To celebrate the arrival of our puppy Baxter, Alex and I decided this summer we would do a staycation rather than go abroad. We thought South West England would be a good shout, we wanted Baxter to experience the beach and the sea, and it is just a lovely corner of the world isn’t it?
Devon was our choice of destination, but it isn’t the easiest place to get to either. Tucked away on what I call the Toe of England, it is around a 4 and a half hour journey from our house in Hertfordshire, because of this we added a couple of stops on the way and on the way back. Baxter likes the car, it’s a good excuse to nap, but we would have felt a little mean keeping him cooped up for well over four hours.
Our first stop was a great Air BnB near Salisbury in Wiltshire. Just over 2 hours from our house, I booked the room the night before, not really knowing what I was going to find. Lucky for us we turned up at the most beautiful country home, our room wasn’t just a room, it was in a stable block and came with a double bedroom, bathroom, large living area and a gorgeous kitchen, result! This was a great option for us and Baxter as we could walk around the village (Great Cheverell) without having to worry about cars!
Baxter is crate trained, we didn’t want him feeling out of sorts in a new place so we took the crate with us, he slept in the living area that night and we didn’t hear a peep. We left Hertfordshire around 10am that morning, stopped for lunch on the way, and enjoyed an hour in Salisbury before heading to our accommodation just over 30 minutes away.
The next morning we got up early and headed off towards Devon, we had around 2 and a half hours to go so we didn’t want to leave too late, plus I was super excited about our hotel! On the way to Devon, we drove via Shaftesbury in Dorset, most of whom will recognise its most famous street, Gold Hill, featured in a Hovis advert in the 1970s. This was the perfect spot for some breakfast, and even though one of the houses was covered in scaffolding, the view wasn’t too shabby either. We ate at a lovely little cafe that was dog-friendly called Gusto, they do a brilliant cooked breakfast!
Soon it was time to take off, from Shaftesbury we travelled through so pretty Dorset villages before heading towards the motorway into Devon. As we drove deeper into Devon we zipped off into Dartmoor National Park, and by zipped I mean we drove a fair way at no faster than 30 mph because the roads here are pretty but very narrow with high hedges, all drivers need to be alert and ready to meet oncoming traffic. After around half an hour we turned left into the gates of Bovey Castle and half a mile later we were driving up to the most beautiful stately home! We were greeted by a member of staff who kindly parked our car for us (the only time I have ever been treated to valet parking!) and then Alex and I went for a little explore around the grounds before checking in.
Bovey Castle was built in 1907 for the second Viscount Hambleden, who happens to be the son of stationery magnate William Henry Smith – better known as WHSmith. After being in the family for a number of years it became a hotel operated by Great Western Railway, it was then taken over once again and expanded before being renamed Bovey Castle in 2003, and in 2014 it was bought by the Eden Hotel Collection who have created the wonderful hotel we had the pleasure of visiting on our holiday.
Bovey Castle is a wonderful dog-friendly hotel that provided Baxter with his own comfy mat, treats and bowls, he seemed very impressed! The best part is the hotel is surrounded by extensive grounds so it was the perfect place for Baxter to explore and enjoy his walks, everyone we met in the corridors wanted to fuss him so it definitely seems like dogs and humans live harmoniously here!
Bovey Castle is a 5* hotel with a wonderful spa, an award-winning 18-hole championship golf course, and two brilliant restaurants. On the first night we dined in the Great Western Restaurant which was fancy but not stuffy, the food blew us away, there is also a great vegetarian menu available.
From Bovey it was very easy to explore Dartmoor National Park, somewhere I had never been before! The landscapes are beautiful, wild and rugged, sprinkled with some very cute villages such as Widecombe in the Moor and North Bovey. Each time you drive over the brow of a hill you are greeted with a spectacular view, and often free-roaming ponies and cows (and sheep of course!). This was incredible dog territory, Baxter had a wonderful time here and there was also a brilliant dog-friendly pub in Widecombe called the Ruggleston Inn – the best pate I have ever eaten!
After 3 days in Dartmoor, it was time to head to the north Devon coast, a very underrated part of England. We drove to Appledore, around 1 hour 20 minutes away from Bovey and had a relaxing evening by the seaside, spending some quality time with Baxter and Alex’s family. That afternoon we took the short drive over to Westward Ho Beach and made memories we will never forget… Baxter’s first time on the beach and first time off the lead! I will cherish the image of him jumping around free in the sea for the rest of my life, he absolutely loved it. It was a dog-friendly beach and with lots of other dogs off the lead, we had nothing to worry about, each dog and their owner was very friendly and well behaved! We had a brilliant meal that evening at The Royal George, truly one of the best pub meals I have had – views over the sea and Baxter was allowed in as well.
We stayed at the Seagate, a smallish pub in the centre of the village. It was an okay stay but for £102 we had an awful night’s sleep due to the cramped and overheating rooms. I would recommend it perhaps for one night if nowhere else was available, but it is not somewhere I would return to!
After 4 days in Devon, it was time to turn back and head north, we had booked a stay in Bath and one in the Cotswolds so the journey home didn’t seem too long. It took just over 2 hours to reach Bath where we arrived on Great Pulteney Street for our stay at No. 15 Great Pulteney.
Great Pulteney Street is in the heart of Bath and I honestly don’t think we could have picked a better place to stay. The street is lined with stunning Georgian mansions, straight down to the famous Pulteney Bridge, one of just three in the world that is lined by shops. Luckily for us, No. 15 Great Pulteney offers its guests a free parking permit, so we didn’t have to worry about constantly putting money on the car, a big bonus for us, and we were able to park right outside the hotel, handy for us seeing as we had a bazillion bags!
No. 15 Great Pulteney is a stunning boutique hotel residing in one of Bath’s classic terraced houses (although I always say they are more mansions than houses!). The hotel itself reminds me somewhat of Mary Poppins’ bag… it looks quite subtle on the outside but once you go in, it grows around 5 times in size! There was a lovely restaurant called the distillery, a beautiful bar area where you could eat if you wanted your dog to join you, the reception and seating area is flanked on one side by a huge dolls house containing the room keys, and if you head down to the basement you may just stumble upon their spa. When I say spa I don’t mean a relaxation area with a couple of treatment rooms, I mean a beautiful underground sort of bunker with a gorgeous Jacuzzi area covered in smooth cedarwood and a fabulous sauna, all within exposed stone vaults ceiling. The treatments are divine (I had the most relaxing facial) and if you want champagne, you can have it!
Our room didn’t disappoint either. Most people have come to realise I am extremely fussy when it comes to windows, in fact, I constantly whinge at home to Alex about the windows on our house! Our bedroom came with the most magnificent Georgian sash window, the perfect size to let all the light flood in during the day, and at night there are wooden shutters so you can have the best night’s sleep. Baxter’s crate fitted perfectly under the desk, and once again he was surprised with his own doggy mat, treats, and even food and his own pink ball! A short hop, skip and a jump from our room was the hotel larder, complete with a freezer full of ice cream, a fridge full of milk, water and soft drinks and on the cabinet tops were vases full of brownies and flapjacks… heaven!
After an afternoon in the spa whilst Baxter napped, we went to dinner in the bar area so Baxter could come with us. Everyone that came in fussed over him again! It was the university’s graduation that week so we were joined in the bar by a lovely family who was celebrating their daughter’s graduation, they had come all the way from the US! There was also a lovely Canadian couple and a French lady, it is nice to see that so many people are visiting more cities outside London now. Bath is definitely becoming a tourist hot spot but is very worthy of it!
That evening Alex and I put Baxter to sleep in his crate (puppy’s need 18-22 hours a day!) and then had a walk into town. It was so lovely seeing the city at golden hour. It was pretty quiet and the sky was gradually changing from blue to yellow, to orange, to pink, I have never seen Bath look so wonderful. Then seeing as I had done nearly everything I wanted to on the trip, Alex and I stopped off at a craft beer store on the way back to the hotel, which made him very happy! Less than five minutes from our hotel, Beer Craft Bath was Alex’s idea of heaven, boasting at least 500 different beers at any one time. I’m not a beer fan myself, but I did have a brilliant pineapple cider, perfect for a summer’s night. Baxter would have been more than welcome to come too but 1) Baxter loves beer so we prefer to keep him away from it, we don’t need a drunk puppy, he is hyper enough, and 2) he was snoozing soundly in his bed.
After a good night’s sleep (thank goodness we had a fan in our room), we got up early, had breakfast and headed straight into town. Alex hadn’t been to Bath in years and of course, this was Baxter’s first time so we soaked up some of the main sights – the abbey, the Pump Rooms, up to the Circus, Roya Crescent and then back down to our hotel. We didn’t want to walk too far because it was hot, and Baxter is a black dog so overheats quickly, and puppies shouldn’t be constantly walking either. Bath is a compact city so you are able to cover a lot of it in a short space of time. Of course, if you want to go up the abbey or into the Roman Baths etc you would need a long weekend, but we didn’t have the luxury of time so we will have to come back when Baxter is a little older!
Around lunchtime, we left Bath (sadly) and drove 30 minutes to Castle Combe. Alex had never been, I have been multiple times (I can’t stay away), and I wanted to show him what I deem to be one of the prettiest villages in the whole of England, maybe even Europe! I have never come in high season before but to be honest, it really wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be and I was still able to get lots of lovely pictures! It is a great day trip to take if you are spending a few days in Bath or nearby.
Castle Combe is in the southern portion of the Cotswolds, lighter in colour than the honey-coloured brick of the northern Cotswolds, Castle Combe is nestled in the Wiltshire countryside with a babbling stream running past the sweet English cottages. Another very dog-friendly village, Baxter was even allowed to look round the church with us, and the church actually holds pet services so your sweet pup can be blessed by the vicar! There are a couple of pubs in the village which are both dog-friendly so this is also a lovely place to stay and enjoy some lunch, I would recommend eating outside on a nice day as the village is a lovely spot to watch the world go by.
As it got warmer we decided to put Baxter back in the airconditioned car so he could have a snooze, we drove 30 minutes to Bradford on Avon where we would be spending our final night. We knew we wouldn’t be able to check into the hotel until 3pm so we found a lovely spot in Bradford called Timbrell’s Yard where we sat in the courtyard and enjoyed a cider in the sun. Baxter was more than welcome in or outside and there were treats for dogs available and doggy bowls so he didn’t get thirsty. I was starting to think we should just move to the south-west considering they love dogs so much…
Whilst having our drinks I decided to look up the Dog House, as our previous night in Bath Baxter was given a ‘Dog House’ puppy box by the hotel which contained his treats, ball and food. I was intrigued as to where to get more of the treats from as Baxter enjoyed them so much and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact Dog House is actually located in Bradford on Avon itself and has a shop and cafe open to the public! Hurrah! We quickly finished our drinks and walked over to the shop where we were greeted with the most wonderful array of toys. All the toys on sale were made from recycled plastic, so we went crazy buying him flamingos, frisbees, monsters and different treats. Baxter even picked his own toy from the shelf (the monster) and he loved it so much we couldn’t say no…£50 later we left the shop and drove a couple of minutes out of town to Widbrook Grange.
I have stayed at Widbrook Grange before and I knew it was dog-friendly which is why I wanted to book it again. Set in a pretty farmhouse, the hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens and with lots of lovely shady spots for when it is a little too hot. There is also a restaurant, living area and even a pool and gym so it has everything you need really. I stayed in the same room as last time but this time around it came complete with… you guessed it, a doggy bed, bowls and a box of treats! Once again, Baxter was a very happy boy.
We spent the afternoon relaxing before having dinner in the garden, there were other couples and families with dogs which were a great excuse to get Baxter socialised and let him have a play. The only problem we have with Baxter is he is VERY playful, and when he comes across a 10-year-old dog he doesn’t really understand why they don’t want to play with him. But it was okay as the waiter gave him all the attention he needed anyway so we could enjoy our dinner in peace (we are currently trying to stop him begging for food, easier said than done that’s for sure!).
Sadly when we woke up the next morning it was time to go home, the clouds were grey like they knew I felt gloomy… Lucky for me we travelled past Lacock on the way home so I could take one last photo!