We’ve been to Dunster Village twice now and both times we’ve been drawn to The Luttrell Arms – the historic hotel and coaching inn at the top of Dunster High Street. There’s something magical about the imposing stone entrance that tempts you inside to discover more... and both times we’ve also been flipping freezing, so the roar of the log fires has certainly shouted out to us, and to our dogs! :)
Once you’re through the door, The Luttrell Arms is definitely more than meets the eye. It’s a really cool place to have a drink, lunch or dinner and to explore... to discover hidden nooks, crannies and secrets!
That’s no surprise really, as this Grade II listed building is steadfastly steeped in history.
On the site of three houses that were recorded as far back as 1443 (it's believed they were built as a house of the Abbots of Cleeve), it became an inn known as ‘The Ship’ nearly 200 years later - and was given the name it keeps today in 1779, by the Luttrell family, whose legacy is sewn deep into the fabric of Dunster. Taken over by the Way family in 2013, their investment has breathed new life into this Exmoor gem that has an eclectic mix of old and new at its heart.
We know that’s a very potted history but talking of pots, before recent renovations to The Luttrell Arms could be carried out an archaeological dig took place in the back garden!
The hotel's ‘Secret Garden’ definitely lived up to its name during that time, as a set of mid-18th century buildings and cobbled paths were unexpectedly discovered below a section of the back lawn. Add to that the significant collection of medieval pottery that was uncovered and it definitely fuels the imagination, as you visit the ancient pottery kiln that's a stroll through the Secret Garden back gate.
The garden is probably our favourite spot. It’s a beautiful place to sit, sip a gin and tonic and get your Dunster Castle fix, as there’s a stunning view of it from every single seat. We can just imagine spending a Summer’s day here after only meaning to pop in for one drink…
When we were there this time though, it was just as magical in the biting cold and snow...
... and there's also a tucked away courtyard in the middle of the hotel, if you're looking for a different spot to see the sky.
Another secret hideaway we absolutely love is the gorgeous balcony overlooking it. With retro paintings on the exposed brick and a fabulous sofa to sink back in, we could definitely while away the hours here with coffees or cocktails!
If you’re staying indoors for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner (funnily enough we didn't sit out in the snow! ;)), there’s a whole host of different rooms, bars and cosy corners to make yourself at home in. We reckon the phrase ‘spoiled for choice’ was definitely invented for The Luttrell Arms as there are so many cool spots to perch, eat and drink until your heart's content - and each one has something unique to offer.
The relaxing lounge at the front of the hotel, with its gorgeous fire and view out on to the High Street, is a firm favourite. Bag yourself a window seat and you've got a great place to watch the village comings and goings.
We also love the feel of the main bar. Its traditional cosy character is just the job when it's cold outside - and it's genuinely dog friendly too (you'll meet lots of dogs taking their people for a drink in here! :)), so we headed to a fireside spot for lunch with our hounds, Petal and Flower.
Dogs really are welcomed with open arms at The Luttrell Arms (see what we did there!) and if you fancy watching the football or the rugby in style, the dog friendly Sports Bar is a good shout too. One of the woofers we met here obviously agreed... and was undoubtedly cheering on England!
As you'd expect, the only area dogs can't be by your side is in Psalters - the award-winning AA Rosette restaurant.
Named after the famous medieval manuscript ‘The Luttrell Psalter’, Chef Barrie Tucker cooks up an absolute storm here, focusing on using local produce to create stunning seasonal plates of food. The flavours, colours and presentation rival any fine dining experience...
... and whether you eat at Psalters, in the main bar or any other spot dotted around The Luttrell Arms, the food is absolutely top notch.
For less formal foodie treats, the menu doesn't disappoint with starters including Avocado Mousse with Pickled Walnuts, Charred Mango, Mango Puree and Coconut and the famous Luttrell Scotch Egg to whet the appetite. With mains like Oak Smoked Salmon Linguine and the Luttrell Gourmet Burger, you can't really go wrong.
I plumped for Raviolo with Burnt Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut, Pickled Pear Puree and Charred Cauliflower (with a steaming hot bowl of buttered spinach on the side - COR). Graeme was always going to have the classic - Beer battered Fish and Chips with Minted Peas and Tartare Sauce. And yes... the Fish and Chips are the very, very best... melt-in-the-mouth delicious, with light, crispy beer batter and chunky chips to die for. I definitely had a bit of Fish and Chip envy going on, but pinched some chips to make up for it! ;)
Dessert for Graeme was a beautiful Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Ginger, Poached Rhubarb and Rhubarb Syrup, but my choice of Chocolate Devil Cake, Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream and Peppermint Macaroon was the pick of the puds. A perfect portion of chocolate heaven... rich, wicked and devilishly delicious, definitely living up to its name! This time, it was Graeme's turn for a bit of menu choice jealousy! ;)
Anyway, if you fancy a sleepover you're in luck. Stays here are a mix of the traditionally beautiful four poster kind, and rooms with calm character (28 of them to be exact). Being right in the heart of Dunster, you can also step straight out into the village to explore the shops, coffee stops, Dunster Castle and the myriad of places this historic part of Exmoor has to offer.
We came to Dunster on my birthday and one of the presents I got was a handmade 'Somerset cool' flag from the awesome Jo at Adventures and Tea Parties. For us, the fantastic food, genuinely dog friendly atmosphere and beautiful Secret Garden at The Luttrell Arms definitely gave us cause to christen the flag right here, as we all agreed those things make it a Somerset cool place for us!
If you read the blog regularly, you'll know we normally finish off with a 'review in three words', but this little sign caught my eye as we were exploring, so this time we're ending with five:
Eat, drink and be merry.
The Luttrell Arms is definitely somewhere we'll head to every time we're in Dunster - and roll on the Summer, for a Secret Garden table with a stunning castle view... and the very best Fish and Chips!
f you're heading out for a bite to eat, 'Foodie Thursdays'' are currently running in Psalters on the 19th and 26th April. It's two courses for £20 and three courses for £25. More info right here.