Summer Lodge. Intimate and personal, tranquil and charming, warm and inviting, this five-star Relais & Châteaux property set in the heart of Dorset is larger than the sum of its parts. Yes, there is an indoor heated pool and spa. Yes, there are tennis courts and croquet fields, manicured gardens with hammocks and ponds next to which tea can be enjoyed. There is even world-renowned dining. Yet, what sets the Summer Lodge apart from those with similar amenities is the execution – service like none other, thoughtful touches at every turn and great reflection on how best to secure guests’ complete relaxation, all regardless of whether the guest is two-legged or four.
Picturesque charm that packs a luxurious, sophisticated (and, of course, subtle in true Summer Lodge style) punch.
First visited by Erin, Ray & Blue in June 2009.
Why we love it. The details. Never before had I met staff so adept at picking up on guests’ preferences and wants without the guest’s slightest knowledge. Importantly, they then act on it. At breakfast on our first full morning, I mentioned in a casual conversation with the staff that I liked a certain kind of rum. Following dinner, a glass appeared compliments of the house. This is just one of many.
Indeed, details and personalization are taken so seriously here that, on making a reservation, you will be presented with a guest preference form asking you all types of questions from your preferred fruit to your favourite colour. They ask for a reason and take the response seriously. Having a slight allergy to dairy, I mentioned this on my form, although I just said “allergic to dairy”, not wanting to get too technical. At breakfast, Ray was asked if he would like milk in his coffee, but not I. The butter at dinner was placed in front of Ray, whilst olive oil was set out for me. This just happened without any mention or need for acknowledgement, as if old friends who knew I didn’t take milk in my coffee and that butter wasn’t the best thing for me, were hosting me. It is this way through and through. Yet, despite this impeccable skill in detail, it never once feels false or too stuffy. It simply feels as though they want to ensure you have as perfect a time as possible without having to make an issue of anything.
Dogs are not forgotten in all of this and the Summer Lodge will make sure neither you nor your dog is left wanting. Wishing to eat dinner with your dog? No worries as a table will be set up in one of their many dog-friendly locations, such as the bar or outdoor on the terrace should it be nice. (We promise you it won’t feel scrapped together and you will receive the same level of service as if you had been eating in the proper restaurant.) The staff is also brilliant at recommending things to do, all with proper Summer Lodge style. On our way to breakfast following our first glorious night of slumber in one of the gorgeous rooms in the Summer Lane cottages, we asked the receptionist if she could recommend any good walks. “Most definitely. Go enjoy your breakfast,” she said, “and stop by on your way back.” Doing as lovingly instructed, we passed by wonderfully full and in need of a good walk and were handed a leather folder with print-outs of maps and directions along with places to park, eat and even the most picturesque routes to reach our destinations.
As for the property itself, this listed Georgian country house, whose drawing room was designed by none other than world famous novelist Thomas Hardy, has nearly as many whiskies (more than 120) and Cognacs and Armagnacs (over 70) combined as it does years in existence (over 200). The four acres of gorgeous gardens within which this lodge sits includes a croquet court, a tennis court, hammocks and swing chairs strategically located to either steal some quiet zzz’s or enjoy a bit of sun, an indoor heated pool accompanied by a Jacuzzi, a fully equipped gym, a lovely spa, and the elegant house itself, which rather is the main house along with a number of additional lodges and cottages housing the individually decorated bedrooms, which boast everything from conservatories to private gardens to log fires. No matter your choice, you’ll be guaranteed of slippers that fit (they have his and hers), fresh fruit (your favourite kind according to your preference form), homemade shortbread for you and gourmet dog treats for your pup, separate towels (they have four-legged and two-legged sets), and so much more.
With lovely Dorset countryside walks straight from the door, it’s quite easy to understand why most guests, despite being so close to so many places of beauty (including the sea), never set foot in the car until check-out.
Not to miss. Dinner. Executive Chef Steven Titman is world-renowned for his cooking, which sees local, seasonal ingredients turned into mouth-watering English fare with a twist of European flare. The awards are numerous. Summer Lodge was voted No. 1 in Dorset, No. 2 in South West England and No. 27 in Britain in 'The Sunday Times Food List – Top 200 Restaurants in Britain' 2010. It doesn’t end here, though. Eric Zwiebel, the cellar master, was runner-up in the Best Sommelier of the World competition whilst Wine Spectator said that his was one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world. The cheeseboard is also critically acclaimed, and was named Best British Cheeseboard by the British Cheese Awards in 2010.
Rooms welcoming to dogs start from. £308/night B&B.
Chien Bleu exclusive. The £20/night fee for dogs is kindly waived for all doggie guests of Chien Bleu.
Treats for the four-legged friend. Dog bowls, dog bed, dog treats, dog towels, dog menu, poop bags, dogs allowed to join you in all public spaces other than the dining room, rooms with immediate access.
Treats for the two-legged. Spa, roaring fires inside, indoor heated pool + Jacuzzi and sauna, gym, DVD players, complimentary wi-fi, bicycles, a croquet lawn, and an all-weather tennis court.
Driving times. Birmingham – 2 ¾ hours, Bristol – 1 ¼ hours, Exeter - 1 ¼ hours, Edinburgh – 7 ½ hours, Glasgow – 7 hours, London, West (M25/M4 Intersection) - 2 ½ hours, London, East (M25, Dartford Crossing) - 3 hours, Manchester - 4 hours