The hilltop town of Shaftesbury sits proudly around its beautiful Saxon Abbey. Steeped in history, the pretty cobbled town, made famous as the setting of the Hovis bread advert, has breathtaking views of the Dorset countryside. With picturesque streets, quaint chocolate-box cottages and cosy tearooms, Shaftesbury is the ideal location for a back-to-basics break and The Grosvenor Hotel offers access to the beautiful countryside in an attentive and luxurious setting.
One of Dorset’s finest restaurants is in the hotel itself; The Greenhouse offers modern European cuisine created using the finest local produce in a light and airy setting. With Michelin-starred head chef Mark Treasure at the helm, the food is superb quality and exceptionally good value for money with three-course dinners from £25. On my visit the glazed duck confit with creamed Savoy cabbage made for the perfect winter dish. The generous portion was beautifully presented with tender, moist duck crowned by its perfectly crispy skin, awakened by an unusually rich apple and bacon puree (£16.75).
I definitely recommend lunch at The Bull. This recently refurbished modern gastropub is located in the tranquil village of Wimborne St Giles, a short drive from the hotel. After a good ramble it’s the perfect place to unwind with its roaring log fire and selection of real ales and fine wines. The British gastro fare offers something for every palate from rich Venison pies to comforting vegetarian risottos (mains from £12) but booking is advisable as it is also a huge hit with the locals.
Right in the heart of Shaftesbury, close to the Abbey stands the Grade II-listed Grosvenor Hotel. Its elegant Georgian frontage stands proudly on the main street watching over the local hustle and bustle. With 16 bespoke bedrooms, a hidden courtyard and a superb restaurant, the hotel has added a touch of modern luxury to this charming historic town. Our suite was chic and stylish with a well appointed bathroom featuring a blissful roll-top bath complete with Ren products and its own flat-screen television for the ultimate soak. Breakfast is taken in The Greenhouse restaurant with freshly cooked dishes created in the open kitchen. Being a family-run hotel, the staff were all incredibly helpful and accommodating – even printing us off maps for our adventures.
Who Goes There?:
At the moment the hotel attracts a lot of affluent parents visiting their children at various nearby private boarding schools. It is also becoming increasingly popular with London couples looking for a weekend country retreat.
Out & About:
Well first things first, you can’t leave the town without a photo on Gold Hill; the iconic steep, cobbled hill from the Hovis adverts. This sweet corner of Shaftesbury is like a scene from 100 years ago with a cascading row of thatched cottages with lush rolling hills in the background.
The town itself has some lovely independent shops selling jewellery, clothes and lovely interior products. Plus, there’s an array of cafes and restaurants to indulge in. Not far from the hotel are numerous equestrian centres where you can explore the Blackmore Vale’s fields and woods by horseback and for those eager to make the most of the countryside on their own two feet, head to Larmer Tree. These tranquil gardens are part of the grand Rushmore Estate and house a tearoom, art gallery and peacocks.
The Best Thing:
The Grosvenor Hotel has an intimate, homely feeling, steeped in history and yet offers all the mod-cons you could wish for in a stylish environment. It is the perfect hotel for a weekend escape; delightful bedrooms and immaculate interiors, welcoming staff, fantastic food and access to beautiful unspoilt countryside – and all only a couple of hours from the capital.
The Worst Thing:
The only thing that this hotel could build upon is its bar. Like the rest of the hotel it is a mix of modern and traditional with quirky, arty features including paintings and sculptures. This juxtaposition works well aesthetically but on a Saturday night it seems to lose its identity somewhat with loud, tinny dance music in the background, creating an uneasy atmosphere for residents seeking a civilised conversation over a cocktail. This can be easily amended as the drinks on offer and the setting are superb.