Travel

How to start your holidays: a dog-friendly lunch at Ston Easton Park in Somerset

When Wunderdog went on holiday in Devon, we stopped over at the romantic, dog-friendly manor house hidden in the Somerset countryside near Bath. A lunch to remember – not least because of house-dog Oscar

Beautiful as Devon is, it’s not around the corner when you live in London. The satnav promised us 4.5 hours in the car when we set off to our holiday in Braunton on Devon’s north coast. A stop-off for lunch was in order, and one to kick off the holidays in style. Ston Easton Park, en route with only a minor detour into the countryside, looked lush, plush and dog-friendly. We booked for three – two humans and one dog.

We would be ok with living here

Ston Easton is as well-hidden as it is beautiful. The seat of the Hippisley family since 1544, today’s grand facades were mainly built in the later 18thcentury. It fell into disrepair after the family relinquished it, but was restored under a new owner. Ston Easton Park became a hotel in 1982, featuring a dining room, library, print room, saloon, bar and 20 guest rooms. It is set not only in 36 acres of parkland, a Victorian walled kitchen garden is tucked to the side supplies fresh ingredients to the house’s award-winning kitchen.

For us, the grand setting became accessible and enjoyable because of Ston Easton Park’s superbly friendly staff – and the house’s complete devotion to dogs. Wunderdog social editor Goldie had been added by the staff on our reservation; she immediately received a water bowl the size of a bath tub; she was tolerated on the sofa and found a ball under it. We were set up in the library, which we had all to ourselves (and also because the only place dogs aren’t allowed is the main dining room). Goldie laid either on the thick-pile carpet or walked around to explore. It was just like home – if home was a Somerset manor house with lovely people who cook and bring you food.

For a little rescue dog from Romania, Goldie suits a grand library

We had a delicious three-course set meal of local – if not home-grown – ingredients (goat’s cheese mousse with beetroot from the garden, lamb with asparagus, pannacotta with garden berries) and a stroll around said garden afterwards. Despite it being a summer Saturday, we had the place largely to ourselves.

The landscaped garden, a little bridge over the stream, and a very excited pup
A portrait of an insouciant rescue dog: Goldie enjoys the view while we have tea

None of us wanted to leave, so we stayed for tea on the terrace in the cool shade of the house, overlooking the landscaped garden towards a little stream. We wanted to leave even less when Goldie met famous house-dog Oscar, an 11-year-old chocolate cocker spaniel. Within a minute, the two dogs lay on the rug of the entrance hall and gently played. Time stood still for a few minutes, and when it started again, we felt truly on holiday.

As hotel receptionists go, Oscar wins for friendliness

After a three-hour stopover, we were on the road again to complete our drive to Devon. Goldie dreamt of Oscar, and us humans wanted another pannacotta with strawberries. Our holidays had started early and beautifully. We shall return.

Three-course set lunch is £27.50, served Mondays to Saturdays stoneaston.co.uk

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