KESGRAVE HALL, IPSWICH, SUFFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? This relaxed four-star hotel, just outside Ipswich, is housed in a Grade II Listed Georgian mansion. Kesgrave Hall has been part of the Milsom Hotels group since 2008 but during its lifetime, the building has also been a family home, a school, a wartime officers’ mess and a shooting lodge. One of the best things about Kesgrave Hall is its laid-back approach. Whether you’re suited and booted or in shorts and flip-flops, you’ll fit right in – and the informal approach extends to dining, too.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Oh yes. Pets are allowed in many of the hotel’s 23 bedrooms but in my opinion, the best ones for dog owners are the Deluxe courtyard rooms close to the main lawn. Up to two dogs can stay at a time and there are no restrictions on size.
A charge of £10 per pet per night applies. Beds and blankets are not provided but staff are always on hand with water bowls – and if you’re lucky, your pooch might be treated to a sausage or two at breakfast time. Dogs are not allowed in the main restaurant but you can dine with your pet in the bar area or lounge. Alternatively, the covered terrace outside is dog-friendly and a great place to enjoy a relaxed drink or meal.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? The luxurious rooms at Kesgrave Hall will blow you away. There are five grades of accommodation – Standard, Superior, Deluxe, Principal and Top – and whichever one you go for, you won’t be disappointed.
We stayed in Room 19, a Deluxe courtyard option away from the main house, and it was clear we were in for a treat when the friendly receptionist handed us a huge, fairytale-style key at check-in. With its high ceilings and large windows letting in lots of light, the spacious room looked like it could have once been a stable. It was decorated in neutral tones with pops of colour coming from the curtains, feature headboard and quirky zebra-print couch at the foot of the comfy bed.
The room was fantastically kitted out with Sky TV and complimentary Suffolk magazines, as well as posh tea and coffee-making facilities (think cafetieres with freshly-ground coffee, artisan biscuits and ginger beer). The large bathroom was equally impressive with a modern rolltop tub and separate rainforest shower, not to mention luxurious Aromatherapy Associates toiletries.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Amazing. The brasserie menu is extensive and packed with traditional dishes that have been given a contemporary, upmarket twist. It really champions local produce too, so alongside burgers, steaks and fish and chips, you can enjoy beef brisket from the Dedham Vale or chicken from nearby Sutton Hoo.
The sea bream (£15.50) was a big hit with my friend and I was thrilled to see some imaginative veggie options on the menu. The pour-your-own mushroom soup (£7.50) had an element of food theatre, while the flavoursome butternut squash, ricotta and sage cannelloni (£14) was one of the tastiest pasta dishes I have ever had. Seriously, my compliments to the chef!
The restaurant doesn’t take bookings but hotel guests are always given priority. You are also encouraged to write down what you’d like to eat on a little notepad, which is then handed to staff and cooked to order. It’s a quirky approach but it makes your meal even more memorable.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? There’s no resident dog but if your pooch is the only one staying at the hotel, it will be very unusual! Chances are you will encounter at least a couple of other holidaying doggos.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Start with the hotel grounds. Kesgrave Hall has 38 acres of lush lawn and shady woodland with a trickling stream running right through the middle. Much of this can be explored off-lead.
The hotel is also close to the historic town of Woodbridge, where you can enjoy some lovely walks along the waterfront. Take in all the sights on this four-mile walk along the River Deben, as recommended by the AA.
Suffolk also has some great dog-friendly beaches where your pooch can let off some steam. The likes of Dunwich and Aldeburgh are all less than an hour from Kesgrave Hall. Check out my Ruff Guide to the Suffolk Heritage Coast to read more.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: Exploring the grounds, having his own sausage for breakfast, meeting the other four-legged residents
WHAT I LOVED: The sunny terrace, the delicious food, the cool interior design
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Rooms at Kesgrave Hall start from £140 per night. Look out for special deals such as the Super Sunday offer, where an overnight stay costs £55 per person and includes breakfast and a late checkout. For more information or to book, call 01473 333741 or visit the Milsom Hotels website.