Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant & Spa is close to many quaint towns and villages that are worth exploring.
Sherborne is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful towns in England. With its abundance of medieval buildings, Sherborne has much to offer visitors. A superb 1300 year old Abbey - an important early example of perpendicular architecture and burial place of two Saxon kings. Sherborne Abbey is one of only 18 churches awarded 5 stars in Simon Jenkins' England's Thousand Best Churches. The area also features picturesque Almshouse, two castles, and Cheap Street, lined with boutique shops, art galleries, delicatessens and coffee shops. Lunch at The Pear Tree, a lovely delicatessen and café.
Distance: 11.8 miles | Journey Time: 27 minutes
The National Trust's Montacute House is a Renaissance Manor House built of stone in 1588. It is filled with treasures and not only houses a fantastic exhibition of 17th textile samplers, it also has an arm of the National Portrait Gallery containing many Elizabethan paintings. 'Sense and Sensibility' was filmed here as were scens from 'Wolf Hall'. The ashes of the celebrated American poet TS Eliot are buried in the church. Nearby, in Sparkford, is the Hayne’s Motor Museum. This prestigious museum offers an excellent day out for everyone. With more than 340 cars and bikes displayed in stunning style, dating from 1886 to the present day, it is the largest international motor museum in Britain. The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton has the largest collection of naval aircraft in the world and a real Concorde.
Distance: 14 miles | Journey Time: 23 minutes
Lyme Regis, Forde Abbey, Mapperton and Beaminster
Travelling west from the hotel, head towards Beaminster , a town with a square of over 200 listed buildings, stopping off at Mapperton, famous for its sunken garden. Continue to Forde Abbey, formerly a Cistercian monastery founded in 1141, renowned for its award-winning gardens and still privately owned. From there, travel to the quaint seaside town of Lyme Regis, a former home of Jane Austen and the town where ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ was filmed. There you can visit the Harbour Inn, Town Mill (cheesemonger, newly-opened micro-brewery, two art galleries, pottery, knitwear studio, ancient working flour mill and modern hydro-electric system) and Dinosaurland (the best collection of local Jurassic marine fossils, real Chinese dinosaurs and a 73 kg lump of dinosaur dung!) Lunch at the Mill Tea and Dining Room, or Lyme’s Fish Bar for the best fish and chips on the entire coast. Afternoon Tea at the Alexandra Hotel offers spectacular views over Lyme Bay from the garden and the conservatory.
Distance: 22.4 miles | Journey Time: 46 minutes
The entire village of Charmouth is a World Heritage site, and probably the best place to find the fossils constantly being exposed by the mudslides off the cliffs. Hammers are for hire (alongside the buckets and spades) from the smart heritage centre. Return to Bridport where you could lunch at The Bull Hotel. En route, visit the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast. The view from here is, of course, spectacular. Charmouth is also where some scenes from the recent TV drama ‘Broadchurch’ were filmed.
Distance: 19.5 miles | Journey Time: 40 minutes
When Henry VIII dissolved the larger monasteries of England, he sold the lands forfeited from the Benedictine monks at Abbotsbury to the predecessors of the Ilchester family for whom Summer Lodge was built as a dower house. Abbotsbury, still owned nearly half a millennium later by the Ilchesters, is well worth a visit. Famous for its swannery, Abbey ruins, St Catherine’s hilltop chapel, tithe barn (now home to a children’s farm), and beautiful town crammed with pubs, coffee shops, antique stores and galleries, one should also visit the sub-tropical gardens and the 18 mile pebble barrier known as Chesil beach.
Distance: 16.1 miles | Journey Time: 32 minutes
Lawrence of Arabia, Lulworth and Tyneham
Lawrence’s Cottage, Clouds Hill was chosen by him because of its proximity to Bovington Camp where he was stationed. Bovington remains an army camp today and is also home to the world’s largest Tank Museum. Lawrence is buried in nearby Moreton. Lulworth is a short drive away, famous for its mock Jacobean Castle (where Emma Thompson’s ‘Nanny McPhee’ was filmed), horseshoe shaped harbour created about 10 000 years ago and of course, Durdle Door. A motorboat service will take you to Durdle Door by sea from where you can best observe this unbelievably beautiful coastline. Tyneham is also nearbyafield – a deserted and perfectly preserved village in a hidden valley.