To the English countryside once again for a delightful weekend in Dorset. The Eastbury Hotel Sherborne was our destination this time, and what a pleasure it was.
The Eastbury, like it’s sister destination The Carey Arms and Spa, is part of the burgeoning de Savary group of hotels headed by Peter and Lana de Savary. These guys have been slowly transforming a range of more-than-slightly-out-of-date hotels, pubs and lodgings across the South of England for the past few years now and they are doing a grand job. The portfolio is great and it can be seen that they are clearly transforming each new spot with care, time and attention.
The Eastbury Hotel is nestled in the quiet streets of Sherborne. Just 2 hours journey from London by train, Sherborne is a historic market town with a storied past and quite the multicultural present. There’s a wonderful juxtaposition about the town; the ancient, majestic Abbey at its centre, the castles fringing its borders and the rotary clubs and raffles sit amidst a young and international population of school kids attending one its five notable schools. A picture of, and testament to, the much-alive legacy of the English establishment. Indeed, the schools date back over a thousand years in some cases; King Alfred the Great is said to have attended what is now King Edward’s Grammar school in the town. The schoolkids are not the obtrusive kind, we might add, just polite and smiling faces from around the globe ambling about the town on their Saturday afternoon free-time.
As hoteliers go, the de Savarys have figured out the welcome, that’s for sure. Not only were we greeted at the Eastbury Hotel with their signature Sloe Gin (a true hit when we visited The Carey Arms and Spa and likewise, here) but the warden of the property picked us up in a 1964 vintage London taxi cab. As we chugged through the honeyed, ochre-stoned and meandering lanes of the town to the hotel there was a wonderful sense of nostalgic deceleration imbued upon us.
A crackling fire was set for our arrival and the nicely renovated garden room was home for the weekend. A centuries-old and impressive, yet oh-so-comfortable, four-poster bed bedecked with the weightiest of drapes, was the highlight. Another nod to the past meeting the present with glad tidings. The mattress and bed sheets were of most luxurious modern comfort but the antique frame that of lords and kings of yesteryear.
The Eastbury Hotel is clearly a labour of love and still work in progress, with new additions coming throughout 2019 and 2020; more extensive garden accommodation for guests and events alike and updated dining spaces. The already renovated elements which, to be fair, make up most of the hotel, have been changed with style and a light touch, so when these last additions are finished it’s sure to be a very well rounded weekend-away. It is already, but it’s only going to get better, so we’d recommend a visit soon.
A highlight of the hotel and our stay was the private dining room, where we were treated to a well thought through tasting menu, each course with a paired wine. The Eastbury, much like the Cary Arms, is largely staffed by the young and enthusiastic and we must give a tip of the hat to the young chap who looked after us for dinner and during our stay. He was charmingly anxious to do justice to the hotel as well each dish and each pairing he brought us through dinner, every one of which was a delight. We visited in the colder months, so a hearty range of fare was on offer; comforting winter veg, life-affirming rump of lamb and a truly cosmopolitan selection of cheeses. A real blow-out treat of a meal served with warmth from the team and the open fire in the homely dining room. Most certainly a spot for the family celebration lunch and sure to be booked solid by parents from around the world in town to celebrate their offspring’s latest school prize.
Of a morning, hearty breakfast is on offer to all but healthy options are there too and you’d be well advised to go light and take a good walk around the historic sights of Sherborne. Most notably the ruins of a the 12th-century fortified palace, the 16th-century mansion known as Sherborne Castle (built by Sir Walter Raleigh) and the abbey; truly special.
There are a handful of cafes, restaurants and pubs scattered around the town centre, which is lovely for a light amble, especially with the abbey as the focal point. Some are a little more dog-on-string type places and others have updated their offering and ambience to suit the fussier visiting urbanite. There is joy in exploration though, so wander with an open mind and see what the winding streets and cobbled passageways offer up.
Whilst in a weekend we of course didn’t sample everywhere, we did certainly leave feeling that the Eastbury was the enclave’s number-one spot to eat and drink. Don’t be afraid to “miss-out” on anything else when dining or drinking. The Eastbury is the highlight of Sherborne and you’d be forgiven for wanting to do nothing else but rest there when you visit.
Editors note: Opening Late Summer 2019 will be a magical Woodland Spa tucked into a leafy corner of the garden here at The Eastbury Hotel as well as five new Potting Shed Garden Suites. The quirky and enchanting Spa building – built from local stone and complete with sedum and moss roof and a circular doorway – will house a boutique Spa, consisting of two treatment rooms (including a couples room), a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room, exercise area and private relaxation space. The Potting Shed Garden Suites have been imagined to offer guests the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the glorious Eastbury hotel gardens. The stylish new dog-friendly suites will take inspiration from traditional English Victorian Potting Sheds and will be located discreetly within the landscaping of the garden whilst preserving the integrity of the historical brick garden wall. Private terraces, fire pits, sedum roofs and tasteful and creative de Savary interiors will complete a bucolic experience rarely available within a hotel.
AYU members get special access and offers at The Eastbury Hotel. Check in the AYU app or apply for membership here.