Beaminster, Dorset, United Kingdom Book from

A cosy, cottagey country hotel in rustic Beaminster, 6 miles inland from the Jurassic Coast
This is classic Thomas Hardy country (Beaminster was Emminster in Tess of the d’Urbervilles); a mini market town, with a perfect little square, tucked into a fold of the Brit Valley. BridgeHouse has the look of an old coaching inn, a hint of rural manor, but the long, low building - weathered Dorset hamstone, mullioned windows draped in foliage - was founded as a medieval priests’ house.

After falling in love with the place, Mark and Joanna Donovan bought it in 2004, giving up their London jobs (she was a fashion buyer, he was a TV journalist) to make a new life as hoteliers. They created a cosy, characterful country retreat where rooms speak of relaxed, low-key escapism, and excellent food is enjoyed by guests and locals alike. Think ingle-nooks, flagstones, oak beams and Georgian panelling teamed up with pretty wallpapers and Italian cotton linens. In winter, snuggle up by a warm fire; in the summer, linger over supper in the garden. Or just get out the walking boots and enjoy this beautiful, unspoiled corner of rural Wessex.


  • Bags of atmosphere - historic, traditional, without being stuffy
  • The food is fresh, local and mostly organic - Lyme Bay seafood, Dorset lamb and homemade everything including bread and biscuits
  • Relax in the hotel’s comfortable lounge - a real home from home, with an inviting array of sofas and easy chairs, local art and real log fires
  • A great setting with lots of country walks and great beaches nearby
  • Well set up for families


  • The hotel is right on the A-road into Beaminster, though it’s quietens down at night
  • Due to the layout of the main house, some rooms may get a bit of kitchen noise
  • Bathrooms are not a strong point and decor is starting to look a little dated in places
  • Front rooms lack views, though they are among the best in the house

Best time to go

Dorset is a year-round destination, lovely in the summer but less crowded in the spring and autumn - when it is perfect for walkers. The autumn is high season for fossil hunting at nearby Lyme Bay, and early spring is best for bluebell woods.

Our top tips

Don't write off a winter visit! We early in the year and loved the low lighting and homely open fires, the smell of woodsmoke. It’s great for summer guests, too, and both the restaurant and the brasserie garden are popular with locals.

Great for...

  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym


Rooms are divided between the main house and the more modern coach house annexe. If you want sloping floors, character and kingsize beds, go for a Superior room (in the main house) - ours was enormous, with lovely garden views. If you want romance, go for a Four Poster: the best in the house, we think. Room 1 has a lavish French-polished bed and fresh floral wallpaper, while Room 3 has low lighting and rich dark colours.

The less expensive Deluxe rooms are to the rear of the house, with pretty wallpapers and views of the garden or car park. Behind is the cottagey coach house, a former stable block converted in 1995, where there's a clutch of Standard rooms. The line-up includes 2 family suites, one in the main house and one in the coach house.

Bathrooms are fairly standard and a tad dated, with bath/shower combos, but you do get lovely Molton Brown toiletries. There are some exceptions: a small but contemporary Philippe Starck shower, a couple of roll-top tubs and a spa tub that can be lit from underneath.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


If you come seeking fine dining in an unstuffy setting, you won’t be disappointed. The menu changes 3 or 4 times a year, and reflects the region’s wealth of seasonal local produce. There are daily specials - usually fresh fish or seafood (Lyme Bay scallops during our visit), grouse when in season - and homemade bread of the day (sun-dried tomato, chilli, olive). We stopped by in early spring and enjoyed a supper of chicken liver parfait with cheese scones, confit pork belly and crème brûlée. Classic flavours, brilliantly executed.

Seat yourselves in the elegant dining room (Georgian panelling, crisp linens, candlelight and an Adam fireplace), or the more contemporary brasserie area (a light indoor-outdoor space that spills out of a garden room into a tent-like pavillion, and onto a patio terrace). In summer, the brasserie majors on alfresco dining, with lots of what Joanna calls 'nibbly foods': platters, pots and dips designed to share with a bottle of wine or chilled Prosecco. In winter, there is a plat du jour lunch special. Traditional afternoon teas complete the picture.

Breakfast includes a continental buffet alongside hot dishes like Eggs Benedict, smoked salmon, a full English and, the Chef’s special, the all-day snail breakfast - egg and bacon topped with locally-sourced snails. Mueslis, breads and preserves are all homemade.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Lace up the walking boots - some trails lead straight from the front door! Try the 11-mile Brit Valley Way, which travels south to West Bay harbour (of Broadchurch fame) and north into the Beaminster Down chalk hills. The hotel can provide maps and packed lunches
  • Explore the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site; the fossil-rich cliffs and long pebble beaches of Lyme Bay (Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Seatown) are within a 20-minute drive
  • The historic seaside town of Lyme Regis is worth a day trip - hang out on the beach, stroll along the famous Cobb (a medieval harbour wall), plus shopping and cream teas
  • Bridport, an old rope-making town (6 miles south), has a great mix of shops, cafes, bars and galleries, a weekly bric-a-brac market, plus Bridport Art Centre and the Electric Palace (a fomer cinema turned arts venue)
  • Hit the beach - there are shingle beaches at West Bay and Eype, and a nice stretch of sand at Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock (9 miles southeast). The latter is home to the famous Hive Café
  • Gardens and visitor centres: the Mapperton House valley gardens (a mile away), historic Ford Abbey (6 miles), the Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens and swannery (10 miles), and River Cottage HQ (it’s eatery is in nearby Axminster)
  • The hotel can organise fishing trips, shooting parties, fossil hunting, classic car runs, llama trekking, rounds of golf, and short courses in green oak carving, painting or pottery

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets


Children are very welcome here, and don't worry about packing everything - the hotel can provide nearly everything you'd need, from potties to special children's menus. It's also dog and pushchair friendly.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Standard Family Suite and Superior Family Suite each have a double bedroom and adjoining twin room, the latter being a bit larger. All rooms can hold a rollaway bed or baby cot (extra charge).


Babysitting available - extra charge.

Baby listening:

You can borrow their baby monitor which works everywhere in the hotel.

Baby equipment:

  • Four baby cots available
  • High chair
  • Pram/pushchair
  • Baby bedding
  • Potty
  • Baby bath

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Your children certainly won't go hungry: there's a microwave for heating baby food, an early tea for children, half portions of mains, bottle warming, plus a shop selling babyfood and child-friendly cafés nearby.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Childrens DVDs
  • Small selection of toys for 0-3 years
  • Cards, chess and games for older children

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast
  • Head to the beach
  • Weymouth's Sea Life Centre
  • Fleet Air Museum in Yeovilton
  • Bugspot at the Kingcombe wildlife centre
  • Fishing and boat trips
  • Haynes Motor Museum in Sparkford (with go-karts)
  • Abbotsbury swannery and children's farm
  • Take a picnic and go for a walk

Families Should Know:

There's a chemist, supermarket, toy shop and place to buy beach toys nearby. Both family suites are on the first floor and there are stairs to them (but they aren't particularly steep).


  • Airport: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
  • Shops: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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