We were heading down to Gidleigh Park for the weekend and had planned to stop off In Exeter for a night to meet up with my step-son and his girlfriend who are both studying there. Formerly an eye hospital, the hotel is an interesting building with high ceilings and wide corridors, and with some quirky features from its past. We had opted for a larger room which was extremely comfortable. There was certainly plenty of space and it had a huge bathroom in which we were able to put Barnaby for the night.
Some Hotel du Vin restaurants (such as Birmingham) have allowed us to take Barnaby with us to dinner, but unfortunately not here. Anthony wasn’t keen on the design of the restaurant which was a funky contemporary conservatory added on to the building, but I rather liked it. The menu was in keeping with Hotel du Vin high standards and I enjoyed a classic moules frites. In the morning they kindly offered to set up a table in the library so that we could bring Barnaby with us for breakfast. It was a really lovely room, and we all had a peaceful breakfast reading the papers!
If you head out of the hotel and turn right you will quickly come across a small park, The Bull Meadow, where there is ample space to let your dog off the lead for a quick run around. Perhaps head off down to the quay if you fancy a longer walk along the canal.
Fridge for Barnaby’s food
For more information visit https://www.hotelduvin.com/locations/exeter/
My thoughtful husband knew, if we were to go away for my birthday, that I’d prefer to go somewhere where Barnaby could come too. So, months in advance, he planned a special weekend away to Gidleigh Park, of 2 Michelin-Star fame, on Dartmoor. I have to say it was truly special.
Gidleigh Park estate has been around since the 16th Century, but passed through several owners before being bought in 1918 by an Australian sheep famer and shipping magnate. He arranged for the property to be completely rebuilt in 1925. It wasn’t until after he died that Gidleigh Park became a small hotel in 1955, and eventually was bought by Brownsword Hotels in 2005, and completely refurbished to the fine country house hotel that it is today.
There are two dog-friendly rooms, Lydford and Bellever, located in the north wing, that are attached to the hotel, but have their own entrance. There is also a separate two-bedroom thatched cottage on the grounds that is dog-friendly. We were in Bellever, a king-size master room on the first floor, which has a balcony overlooking the beautiful gardens and river below. We both thought it was one of the nicest rooms in which we had stayed in the UK. It was very spacious, with a large seating area with a sofa, chair and coffee table, tea-making facilities, a Nespresso machine, home-made biscuits and even a decanter of madeira for a pre or post-dinner drink. They also provided Barnaby dog bowls, a blanket, a towel, dog treats, a homemade biscuit, poo-bags and a torch for night-time wees. In our rooms, they had thoughtfully provided waterproofs and umbrellas. Wellingtons were available and they even lent us an Ordnance Survey map. It seemed they had thought of everything for canines and humans alike!
Understandably, dogs aren’t allowed in the 2 Michelin-Star restaurant but they are allowed on the terrace and in the conservatory. To be honest our room was so large we had no problem leaving Barnaby in the evening after a long walk on Dartmoor. (They do also offer a free dog-sitting service or outside, heated kennels).
We had a slight panic on the day that we had planned to have dinner, as the fire alarm was set off which automatically cuts off the gas. Luckily by the evening service, the gas was back on (phew!) We had a drink in the beautifully panelled drawing room in front of the wood-burning fire before heading to dinner. We decided to try the seven-course tasting menu, which I was assured wouldn’t leave me too full! As it was a Sunday evening it was very quiet and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more attentive. The food was delicious and with scallops, turbot, and cod on the menu I felt very indulged!
The hotel is situated in 107 acres, on the beautiful river Teign on the edge of Dartmoor. You can wander around the grounds for a quick walk, through the forest or along the river, or head off onto Dartmoor. The hotel gave us information on a great 4.5 mile walk to Kestor and Scorhill, which could be adapted to make it shorter. It took us just over two hours with a detour to Kestor Rock to admire the views. It had been raining but by some miracle it stopped for us, although I have to say that it was very, very wet underfoot. It was my first visit to Dartmoor and I thought it was stunning and that we only just scratched the surface. I would love to come back!
We also ate in the village of Chagford on the first night. We went to The Three Crowns, a 13th Century, partly thatched inn, which had a dog-friendly area. There is also the Chagford Inn, which looked worth a visit.
Everything was a nice touch so I’m going to say the only thing that was missing, and would have been nice to have in our room….a fridge!
For more information visit http://www.gidleigh.co.uk/
The Woburn Hotel is situated in the picturesque Georgian village of Woburn, and part of the 3,000 acre Woburn Abbey Estate. It opened its doors as a hotel in 1701 but has been transformed into a contemporary hotel with an award-winning restaurant. I have to confess that our stay was a freebie, offered to Anthony as he had stayed there before for work when the heating and hot water had broken! When he found it was dog-friendly he was keen to show me Woburn and to explore the grounds of Woburn Abbey with Barnaby.
The cottages on the side of the property are dog-friendly rooms. We were in ‘Endsleigh’ which had a big bedroom and bathroom with ample space to sit and relax. It was very nicely furnished and very quiet and peaceful.
Woburn is small but really very charming. There are quite a few lovely pubs and restaurants on the main street that would also be worth a visit.
The hotel has a big bar, full of character, with dark beams and a massive open fireplace which has a huge sofa in it! The chairs were a funky purple colour that Anthony wasn’t sure about. When I enquired if dogs were allowed in the bar area, we were told only small dogs and not if it was busy!
The hotel restaurant, Olivier’s, is AA star-rated and situated in a lovely room with big windows and wooden floors which, unfortunately for us, was just being refurbished! We ate instead in one of the conference rooms, which worked pretty well. The menu was great and we shared gravlax on a potato cake to start. I had halibut with crab bisque as a main, and Anthony had the venison. Judging with how many deer we saw on the estate it would have not had to travel far to the plate! The restaurant is not dog-friendly but Barnaby was very happy in the room.
In theory with 3000 acres of estate you would think that this would be the very best place to walk a dog – but NO! Dogs have to be kept on a lead at all times because of the huge number of deer. There were only a few set footpaths for the public across the estate and, as we missed the first footpath, we found it very hard to get back on it again! We ended up having a lovely 6 mile walk, rather longer than intended, in the glorious sunshine!
Fresh milk in the fridge
For more information visit: http://www.thewoburnhotel.co.uk/
Lords of the Manor is situated in Upper Slaughter, one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. It has the added bonus of not being too touristy. The hotel only has a few dog-friendly rooms which are situated further away from the main building. They are accessed from a covered walkway, but still feel very much a part of the hotel. We had a lovely sized room with a 6 foot bed which was super-comfortable. There was space to sit and relax, plus a decent size bathroom with bath, bidet and shower. It was also very nice that they had left Barnaby some Bob and Lush food and treats, and a bottle of mineral water!
The Restaurant – 1 Michelin Star
The restaurant has one Michelin star which was the main reason for choosing the hotel, and I have to say that the food was amazing. On Friday and Saturday you have to have the tasting menu which is not a hardship! (our seven courses were described as pumpkin soup, beetroot, scallops, risotto, turbot, optional cheese course, cheesecake). I have to say that the mushroom risotto with 36 month aged parmesan was the nicest I’ve ever had, and only added to my menu as I don’t eat meat! A great substitute in my opinion. Dogs are not allowed in the restaurant, although I think Barnaby would have been better behaved than some of the other diners there that night! He had a nice nap in our room while we were gone.
Lords of the Manor has recently been announced as the Good Hotel Guide’s best Hotel with Gardens. It’s set in 8 acres with the river Eye running through it and Barnaby had a lovely run around in the wet grass in the morning. Anthony took him out in the evening before we went to bed and said that it was very hard to see anything as there was no lighting…so take a torch or a LED collar for your pup! The hotel also recommends some longer walks but unfortunately for us it was pouring with rain and we couldn’t face getting soaked.
For more information visit: http://www.lordsofthemanor.com/
The Swan is situated in the picturesque Cotswold village of Bibury, right on the river Coln. It’s very much on the tourist map, but with a dog you have an excuse to explore the beautiful countryside and get away from the coach parties! The hotel was super dog-friendly and our room had a dog bed and bowl for Barnaby. We had a basic room in the main hotel which, although it was small, had a bathroom big enough for Barnaby to sleep in. The hotel requests that you feed your dog in the bathroom where there are tiles, for ease of cleaning; fair enough!
The plan was to eat in the bar area where Barnaby was allowed with us, but it was quite busy and noisy so we took Barnaby back to our room and headed to the brasserie on our own instead. This was much more relaxed and comfortable and we very much enjoyed our meal. We had breakfast with Barnaby in the bar area the following morning when it was more peaceful! You can also take dogs into the little sitting room where there is a fire. We had a coffee and read the papers there after breakfast.
The Swan is situated right on the road at a junction, which has to be navigated first when taking your dog for its loo visits! The hotel does however have a small enclosed garden just across the road, with a stream running through it; a great place to wash off muddy paws! For a longer walk the very picturesque six mile walk from Bibury to Coln St Aldwyns (see link) is great, although you’ll need to work out how to get back if you don’t want to do double the distance! There can be livestock so some lead walking may be necessary and when we were there it was quite muddy!
We were en route to Manchester so decided to stop in Birmingham to meet our nephew, who has just finished studying here. The hotel is a former eye hospital in the jewellery district of Birmingham. It’s a beautiful building with high ceilings and plenty of character. We had a superior room with a big bed and I loved the feature wall with its wallpaper of books! The bathroom was huge, with a bath and fabulous shower, big enough for Barnaby to sleep in.
The restaurant – Dogs welcome
We were surprised to find that not only was Barnaby allowed in the beautiful bar area, but he was also allowed in the restaurant. The staff went out of their way at dinner to offer him water and make a fuss of him! I had sea bass which was lovely and my husband had a cobb salad. Presentation was beautiful, especially the asparagus and duck egg starter which I rather wished I’d ordered.
If you head out of the hotel and turn left you’ll come across St Philip’s Cathedral. There is a small park here where you can exercise your dog on the lead. For a longer walk, on the recommendation of our nephew, we drove for 10 minutes to Edgbaston reservoir. It’s a 20-30 minute walk around the outside and if your dog loves swimming then this is the place to go!
Visiting the Seaside Boarding House is like stepping back to another time, yet it’s also feels modern and sophisticated. There are no TVs or kettles/coffee machines in its eight rooms, but this just adds to its charm. Instead, with a dial of your old-fashioned telephone, you can request a pot of tea that arrives almost instantly! Instead of watching the TV, you can sit at the window seat and admire the beautiful view looking out to sea. We were in room 303 which had amazing views from both the bedroom and bathroom and the comfiest bed imaginable (apparently they have Devon-made natural mattresses). The bathroom was too small for Barnaby to sleep in but he was fairly well-behaved sleeping on the floor of our room.
p.s. Apologies to my husband for missing the FA cup final (I told him later that TVs are available on request!).
Dogs are not allowed in the restaurant but they are allowed in the bar area, library and outside terrace. The great thing is that the menu is the same in any location so we ate once in the restaurant and once in the bar, where Barnaby slept peacefully under the table. The food was consistently excellent and worth a special mention were the hake with aoli and the turbot with smoked mussels. My husband said it was the best hake he’s ever eaten! I also managed to squeeze in afternoon tea with scones, jam and cream (very generous portions!) and we both had classic fish soup for lunch on the terrace, divine!
Steps down from the front garden lead you straight onto the beach which stretches from Weymouth in the east to past Lyme Regis in the west. We walked Barnaby at 7 in the mornings and had the beach to ourselves, apart from the odd fisherman and lone swimmer. The beach is closed to dogs from 1st June to the end of September but you can walk the pretty coastal paths parallel to the beach instead.
The Seaside Boarding House has a handy shower room downstairs that can be accessed through the back door. We were able to wash off Barnaby’s sandy paws before taking him upstairs.
It really felt like nothing was too much trouble for the super-friendly staff. I also loved finding a daily newspaper posted underneath our door.
We were driving up to Scotland so planned to stop off on the way in the Lake District. Storrs Hall was built in the 1790s by the Yorkshire landowner Sir John Legard and became a hotel one hundred years later. Situated on the banks of Lake Windermere it really is in a fabulous location. The hotel was quiet, the weather was amazing and for our first hotel stay with Barnaby (then aged 10 months) it was perfect. We had a lovely room with a lake view and a bathroom big enough for Barnaby to sleep in (then in his crate), although judging from the whining he would have preferred to have been with us!
Dogs can’t eat in the restaurant and as it was our first ever hotel stay with Barnaby we decided to eat with him in the bar area as we didn’t want to leave him in the room. We were the only people there so we didn’t disturb anyone. They have a fabulous old wooden bar that used to be in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, and a fantastic collection of gins!
You are spoilt for choice with the Lake District on the doorstep but for short off lead walks from the hotel just head down to the lake and explore. You’ll come across the Temple of the Heroes, dedicated to Admirals Duncan, Nelson, Howe and St Vincent, and plenty of places for photo opportunities!
The hotel is a converted Georgian sugar house in the centre of Bristol with masses of charm. We had a standard room but it was large with a huge bathroom where Barnaby could have slept happily. I say ‘could’ because at the end of the evening he actually went home with his Grandpups so that we could have a lie in!
Dogs are not allowed in the main restaurant but they can eat in the lovely large bar area (where they were also serving afternoon tea when we arrived). The main restaurant itself is full of historic character and we thought our dinner there was great! My sister and I had miso cod which was amazing. Puddings were very generously portioned although my dad had no problem finishing the pear and apricot tart. Great breakfast as well….the diet can always start tomorrow!
For a quick morning or night-time wee for your pup there is a tiny triangular ‘park’ across the road from the hotel. It isn’t secure so you’ll need to keep them on a lead. For a fabulous long walk, drive for approximately 10 mins to Ashton Court where you can walk happily for an hour or two following trails through the woods and spotting deer. You can finish off with a coffee and cake at the converted stables cafe near the car park.