A fun take on the country getaway, this coaching inn in the centre of medieval Shaftesbury has been reinvented as a cool hotel with 16 stylish rooms and a buzzy restaurant complete with an authentic pizza oven.
Shaftesbury is a pretty Dorset market town with plenty of boutiques, antique shops, delis and cafés, as well as the picturesque (and very steep!) Gold Hill, where the famous sepia-tinted 1970s Hovis advert was shot.
Rooms: The rooms are instantly welcoming, with a palette of grey, green and stone accented with mustard or plum. The carpets are soft, the coffee machines fab, the sheets made of Italian cotton, and the Orla Kiely toiletries wonderfully fragrant. Standard rooms are the smallest but still a decent size; most have showers only in their bathrooms, while some Deluxe and Superior rooms have tubs. For a special treat book into The Cranborne Suite, which has a bedroom-cum-sitting room, a working fireplace, and views down to the courtyard through the big bay window. Its bathroom is huge, with plenty of space for the freestanding tub, twin basins and decadent double shower.
Food: There’s a convivial bar serving a selection of pre- and post-dinner drinks: local ales, a growing whiskey collection, great cocktails. Talking of dinner, across the cobbled courtyard is the relaxed restaurant, with an authentic pizza oven at its centre. The menu is excellent, covering everything from pizzas, pastas and salads to substantial fish and meat mains (think sea bass fillet with white bean purée and bouillabaisse sauce). The desserts are delicious, too: we enjoyed a decadent chocolate and caramel mousse with milk ice cream to round off our meal. Breakfast is a tempting spread of continental treats alongside cooked favourites: the Full English, smoked salmon and eggs, grilled kippers from the local smoker. There are some excellent gastro pubs within a short drive if you fancy a change of scene; we recommend The Beckford Arms at Fonthill in south Wiltshire (16km), and The King John Inn at Tollard Royal (11km).
Author’s tip: Pythouse Kitchen Garden in Tisbury is a beautiful spot to while away a warm afternoon. The pretty potting shed turned café serves tasty dishes with produce from the garden, where there’s also plenty of seating and space for children to play.
Dogs are welcome on request and will be spoilt with their own dog-food menu!
Press review: “Perfectly located for exploring the countryside and coastline of Dorset, this hotel in Shaftesbury is a seamless blend of old and new.” Grazia, December 2013
i-escape gift: in-room chocolate brownies on arrival