I remember when I was pregnant with Max I scoffed at the idea of a babymoon. It may have been related to the relentless sickness I suffered from most of the way through that pregnancy, but the thought of going away for a break just didn’t feel like something I wanted or needed to do.
But this time around I definitely felt in need of a break! Having been pretty sick this pregnancy too, plus running around after Max, and with the knowledge that we don’t have a holiday planned until the end of September, we decided to book a weekend away. We didn’t want to go far, so when I read that Bel and The Dragon, a small chain of restaurants we’ve visited before and loved, had a small number of rooms at their Churt location, I was sold.
Bel and The Dragon, Churt
We arrived around 3.30 in the pouring rain, so made a mad dash for reception! We checked in and were shown to the room and I have to say I was really impressed. The decor was spot on and reminded me a lot of our stay last year at The Pig Near Bath (which cost considerably more for a room!). All muted colours, botanical prints, vintage books, and just a lovely comfortable feel. No minibar in the room, but a complimentary bottle of Sipsmith sloe gin which went down well with my husband, and tea and coffee making facilities located in the hallway outside the room (along with whiskey, if gin wasn’t to your taste).
The roll top bath was the perfect touch – I don’t know about you, but the first thing I always do when checking into a hotel with a bath is to run a lovely hot one and jump in for a soak.
Which leads me to my second love of this hotel – the toiletries! I have an allergy to a specific foaming agent that is used in nearly all shampoos and shower gels, which means I always take my own toiletries everywhere. But I was so pleased to find that Bel and The Dragon use the Bramley range of organic products, which don’t contain the offending ingredient! A big whoop from me!
The restaurant was a real treat. We headed down for drinks first, and I was really impressed by the non-alcoholic cocktail the bartender conjured up – if you can make a non-alcoholic cocktail taste good, I can only imagine the real ones taste amazing! We ate in the restaurant both nights and the food was superb. I hate when I have to choose things I wouldn’t normally due to being pregnant, but I had slow cooked lamb one night and a fabulous roast chicken the next, and wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. But the best part was dessert – we chose sharing desserts both evenings, the arctic roll and the tarte tatin and they were just fabulous. Sadly no photos of dinner, but trust me, it was great!
Breakfast was another winner. A range of hot dishes available – I had to avoid my usual favourite, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (no smoked salmon in pregnancy, boo!), but my husband assured me it was delicious. Luckily the poached duck egg and avocado (Day 1) and full English (Day 2) were superb.
At £140 a room per night for a weekend stay, including breakfast, I thought this was a great value hotel. It has the feel of somewhere far more expensive, and I’d love to visit again, even though we’re so close. The staff were superb – friendly, chatty and attentive, without being in your face. They had a lovely family friendly vibe too, with children’s books on the bookshelves and a good children’s menu. Given that ever since we’ve got home, Max has been telling me “miss you Mummy… hotel!”, followed by “hotel, Max, Mummy, Daddy, pweeeease?”, I think we may need a revisit!
Things to Do
We live in Surrey, not too far from Churt, so we took the opportunity to visit some of our favourite places without a toddler in tow, as well as exploring some new spots.
The Devil’s Punchbowl
I love The Devil’s Punchbowl – the views across the hills are spectacular, and it’s a wonderful place to go for a walk. Before you know it, you’ve covered miles and can see right across the Surrey countryside.
Parking is free for National Trust members, otherwise you can pay and display. And if it’s been raining at all, make sure you take wellies, as it gets very muddy!
The Surrey Sculpture Park
I have to admit, we really only ended up going here as it was located right next to the hotel. But it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! You walk through the gates into a garden, and a winding trail leads you to the reception – a shed in the middle of the garden – past lots of weird and wonderful sculptures, where you pay your entrance fee and are given a map of trails to follow around, pointing out the different sculptures along the way.
I can’t quite explain the appeal of this place. I don’t know what I had in mind for a sculpture park, but I think I was expecting a garden with maybe the odd modernist sculpture dotted around here and there. Here, there are sculptures crammed in literally at every turn. Some are beautiful, some are fascinating, and lots of them are downright strange!
I think my photos probably sum up the experience better than I can describe – sadly just quick snaps from my phone, as I didn’t think to take my big camera for this trip!
We loved following the trails – there were 4 different ones, each colour coded, and you could follow the arrows. Some of them involved quite steep steps and bumpy paths, so wouldn’t be suitable for a wheelchair or a pushchair. And I have to admit that I was glad we hadn’t taken Max with us, as there were a number of open bridges which would have made me quite nervous. I think this sign near the entrance sums up the attitude to children pretty well!
Along with the trail routes, you are given the name and price (if available) of each sculpture. Should you wish to buy any, you can enquire in the little shed. I rather liked this pack of wolves, which, if I remember rightly, came in at a whopping £75,000! We loved walking around and guessing the name of the sculpture and how much it cost.
Quite frankly, this was one of the most hilarious places we’ve visited – we were giggling so much the whole way round! If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit here – it’s a weird but wonderful place!
Have I tempted you to visit Bel and the Dragon in Churt? Or do you know any other great things to do in the area? I’m collecting recommendations for next time!