The Grosvenor Arms

Shaftesbury, Dorset, United Kingdom Book from

In medieval Shaftesbury, a traditional town-centre coaching inn reinvented as a funky hotel, perfect for romantics and country lovers
One of the oldest, highest and arguably the prettiest hill towns in rural England, Shaftesbury is the essence of olde Dorsetshire. It has Saxon roots, a whiff of Thomas Hardy, cobbles, thatch, and a bird’s-eye view of the Blackmore Vale from the top of iconic Gold Hill - famously captured in a sepia-tinted 1970s advert for Hovis loaves (directed, incidentally, by a young Ridley Scott).

The Grosvenor Arms is the high street’s grande dame. Remodelled in the 18th century by the Duke of Westminster, it is Grade II listed with a showy Georgian frontage, 16 spacious bedrooms and a splendid ballroom - but don’t imagine a trip down history’s memory lane. The once-faded inn has undergone several makeovers, most recently in 2013 when it came under new ownership and acquired a reclaimed bar, a cobbled courtyard, herb-laden restaurant tables, comfy leather sofas, and armchairs in rich shades of berry and moss. A fun take on the country getaway.

Highs

  • Tasteful rooms in natural shades with Italian cottons, rain showers and Tassimo coffee machines - The Cranborne's enormous bathroom is a real show-stopper
  • A welcoming bar with something for everyone: local ales, tasty cocktails and a growing whisky selection
  • We loved the stylish décor in combination with the relaxed, friendly atmosphere
  • A great location in the heart of green-welly country, within easy access of Longleat, Cranborne Chase and Stonehenge
  • A buzzy restaurant serving lunch and dinner, with an authentic pizza oven and deli-style corner

Lows

  • We found the food to be a little under-seasoned, but we visited in autumn 2013 when the restaurant was still finding its feet
  • No on-site car park, but guests are provided with permits for one close by and can drop off luggage at reception
  • No pool or spa

Best time to go

Dorset is a year-round destination - lovely in the summer but less crowded in the spring and autumn (when it's perfect for walkers), and rarely freezing in the winter.

Our top tips

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.

Great for...

Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 16
  • 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
  • Courtyard
Room:

Rooms

The rooms have an earthy look designed to reflect the architectural and geographical context of this market-town inn. Expect grey, green and stone accented by soft wools and solid-wood dressers, with velvet cushions in mustard or plum. You get neutral carpet underfoot, a Tassimo coffee machine, and an iPod dock; The Cranborne Suite also has towelling robes. Queen, kingsize or twin beds are dressed in Italian cotton; Orla Kiely toiletries wait in the bathrooms.

Standard Rooms (the smallest, but still a decent size) have showers only; Deluxe and Superior Rooms have a mix of bathroom types - some with baths and overhead showers, others with walk-in rain showers. Junior Suites have freestanding tubs and separate showers. Street-facing rooms can be subject to a bit of noise, so if that bothers you, request one overlooking the courtyard - though bear in mind that in summer, diners will be out here until 11pm.

For a bit of wow-factor, check into The Cranborne Suite - a lofty bedroom-sitting room with a working fireplace (remote-controlled gas flame), an airy bay window with views down into the courtyard, and one of the biggest bathrooms we’ve ever seen: freestanding tub, twin basins, wall-mounted TV and a show-stopping double shower.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The ground floor has been dramatically transformed with a cool combination of time-worn leather sofas, mounted antlers and sage green walls. But before you assume it’s 100% heritage chic, bear in mind that there are also framed vintage maps, folksy embroidered cushions and a brilliant statement horse that rather reminded me of the ancient Trojans. A light atrium-like entrance adds an airy sense of openness, and in summer guests spill out onto the cobbled courtyard.

The chic yet welcoming bar offers local ales, a growing whisky collection and a cocktail menu while, across the courtyard, an authentic pizza oven takes centre stage in the relaxed restaurant. The enticing, well thought-out menu spans pizzas (obviously), pasta, salads, small plates and more substantial meat and fish mains (so it works for both lunch and dinner). To start, we went for duck egg with organic broccoli and chanterelles, and smoked salmon with watercress, quails' eggs and caviar. Then it was on to herb gnocchi with Jerusalem artichokes, rocket and mustard sauce, and a sea bass fillet with white bean purée and bouillabaisse sauce. Excellent ingredients were beautifully presented throughout, if a little under-seasoned for our taste. As we’d hoped, pudding was a real treat (though we could only manage to share one): chocolate and caramel mousse with milk ice cream.

Breakfast, also taken in the restaurant, is a happy mix of continental staples - muesli, porridge, fruit, pastries - along with more tempting (for me, anyway) cooked options: the Full English, eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and eggs (any way you like), and grilled kippers from the local smoker.

If you want to eat out, the best bets are country gastro pubs, of which there are some excellent examples within driving distance. We recommend The Beckford Arms at Fonthill in south Wiltshire (16km), The King John Inn at Tollard Royal (11km), or The Forester Inn at Donhead St Andrew (8km).

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee maker
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take a stroll around Shaftesbury - a pretty market town, well-furnished with historic buildings, boutiques, antique shops, delis, cafés, green spaces and great views
  • A local highlight is picturesque Gold Hill. A steep, cobbled street lined with thatched cottages, it was famously captured in a 1970s Hovis advert directed by Ridley Scott. If you don’t feel up to the breathtaking climb on the return journey, just stand at the top and admire the view: a vision of medieval England set against the rolling hills of the Blackmore Vale
  • Visit Shaftesbury’s ancient Abbey (the remnants of a Benedictine nunnery, founded by King Alfred in the 9th century), and its related museum and walled gardens
  • This ancient landscape, where Dorset meets the border of Wiltshire and Somerset, offers numerous opportunities to explore historic, or even prehistoric, England: among them the magnificent gardens at Stourhead (15 minutes' drive), Old Wardour Castle at Tisbury (25 minutes), and the iconic stone circle at Stonehenge (25 minutes)
  • Other attractions include Longleat House and Safari Park (15 minutes), the 10,000-acre Fonthill Estate near Salisbury (20 minutes) and, on the doorstep, Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs (380 square miles of downland, chalk grassland, ancient woodlands and river valleys, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty)
  • Rushmore Golf Club is just a short drive away, as is the Compton Abbas Airfield where pleasure flights can be taken
  • Head for the coast - the sandy beaches of Bournemouth and the yachting harbours at Poole or Sandbanks are about 45 minutes south

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wildlife

Kids

Though not an obvious choice for young families, the hotel is child-friendly and the area is great for an outdoorsy getaway.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All but the Cosy Doubles can hold an extra bed or baby cot; many rooms can be converted into twins suitable for older children.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
8/
Overall

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Rates for The Grosvenor Arms