DARLING DORSET: Hugo van Kuffeler enjoys a stay at Summer Lodge
Summer Lodge is tucked away in Evershot, snug in the rolling countryside of glorious Dorset. High on the list of literary pilgrims, this is Thomas Hardy country. This idyllic winding village with thatched cottages is less than 30 minutes from Dorset’s Jurassic Coastline.
Summer Lodge is a quintessential English country house hotel. The ivy-clad white Georgian building is surrounded by carefully manicured gardens that welcome the guests. Having arrived on a Saturday afternoon, our bags were quickly whisked away to our room while we were distracted with afternoon tea. Taken in the drawing room, the considerable scones were laden with lipstick-red strawberry jam and golden clotted cream. Our waiter never raised an eyebrow when we requested a second round – they were so good that I suspect that seconds are a regular request. Next door the Whiskey Bar is wonderfully decorated with an eccentric collection of dog portraits, painted hunting scenes, tweed armchairs and a gleaming brass fender around a roaring fire, where guests can enjoy a drink before dinner or late into the night.
During our own stay, there was little evidence of our four-legged friends in residence, but the hotel is quick to highlight that dogs are welcome. This doesn’t mean that you are simply allowed to keep your dog in your car during your stay or that there is a kennel somewhere in the dark recesses of the service area. The owner is a big fan of our canine friends and they are most welcome at Summer Lodge, with a choice of three different kinds of dog beds, handmade dog biscuits, dog towels and a ‘Dog in Room’ door hanger all on offer. Completely charming, although had we left our wire-haired miniature Daschund in our room while we went for dinner, she would have savaged the pillows, shredded the duvet, eaten the soap and dug a hole in the carpet, despite these luxuries that the hotel provides. Luckily for us, she was left at home this time.
The dining room is a worthy star of this English classic. The menu is full of local delicacies such as Portland crab and ceviche of Lyme Bay scallops, duck, turbot and Dorset lamb. Puddings of millefeuilles and soufflés are complemented by a cheese trolley of 27 artisan varieties, which every table seemed to be eagerly tucking into.
The decoration beautifully suits this luxurious house. The dining room is a rather floral tribute to the garden that awaits guests outside. Our room was classically decorated with the reassuringly expensive feel of fabric walls, thick silk curtains and a mountain of pillows on the bed that we sank into for a perfect night of uninterrupted slumber.
Being in the heart of Dorset, Summer Lodge is perfectly located for guests to see one of England’s most beautiful rural counties. The hotel sits next to a 600-acre deer park for some wonderful long walks and beautiful scenery. But what is on offer in the hotel makes it very difficult to leave, even if it is just for a walk.