I spent many of my childhood summer holidays with my grandparents in their house on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, so I was very happy to accept an invitation to stay in the Limestone Hotel in Lulworth Cove; a weekend there would give me a chance to explore a part of the world I used to know better than I do now.
First impressions were good. A friendly welcome and a cosy room were made all the better by a welcome platter of chocolate-dipped fruit, cake squares and a fruit coulis. A five-hour journey through Friday traffic was forgotten as I sat cross-legged on the bed and ate the lot…
Dinner, served in a small dining room made much larger by a mirrored wall, was equally impressive. Pan-seared scallops served with samphire were buttery and melt-in-the-mouth soft; samphire wasn’t this popular when I lived in north Norfolk; I used to collect handfuls from the shoreline and then boil it briefly before drenching it in molten butter for an al fresco picnic feast.
A main of lamb with champ and a meaty, umami jus was, if anything, even more impressive. The lamb, supplied by a farm just five miles away, was served pink. Even better, it had a deep, almost muttony taste which, when combined with the tenderness of a just-weaned lamb, was a culinary throwback to a time when we ate food that actually tasted of something.
A west country cheeseboard served with homemade date chutney and grapes, was made even better with a small glass of port. That, along with a couple of pre-dinner G&Ts and half-a-bottle of a very good Argentinian Malbec left me feeling mellow and full.
That I slept well will come as no surprise…
Breakfast, often a hotel’s Achilles’ Heel, was good. Home-made smoothies, warm pastries, fresh crusty bread and a cooked English breakfast that featured locally sourced sausages and bacon set me up for a day walking the gentle rolling landscape.
Or climbing more than 4,000ft, which is the equivalent of ascenting Snowdon; when did the coastal path get so hilly? My figure-of-eight walk from Lulworth Cove to Kimmeridge via the Army’s artillery range might have provided some of the most spectacular views of the south coast but the price you pay are some dramatic gains in height. Followed by immediate losses…
I ate a very good packed lunch on the clifftops; for just over a tenner I got homemade sandwiches, home-cooked cake, some biscuits, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water. Given the remoteness of the walk – although Kimmeridge does have a very good café in the form of Clavell’s – ordering a lunch to carry with you makes good sense.
You’ll need to check that the range walks are open, because this is very much a live firing range, just as it has been for the past century. I didn’t hurry and took about seven hours to walk 16 miles, which gives you an idea of just how tough (and frequent) those hills are…
Reaching Lulworth Cove again in the late afternoon and feeling peckish, I bought a lobster and crab roll from a beachside café and sat on the cobbles to eat it, followed by a clotted cream ice-cream. Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?
Breakfast was smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, lighter fare than the day before but equally delicious. Sunday’s smoothie – honeydew melon, kiwi and lime – was as fabulous as the previous day’s beetroot, vanilla and raspberry.
I was sorry to leave the Limestone Hotel. Quirky yet homely, modern yet traditional, it encompasses all that’s good about small, boutique hotels. Part of a (tiny) chain, it brings the twin advantages of professional management and local, enthusiastic staff.
Telephone: 01929 400252