As the great Simon Calder once said, if you want to travel you should really start in your own back yard. It struck a chord with me as I have been lucky enough to spend many a holiday abroad but have largely ignored the fact I live in a gorgeous part of England. So when I was asked if Mr B and I would like a night away in a hotel just a few miles away I leapt at the chance.
The White Horse in Dorking sits right in the heart of this picturesque market town, nestled in the Surrey Hills. The drive there was gorgeous, along pretty country lanes, through typically English villages and then down what has been described as one of the best high streets in Britain.
The hotel itself is a group of older buildings, part of which was a former coaching inn, doors wide enough for a carriage and horses are still in evidence on the front of the property. Rumour has it that the parts of the property date back to 1278, though you will be relieved to know that it has been recently renovated and refurbished and now offers 56 fabulous bedrooms, all en-suite.
When you book your stay, do make sure you also book parking as it is limited and needs to be pre-booked in order to guarantee a spot (additional parking is available at the Dorking Leisure Centre a short walk away for a small fee). Seeing a space reserved with my name on did make me smile and set the tone for the whole evening.
We were checked into our room and given a bit of a history to the building, apparently Charles Dickens wrote part of the Pickwick Papers here and there are pictures of the great man and scenes from his book on many of the walls. The hotel feels old, this couldn’t be any further away from an identikit hotel chain, but with all the charm you would expect of a modern hotel.
There were lots of areas in the main part of the hotel with large comfy sofas and piles of magazines, a small courtyard at the rear with tables and chairs for a drink with friends and a bustling bar and restaurant. Yet once in the rooms there was a calm that I loved. You would never know you were in the centre of a town, we didn’t hear a sound.
We had booked into the restaurant for dinner so once we had checked out the bedroom we headed down the stairs to the bar for a quick drink before dinner. There’s extensive wine list with prices starting at £19.50 a bottle, and a restaurant menu that prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients called The Dozen.
We wasted no time in getting stuck into asparagus and pate starters, followed by steak and fish cakes with chips for our mains. It was lovely to see that the restaurant was busy with not just residents of the hotel but with people who lived locally and came regularly. I think that is a sign of a great hotel restaurant. Service was also really attentive too.
There is also a small delicatessen next to the restaurant which was buzzing on Saturday morning, selling breads, coffee and cakes (The Dozen restaurant taking its name from a baker’s dozen).
We slept like logs in a bed that was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept in (I had to actually climb up onto it, the top of the mattress was hip height). And the next morning Breakfast was a continental buffet, followed by a menu of cooked items
My avocado on toast was up there with the best I have ever eaten. It had a hint of chilli in it that gave a real kick and set me up for the day.
We really couldn’t fault our stay and would have loved to stay longer. Especially when Womble appeared as we checked out. Womble belongs to Beccy, the General Manager and patrols the building with her, greeting guests and just general keeping an eye on proceedings. And the kitchen window after breakfast, waiting for left over black pudding slices to be thrown his way.
Every hotel should have a resident dog, don’t you think?
Do check out the website for some great deals like the Wine and Dine Break : A two night stay for two with dinner, bed and breakfast and a bottle of wine in your room upon arrival from £81 per person per night (based on two sharing a room).
We received a complimentary stay with dinner in return for our honest review.