WHAT’S THE SCOOP? This beautiful country house hotel is close to the Essex and Hertfordshire border. A popular wedding venue, it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion or just treat yourself to a bit of luxury. Make sure you pencil in some time to visit the Eden Spa – 25-minute massages start from a very reasonable £30.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Yep. Down Hall’s It’s A Dog’s Life package is great for visiting pooches who want to travel light. It includes a plush dog bed, water bowl, a map of the grounds so you can plan your walkies, poop bags and some doggy treats, as well as dinner (more on that later).
Aside from your room, dogs are allowed in the lounge area next to the bar but not the bar itself or the restaurant. The hotel is happy for dogs to be left in your room for short periods of time, though – while you dine at the restaurant, say, or treat yourself to a spot of pampering.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Guests booking the doggy package will get a ground-floor Executive Room with double doors that open on to the landscaped gardens for easy access.
While your four-legged friend is snoozing away in his designer bed, you can relax in style, enjoying the room’s high ceilings and character cornicing from the comfort of your own king-size bed. Fluffy robes, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, his and hers sinks and antique furniture come as standard.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Impressive. As you might assume from its name, The Grill Room restaurant specialises in steaks but when we visited, there were a whole host of other dishes to choose from, such as fish and chips and beetroot risotto.
Ernie also received room service as part of his doggy package – a bowl of freshly-cooked chicken, vegetables and gravy delivered to our door. He barely came up for air when eating, so I guess it was good!
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but other canines may well have checked in.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Down Hall has 110 acres of woodland and gardens to explore and there are poo bins aplenty. Use your map of the grounds to plan a route or just take in the landscaped lawns surrounding the hotel. Depending on where you decide to go, there are plenty of options for some off-lead action. You’ll feel like you’ve got the grounds to yourself.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: His homemade chicken dinner, squirrel-hunting in the woods
WHAT I LOVED: The hotel’s swanky spa, post-dinner drinks in the lounge with Ernie
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Down Hall’s It’s A Dog’s Life package costs £209 per night, based on two people sharing. A maximum of two dogs are allowed per room. For more information or to book, visit downhall.co.uk or call 01279 731441.