|Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and
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.
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
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,
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
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
Dorset DT2 0JR
Tel: 01935 482000
Fax: 01935 482020
First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd