A trip to Sherborne to stay in a shed? Scott Manson discovers why the garden of The Eastbury Hotel has become one of the most sought-after destinations in Dorset….
Why did no-one ever tell me about Sherborne? It’s a question I asked myself time and again as I spent three days in this delightful country town in north west Dorset. It has the charm of the Cotswolds – but without the traffic and the second home brigade – and is a short hop to the majestic Jurassic Coast, with easy excursions to lovely places like Lyme Regis or the famous Durdle Door beach.
A guided tour around the town, courtesy of Paul from Sherborne Walks, was a fascinating way to get a flavour of the place. It’s something I increasingly do when visiting a new town or city. Previously, I’d rely on a bit of research combined with a general amble but you really do get much more out of a destination if you put yourself in the hands of an expert for a few hours. Nooks and crannies were thoroughly explored (there are pubs aplenty) and Paul gave us a terrific take on the 1,000 year old Cathedral and its storied history. The walk was organised by The Eastbury Hotel, the handsome home for our short break. The hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from Abbey; indeed, nothing feels like more than a few minutes’ walk in this compact town. From cosy bakeries to fine wine stores, there are plenty of retail options to enjoy.
The elegant Georgian red brick façade of the hotel is complemented by the addition of a 1960s Beardmore London Taxi, which is parked outside and used to ferry guests around Sherborne’s sights for free. That sense of appreciation of times past continues inside, where you’ll find a croquet set on the lawn and a beautiful billiards room which virtually demands that you don a smoking jacket and sip some port while playing.
With its winding corridors, stylish furnishings, smart wallpaper and pretty paintings, it’s easy to see that this former home has had a well-judged aesthetic eye applied to it. Indeed, it’s the brainchild of hospitality gurus Peter and Lana de Savary, responsible for projects as diverse as Skibo Castle and Aspinall’s Casinos. Their magic touch means everything from the Purbeck marble fireplace in the lounge to the verdant lawn and garden out back – as well as a cute ‘Hobbit house’ style spa – are nothing short of perfect.
Booking is essential for its restaurant, Seasons. It’s picked up a clutch of awards under the guidance of head chef Matt Street and we enjoyed two fabulous evening meals there, with the standout being the seven-course tasting menu, accompanied by a wine flight. Locally-sourced meat and fish were present and correct, but all taken beyond the traditional. Devon crab was combined with cucumber and wasabi, for example, and a beautifully moist chunk of roast lamb came in a tandoori spice with black dal and roasted cauliflower. After feasting, our room was only a 10 second walk away.
I say room, but really more of a small cottage. It was one of five new Potting Shed Suites (all named after herbs) that have been added in the garden, bringing the total of rooms to 26. We felt privileged to stay in these very special spaces, which came with an outdoor sitting area and fire pit. Although built from reclaimed brick, the interior is resolutely contemporary and filled with high tech features including TVs disguised as mirrors, mist-proof bathroom mirrors, and electric blackout blinds for the ceiling skylight windows. The wet room showers also come kitted out with White Company products and, for those who can’t bear to leave their dogs at home, some of the suites are pooch-friendly. Slippers, robes and decent biscuits add to the country house hotel feel.
For those travelling with an extended family, it’s worth enquiring about the 17th century Eastbury Cottage, next door to the hotel. It’s the most recent addition to their growing empire and, on the strength of our quick tour, I’d recommend this characterful and stylish house over any Airbnb option that the town might have to offer.
Sherborne, then, was an unexpected delight and in The Eastbury Hotel, it has a place to stay that should be on the radar of every luxury aficionado.
For more information and to make a booking, go to www.theeastburyhotel.co.uk.