Welcome to the next instalment of our pet friendly travel feature with the lovely Kate Lawler and her two dogs, Baxter and Kevin. Over the next few issues we will be taking Kate, Baxter and Kevin on a tour of different pet friendly hotels and areas across the UK. This issue we travel to the Hertfordshire/Essex border.
My first pet friendly review was a beach-front boutique hotel in Brighton and this month, it’s a completely different experience.
If historic buildings, beautiful gardens and classically ‘British’ breaks take your fancy then you’ll want to visit Down Hall Country House Hotel. It’s around 45 minutes from Central London in Hatfield Heath, on the Hertfordshire and Essex border. It’s also ideally near London Stansted Airport. Down Hall is one of the AA’s leading pet friendly hotels and it’s easy to see why. My boyfriend Adam, and our Border Terrier – Baxter, and I are staying for 2 days and 1 night. Kevin our other dog is boarding with friends at their home, recovering after an operation.
The three of us arrive at around midday. The grandeur, elegance and character of Down Hall are instantly recognisable upon arrival. After a slow drive down a wide gravelly private road, admiring the stunning gardens, we pull up outside the most gorgeous victorian country house. It’s very impressive. I almost feel like I’m at Buckingham Palace! Baxter jumps out of the car, sniffs around and stretches his legs after a two and a half hour drive from Birmingham…..
We are greeted by two extremely friendly members of staff at reception. Unfortunately Baxter decides to pee on the carpet as we’re checking in. It’s not just a little pee either. A very embarrassing start to the weekend but the staff were absolutely fine about it, to the point that they found it funny (luckily!).
It’s quite a long walk to our room, recognising instantly what a big hotel Down Hall is. As we pass the restaurant, the smell of delicious food being cooked is extremely inviting. Our room is lovely, spacious, comfortable, and very classic in design. Pet owners you’ll love the pooch welcome pack if you enjoy spoiling your beloved four legged friend. Waiting for Baxter was a dog bowl, with treats, a chewbone, a welcome card with do’s and don’ts on, wrapped in a big bow. Nice touch.
What I love the most is that our room has french doors that open with views to a beautifully landscaped garden. As a dog owner, this makes life incredibly easy as we can let Baxter out to do his business without having to walk all the way through the hotel and exit through reception. Once the doors were open and Baxter was taking advantage of the enormous well-maintained gardens, running free, sniffing the ground, going to the toilet and sprinting back for a Down Hall doggy treat. We notice the hotel has put other dog owners on the ground floor, in the double rooms that also have the doors leading out to the garden. Very thoughtful, thumbs up to Down Hall.
After a long walk in the beautiful grounds, my boyfriend and I took advantage of the Cream Tea served in a historic lounge in front of a roaring log fire. This is my ideal afternoon, and because it’s a pet friendly hotel, Baxter was able to chill out with us which really makes a difference when you’re staying in a hotel. He got a lot of attention from others staying at the hotel and lapped it up as usual! We decided to have a siesta before heading out to a gorgeous country pub just a five minute drive from the hotel. It is called The White Horse Inn and served the most incredible steak and stout pie, mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy, not forgetting a superb chocolate fudge cake with cream. Reasonably priced and a warm welcoming atmosphere inside.
It’s now time for bed, very early which is rare for us on a Saturday Night!
Sunday morning and we’ve had the most amazing night sleep. Extremely comfortable mattress and because of the black out curtains, we slept for longer than usual! Baxter finishes off his doggy treats provided by the hotel, has a little run around the garden, it’s a gorgeous day so we decide to take him for a long walk and find out that 110 acres of woodland, parkland and gardens surround the hotel. Perfect for dog walking! Before we take Baxter out we indulge in a hearty Full English Breakfast which is huge! Good coffee too.
On our 2 hour walk through the woodland, Baxter had the time of his life. Not only did he chase squirrels and meet other doggies but he came in to contact with 2 Alpacas!! They were amazing. Adam and I had never met Alpacas before either and a sign next to them said ‘Warning! The Alpacas may spit!’ We ignored the warning and got spat at which wasn’t very nice but we laughed about it afterwards! I think Baxter was a little scared of them after that.
We didn’t want to leave Down Hall it was a short but perfect break and as far as Pet Friendly Hotels go, it’s up there with the best. Whether you’re looking for a secluded romantic break or a gigantic lavish wedding, it’s a gorgeous venue, very impressive, and most importantly it’s PET FRIENDLY! Being located to a major airport is handy, and only 45 minutes outside of central London an added bonus. With rooms starting at just £89 you cannot go wrong. Top marks for Down Hall Country House Hotel.