so from Hampshire, we made our way to Bath – always a handsome city to arrive in, with its rolling hills, sandstone houses with chimney pots rising up in all directions – it really is one of the most intact architectural cities in the UK. we managed to get 2 nights at the Royal Crescent Hotel, which is in the middle of the most spectacular crescent of Georgian houses with park in front. its not cheap, but if you consider it includes breakfast, use of spa and parking in the middle of Bath. To be perfectly honest, trying to book at short notice in the middle of August when there are flying restrictions does not give you a lot of choice…… anyhow, it really is a real treat and you can walk easily into town. Remember during this strange time, you have to book everything in advance, including museum entries, swimming slots, breakfast….. takes some getting used to. we still didnt manage to get to the Pump Rooms to see the Roman baths, as all the slots were gone. we did manage to get to the American Museum which is about 15 mis out of town, but again the house tours were booked up until later in the day, which meant staying around for 4 hours, so I sadly missed the quilts that were highly recommended, but did see the 1930’s exhibition of dresses and walk around the lovely gardens. I have to admit, we have walked round so many gardens, my poor husband was kind of losing his will to walk…… I now realise why gardens are full of women……
We then visited Frome, which we had heard so much about from friends. its an old historic town – famous for its street markets, and bigger than I anticipated, with a couple of long winding streets full of independent shops from makers and craftspersons. it was so refreshing not to see the chain coffee shops and high street chains. I noticed the lovely flower shop Bramble and Wild and we had a spot of quick lunch at the Garden Cafe, which also had its own health food shop next door. Back in Bath, it was quite sad to see a lot of empty shopfronts, and shops not opening except from Thurs to Sat, so it really is a big change to life before lockdown. there are a few good museums to see though, The Fashion Museum, the Holbein and last time were in Bath, we visited no 1 the royal crescent, a restored georgian house that allows you to see how the houses would have been furnished at the time they were built – very interesting! there are lots of well informed assistants in each room who are completely knowledgeable about the history of all the artefacts and period. for a change we ate at Yak Yeti Yak, a Nepalese restaurant – which was actually very good and made even better when we got the bill as they, like the Royal Crescent Hotel were taking part in the government’s new scheme for August of half price food up to £20 per bill. Sometimes we take for granted the wealth of choice of ethnic food in London…..
so the last stop of our little jaunt was Dorset, under 2 hours from Bath, we actually passed Kilver Court, the outlet shop in Shepton Mallet – fortunately it was not open, apparently Thursday to Monday, but if you are in the area, it looked pretty good with Toast, Paul Smith, Rapha to name a few….. we arrived at our final destination Beaminster, which is a pretty little village about 5 miles from the coast. Remember we had to find places with about 4 days notice, so most places were fully booked. We were recommended the Ollerod, which is a restaurant and pub/hotel – I highly recommend the restaurant, excellent food, the room is very overpriced, but I am guessing that Covid times is not offering the same service as before. we drove out to Abbotsbury, a truly beautiful village going back 6000 years, with St. Catherine’s chapel on the hill, old church and a swannery. which we did go and see first thing in the morning – sadly they don’t feed them publicly like they used to do, which means they are less active – but still a lovely sight to see so many swans together. we had a sandwich in the tea rooms gardens close to the church and then drove to Chesil Beach, which is a striking 18 mile long beach. if you take the road that leads to the Subtropical gardens, at the end of the road is a car park right by the beach. we also stopped by another section of Chesil beach, which was easy to park, and had a restaurant bar on the front, The Club House in west Bexington. The amazing stretch of beach is worth the drive along the rolling sea road, such a different landscape to the flatter Suffolk.
A definite must is the drive up to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, both very popular sites, but stunning – and at this time of year, I would advise going early in the morning. note that you have to do a fair bit of walking up hill to see Durdle door, and in the heat of the day, this can be hard work. you must remember to take your swimming costumes, as Durdle Door is so serene and enticing and worth the walk to plunge into the sea, which is so calm due to it being a cove. our favourite place to eat lunch is the Seaside Boarding House – with views right onto the sea, and if you walk right over the top of the cliff and down to Freshwater Bay, then turn back onto yourself along the seafront, you will find a vast empty beach flanked by high fossil cliffs, even on a hot balmy day in August. Again, it needs a bit of walking and climbing, but worth it. We had our last swim there! Remember you must reserve restaurants in advance these days. if you can book the seaside Boarding house to stay, this would be your perfect base to visit all these places, sadly it was booked up for our stay, but its on our list to book in Autumn. we made our way home the scenic route, via Stonehenge – I am always amazed that the traffic always slows down at this point to view the stones from the road. it probably took us 4 hours to get home though, so you probably have to stay a minimum of 3 nights to make it worth it. We would definitely visit Dorset again, but I would suggest out of the July and August months would be much nicer and less busy. what was important at this time of year, is Dorset felt safe, most people taking social distance and sanitation seriously. so support our English countryside.