THE ICKWORTH HOTEL, HORRINGER, SUFFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? It’s not every day you get to stay next-door to a National Trust property so this luxurious hotel is a real treat. Once home to the Hervey family, it has hosted numerous celebrities and royals over the years. As a hotel, however, the East Wing has been welcoming both two and four-legged guests since 2002.
With gardens influenced by Capability Brown, a treatment room with massages inspired by the local flora and fauna and a stylish indoor pool, you’ll definitely feel like you’re getting the star treatment here. The hotel is surprisingly kid-friendly, too, with a babysitting service, creche and regular cinema nights. Guests can also visit Ickworth House, with its impressive 100ft rotunda, for free.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Oh yes. When we checked in, Ernie had a dog bed and bowl waiting for him in our room, as well as a welcome pack from Peaches the hotel pooch. This included a card, two packs of food from Lily’s Kitchen, a box of treats and a handy snack pack for when we were on the go. The hotel charges £15 per night for dogs.
It was lovely to visit somewhere so grand yet relaxed that recognises dogs are part of the family – and encourages you to bring them along. Ernie got lots of fuss from the friendly staff, who regaled us with stories about their favourite four-legged visitors at the hotel. Size is certainly no issue here – they recently had a Newfoundland come to stay!
Dogs are not allowed in either of the hotel restaurants but fortunately, the staff love looking after them almost as much as they do the visiting children. As a result, pet owners do have a couple of options when it comes to dining at the Ickworth – keep reading to find out more.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? The hotel has 27 rooms in the main house, all of which are named after famous folk from days gone by. Ours was Lady Montagu, who was a well-known letter writer and poet in the 18th Century. The spacious second-floor room had gorgeous views over the Italianate Gardens and even had a round window at Westie-height, which was perfect for a nosy pup like Ernie.
The enormous bed was like something out of The Princess and the Pea, complemented by antique furniture, huge mirrors and chandeliers. There was also a large lounge area with a TV and DVD player and books and magazines about Suffolk. The bathroom was equally spacious and had a lovely rainforest shower, fluffy white robes and slippers and plush Elemis toiletries.
Several different types of accommodation are available at The Ickworth, ranging from standard double rooms to family suites. For something a little more private, you can choose to stay in the Butler’s Quarters or one of the 11 rooms at The Lodge, which boasts its own four-acre walled garden. Both of these stylish properties are located a short walk from the main house.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Good, and they’re getting better all the time, thanks to seasonal menus that are regularly updated. You can choose to dine in the adult-only Frederick’s restaurant or the more laid-back conservatory, where families are welcome. There are separate menus for both, but you can mix-and-match when ordering.
Dogs are not allowed in either restaurant but they can join you for dinner in one of the two lounges. Alternatively, the reception staff are happy to provide a dog-sitting service or, if you have a well-behaved pooch, borrow a baby monitor and leave your dog in your room. The monitors provide both sound and pictures so you can keep a watchful eye on your pet at all times.
During our visit, we enjoyed the likes of tempura artichoke, Mersea Island oysters and beefsteak mushrooms on fermented flatbread. The food isn’t cheap but when you’re dining in such decadent surroundings, it seems like a small price to pay. I also heard lots of good things about the afternoon tea, which sadly we didn’t get round to trying. Breakfast was good too, and staff were happy to set a table in the lounge so Ernie could join us and enjoy a sausage or two.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? Yes, Peaches the Cockapoo will be on hand to check you in. Owned by the Ickworth’s general manager, Peaches loves both people and dogs and is one pampered pooch. Apparently she insists on her daily sausage and egg breakfast being fed to her by hand!
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? You don’t need to look any further than the hotel estate, which has 1,800 acres of parkland to explore. The Italianate Gardens are sadly out of bounds to four-legged visitors but the rest of the estate is fair game, as long as dogs are kept on lead because of the livestock in surrounding fields.
If you’ve forgotten to pack your wellies, don’t panic – grab a pair from reception or borrow some of the hotel’s luxurious Dubarry boots. Ask for a map of the estate, too. The half-mile Lady Geraldine walk makes for a lovely, sedate stroll but if you’re feeling more energetic, why not jump on a bike? It costs £10 a day to hire one, and the seven-mile ride along Grand Tour comes highly recommended.
Further afield, check out the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds. It’s less than 10 minutes away by car and has a whole host of open spaces you can visit, including the beautiful Abbey Gardens. Alternatively, head for the coast, which is around an hour away. My Ruff Guide to the Suffolk Coast has loads of dog-friendly recommendations for things to see and do in the area.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: Squirrel-spotting in the grounds, playing with hotel dog Peaches, the sausages for breakfast
WHAT I LOVED: The historic surroundings, the stylish rooms, the wonderful massages in the treatment rooms
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: The hotel always has a range of special offers – currently, two-night midweek breaks start from £329, including dinner. For more information or to book, call 01284 735350 or visit The Ickworth Hotel website.