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Review share: Sunflowers BnB, Gillingham, Dorset, as reviewed by Luxury Travel Diary!

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Room 3 – Blackmore Vale views

Wow! We’ve been reviewed by the team at the Luxury Travel Diary website and are delighted to read what they have to say about us. Here’s the highlights – accompanied by a photo of room 3, as taken by London Backline Photography on our recent professional photo shoot with them:

A peaceful, luxury boutique retreat awaits in the beautiful north Dorset countryside at Sunflowers Bed and Breakfast.

Location

[Sunflowers] is located in the beautiful town of Gillingham, the most northerly town in Dorset. It is the perfect base for a trip exploring the West Country; lying on the borders of Somerset and Wiltshire. Gillingham is located close to Shaftesbury, on a direct train line from London Waterloo with a journey time of under 2 hours. The B&B is a short walk from the railway station, or ten minutes’ drive from the A303.

Style & Character

This boutique B&B is set in a beautiful contemporary house which inside oozes country chic. It is luxurious, comfortable and stylish. The stunning gardens and the views of the surrounding countryside add a lot to the appeal of staying here and make for a relaxing stay.

Service & Facilities

There is ample free private parking here, a beautiful garden, a private living room and dining room space that includes Sky TV and a DVD player, complimentary Wi-Fi and the pièce de résistance; a hot tub; set in a private, covered area of the garden it is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of something chilled and bubbly while soaking the day away. They even provide the fluffy robes and towels, just bring your swimwear! It’s the little homely touches that you really notice when staying here; be it the complimentary dog treats (this place is definitely dog-friendly and they’ll spoil your four legged friends rotten given half the chance!), the Dorset Tea served in the guest rooms or the toys and books that are available for little guests. You are guaranteed to receive a wonderfully warm welcome at Sunflowers; depending on when you arrive, you’ll receive a fresh pot of Dorset tea served with locally made biscuits or cake, or maybe a glass of wine if the hour is right! They have a comprehensive pack of local information for you to pore over to help you decide how to spend your days in this delightful part of the country.

Rooms

There are just three en-suite rooms at this intimate B&B. All include high thread count cotton sheets and plenty of pillows; black out blind; Freeview TV with built in DVD player, tea, coffee and hot chocolate making facilities (with a choice of bottled water and fresh milk), fluffy bath robes, hairdryer, alarm clock and assorted toiletries. Room 1 is a large en-suite double room with a view looking over the church, Room 2 is a single room looking over the garden and Room 3 is also an en-suite double room with views over the Blackmore Vale. Rooms 2 and 3 are right next to each other and are popular with families, Room 1 is the largest (plenty of room for a travel cot or an extra single bed which they will provide) but my favourite would have to be Room 3.

(c) Luxury Travel Diary 2017

Want to come and see for yourself? Please check availability online here, contact us or call – we look forward to welcoming you to our “peaceful, luxury retreat”.

Book directly with us for the best prices when you visit Gillingham, Dorset!

FreetoBookWe are delighted to be able to share with you the news that we are now able to take online booking enquiries through our site! Simply click the link that you’ll find on every page to see which rooms are available for your dates and how much your proposed stay will cost you.  You can even choose to add on optional extras,  such as a full cooked Dorset breakfast, weekday use of the hot tub or accommodation for your dog.

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Feedback from recent guest Tracey

We guarantee that you will always get the best price by booking directly with us – as well as lots of little extras. Our reviews often refer to the “special little touches” that we love to share with our guests and you can look forward to experiencing some if not all of the following on your directly booked visit to ‘Sunflowers’:

  • A welcome drink upon arrival (tea, coffee etc), served with cake or biscuits (sometimes home-made – I love to bake!)
  • A wide choice of local teas and coffees on your in-room amenity tray
  • Bottled water
  • Chocolates
  • Fresh flowers in your room
  • One of our legendary ‘Special Sunday Breakfasts’ (if you’re here on a Sunday – although I did recently magic up a Special MONDAY Breakfast for regular returning guest Jordan!)
  • Breakfast options including dairy free, low carb and gluten free items upon request
  • Complimentary Prosecco if you’re celebrating – plus a card

Sunflowers Dorset_Prosecco in the hot tub

  • Fluffy pool towels and robes to use in the hot tub, and plastic drinkware for you to use on the legendary floating drinks tray
  • If you choose to eat in one evening, we’ll happily set the guest dining table for you with plates, glasses, napkins and candles: just ask
  • A guest fridge (stocked with fresh cow’s milk for your use – soya or almond milks also available)
  • A range of DVDs, toys and books for use by our mini guests (plus a stair gate, landing night light and in-room blackout blinds)
  • Complimentary dog treats for our canine visitors.

We try and be so much more than just somewhere to sleep and I’m always keen to think of new ways to improve and offer an even better bed and breakfast experience – so do please check out the new direct booking facility and come and see for yourselves!  If you’re in the UK – we have two more long Bank Holiday weekends coming up and some availability over those dates; why not check us out and make a booking? We’d love to meet you.

Celebrating Easter in Gillingham, Dorset – with a very special recipe for Easter biscuits

Today’s very seasonal recipe share is from one of my very favourite members of the Dorset Farmers’ Market gang – Lizzie the Baking Bird.  Lizzie pops up on assorted Fridays and Saturdays each month and sells her delicious food at markets in places like Sherborne, Wimborne, Dorchester and Bridport,  as well as at various Dorset foodie events throughout the summer. Check out her website for details of where you can be like me and stalk her in order to buy her goodies.

LBB Easter biscuits
Photo by Lizzie the Baking Bird, with thanks

So, what are Easter biscuits? They’re made all over the UK but I’d never really encountered them until I moved to Dorset. Traditionally, they are served after church on Easter Sunday, and are presented in a bundle of three biscuits to represent the Holy Trinity. They are eaten alongside hot cross buns, Simnel cake and chocolate eggs as part of British Easter festivities. Easter feasting comes at the end of Lent, so the taste of rich foods is supposed to come as a treat. Similar biscuits eaten before Lent commences are known as Lenten biscuits, and are made to use up eggs and sugar in the way that the Shrove Tuesday pancake does.

As with recipes for lardy cake and other regional delicacies, there are more country-wide variations than there are days in Lent, so perhaps this is a recipe with a central ‘theme’, but for which there are unlimited variations. The theme is spice and fruit. All Easter biscuits are spiced, either through a small addition of mixed spice or ground cinnamon. The fruit is either solely currants, or can be mixed dried fruit, as used here.

Here is Lizzie the Baking Bird’s recipe,  for those of you not lucky enough to be able to buy them from her in person.  Thank you, Lizzie. Happy Easter!

Lizzie the Baking Bird’s Easter Biscuits

Makes c. 12-15 large biscuits

150g butter
125g caster sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon mixed spice
250g plain flour
40g mixed fruit
Egg white and caster sugar for finishing

Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180C

Beat the softened butter with the caster sugar. Add the lemon zest and beat again. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until incorporated.

Add the flour and mixed spice and beat until just incorporated and then pop the fruit in and mix again.

Lightly flour the work surface and pop the dough in the centre. Roll out to approximately 5 mm thickness.

“I do re-roll the leftovers!! So repeat the rolling and cutting.”

Cut out the biscuits (typically, they are c. 7cm square) and place on a baking tray.

Glaze the top with egg white and sprinkle a little caster sugar over.

Put in the oven for approximately 15 minutes and pull them out when they are slightly firm and just turning brown.

Allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight tin to keep.

Recipe share: Lorraine Pascale’s blueberry and limoncello drizzle cake

British Summer Time 2017 has now arrived in Gillingham, Dorset – hurrah for longer days and lots of delicious, fresh, local produce, including berries, asparagus and new potatoes.

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Home made limoncello

I’m always on the look out for new-to-me cake recipes and so I was delighted to see this recipe by TV cook Lorraine Pascale shared in local paper the Dorset Echo; I love to cook with fruit and I am still working my way through what feels like gallons of home made limoncello as made and bottled by me before Christmas!

The ingredients for the blueberry and limoncello drizzle cake are:

For the sponge:
Spray oil
125g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
100g ‘Greek’ yogurt (I’ll be using the Dorset version from my friends at The Dorset Dairy Company)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250g self-raising flour
4 egg whites
2tsp baking powder
½tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of two unwaxed lemons
200g blueberries

For the topping:
50g icing sugar, sifted
2tbsp limoncello (or lemon juice)

And the remainder of the recipe is available on the Dorset Echo’s site.

Let me know if you like the sound of the cake and I promise to bake it for you when you come and stay at ‘Sunflowers’!

Celebrating the arrival of Spring at Stourhead House and Gardens, Wiltshire

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Stourhead’s lake

It will soon be time to change the clocks in the UK and “spring forward” by one hour, welcoming in longer, brighter days.  Here at ‘Sunflowers’,  we may be based in Gillingham in north Dorset but we are so close to the counties of Somerset and Wiltshire that it’s no wonder that so many local businesses have the words ‘Three Counties’ in their name.  And one of our very favourite places to visit is just over the county line in Wiltshire – the magnificent National Trust property of Stourhead house and gardens.

The grounds are absolutely stunning all year round but never  more so than in spring – what could be more glorious than a walk around the lake or a hike through the woods to admire the bluebells?  Based just a few miles from Gillingham,  it’s one of the most  popular places for our guests to visit and in fact we have a visitor booked in with us for later this summer who is specifically coming to stay here just so that she can visit Stourhead.

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Stourhead gardens, spring 2016

The photos accompanying this article were taken by me at Stourhead in spring 2016 and I’m looking forward to going back there again soon to take some more shots.  Take a look at the National Trust website to plan your trip to wonderful Stourhead and contact us to book your bed and breakfast stay.

PS: if you come around Easter time,  you can join in the Stourhead Easter egg hunt – see our calendar for details.

Looking for a dog friendly bed and breakfast in North Dorset? Look no further!

Aura the Barbet
Aura the Barbet

Aura was our very first guest of 2017 – she checked in on New Year’s Day with her human Simen,  who had kindly driven her to Gillingham, Dorset all the way from their home in Holland.  Aura is an extremely rare breed of dog called a Barbet (a French Water Dog) and she travelled here in order to mate with a local Barbet gentleman called Hector.  There are fewer than one hundred Barbets in the UK and so breeders such as Hector’s owner need to find dogs from further afield in order to protect and enhance the gene pool. Luckily, the long distance stud visit worked and last week Simen kindly emailed me video footage and photos of Aura and her TEN puppies!

Aura might be the rarest breed of dog who we’ve had to stay here at ‘Sunflowers’ but she’s not the furthest travelled – I think that honour may belong to Merrona the Chihuahua, who also visited us in January,  along with her owners from Portugal. Since we decided to become a dog friendly bed and breakfast,  we’ve hosted over thirty dogs, of breeds ranging from an American Bulldog to a Weimaraner plus lots of cross breeds (like our own lovely Peggy, who’s a spaniel cross collie).

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Woof-licious!

As of April 2017,  we’ll be offering all of our canine guests a little gift in the form of a free packet of treats made especially for us by Julie at Dorset Dog Delights.  Julie sells her delicious goodies at shows and markets all over the south west, as well as online and we now have a joint venture going  – here’s a sneak peek at the label – where we’re collaborating on these packets of dog treats in assorted flavours (like her owner, Peggy is partial to the cheese flavoured ones). They will also be available to buy here and all profits from the sale of the treats bought here will go to our local dog rescue charity, Pound Puppy Animal Rescue, through whom we re-homed Peggy in 2014.

We love to meet new dogs and look forward to welcoming, amongst others, Custard, Eddie, Jessie and Trigger who have already booked in with us. Please contact us to enquire about dates and rates if you’re planning a trip to North Dorset with your dog.

Are you running in the 2017 North Dorset Village Marathon and Relay and need somewhere to stay?

north-dorset-village-marathon-2017The North Dorset Village Marathon and Relay takes place on Sunday 30th April 2017 and starts very close to Gillingham, Dorset; runners leave the Sturminster Newton High School at 8.30am.

It’s part of the Dorset Road Race League, is run under UKA rules and is organised by Runners for Runners.  

Described by a commentator on the Runner’s World site as “the best organised, most friendly marathon of the 150 [the writer] has completed so far – outstanding on every front. ANY runner should do this event”, the route is a picturesque race along country lanes through the villages of Hinton St Mary, Marnhull, Stalbridge, Todber, Stour Row, Margaret Marsh, West Orchard, Farrington, Child Okeford and Hammoon.

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Glorious hot tub in Gillingham, Dorset

Please contact us if you’re taking part in the race and need a place to stay – we can guarantee a friendly welcome, an early (and running appropriate) breakfast on the day of the race and,  if you decide to stay with us on the Sunday night too,  a complimentary post-race dip in the hot tub to soothe your muscles!

Recipe share: A Warm Salad of Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas (vegan)

welcome-to-sunflowers-dorsetHere’s our new leaflet, which sums up in one handy piece of A5 exactly what you can expect to see and find when you stay here at ‘Sunflowers’ – what do you think?  It was designed and printed for me by graphic designer wizard Kevin of Wyke Print Solutions and I am really pleased with it!  Please feel free to right click on the image and save a copy.

In other news, we recently hosted a charming gentleman who stayed with us for one night – a Sunday – and arrived so late (and in horrible winter weather) that he wasn’t readily able to source a vegan evening meal. I settled him into the guest dining room with a glass of wine and made him this warm salad of roasted cauliflower and chickpeas. When I posted the photo on my Facebook page,  lots of people asked for the recipe, so here it is.

wp-1488373921719.jpgIngredients (makes 2/3 servings)

1 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into even sized florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus  more for serving
Coarse salt, to taste
80g tahini paste
Juice of a lemon

Chopped parsley, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Add the cauliflower florets and a pinch of the salt to a large saucepan of boiling water and cook on a high heat for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 250C/230C fan/gas 9. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  3. Remove the cauliflower from the pan with a slotted spoon and arrange on the baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Roast for 25 minutes, or until parts of the cauliflower have turned golden brown.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the tahini paste, 120ml water, the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, until smooth.
  5. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, cut the florets into 2 cm thick slices and place in a large serving bowl. Gently mix together the drained chickpeas, cauliflower pieces and half the tahini sauce. Serve with the rest of the sauce and a further tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Enjoy!

I love to make and serve warm salads – let me know in the comments if you try this one out and if you can suggest other recipes!

Vegetarian, dairy-free or gluten-free breakfasts in Gillingham, Dorset? No problem!

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Congratulations!

Last weekend,  we were honoured to play host to Sally, Chris and their blended family upon the occasion of Sally and Chris’s Gillingham wedding – here are the bride and groom, standing outside ‘Sunflowers’ before they left for the Town Hall!

(Incidentally,  in the language of flowers, sunflowers represent “longevity” – I’ve always thought that this was a lovely sentiment to be connected to a marriage and so when Steve and I got married,  we gave each of our guests a small packet of sunflower seeds and asked them to plant them and send us the pictures; we were lucky enough to receive photos of sunflowers grown in many different gardens for quite a few years.)

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Gluten and dairy free raspberry and lemon cake

Sally and Chris are also gluten, dairy and soya free,  so I was able to flex my breakfast muscles and make sure that our breakfasts were suitable for them.  This meant serving up gluten free bread, non-dairy spread, almond milk and coconut yoghurt,  as well as my home made fruit compote. And because I love to bake,  I also tried my hand at a dairy and gluten free cake which I served upon arrival – it’s a raspberry and lemon cake from the book Simply Nigella and it was really good. I’ve never made a dairy free cake before but this recipe was both delicious and very easy – I will definitely make it again and may try it as a different variant next time, perhaps with blueberries and orange?

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Good morning!

My standard breakfasts are all vegetarian,  but sausage or bacon may sometimes make an appearance (although can very easily be substituted or replaced) in one of the “Special Breakfasts” which I enjoy whipping up from time to time. Check out my Facebook album for more  food photos to tempt you and whet your appetite.

So, when you book your Dorset bed and breakfast stay with us,  please do let us know if you have food allergies or preferences – I’m sure I’ll be able to prepare something delicious for your breakfast!

Staying at Sunflowers Bed and Breakfast in Gillingham, Dorset – some recent feedback!

We love to make people feel welcome and at home in our home – so far at this point in 2017,  we have hosted just over 50 guests this year,  who have travelled to Dorset from all over the UK, as well as from Holland, France, Italy, Portugal and China.

Our booking calendar is already looking forward to welcoming bed and breakfast travellers from Germany, Sweden, Belgium and New Zealand (who may find themselves receiving a special gift for being our most far flung guests!).

And we also love to get feedback – read some here on our main feedback page and here’s a few of the lovely comments we’ve received in recent weeks:

wp-1483517050541.jpgDear Cleo – thanks for the lovely stay. I’ll recommend you in Holland! Great breakfasts and I loved the wonderful dinner you made me. Dank je wel! Simen, The Netherlands

 

A real home from home, with a lovely comfy room, a great breakfast and a charming host. Thank you! Paul, Berkshire

 

Thank you so much. The perfect getaway – a lovely room and a real treat to use the hot tub! ObrigadaMarta and Rita, Portugal

 

Thank you for an amazing stay – I had a very peaceful and restful night. Just perfect! Mark, West Midlands

 

Thank you for a lovely stay and a delicious dairy free breakfast! What a great room – we have the feeling we will be coming back again soon. Justin and Diana, Lincs

 

A warm welcome and a lovely, peaceful stay. Mike, Bristol

 

Thank you for a fantastic weekend – warm, comfortable and very well looked after! My third return visit and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Elizabeth, Kent

 

Thank you for fitting us in at such short notice after our car broke down! A fantastic stay in a warm and comfortable room. Hope to see you again soon. Ann and Ian, Essex

 

wp-1486645313818.jpgA lovely stay; we were very well looked after by a fantastic host whilst in the area on a house hunting trip. We were all made to feel very welcome, especially Harry aged 2½. We hope to be back soon. The Mitchells, Kent

 

Very welcoming and very comfortable. A fantastic night’s sleep. Lovely to stay in a cosy home rather than in a hotel when away on a business trip. Simon, London

Want to come and stay? Just give us a call or drop us a line with your dates and let’s make it happen.