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Hotel Highlights

  • In summer, dine in the courtyard garden
  • Central setting in old-town Shaftesbury
  • Ideal stop-off en route to Cornwall

Overview

Crowning Dorset’s beautiful Blackmore Vale, Shaftesbury has Old-England charm down to the last cobble, but now that the Grosvenor Arms hotel is on the scene, there’s something for the more modern-minded visitor, too.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking The Grosvenor Arms with us:

An assortment of home-made brownies

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at The Grosvenor Arms

Prepayment offer

Facilities

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The Grosvenor Arms – Shaftesbury – UK

Need To Know

Rooms

16, including three suites.

Check–out

11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both can be flexible on request.

Rates

Double rooms from $86.94 (£56), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast.

Also

If you plan to explore, ask the hotel to prepare you a packed lunch. Transport can be arranged if you fancy a few rounds on the nearby Rushmore golf course or a microlight flight from Compton Abbas Airfield.

At the hotel

Courtyard garden, ballroom, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock, coffee maker, bottled water.

Our favourite rooms

In summer, pick Junior Suite 9, the only room in the hotel with a balcony, and a lovely one it is too, overlooking the hotel’s central courtyard. In winter, go for the Cranborne Suite, where there’s not only a working fireplace, but also vast bay windows, a free standing bath and a shower that could accommodate a significant proportion of Shaftesbury’s residents at the same time. The rooms facing the courtyard (3, 4, 9, 15 and 16) are a mite more peaceful.

Packing tips

Shaftesbury’s the heart of Dorset rambler’s country, so bring your boots ’n’ Barbour combo.

Also

Pets are welcome – ask ahead. There’s one room adapted for mobility-impaired guests, and a lift to the first floor.

Children

Welcome. Cots are free for babies, and extra beds are £35 a night.

Read more

Food & Drink

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The Grosvenor Arms – Shaftesbury – UK

Hotel Restaurant

The Grosvenor Restaurant has an elegant main dining area (and two smaller seating areas) where you can sample a menu of locally sourced rustic fare. For a more informal affair grab a seat in the restaurant's pizzeria, where you can watch crust crisp and the cheese bubble in the wood-fired oven as you wait. Head chef Neil Duffett's focus is on simple hearty fare, plucked from the bucolic surroundings; depending on the season, hand-picked Weymouth Bay scallops, organic beef, speared Portland plaice, home-cured ham and fresh ewe's cheese are artfully served on wooden trenchers. There's also a conservatory and terrace for dining on sun-drenched days, and two private dining rooms (seating 12 or 16 guests).

Hotel Bar

Plonk into an aged-leather armchair and let the fire warm your cockles as you browse the hotel's extensive wine list, or take a peek at the reserve list if you're in the mood for something decadent (and you're feeling flush). There's also a range of real ales from local breweries and a bar menu with charcuterie plates, salads and some rather upper-crust pizzas topped with cured ham, ewe’s cheese, wild rocket and Planetta olive oil. 

Last orders

The restaurant is open daily for breakfast (7:30am–9:30am Monday to Saturday; 8am–10am on Sundays), and for lunch (12pm–2.30pm) and dinner (6.30pm–9pm) every day. In the bar a selected menu is served from 12 noon to 9pm and drinks are served until 11pm.

Room service

None.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Wear what you like – the atmosphere is casual.

Top table

In summer, the restaurant spills out onto a little courtyard garden – a lovely spot in the early evening.

Local Guide

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The Grosvenor Arms – Shaftesbury – UK
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Rural pursuits abound: the historic hunting grounds of Cranborne Chase are close to Shaftesbury, and in their midst, the refreshingly non-cliquey Rushmore golf club (rushmoregolfclub.co.uk) offers iron-swingers a relaxing day out. The Compton Abbas Airfield hosts taster courses in flying light aircraft, starting at around £65 for half an hour (www.abbasair.com). Head to the 14th-century Old Wardour Castle in the valley, (www.english-heritage.org.uk). The castle has graced many a movie and is the perfect spot for a picnic . Another great spot to hunker down with a hamper is the Fonthill Estate, a five-minute walk away (+44 (0)1747 820 246; www.fonthill.co.uk). Stonehenge is a 20-minute drive away, Bath, 30 minutes, and (for younger Smiths) Longleat’s safari park is just 20 minutes away (www.longleat.co.uk). Guides to rural rambles around Shaftesbury can be found in the little tourism office opposite the hotel, as can copies of Blackmore Vale – a handy guide to local events.

Local restaurants

The villages around Shaftesbury are riddled with proper country inns serving gastropub goodies. Drive over to Farnham to taste the treats on offer at The Museum Inn, which, as it’s set on the edges of hunters’ heaven Cranborne Chase is great for game in season (+44 (0)1725 516261). The Beckford Arms in Fonthill Gifford is the pub embodiment of lazy Sundays afternoons, with cosy fireside sofas, fabulous roasts, and even the occasional suckling pig (+44 (0)1747 870385). The King John Inn at Tollard Royal is a close second for Sunday lunch if the Beckford’s full (+44 (0)1725 516 207; www.kingjohninn.com). If you’ve wandered down to Bournemouth, call in on the Print Room (+44 (0)1202 789669; www.theprintroom-bournemouth.co.uk) for breakfast, afternoon tea or dinner where the local paper’s old printing press used to be.

Local cafés

Try out the cream teas at Turnbull’s Delicatessen & Café next to the Grosvenor (+44 (0)1747 858575; www.turnbulls-deli.co.uk), or make the 10-minute drive to The Udder Farm Shop outside Gillingham, which, as well as fantastic views and a tempting cheese counter, has a bright, airy eatery attached that’s great for coffee and cakes (+44 (0) 01747 838899; www.theudderfarmshop.co.uk). The Potting Shed Café in Pythouse Farm, at the heart of Cranborne Chase is open for coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, and, if you book ahead, dinner on Thursday evenings (+44 (0)1747 870444; www.pythousefarm.co.uk). Fruit and veg all come from the Victorian kitchen garden on site, and you can bring your own wine if you fancy a tipple. The Salt Cellar has prime position at the top of Shaftesbury’s Gold Hill, and is worth its weight in scones (+44 (0)1747 851838).

+ Enlarge
Shaftesbury’s Hovis hilltop

The Grosvenor Arms

The Commons, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8JA, United Kingdom

Crowning the Blackmore Vale in Dorset, and within a couple of hours' drive of London, Shaftesbury is a great base for exploring and rambling – and the perfect pitstop en route to Cornwall.

Planes

If you’re arriving by private plane, Compton Abbas Airfield is four miles away (www.abbasair.com). Otherwise, Bournemouth Airport’s the closest, less than an hour’s drive away (www.bournemouthairport.com). Heathrow and Gatwick are both a two-hour drive away, along the A303.

Trains

Trains run every hour from London Waterloo to Gillingham (four miles away), or Tisbury (seven) on the Exeter line.

Automobiles

The A303 and the M3 are the hotlines to London – a two-hour drive in good traffic (and the former gives you a glimpse of Stonehenge). Bath (with Bristol beyond) is a 45-minute cruise up the A360.

Reviews

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The Grosvenor Arms – Shaftesbury – UK

Anonymous review

by Anthony Leyton , Team Wordsmith at Mr & Mrs Smith

I'm excited. We're going to a bison farm. I had no idea we had bison in the UK, let alone Dorset. Nor, for that matter, am I especially clear on what a bison actually is. But here we are on the road out of Shaftesbury – where we've been staying at the new Grosvenor Arms hotel – in search of a creature which is a bit like buffalo, and which probably makes an excellent roast. Our decisi…
Read more

The Grosvenor Arms

Anonymous review by Anthony Leyton, Team Wordsmith

I'm excited. We're going to a bison farm. I had no idea we had bison in the UK, let alone Dorset. Nor, for that matter, am I especially clear on what a bison actually is. But here we are on the road out of Shaftesbury – where we've been staying at the new Grosvenor Arms hotel – in search of a creature which is a bit like buffalo, and which probably makes an excellent roast.

Our decision to explore offbeat agricultural initiatives is the result of round three of ‘Brown-Sign Bingo’, an edifying game we’ve invented that involves letting Visit Britain’s helpful signposts tell us what to do next. You know the ones – the white-text-on-brown signs that make suggestions such as 'Whipplethwaite Pencil Museum' and 'Bodger's Dyke'. Since being in Dorset, we’ve already checked out the ever-perky Cerne Abbas Giant, been dangerously tempted by Monkey World, and speculated about what thrills await at the Royal Signals Museum. Now it's the turn of the Bison Farm…

Except it's closed. Never mind – seasoned players of Brown-Sign Bingo are used to disappointment. In any case, the boutique hotel we're returning to more than makes up for the lack of chunky bovines (they are bovines, right?). When we first accepted our reviewing mission to Shaftesbury, Mrs Smith and I were expecting a country tavern-style stay: all open fires, beam-loads of brass tat and perhaps a splash of Farrow & Ball to up the chic. Not so at this hip hotel: in an area of Britain dominated by chintzy B&Bs, cosy coaching inns and wellie-trodden wayside gastropubs, the Grosvenor Arms stands out like a manicured urban thumb.

The listed Georgian facade in the town's main square is impressive enough, but inside, a mammoth two-year renovation has turned a – by all accounts, dodgy – pub-hotel into a gleaming space of calming taupes and olives, walls hung with tongue-in-cheek artworks and celebrity sketches. The only traces of the building's period history still apparent are in the odd under-carpet hump in the floorboards and in the vast dimensions of the first-floor ballroom.

The 16 smart, city-style bedrooms are adorned with gigantic headboards, Cecil Beaton fabrics, Tassimo coffee-makers and the cleanest lines in Dorset. Our room – Junior Suite, number 14 – is disconcertingly spacious. It’s almost as though there's some furniture missing; later we find out this is because there is – various bits and pieces are due to be shipped over any minute from their manufacturer in Italy.

Still, there's only so many in-room cartwheels one can do before getting bored. Luckily, the gigantic roll-top bath offers its own distractions. Mrs Smith disappears into the huge bed, while I pour myself a tub of bubbly (thanks to the Ren toiletries) and settle in the suds to watch Saturday afternoon wander past Shaftesbury Town Square, through the sash window in the bathroom. It's like voyeurism in reverse.

By dinnertime, we're a touch anxious: last night's meal in the town centre was not a gastronomic experience we're keen to recreate. We only had ourselves to blame, the warning signs had all been there: restaurant in a former church, walls painted into a sickly pastel approximation of 'Tuscan', a waiter with the hammiest Italian accent since Super Mario, and clientele straight from a Benidorm poolside. It took a lunch trip to the rather wonderful Museum Inn down the road at Blandford Forum to restore culinary equilibrium. Now it is up to the Grosvenor's restaurant, to maintain it.

Our meal tips the scales – in the right direction. After a quick visit to a bar dotted with sculpture and mismatched furniture in trendy loft-apartment style, we take our seats. (After much debating through the Dulux colour chart, we decide that 'Sagehouse' might be a better moniker.) And the very worst I can say is that the chairs are oddly low-slung, so unless you have a torso like Keira Knightley, you're likely to be eating that Michelin-starred local fare with Euro flair with your elbows around your chin. But with imaginative and intricate food such as this, we forgive them in an instant.

My fish-loving Mrs Smith frequently laments how rarely I plump for it from a menu, but on this occasion I find myself drawn to the salmon and ginger raviolo in langoustine bisque – probably because the word 'bisque' is just so awesome. The dish itself follows suit. It tastes like – and believe me it's almost impossible to adequately convey its toothsomeness without it sounding a turn-off – a jam roly-poly with a fine fishy zing. I’m still raving about it months after our stay, attempting to convince anyone who'll listen that a salmon soup that tastes like pudding is actually a Very Good Thing.

And no wonder: the Greenhouse's chef, Mark Treasure, has dipped his toes in Michelin-starred waters before, with stints at Feathers in Oxford, Mirabelle in London and, funnily enough, our lunch-spot the Museum Inn. Old town Shaftesbury might be the last place you'd expect to find the fireworks of Mod European cooking – in these parts, it's usually a hunk of local meat (bison?) with veg and ale. But every course that reaches us could have come from the kitchens of the latest Soho sensation.

Obviously, heading miles outside the capital to eat like a Londoner isn't really the point of our romantic country break, so we're lucky that Shaftesbury itself makes for such a lovely trad weekend escape. In fact, these BSB players conclude the property should have its own brown sign. Remember the Hovis ad, where the flat-capped scamp schleps his bread-laden bicycle up a cobbled slope? That very hill is pretty much next door to the hotel. Don’t let nostalgia for classic ’80s TV advertising draw you to this charming town, though – the style, comfort and dining at the Grosvenor Arms should alone manage that.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Grosvenor Arms's Guestbook below.

 

SilverSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked the comfortable rooms, relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and good food.

Rating: 8/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I loved the location, the hotel, the room, the restaurant, the food and the staff.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

They welcome dogs, which is lovely! The restaurant, bar and courtyard are really lovely.

Don’t expect

The rooms that accommodate dogs are well appointed, however they're slightly differently decorated to the rest of the property.

Rating: 6/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I loved the friendly staff, good food, excellent location.

Don’t expect

A bath in the ensuite would've been better.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The staff and hotel were both perfect. We had a fantastic time. Food, surroundings and courtesy were hard to beat: highly recommended. The managers and waiting staff were the perfect level of friendly, which made us feel welcome but not smothered. Take a trip there.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked the lovely big and comfortable bed, quiet, great breakfast and also very nice dinner at reasonable prices, nice shower and the friendly staff willing to allow check-out an hour later to accommodate our plans.

Don’t expect

It's a minor point, but a Mr and Mrs Smith bonus of truffles and fudge was not present. There was a plate of (very nice) brownies… this may have been a substitute or it may have been de rigueur for all rooms.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Very relaxed atmosphere with little or no music playing. Very attentive friendly staff. Wished we had booked another night!

Rating: 9/10 stars

GoldSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Breakfast and dinner were both excellent and were reasonably priced. The room was a good size with a comfy bed.

Don’t expect

The hotel but in particular the restaurant seemed to be staffed by teenagers so a more mature pair of hands might be a nice addition. The hotel could also benefit from a bar area.

Rating: 8/10 stars