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Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa
Evershot, Dorset

by Sarah Shuckburgh

Utter luxury and attentive service in a rural Dorset village.

This Georgian dower house has been a hotel for 25 years, but since 2003 has been completely redesigned and relaunched for a luxury market. Its new owner, the dynamic and charismatic Beatrice Tollman, is often to be seen here at weekends, with her husband and her two dachshunds, Milo and Babe. Mrs Tollman owns 11 luxury hotels worldwide, but maintains tight control over every tiny aspect - from décor to staffing. Nothing escapes her beady eye, and everything is co-ordinated down to the smallest detail.

First Impressions

The hotel is on the edge of the tiny Dorset village of Evershot, surrounded by quiet country lanes. The house dates from 1789, but everything looks brand new and very neat, from the exactly-spaced bedding plants to the monogrammed bed linen - it’s a hyper-real universe of its own, with immaculate buildings, colour-schemed flowerbeds and toy-town signposts - a world away from the muddy lanes and straggly hedgerows beyond the gates. Even the features that look old - such as the huge speckled mirrors in the dining room - are in fact new, and artfully distressed. In amusing contrast, when we were there, a strong smell of manure pervaded from the neighbouring farm.

Mrs Tollman personally designed the décor of the 24 rooms. Each one is different, but all have a distinctive over-the-top, continental look, and show her acute attention to detail. Walls are hidden behind padded fabric (Mrs Tollman doesn’t like cracked and uneven plaster), windows carry many layers of swag and frill, bathrooms gleam with huge chrome showerheads and lots of marble. Every room has at least one flat-screen TV (some have three), internet connection, DVD player, and tea-making equipment with frequently replaced fresh milk, delicious home-made shortbread and a plate of colour-co-ordinated fruit. Wood-smoke wafts into the Master Room from the log fire in the drawing room below - a fragrance which urban guests have mistaken for a designer room spray. The honeymoon suite is a 300-year-old thatched cottage, with silk-lined walls, fur carpets, and a whirlpool bath in a candle-lit stone outhouse.

Reasons to come:
1. The service is fantastic - guests are waited on hand and foot. The staff are friendly, polite and efficient. They know your name, and nothing is too much trouble.
2. The spa - spend your days having massages and manicures, or swimming.
3. Afternoon tea: an amazing buffet of cucumber sandwiches, scones and Dorset cream, carrot cake, strawberry tarts, choux pastries and cream puffs and much more.
4. Things to see locally: Sherborne abbey and castle, Montacute House, Abbotsbury swannery, Longleat and Cricket St Thomas wildlife parks, many stately-home gardens, and the Dorset coast.
5. Dogs are welcome

Not suitable for:
1. Fans of faded grandeur, threadbare carpets, tumbledown barns or Vita Sackville West gardens. Everything here is spotless and ordered.
2. Guests of shabby, tousled or unkempt appearance. There were some tee-shirts at breakfast, and you can borrow Wellington boots, but the guests didn’t look as if they liked muddy walks.

“Eating in, eating out”
Weekend tariffs are for half board, with three-course dinner and Dorset cream tea. The food is sophisticated and delicious, using local ingredients, herbs and vegetables from the vegetable garden, and bread from the village bakery. The award-winning sommelier likes to present his extensive wine list (including some from the Tollman’s own winery in South Africa). The enormous cheese trolley tempts with strangely-named specialities such as local Blue Vinney, Cardinal Sin, Stinking Bishop and Ash Pyramid.

Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa
Summer Lane
Dorset DT2 0JR

Tel: 01935 482000
Fax: 01935 482020


First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd

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