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July 2021 - Dorset - Day 1 - Hengistbury Head

Well, that was a hot night. An exceptionally hot night. When I eventually got to sleep, we were woken by what sounded like a seagull being attacked by a predator outside of our room. I don’t see the point of seagulls so one less is no bother to me.

Getting up we resolved to ask Reception later if we could have a fan in our room to see if that would help.

Anyhow we wandered down to breakfast which wasn’t busy. There was a decent selection of a hot buffet. This was all good quality and was freshly cooked. I was impressed. Karen who still hadn’t admitted the Hotel was good was still looking for faults. The tea was particularly excellent. I am not sure what makes tea good but the combination of the water temperature, tea bags and Tea pot, made the tea I drank hit exactly the right spot.

The background music was excellent as well and could have come from my own playlist, therefore certainly must have been to everyone’s taste!

We sat next to the open patio doors looking over the garden where the owner was busying himself with what we assumed was a grandson, watering all the hanging baskets and plants. If you have the impression, I like this place then you are right. It is a boutique hotel with not many rooms, but a lot of care and passion have gone into the place. The staff have without exception been friendly, polite and helpful. Even the other guests seem happy and content to be here. Not that I have watched it, but on display in Reception is a trophy saying ‘4 in a bed winner’ which I assume is some accolade.

The sun was already hot as we planned our day. Karen had a whole list of places she wanted to visit whilst we were in Dorset but agreed to my suggestion of trying to leave the car behind today and to try and walk to Hengistbury Head which was about 2.5 miles away. I was pleased as I think I had done about 700 miles in cars over the past 4 days.

We headed to the beach which was about 250m from the Hotel. Well, it looked glorious and felt like we were abroad. We walked down the zig zag pass to the promenade. It was fabulous. The sun shimmering on the sea, people swimming and families already making their slots on the beach. It was busy but not stupidly so. People were keeping their distance from each other.

Off in the distance we were walking we could see the Isle of Wight and the Needles whilst in the opposite direction we could see Studland Bay. We walked about 0.5 mile along the smooth wide promenade which edged onto the beach until we came to the ‘Bistro on the Beach’. I had read good reports about this and so we stopped for refreshments. I had the freshly squeezed orange juice which although not cheap was very good whilst Karen had her morning caffeine fix.

After sitting for a while, we moved on with the 1.4-mile distance to Hengistbury Head. The first half of which continued along the promenade. Then we climbed the cliff and walked across some dunes to the visitor’s car park. We were now melting again in the sun and so bought some water before looking round the centre and steeling ourselves for the climb to the top of the Head.

The views were worth the effort, and we sat for a while, firstly looking in one direction looking over Christchurch Harbour and then moved to look out backwards to Bournemouth and Poole.

It was a long drag back and Karen started to suffer with her foot which turned out to be a very large and nasty looking blister. When we reached the ‘Bistro on the Beach’ again, we stopped and again grabbed a table with a brolly on the beach and ordered more drinks and some lunch. The drinks arrived promptly but after a further 40 minutes our food was conspicuous by its absence. After speaking to one of the very helpful staff it seemed the order had not reached the kitchen. They could not have been more apologetic and brought us more complimentary drinks to make up for it. The food when it arrived was good. I had a toasted Ham & Cheese Ciabatta whilst Karen had a Niçoise salad.

Back at the Hotel we went and sat for a while in the shade in the garden until Karen was ready to go and freshen up before we went out for a meal. I took the opportunity to read the Sunday Times I had brought with me as I had not had to chance to even open it at home.

As Karen’s foot was so sore, I thought rather than walking back to the High Street to walk to a Greene King pub which was much closer. I should have known better. I am not sure I have ever had a good meal at one of their pub’s other than a carvery. The food is generally just pinged from frozen rather than cooked from scratch.

Anyhow it started to go wrong when we could not get a table outside and were shown to a table well away from any open doors. Without being snobbish (OK – then being snobbish), the other clientele were not the mask wearing type either. None of the staff wore them which didn’t help. I know the restrictions have been removed but the guidance is to take personal responsibility which I’m not sure anyone in here understood that or are ready for that level of responsibility. Boris may need to have a rethink.

I ordered via the app, and the large glasses of wine arrived quite quickly. We asked to be moved outside but were not convinced the request was ever passed on. Some ‘laddish’ lads arrived and started drinking standing at the bar and that made us feel even more uncomfortable.

We waited for our food, and then we waited some more and then some more. After 45 minutes we called the manager over who said he would investigate. He didn’t come back to us. We gave it another 10 minutes and then walked out. I told the manager what we were doing and said I wanted a refund (as we had paid in advance on the app). He agreed without any fuss (I think it helped that I wasn’t creating a scene and was being polite but firm). Karen started hobbling back to the Hotel whilst I waited for the refund. We were glad to be out of there and the only consolation was that we didn’t have to pay for the large drinks either.

The trouble was that we were still hungry, and it was now 8.45pm. There was no way Karen could make it to the High Street and after checking with the Hotel we found that the kitchen had already closed. So, I ordered a Pizza Hut delivery, and we ordered a drink outside on the terrace whilst we waited. The Pizzas arrived on time, and we devoured them whilst still sitting outside.

It was all quite lovely apart from the fact we were by now being eaten alive by midges. Once Karen counted 10 bites on one arm we retreated to our room, now complete with a fan which the owner had found for us.

This made the room much more bearable with the continued overnight heat.

Finally, I realised this was the type of UK holiday I wanted and enjoyed. Lovely weather, great hotel with somewhere to sit outside (shame no balcony), lots of places to walk and apart from tonight a good selection of restaurants.

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