Tails About Town: The Essex Escape

Written by Emma Kemsley

A dog-friendly break in the Essex countryside 

When autumn arrives there really is no better time to be a dog owner; daily walks lined with golden trees, footpaths full of crunchy leaves and thankfully this year, mostly crisp blue skies. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a weekend away in the countryside with your dog so when we heard Down Hall Hotel & Spa had launched ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’ dog-friendly package, we packed our bags and headed for the historic house on the Essex/Herts border in Matching Green.

I’m always interested to learn how a hotel has put their own dog-friendly stamp on things. After all, it’s mine and Fletcher’s job to give you an insight so you can pick the perfect place for your next break – he brings a whole new meaning to ‘working spaniel’, which he isn’t by the way. He is pretty terrible at being a spaniel. I once saw him chase a pheasant to then roll onto his back next to it in hope that it would play with him. Worst spaniel ever!


On arrival at Down Hall Hotel we were promptly checked-in and shown to our room located in the elegant West Wing. The room is spacious and a particularly nice feature was the double doors with direct access to the gardens. There was also a dog bed, towel for mucky paws and welcome pack with a chew toy and treats, which Fletcher wasted no time tucking into.

Down Hall Hotel is beautiful inside and out. High ceilings and grand portraits of previous home owners line the corridors and outside the gardens are immaculate and exceptionally beautiful at this time of year. It was a lovely autumnal day so we went for a long walk around the 110 acres of garden and woodland, stopping to play a game of chess on the way.

Fletcher was allowed off lead in the grounds, which is a rare feature of a hotel, and had a great time running around until he made a dash for the pretty pond. I caught him just in time as he attempted to scramble over the side – walkies were officially over!

After a long walk, Fletcher took a snooze in the room, while we indulged in a full body massage and spa visit. Later that evening, everyone relaxed and rested, we called the restaurant to order Fletcher’s very own room service.

A short 15 minutes later, a steaming hot bowl of chicken, peas and gravy arrived. We left him chowing down his dinner and headed to the hotel’s Grill Restaurant for our own three-course meal. Specialising in Anglo-French cuisine, each dish was stunningly presented and equally delicious – I was quite surprised with just how good the food was!

If your pooch isn’t comfortable being left alone, the hotel does offer the option to dine together in the bar area. Fletcher has no table manners so it’s not right for us; nobody enjoys a wet spaniel nose on the side of their plate!

Overall the stay was great for a relaxing overnight break in the countryside. With its speedy train links to both London and Cambridge, its an ideal base for exploring this pretty little corner of the UK.

The dog-friendly package costs from £209 per night based on two people sharing a West Wing room. To book visit downhall.co.uk

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