With autumn becoming an increasingly popular time for a low-season weekend break, Holly Aurelius-Haddock does the seaside in style…
My daily commute takes me past a local hairdresser whose window depicts a seasonal event of some kind; be it Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day or the royal wedding. Created purely for the enjoyment of others, these displays never fail to make me smile, breaking up the monotony of my route at the same time. Last week’s mise en scène was a cluster of faded mannequins bearing sashes which read ‘make do and mend’. This wartime mantra got me thinking: if necessity is the mother of invention, is austerity the mother of re-invention?
There is no end of things to lament in difficult economic times, but the regeneration of the British seaside to suit the more modest holiday budget is most certainly not one of them.
Following an impressive £9m refurbishment back in 2009, the Avonmouth Hotel was re-born as Christchurch Harbour Hotel, taking its place among a small group of luxury coastal hotels whose other locations include Sidmouth, Salcombe and St. Ives. The hotel is located in one of the region’s most idyllic, yet arguably underrated spots.
Waking up to dazzling views of Mudeford Quay and the sea beyond, I suggest letting the weather dictate the day’s activities. On a clear day, catch the ferry over to Hengistbury Head and marvel at some the UK’s most expensive beach huts, or if the cooler months don’t permit too much exploration, simply enjoy the coastal scenery from the comfort of indoors before retreating to the sanctuary of the luxury spa.
Because no restorative break is complete without due attention to meal times, the hotel’s two-rosette Harbour Restaurant offers outstanding cuisine using local ingredients chosen for their superb quality and flavours. Head Chef Loic Gratadoux creates menus that evolve with the seasons and celebrate produce from the sea and the pastures of Dorset.
Locally reared meat features on the menu and being literally on the water’s edge means they also offer seafood landed daily from the Dorset waters. A regular fixture is the highly recommended Mudeford crab and brown shrimp tian served with avocado purée and orange and vanilla dressing – pleasing on the eye and the palate in equal measure.
Retiring after dinner is unlikely to disappoint either, as each of this Grade II listed building’s 64 rooms combines style and comfort with aplomb. So expect all the crisp white linen, fluffy towels and spacious bed space needed to ensure a truly peaceful night’s sleep.
Thanks to retreats such as Christchurch Harbour Hotel, long gone are the days when a seaside holiday involved a donkey ride and a bucket and spade. Hotels of this kind boast creature comforts aplenty, forming an excellent base from which to explore all the rugged beauty the British coastline has to offer without having to worry if the sunshine is sporadic.