The village of Evershot in the county of Dorset is best known for its connection with writer Thomas Hardy. Not only does Evershot feature in the book, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (though called Evershead), Hardy has a close link to Summer Lodge, he was also an architect and in 1893 designed an extension on the property.
This is scenic hiking country. On a stroll through the small town we noticed groups of ramblers, hoofing it through the 300-hectare Melbury Estate and Deer Park. Evershot is a three-hour drive from the centre of London.
Summer Lodge is part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, of which founder and president Bea Tollman is chief designer. Tollman's distinctly elegant sense of style is evident throughout. Think floral drapes, striped wallpaper, plumped cushions, pleated fabric pendants, ceramic horses, and framed pictures of hounds. It's excessive, over-the-top but it all works wonderfully well.
Sitting by the fire on a velvet sofa for afternoon Dorset tea in the blue-hued drawing room is a highlight, as is walking through the meticulously manicured gardens on the property after breakfast in the conservatory.
There's a day spa on site offering body treatments and massages using products from the French beauty brand Darphin.
Each of the 24 rooms is differently decorated. Mine, a principal room, offered garden views and a pleasantly tufted headboard. The heavy fabric drapes matched chair upholstery. Homemade shortbread was on offer as was a hot water bottle, if needed, between the Belgian linens. Fresh flowers and fruit also awaited.
For a truly regal stay, one should choose the master bedroom; it has a fire and a four-poster bed. Design lovers should choose from the selection of the Suite Collection where fabulous blues and reds feature and china plates hang on the walls.
All rooms have plasma-screen TV, DVD player, airconditioning, and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi.
Executive chef Steven Titman is passionate about sourcing local fare, and the closer the better, including woodland reared chooks from up the road and a vegie garden onsite at the lodge.
His roast loin of Dorset lamb and braised shoulder shepherds pie with savoy cabbage and rosemary jus is recommended or perhaps the Lyme Bay mackerel fillet. But do leave room for the selection of more than two dozen cheeses on the renowned Summer Lodge cheese board. Try the Ogleshield from Jersey, a pungent, but delicious washed rind cheese made with raw cow's milk.
Take a wander, or use one of the Lodge's bicycles, through the village of Evershot, (be sure to drop into the bakery) before a pub lunch at Hardy's Acorn Inn (it featured in Tess of the D'Urbervilles as The Sow & Acorn), a 16th-century pub with a fire and resident hound. Their superb pudding menu may induce an afternoon sleep across the road back at the Lodge but if you did want to power through, you might want to take the 40-minute drive to check out the World Heritage Jurassic coastline of Dorset.
Warm, inviting and elegant, this is the sort of country lodge where attention to detail is paramount, from the thread count of the table napkins, and the order in which the cream and jam are to be applied to the scones, to the flower arrangements in every room. The service is excellent.
Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, 9 Fore Street, Evershot. Rooms from £255 a night. See summerlodgehotel.co.uk for more details.
A wander, far from the madding crowd, among songbirds, roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, and blue forget-me-nots in the garden. Here, there's a collection of bronze sculptures by one of Britain's leading contemporary sculptors, Simon Gudgeon.
The whisper-quiet atmosphere in the main dining room could have been enhanced with music.
Andrea Black travelled as a guest of Visit Britain
Our Rating: ★★★★★
TripAdvisor Traveller rating: ★★★★★