a family feeling comfortable.
So, you’ll find soft carpet underfoot; colourful, woven cushions and satin bedspreads, which all combine to add a luxury feel. Thick mattresses, fluffy towels and sumptuous bathrooms – with power showers and The White Company toiletries – give that essential five-star hotel-feel that you desire from a holiday home.
Downstairs, as well as a living room and dining room – which have appealing window seats, impressive fireplaces and shuttered windows – there’s a bright, modern kitchen. Cheerful blue and red décor give an almost 1950s vibe, and it’s the perfect space to rustle up breakfast or to conjure up a quiet meal in. Outside, the garden is a lovely suntrap, with a courtyard area to eat meals al fresco, or enjoy a glass of chilled wine, complete with sundial, BBQ and nodding petunias.
Upstairs, the bedrooms have star quality. The once attic-space has been revamped to create a spacious room under the eaves, with a stylish, en suite bathroom. Botanical prints on the walls; a coral-red bedstead and Nina Campbell textiles add a warm ambiance. There’s a third bedroom, with a smart navy-and-white palette and original cupboards housing masses of space; as well as the master, which boasts a Victorian, claw-footed bath as its centrepiece.
Next door, Seasons Restaurant at The Eastbury Hotel is one of the highlights of staying here. Headed up by chef Matthew Street, it has garnered a reputation for progressive cuisine based around local Dorset produce and the changing seasons. Awarded two Rosettes, it is the seven-course tasting menu which is the main attraction, although the a la carte menu has plenty of delights, too. Describing his cooking style as “imaginative and fun, with a hint of nostalgia,” Street says that his inspiration stems from whatever produce comes through the door each day, with the kitchen focused on seeking out quality, local suppliers and artisan producers in order to showcase Dorset ingredients.
To start with, Devon crab, for instance, is cleverly elevated with cucumber and wasabi, a brown crab tuile, green apple, grapefruit and dill. It’s dainty, inventive and bursting with flavour. For mains, there are crowd-pleasers, such as aged-steak with mushroom sauce, but the charred monkfish – with Sobrasada Iberico, baby leeks, Romesco, toasted almond and leek oil – is delicious. Don’t leave without trying the peanut parfait, with tonka cream, maraschino cherry and salted peanut, which is a heavenly way to finish any meal.
As well as a traditional games room, with snooker table, there’s a quiet and sunny morning room and elegant lounge. Outside, the gardens are also captivating – with croquet, table tennis and a large chess board, bringing the fun factor to any classic British afternoon. Talking of which, for afternoon tea with a twist, book the garden pod for a unique, private experience.
Late last year, the hotel opened The Woodland Spa, tucked away at the bottom of the gardens, and offering Caudalie treatments to guests. Built from local stone, with a sedum and moss roof, the circular hideaway can now be booked for sole use, and has a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room, as well as a relaxation space with a log-burning stove. It’s a little heavenly slice of Dorset, but perhaps not as you know it.