Day one of our trip back to the northeast coast sees us heading from Bracknell to Rutland Water then onto The Washingborough Hall Hotel, just outside Lincoln. This spot is very roughly half way up to our final destination of Seahouses, and as the hotel looked divine, and is extremely dog-friendly, we didn’t hesitate to book ourselves a room for two nights.
We set off from Bracknell just before 10:30 in the morning so we were in the car just in time for Pop Master. As Hooves needs regular breaks we drove for an hour to the Stevenage branch of Wyevale Garden Centres. This may sound like a strange place to take a break, but it is right on the A1(M), so it wasn’t out of our way at all. I knew it was dog friendly, had a coffee shop and had a loo….so Hoover could have a wander round to stretch his legs (he wanted to look at the Christmas decoration department) and if I felt like it, I could grab a coffee.
After a short stop we continued up the A1(M) further until we saw a brown tourist information sign for Rutland Water. The rain had passed and had been replaced by the sort of brilliant blue skies and low yellow sunshine that you only ever see during the autumn, so having heard a little of the area we thought we’d take a look and see if we could find a spot so Hooves could kick up his heels for a bit. Rutland Water is just 6 miles from the main road, so we didn’t have to follow the signs far.
Knowing very little about (Rutland Water), and faced with road signs pointing in opposite directions to the north shore and the south shore, we had a 50/50 choice. We had a BMW ‘up our back-end’ so our snap decision took us south. After a few miles we found the south shore car park, so in through the barrier we went. Perhaps unsurprisingly as it was a Thursday lunchtime in November, the car park was almost empty. There was a handful of cyclists congregated around a cycle hire shop, but that was pretty much it. As you park the entire reservoir is laid out before you. The water was sparkling in the sunshine…it was most inviting, so the intrepid Hooves took off like a missile and headed down to the water’s edge.
We had a lovely roam for half an hour or so and we were just heading back to the car when a charming chap politely explained that dogs were to be kept on leads around the reservoir apart from two areas, which were designated as ‘doggy areas’. This was largely because Rutand Water is very much aimed at everyone rather than just dog walkers: there are facilities for sailors, fishermen, families who want to have barbecues, cyclists…the lot. You could see why dogs need to be managed: Hoover would have someone’s steak off of their barbie before you could say charcoal!
There is a charge for parking here, but for some reason we were not charged. Perhaps because it was so out of season. Regardless it was a nice surprise when the machine in the payment booth spat my ticket back out at me whilst declaring I had ‘already paid’! That makes up for me stupidly putting my regular Costa in a large cup earlier that morning at the petrol station. Muppet!!
After our stroll we hopped back into the bat-mobile and made for the hotel, which was around an hour and twenty further on. We re-joined the A1(M), but not for long. Soon we were driving on A roads, which I have to say are a joy: I suppose the lack of hills in Lincolnshire means that when a road is built it can pretty much go in a straight line. In my neck of the woods we have lots of lumps and bumps such as The South Downs, which get in the way, so our roads twist and turn. I should think one’s brake pads last longer up here too!
This last section of the journey was a lovely drive: huge, open fields, dotted with golden oaks trees, under vast blue skies, all of which were lit from the side by the low November sun. It was the sort of sun that makes your shadow look as though you are thirty feet tall.
We reached the hotel in good time (Washingborough Hall Hotel) and were given an extremely warm welcome. The staff made a real fuss of Hooves (there’s a surprise) and it was all of thrity seconds before the receptionist produced a handful of doggy biscuits for him. After taking our luggage up to our room, we went outside to mess up their immaculate lawn: Hooves is as light of foot as a cart horse when he is in fill flight! Then we returned to our room for a brew and to put our feet up.
The hotel is lovely: it’s all beautifully ‘done’, but it still retains the charm of an old building. The entrance hall is full of comfy chairs positioned around a log burner, and the bar (which is where you can eat with your canine companion) is comfy and cozy. Dinner was excellent: The was a nice selection on the menu, and I had a veggie option to start with of leek cannelloni with a gorgeously gooey sauce, followed by pork belly on some sort of scrumptious noodles in an oriental-style prawn sauce with pak choi, and then I squeezed in the salted caramel ice cream, which is home made by the hotel chef. It was so good both I and another diner asked if Chef was married! For your future reference he is engaged…so there’s hope. He even makes fudge, which they serve with your latte. Lord knows where I put that, but I couldn’t possibly leave it! Talk about stuffed!
The bar is welcoming and relaxing: the other diners in the bar tend to have doggy guests with them (Hooves fell for a lady Cockapoo), and the guests that don’t have dogs tend to have their drinks in the bar before they move through to the restaurant for their dinner. At no point did I feel that H and I were in the way – in fact every single person that walked through the door came to say hello. This all makes for a very congenial atmosphere.
Our room had everything we needed to make us feel at home: comfy bed, flat screen tv, tea & coffee making facilities, and a lovely bathroom with toiletries from L’Occitane…what a treat!
After dinner all that was left for me to do was to give Hooves a quick scoot around the grounds and then drag my very full self upstairs to the room…which is where you find me now…feeling like a beached whale. I have no idea where tomorrow’s full English is going…