If you have been nostalgic for the charming days of old, a time of narrow winding lanes and ivy-clad cottages, a time when the entire community consisted of not much more than a church, a post-office, and an Inn, your search is over. The delightful town of Evershot, in County Dorset, is the spot for you. And if you are looking for the most amazing dining experience on the English Channel coast, then you most certainly want to stay in Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, located in this idyllic village. Once you’ve been to this coastal town in Dorset, with its wonderful blend of thatched villages, prehistoric earthworks, literary resonances, geological treasures, and sweeping chalk cliffs, you’ll agree that one visit is never enough.
From the moment I arrived at Summer Lodge, I felt right at home, and no wonder—it feels like home because until 1979, that’s what it was. Designed in 1798 by the Second Earl of Ilchester, it was enlarged in 1893 (with a second floor designed by author and architect Thomas Hardy) and remained a private residence until 1979 when it was converted into a hotel. With four acres of landscaped gardens, a croquet lawn, a heated indoor pool, and a health spa, Summer Lodge becomes your own private world – a secluded escape from the pressures of everyday life. This is a tranquil Wessex haven full of courtesy, charm, character, calm, and cuisine.
Life in this peaceful corner of the Dorset countryside is quietly addictive. Despite the lure of nearby attractions such as Stonehenge and the birthplace of Thomas Hardy (the nearby 16th-century Acorn Inn is featured in Tess of the d'Urbervilles), I was reluctant to leave this 5-star country-house hotel. The food and wines are superb (both the restaurant and sommelier are award-winners); the staff is outstanding; and the surroundings, absolute perfection. When Harpers & Queen magazine fell under the spell of this lovely hotel, they listed Summer Lodge among the 100 best places in the world. There are miles of public footpaths and plenty of quiet country lanes to explore in this glorious region (Wellingtons, cycles, and picnics are all available from the hotel), and many footpaths take you into the neighboring 9,000-acre Melbury Estate.
Each of the 20 beautifully appointed guest rooms and four luxury suites is different with a warm and inviting style of its own. There are rooms to suit every mood and occasion – and every type of relaxing rural escape. There are also the same thoughtful touches present at all of the luxurious Red Carnation Hotel Collection properties: rich fabrics and elegant furnishings, crisp Belgian linen warmed with hot water bottles, fresh fruit, scented candles, soft and enveloping bathrobes, Penhaligons toiletries, and delicious homemade shortbread.
In these cozy rooms, it's easy to immerse yourself in the peace and quiet of Dorset rural life. Of course you don't have to leave the 21st century completely behind. Each room has its own plasma-screen TV, DVD player, radio, air conditioning, and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi connection.
Dorset is a gourmet's paradise, fueled by an abundance of superb local ingredients, and dining at Summer Lodge is a truly memorable experience. Executive Chef Steven Titman was formerly at the highly acclaimed White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, one of the USA’s top ten hotel restaurants, and from the moment he established himself in Dorset he has been winning new fans from near and far. Summer Lodge offers the finest meats and the most delicately cooked fish dishes with many of the ingredients sourced from the wealth of fine produce found locally and from Summer Lodge’s own gardens.
Titman and his team serve traditional English dishes tempered with a twist of modern European. It's an exquisite combination that has had critics scribbling in their napkins and guests clamoring to return again and again. Members of the restaurant team are always discreetly on hand to advise, recommend, and assist, displaying the unobtrusive professionalism typical of all aspects of Summer Lodge.
Of course you will want to complement your outstanding meal with selections from the award-winning wine cellar, and Sommelier Eric Zwiebel has created a cellar at Summer Lodge that is a source of wonder for wine lovers. Filled with his personal selection of outstanding wines, both famous names and lesser-known vineyards, the walls are lined with bottles to delight, excite, and provide the perfect accompaniment to the exquisite cuisine served in the restaurant. Zweibel and his team will gladly suggest the best wine to suit your chosen dishes—and you may even wish to taste a few before making your final decision!
Fine dining and impeccable service go hand-in-hand at Summer Lodge, and you can enjoy both in the light and airy Conservatory, the elegant Dining Room, or the warm and clubby coziness of the Bar. In fine weather, there is dining on the terrace, and the scrumptious traditional Dorset afternoon tea is served every day in the Drawing Room.
When you are on vacation, it's the little extras that make the difference – the fresh fruit in your room on arrival, a ready-drawn candlelit bath, the affection they lavish on your pets—and from the moment I arrived in this charming and idyllic hotel, the staff at Summer House made me feel cared for and special. I will most certainly be returning. Perhaps next time with a copy of Tess.
Room rates for Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa from $505. For reservations or more information, please visit www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk, call +44 (0) 1935 48 2000, or toll-free from the USA 1 (877) 955-1515.