Two splendid inns in two glorious areas of Britain; one is the idyllic, historic town of Shaftesbury in Dorset, and the other is right on the serene River Test in Hampshire. Stay at one or stay at both. This pair provides perfect bases for exploring the surrounding area. Driving time between the inns is 54 minutes.
Pairing notes: Waterside, Great food, Active outdoors, Family friendly, Dogs, Market town
The thriving hub of Shaftesbury, this grand old inn has a cool, contemporary feel with Mediterranean-inspired food, a secret alfresco courtyard and smart, spacious rooms.
The Grosvenor Arms is both unique and quirky, this rambling medieval inn was bought by the Grosvenor family in 1820 and has remained the hub of the thriving hilltop town of Shaftesbury ever since. Step off the street and expect to be wowed by the glass-covered walkway that links the stylish bar with the light, airy and spacious dining room.
The Mediterranean-style quadrangle courtyard is an unexpected surprise and a peaceful refuge from the hustle and bustle of the High Street, with a central fountain, terracotta pots and planters.
Rejuvenated Test Valley inn with riverside garden, fishing rights, great food and gorgeous rooms.
The Greyhound on the Test has a number of notable accolades, including Michelin Pub of the Year and this riverside inn boasts a gorgeous garden backing onto the River Test, England's fly-fishing capital. A recently renovated 15th-century building in the heart of charming Stockbridge, it's now a beautifully revamped space with plenty of passion and panache.
Featuring heavily beamed interiors, a proper bar set in the intimate parlour and a beautiful garden from which to enjoy the river, it's a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike, and with local fishing rights, fisherman hampers and a fisherman's hut, it's also the perfect pitstop for fishing first-timers and enthusiasts too.
Join artisan baker Paul Merry at Panary in Gillingham, who has been craft baking with masonry ovens for over 40 years. Established in 1997, the school teaches an array of baking skills in a working watermill. Much of the flour used in the courses is sourced from the mill and it's also the perfect place to learn everything there is to know about baking.
For a relaxed day out, visit the Pythouse Kitchen Garden at West Hatch. The 18th century walled garden and Victorian kitchen garden produces fruit and a wide variety of vegetables; everything grown here is sold in the small shop and appears on the menu in the appropriately rustic café: The monthly Saturday 'Pytfire Suppers' often feature Pythouse's own organic lamb or beef.
History buffs can enjoy Chettle House, a Queen Anne manor house near Blandford Forum designed in 1710. There's an elegant oak entrance hall with two sweeping flights of stairs meeting at an impressive gallery at the top. Stroll in the gardens and take a peek at the nearby church with its early-16th-century tower.
Acknowledged as one of Europe's finest landscaped parkland gardens, stunning Stourhead is managed by the National Trust. The gardens serve as a perfect example of the English landscape style, and the lake is a picture at any time of the year (pictured above).
You're not too far from the majestic Salisbury Cathedral here, which boasts the tallest spire in the country (pictured below). Immortalised in John Constable's famous painting Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows from 1831, you'll feel like you've stepped into a romantic painting - don't miss the original copy of the Magna Carta
Also in the area is 12th-century former Augustinian priory, Mottisfont Abbey, now a beautiful house and garden. Managed by the National Trust, Mottisfont includes a drawing room decorated by Rex Whistler and a superb walled garden containing one of the finest collections of roses in the country, with a tributary of the Test flowing prettily through the grounds.
When exploring charming Stockbridge, don't miss Wine Utopia, the well-stocked wine merchants a few doors down from the inn. With hundreds of top quality and great value wines from across the world, as well as from small producers and estates, its a great pitstop for any vino aficionados.