WHAT’S THE SCOOP? Maison Talbooth is a luxury country house hotel on the Essex/Suffolk border. It was purchased by the family-run Milsom Hotels group in 1969 and has since gone on to become its flagship property.
Elegant yet relaxed, Maison Talbooth invites you to make yourself at home. Whether you’re relaxing with a G&T in the lounge, enjoying a treatment at the in-house spa or taking a dip at the cosy Pool House, you’ll feel a million miles away from the stresses and strains of modern life. The hotel is a founding member of the Pride of Britain Hotels consortium, meaning quality is guaranteed.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Yep. Seven of the hotel rooms allow dogs – they’re all on the ground floor and have private terraces, giving you easy access to the grounds. No beds or treats are provided but the hotel has a very relaxed pet policy. Well-behaved dogs can be left alone in your room while you dine or, if you’d rather they had a bit of company, staff can dogsit if organised in advance. Dogs are not allowed in the Pool House or Garden Room restaurant.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Head to one of the 12 individually-designed bedrooms, all named after poets. We stayed in Masefield – a spacious room decorated in cool, contemporary monochrome tones with quirky block wallpaper.
Cosy throws adorned the furniture (they got a big “paws up” from Ernie!) and as well as the super-king bed, which had top quality linen and a feature headboard, we could snuggle up on the sofa or take in views of the terrace from a table and chairs by the French doors.
The bathroom was equally grand with a marble bath, skylight and separate rainforest shower. His ‘n’ hers sinks and mirrors completed the look, alongside crisp, white robes and posh Aromatherapy Associates toiletries. If you don’t have time for one of the spa treatments at the hotel, just use these – they smell amazing!
Our room had lots of other lovely touches too, such as complimentary magazines, Sky TV, a Bose sound system and free soft drinks, juices and snacks. These included homemade biscuits and yummy locally-produced crisps.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Delicious. Maison Talbooth is famed for its afternoon teas and serves a range of light lunches in the Garden Room restaurant. But without a doubt, the pièce de résistance is Le Talbooth – an award-winning riverside restaurant just two minutes down the road.
You don’t need to worry about getting there – hotel guests are always driven by a member of staff. The courtesy car used to be a Range Rover but it is now a top-of-the-range BMW, meaning you will arrive for dinner in style.
Le Talbooth, which has been in the Milsom family since the 1950s, is located in a historic building on the banks of the River Stour. Its summer barbecues are the stuff of legend but whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be in for a treat. The wine list is like a book and dishes such as the Winter Truffle and Manchego Cheese Ravioli (£14 for a starter) and Dedham Vale Beef Fillet (£34) are simply divine.
Breakfast at the hotel is also a feast of local produce. It is mainly served in the Garden Room restaurant but you can have the dish of your choice delivered to your room. As dogs aren’t allowed in the restaurant, staff were more than happy to set up a table for Ernie and I in the lounge, which was lovely.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but you’re sure to encounter some other canine visitors.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Maison Talbooth is just minutes from the quaint village of Dedham, in the heart of Constable Country. It was here that John Constable – Britain’s greatest landscape artist – went to school and was inspired to create his most famous works.
Follow in Constable’s footsteps and head to Flatford Mill, which was immortalised in The Haywain. A three-mile circular walk from Dedham winds along the riverbank and will take you through peaceful, unspoilt countryside.
Alternatively, follow the Stour Valley Path through the Dedham Vale, which is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 60-mile trail runs from Newmarket, near the source of the River Stour, to Cattawade, where the river joins the estuary.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: The fluffy throws in the room, the fuss from friendly staff, exploring the grounds
WHAT I LOVED: Feeling like a celebrity being chauffeur-driven to dinner, the enormous bed, the Pool House
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: For more information about rooms and rates or to see the latest offers, visit Milsom Hotels or call 01206 322367.