This week, we had a fabulous guest by the name of Elvis staying with us for One Night (only), although as you can see from his feedback, he did promise to come back again (thank you very much).
He stayed here on his own and we hope he wasn’t Lonesome Tonight, or All Shook Up when our Hound Dog Peggy came over to say hello. As he was travelling on business, he wasn’t wearing Blue Suede Shoes, unfortunately.
You can see from the guest book comments that he had a great time here and didn’t regard us as Heartbreak Hotel – phew.
We loved meeting Elvis – he booked His Way so if you’d like to do the same and be treated like a King (or Queen), It’s Now or Never to be sure to get your preferred dates – just click here !
(These song title puns are going Way Down now, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead).
So, as the King himself would surely say: thank you very much – we look forward to meeting you soon.
We were delighted to be featured in the June copy of Gillingham, Dorset’s local newspaper, The Gillingham News. The article runs alongside a piece discussing tourism in North Dorset and references our part in supporting visitors to Gillingham with our bed and breakfast. You can read the story online here (choose the June edition, then scroll through to page 16) or it’s reproduced below for easier reading.
I’ve always said that I used to travel the world and that now the world comes to me – but even I was surprised when I worked out that we’ve hosted guests from over twenty countries so far!
Gillingham is open to the world
North Dorset may be low on the Dorset scale of visitor numbers, but Cleo Thompson’s bed and breakfast in Gillingham has played host to visitors from around the world.
‘Since we opened our doors, we’ve hosted nearly 600 people from 20 different countries including Italy, Portugal, Turkey, New Zealand and South Africa, and this summer we’ll be adding visitors from the USA, Thailand and Australia to that tally,’ says Cleo, who used to travel the world in her former corporate life but who now runs Sunflowers Bed and Breakfast in the Wyke area of Gillingham.
‘I always ask people what brings them to Gillingham and the range of reasons is really interesting – it’s a microcosm of the town’s life. We’ve hosted lots of guests who are here due to an event or an activity at one of the schools; these have ranged from actors performing in a play at the high school, the cast of the Inside Out Dorset festival, a cyber security expert and a speaker from BBC Bristol.
‘We get a lot of cyclists, so far from the UK, Holland, Belgium and France, who are cycling National Route 25. We’re also starting to see a lot of walkers who are on the Stour Valley Way or using us as a base camp to walk the Blackmore Vale or around the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A recent big trend is people staying here to research their family history – that was true of the New Zealanders two weeks ago; they had ancestors buried in Mere and Motcombe churchyards and also of the Australian who checked out this morning after three nights.’
Garden fans are also visitors, visiting Stourhead and the Capability Brown-designed gardens at Sherborne Castle. ‘We also get dog owners who stay whilst their dogs are competing in various agility/other dog shows,’ says Cleo. ‘There’s apparently a Crufts 2018 qualifier show at the Showground in July – I have two dogs (and their humans) booked in across seven nights for that!’
Cleo also gets business visitors staying for one or two nights. ‘They are usually having business meetings with one of our key local employers such as Dextra, 918 Coffee, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Sigma-Aldrich.’
Cleo is a dedicated supporter of other local businesses. ‘I’ve sent almost 100 customers to Ristorante da Massimo at the Buffalo Inn,’ she says. ‘We also source as many of our breakfast items as we can from local suppliers; our guests particularly love 918 Coffee and Dorset’s answer to Greek yoghurt from The Dorset Dairy Company in Stalbridge and it’s not unheard for them to go home via the Udder Farm Shop to stock up on the yoghurt.
‘All of our guest rooms are fitted with black out blinds supplied by Sewards on Gillingham High Street, we provide complimentary dog treats made by Dorset Dog Delights, our locks were installed by Three County Locksmiths and our promotional material has been designed and printed for us by Wyke Print.’
Or, in other words – go for a bike ride around some stunning countryside, pausing as you do so to admire the view and take refreshment at some suggested eating and drinking spots.
Gillingham lies at the northern edge of route four, ‘Shaftesbury and the Blackmore Vale’, described here:
“Explore the Blackmore Vale, described by Thomas Hardy as ‘The Vale of Little Dairies’. Slow right down with this tranquil ride through the Blackmore Vale. Still a very rural area of dairy farms, you can relax and enjoy the seemingly endless landscape of lively hedgerows, lush fields and … lots of cows! The puff – or push – up to Shaftesbury is well worth the effort. Take a break to get your breath back on Gold Hill, with its vast views over the Vale. Then onto Turnbull’s cheese shop to appreciate all those dairy farms first hand, including our delicious Dorset Blue Vinny Cheese.”
Download the map and full list of suggested foodie stopping points here (PDF) and plan to take the full route of twenty miles or a more leisurely version of three miles. Two of our favourite foodie spots are listed on the map: The Udder Farm Shop at East Stour (where you can buy Dorset’s answer to Greek yoghurt, as made by our friends at The Dorset Dairy Co) and the Orchard Park farm shop and deli here in Gillingham.
And please click here to book your bed and breakfast stay in Gillingham, Dorset – cyclists are very welcome and we can store your bicycles for you overnight in our secure, locked garage.
Just to get your attention – woof! And here are some puppies – four Barbets born in April to beautiful Aura from Holland, who stayed with us with her breeder in January.
All of this is by way of a lead in to the announcement that we’re now partnering with new deals website My Doggy Travel, which is a fantastic online resource for (currently) UK based dog owners who love to travel with their canine chums. The site has lots of deals available on dog friendly travel bargains, which range from accommodation to discounted ferry crossings – and it’s completely free to use. Just browse it by numbers of guests, dogs, price, area and so on and then contact the deal provider directly.
And remember – we have a number of other offers available which aren’t dog related – do keep an eye out on our offers page, as that’s where you’ll find the discount codes you need to make an online booking and get the special price or offer.
This weekend, we’ll be hosting several members of the same family who are all visiting Gillingham, Dorset in order to attend a 90th birthday party – isn’t that wonderful?
As always, my thoughts are turning towards ideas for my Special Sunday Breakfast and I think I’m going to make this lovely looking Granola and Yoghurt Fruit Tart, as created by our friends Alex and Dan at the nearby Dorset Dairy Co – doesn’t it look delicious? I’ll probably top mine with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries – watch this space and look out for photos on our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).
The ingredients for the granola tart are:
350g granola 5 tablespoons melted butter 60 ml honey 640g of the Dorset Dairy Co’s answer to Greek yoghurt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh fruit, to top
And you can read the rest of the recipe here, as well as lots of other delicious ways to use Dorset’s answer to Greek yoghurt in your cooking.
One tip I picked up from cookery guru Mary Berry as an easy way to combine all the ingredients to make a crumb (or granola) crust: use a large plastic bag! So for this recipe, I plan to add the granola to a bag and then bash it around a bit with a rolling pin to get the granola “chunks” to a more uniform size. I’ll then add the butter, honey and other ingredients to the bag and get everything coated before using the crumb mix to make the tart case.
Fancy a lovely visit to North Dorset? You can now book your bed and breakfast stay with us online and pay simply and easily at the same time. Just follow the links on our website to our reservation page, choose your dates and room (and extras if applicable – cooked breakfast, use of the hot tub etc) and then pay easily using your credit card.
Remember that you will always get the best price by booking directly with us, as well as lots of little free extras (as detailed here in a recent blog post).
But in case you need even more incentive – check out our special offer codes here and see if one of them applies to you! The discounts are automatically applied when you use the code and book online.
And, just to celebrate the launch of our new online booking and credit card payment facility, here’s yet another offer: for all direct online bookingsmade during May 2017, we’ll welcome you with a bottle of Prosecco (or the non-alcoholic equivalent) when you arrive. You don’t need to come and stay in May – book the dates which work for you, but you do need to MAKE the booking before midnight UK time on Wednesday 31st May 2017.
Gillingham was the first town in Dorset to be assessed as a Walkers Are Welcome town, meaning a place which has something special to offer walkers. At Sunflowers, we proudly display the Walkers Are Welcome sticker on our window and partner with the local walking group to make a stay with us a must for walkers visiting the Blackmore Vale, the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or walking all or part of the 64 miles of the Stour Valley Way (which actually passes our door).
In addition to providing walkers with our famously comfortable beds, delicious breakfasts (read the feedback!) and a safe, locked storage place for walking poles, we can of course also offer the legendary hot tub – what could be nicer than recovering from a long day of walking with a backpack than a dip in the tub?
As part of our partnership with the Gillingham Walkers group, they have kindly supplied us with sets of cards which outline eight suggested walking routes, all of which can be started or concluded here at Sunflowers. The routes, which run in length from just over a mile to 6.5 miles, are also available to download online or we can provide you with a hard copy when you visit. The cards are really helpful and well thought out; they contain a map on one side and the reverse contains route directions plus notes of historical interest and observations on what you’ll see as you walk.
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.
[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.
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”.
We are delighted to be able to share with you the news that we are now able to take online booking reservations 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.
We also now take credit card bookings online and 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
Complimentary Prosecco if you’re celebrating – plus a card
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.
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.
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.