When it comes to my list of UK places to visit, Dorset has been on it for a good old time. Ironically the list has got longer, rather than shorter, since we got Brandy as we focus more on staycations with her than jaunts abroad to distant lands. But Dorset was still firmly on it.
Lucky for me, this blog gives us amazing opportunities including staying in new places, as you know. So when we were asked to check out boutique hotel The Lord Bute in Highcliffe, near Christchurch, we jumped at the opportunity.
I’ve got to admit, when we first got the dog, while I was determined not to sacrifice our weekends away and meals in restaurants, I had accepted that we might not be able to stay in places that were quite as nice as we had before if we had a four-legged creature of chaos with us. I readied myself for nights in nice-but-not-amazing hotels and prepared to kiss the days of luxury goodbye.
How wrong I was. We’ve stayed in some great hotels with the dog – from The Ship Inn to Mill Street Pub & Kitchen. Then, of course, there was The Gallivant in all its glory – definitely no sacrifice on luxury there. And now the Lord Bute.
I knew it was going to be a nice place to stay. Its location in the original grounds of Highcliffe Castle is pretty great, and with a few awards under its belt and some rather nice-looking rooms. What I didn’t expect was the magnificence of our room.
Unbeknownst to me, we were staying in one of the lodges – the original 18th Century entrance lodges to Highcliffe Castle that have now been transformed into some pretty special suites that are perfect for special occasions or those times that you just want to treat yourself.
A suite isn’t something that Mr M and I are that fussed about. Of course, it’s nice to have all the extra space but when we’re away we’re usually so busy out and about doing things, it’s not like we need tonnes of room to lounge around. Useful if it rains and you’re stuck inside for an afternoon and useful, too, if you have to catch up with a bit of extra work like I did, but definitely not vital.
But the ace in the hand of our suite at The Lord Bute was its private landscaped garden. Not only beautiful (even more in summer, I’m sure!) but an absolute godsend if you’ve got a dog. They welcome dogs by arrangement rather than plugging dog-friendliness, but a suite definitely ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for somewhere your pooch can get comfortable.
With doors leading out from both the lounge area and the bedroom, it’s so refreshingly easy to be able to let the dog out, especially if it’s the middle of the night, without worrying about disturbing fellow guests. Brandy made herself right at home with her new little pad, checking out the garden and enjoying a nap on the deck while we pottered around getting ready.
Of course, it’s not all about the dog. While she had the joy of a lovely garden to mooch about in, we had the luxury of a bright, airy bedroom complete with all the normal tea and coffee facilities, TV etc. But that’s just about where normal ended.
As well as this, at the Lord Bute we had a whole dressing room. Yes, a whole room lined with mirrored wardrobes that every teenage girl dreams of – the kind you enviously imagine Beyonce has as you desperately try to cram another top into your jam-packed ordinary wardrobe. And that’s before you get to the en-suite bathroom with jack and jill sinks, walk-in shower and tempting jacuzzi bath. Definitely a step beyond ‘nice’ when it comes to hotels.
After dinner out in nearby Christchurch we enjoyed a blissful night’s sleep and a little lie-in before heading over to the main restaurant for breakfast. You can’t take dogs in the restaurant but since we were just across the courtyard from our suite it was easy enough to leave Brandy having her own post-breakfast snooze while we had a few minutes on our own to have our fuel for the day.
We were sat in the lighter, brighter part of the restaurant which had an almost orangery feel to it, with views out onto a small but perfectly formed terrace and settled down to a civilised start to the day with coffee, tea and orange juice all brought right to us at our table while we chose what to have.
I opted for what I fear might be becoming my regular choice of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs while Mr M went for the full English. The scrambled eggs weren’t quite as amazing as those at The Gallivant but still pretty darn good and nicely seasoned with freshly milled black pepper.
Jamie was more than pleased with his breakfast – decent sausage and bacon, well cooked, with a great, runny poached egg, mushrooms, hash brown, tomato and beans. Another nice touch was the selection of toast that came wrapped in a napkin to keep it nice and warm. Oh, and proper butter too!
And while Brandy wasn’t with us in the dining room, she wasn’t forgotten. As we left to go back to our room a sausage wrapped in foil was produced for us to take back to her which was a nice touch.
We spent the day mooching around the local area. Highcliffe Castle in all its glory is literally five minutes away, and from there you can walk down a path to the beach and enjoy the miles of walks along either the shingle or the nicely-kept path that runs the full length of the beach in both directions.
There are plenty of eateries within reach, including the wonderful Noisy Lobster at the other end of the beach in Mudeford. Don’t worry, I’ve got a full post on that coming up. Not to mention several cafes on clifftops nearby, all with gorgeous views of the stunning Dorset coast.
Back in the room, we enjoyed the space to each relax in our own special way – Brandy made herself at home in front of the fire in the lounge while Jamie had a snooze in the bedroom. And I took full advantage of the peace and quiet to enjoy a lengthy jacuzzi bath – the perfect way to relax after a day of fresh air on a blustery beach and a long lunch.
On the second morning of our stay, we decided to pass on the cooked breakfasts and enjoy the morning with Brandy before we checked out. You can have breakfast brought to your room but only a continental breakfast, which was fine by us, so we dined on a feast of fresh fruit and yoghurt, toast and jams and juice, coffee and tea.
It was good to have the opportunity to enjoy the room and I imagine if it had been a few months later we might have been sat out on the terrace enjoying it.
We left the Lord Bute feeling rather chilled and relaxed and headed off to explore a few other parts of Dorset. Whether it’s Christchurch or Bournemouth or slightly further down the coast in Lulworth or Weymouth, Highcliffe is well placed as either a starting point or a base to explore the coastline and all its beauty.
We were invited for a complimentary stay at The Lord Bute for the purposes of this blog.
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