River Cottage at Athelhampton House
This Cottage stands within the grounds of Athelhampton Hall accessed via the main car park and through a gate and a bridge over the River Piddle. Whilst communications with the Estate Manager had not always been the speediest when we chatted to him it was obvious that the Coronavirus Pandemic had severely reduced their staff numbers and he was acting as the guide for the House itself
Anyway we arrived at the agreed time, went to the main House reception area and introduced to Michaela who showed us to the house etc and gave us the key (only one key which fitted all outside doors. A brief tour of the building and we were left to sort ourselves out. The thatched Cottage had obviously been built in several phases from the 15th Century onwards but was superbly converted to a single dwelling. The house was spotlessly clean and with a very modern kitchen albeit not a lot or work top space, but a table for 6 to sit and was more than adequate. The lounge was comfortable and spacious enough for 6 in comfort with a large screen Smart TV with Freesat and Blue ray player. The bedrooms were all large and all with ensuites with a bath with shower over it. Showers in use were fine, loads of pressure and hot water and not affected by others using showers. Beds were very comfortable and spotless bed linen very good and the towels super soft.
The owners had supplied an arrival pack of a bottle of wine and a bowl of fruit, much of it from the estate garden. There was milk in the fridge and adequate supplies of dishwasher tabs although we didn’t use it as we preferred to wash up as we went.
Outside is parking space for probably 5 cars certainly more than the 3 we came in. There is a field to the side of the car parking area with a football goal in it but the grass was a little long and us a little old in the tooth to start a game!
The back garden through the Patio doors had a decked patio area with table and chairs and wine cooler and in the corner a shed with a Gas BBQ. We didn’t use it as none of us fancied having to clean it up afterwards!
Staying at the cottage entitled us to entrance to not only the Gardens but the House, so on one day we just got up a little later and wandered the less that 100 yards to the Reception area. We had previously decided that to save any catering that day we would eat in their restaurant so booked a dining slot. Then firstly we `did’ the Gardens. They are fantastic many different areas included Walled Gardens, Kitchen Gardens, Formal Gardens, Rose Gardens, Water Gardens, Lakes, Ponds and much much more. Some were Elizabethan some later but many different styles created over the 700 odd years of the Estate. Additional explanations of the gardens were willingly given to us by the Estate Managers’ daughter who was one of the gardeners. We spent probably 4 hours in the gardens and could easily spent more. Considering that currently there were only about 4 gardeners working there because of the Pandemic they were all in great shape. We then decided to have our meal. There was a good selection at very reasonable prices, certainly less than the National Trust and certainly in our selection better quality and better prices too! It was obvious that the Staff were multi tasking however it didn’t detract from the experience or the speed of service.
After our leisurely meal we toured the house, and this is where we found the Estate Manager Owen, who apologised for any tardiness in his email replies as his extensive knowledge of the house (having lived there under previous owners) made him the obvious person to explain this amazing Elizabethan House in these difficult times. This he did excellently including interesting anecdotes, explanations of the various extensions/changes undertaken over the years, including demonstrating a Priests Hole! Wherever we went in the house Owen seemed to be around often on his laptop doing Estate Work, but ready to explain features as we went along!
All in all we had a fantastic day in delightful company superbly attended to by the staff. Have to say that the staff all seemed happy and pleased to work there and made for an exceptionally great day.
The rest of our stay at River Cottage was filled with visiting various sites around Dorset, an area our party had not previously visited in any great amount. The weather was of course a great bonus enabling us to have our early evening drinks on the patio and in some cases even a little sunbathing . We dined Al fresco on 3 nights only on our last night did the cooler night send us in at nightfall.
Overall a great venue at a very reasonable price for such a comfortable, well furnished place in a great location.
Any gripes, well very minor but only one tea towel and 6 crockery place settings! Fine for those using the dishwasher but not when you wash up as you go along. We did mention this to Owen and I am sure that this will be easily rectified.
Rest assured we are now inventing another reason to return!
Many many thanks to Owen and his team for making us so welcome!
What a treasure! River Cottage is a delightful, well equipped and beautifully furnished cottage. Nestled into the grounds of Athelhampton House, the position could not have been better. Owen, the Estate manager, was extremely hospitable and gave us the benefit of his extensive knowledge of the House and Gardens. We would love to visit again and see it all in a different season. Highly recommended!