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