THE CROWN & CASTLE, ORFORD, SUFFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? If fine dining is your thing, you’ll love The Crown & Castle, which bills itself as a “restaurant with rooms”. The award-winning venue – formerly owned by Hotel Inspector Ruth Watson – is practically next-door to Orford Castle and just minutes from Suffolk’s beautiful Heritage Coast. No children under eight are allowed so it’s perfect if you’re looking to check in and chill out with your pooch.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? They certainly are. If you’re travelling with a dog, book one of the five pet-friendly Garden Rooms which, as the name suggests, have direct access to the garden (not enclosed but handy for late-night ablutions). The rooms also have a cute little patio area with a table and chairs for two. Up to two dogs can stay in the Garden Rooms for £10 per night.
When it comes to dining, there is one bookable doggy table in the restaurant area so make sure you reserve your place well in advance. It’s tucked away in a bay window next to the fire and – with a special paw-print mat and bowl of water for your pooch – it feels rather exclusive! Dogs are also allowed in the bar area, where guests are encouraged to chat. We spoke to one couple who had travelled up from London for their fourth visit in as many months – and I can see why.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? There are 21 rooms at The Crown & Castle but dogs are only allowed in the aforementioned Garden Rooms, a short stroll from the main hotel. Ours was cosy yet spacious, with pops of floral decoration and Shaker-style furniture. The Wifi just about stretched down to the garden, which was a great place to spot the local pheasants roaming around. There was also complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits and gorgeous-smelling Arran toiletries in the bathroom.
The tongue-in-cheek welcome pack made us smile and cleared up any questions we may have had about dressing gowns, paracetamol and toilet brushes (not provided but available on request, in case you were wondering!) We also loved the sarcastic descriptions of the DVDs that can be borrowed for a £20 deposit – trying to guess the film from the pithy comments alone turned into a great little game.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Excellent. You’ll start with fresh sourdough bread from the nearby Pump Street Bakery, followed by a range of delicious, locally-sourced dishes such as Orford-landed skate and Blaxhall venison. There is a separate vegetarian menu, as well as an excellent range of desserts and fancy NikoB chocolates to either eat in the restaurant or take away. The wine menu is also impressive, as is the list of suggested pre and post-meal tipples, ranging from cocktails to sherry.
Here’s a tip, though: don’t eat so much that you can’t manage breakfast in the morning. Tea and toast is served straight away, alongside a complimentary copy of the i newspaper – and while you can dine on classics such as the Full English, break from tradition and try one of the more unusual dishes on the menu. There aren’t many places that serve Somerset ricotta on sourdough for breakfast, accompanied by seasonal fruit and runny honey. It’s a truly decadent way to start to the day.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but there will probably be other pet pooches staying the night or popping in for a drink – and it seems like almost everyone in Orford has a dog (my kind of place!)
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Orford itself is a lovely place to enjoy a stroll, especially if you take in Orford Castle. This 12th Century structure – which is actually a keep – is one of the best preserved in England and dogs are welcome to explore the site. Adult tickets cost £7.40.
For a woodland walk, head to either Tunstall or Rendlesham Forest, just west of the village. Alternatively, check out Sutton Hoo, where the burial ship of an Anglo-Saxon king was discovered in 1939. The National Trust-run site has 245 acres to explore – see its suggestions for great dog walks here.
It would be wrong not to mention Orford Ness – a stunning coastal reserve just over the River Ore – but sadly dogs aren’t allowed so I won’t go in to too much detail. You can get a sense of the ethereal atmosphere there by walking along Orford spit, however. Find more suggestions for coastal walks, as well as beaches to visit and things to do in my Ruff Guide to the Suffolk Heritage Coast.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: The direct access to the garden, having his own exclusive dining area, the fuss from staff and other guests
WHAT I LOVED: The peaceful location, the fabulous food, the stylish decor
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Rooms at The Crown & Castle start from £140 per night, including breakfast. Garden Rooms are from £180 per night – but it’s well worth looking out for special offers online, which generally include evening meals, too. For more information or to book, visit The Crown & Castle website or call 01394 450205.