13th November 2017
Amy Hopkins heads to Stapleford Park in Leicestershire with her husband and their sausage dog Flint, to try out a luxury canine package
Plenty of hotels in the UK describe themselves as ‘dog-friendly’, but I recently discovered that there’s a world of difference between a hotel where dogs are tolerated, and a hotel where they are welcomed with total adoration and treated like furry VIPs.
One that falls into the latter category is Stapleford Park, a grand stately home in the Leicestershire countryside near Melton Mowbray, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. In fact, the team at Stapleford Park are so keen on dogs that they have launched a luxury canine package called Doggy Divine, which promises to treat pooches to the same level of comfort as human guests. Eager to find out what it’s all about, I head to the Midlands with my husband Nick and our lucky sausage dog, Flint.
We drive through the scenic Leicestershire countryside and pull up outside the grand mansion, which bears the imprint of architectural eras from Tudor to Victorian. The high-ceilinged lobby is filled with the inviting scent of the log fire and we are welcomed warmly by name. Flint scampers behind the reception desk and I lunge to grab him, but the smiling receptionist assures me it’s absolutely fine to have him off the lead and stoops to give him a cuddle.
We’re soon joined by Andrew, Stapleford Park’s head of hospitality. Despite his pristine suit, he too crouches down to play with Flint. It’s clear the staff here aren’t just paying lip service to being animal friendly, they’re genuinely a team of dog lovers. Andrew shows us to our room, kindly carrying Flint up the steep staircase (what service!), without giving a stuff about the dog hair accumulating on his smart blazer.
The three of us are staying in the David Hicks room, one of the hotel’s 55 impressive bedrooms. The spacious suite has terracotta walls, giving it an unusual Mediterranean-meets-Medieval feel, with dark wooden furniture and a huge, high bed, shrouded in heavy curtains. Our room overlooks the glass roof of the hotel pool and beyond that, the immaculate grounds, where pheasants scamper across the lawn.
It’s certainly an attractive suite, but we hardly notice because we’re so excited by the sight of the luxury dog bed sitting beneath the window – a perfect miniature version of the one Nick and I will be sleeping in.
The hotel’s bespoke luxury dog beds, part of the Doggy Divine package, have been commissioned from local designers, Doggy & Gabbona (chortle) of Melton Mowbray, each uniquely designed to complement the style of its suite.
After a quick sniff, Flint clambers onto his plump cushioned bed and starts chomping on one of the complimentary bones. He seems to have adjusted to the luxury lifestyle a little too easily and I can already tell this weekend isn’t going to good for his waistline.
That afternoon we sit down to the much-anticipated Doggy Afternoon Tea, provided by Hungry Hounds Bakery, another feature of the Doggy Divine package. While Nick and I tuck into the usual human fair of cucumber sandwiches, scones and cakes, Flint is presented with a three-tier platter of luxury dog biscuits, vegetable crisps and immaculate dog treats that look like truffles (in fact his food is served before ours).
The lucky little hound is even treated to a bottle of Pawsecco. Intrigued, I take a sneaky sip and discover Pawsecco is nothing more than lightly flavoured water. Even so, it’s apparently delicious to dogs and Flint laps it up noisily.
Nick and I had planned to spend the following afternoon pootling around the charming nearby towns, but there’s so much fun to be had on the estate that we end up staying at Stapleford Park for the whole weekend.
The beautiful Grade One-listed country house sits on 500 acres of Capability Brown parkland and, in keeping with the estate’s history, there are lots of country pursuits to try. The championship golf course is a big draw, but if golf is not your thing, you can have fun with archery, clay pigeon shooting or falconry.
Nick and I opt for a falconry session with Pete Sibson, the friendly and gentle activities coordinator. Concerned that a sausage dog would make a tasty lunch for a golden eagle, we leave Flint in the loving hands of the reception staff while we get to know the birds of prey. The joy of the Doggy Divine package is that you can leave your pooch with hotel staff whenever you want to leave the hotel, do an activity or eat in the fine-dining restaurant. Under Pete’s instruction we fly a big owl called Bernard (who Pete recently discovered is actually female) and a nervous harris hawk, who gives us a scare by taking off into the woodland and refusing to come back for a couple of hours.
Of course, a break at Stapleford Park isn’t just about spoiling your four-legged friend. For a blissful humans-only treat, I hitch a ride on a golf cart from the main house to the nearby spa, which is housed in the estate’s 1899 Baroque style stables, modelled on the stables at Buckingham Palace. I enjoy a blissful 60-minute massage, while Flint is treated to a walk around the grounds with the obliging staff.
Nick and I leave the hotel thoroughly refreshed from country air, scenic surroundings, spa treatments, delicious food and long, deep sleeps in a grand bed. Flint too, leaves with a spring in his step and a wag in his tail, after a weekend of pampering and Pawsecco. We’ve taken him to hotels in the past, but he’s never been as lovingly looked after as he is by the team at Stapleford Park. For humans and dogs who need a rejuvenating break in gorgeous surroundings, the Doggy Divine package is just pawfect.
Near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, LE14 2EF
Pool | Golf course | Sauna | Tennis court | Gym | Spa | Country pursuits, including archery, falconry and clay pigeon shooting
Rooms start at £170 per night.
Doggy Divine from £475 per room, based on two people and a dog sharing.
The package includes an overnight stay for two in a choice of four state rooms on a B&B basis, afternoon tea for two, a bespoke handcrafted doggy bed, a new doggy menu, doggy afternoon tea, a selection of doggy toys, doggy walking trails within the hotel’s extensive grounds and dog sitting.
Melton Mowbray, famously the home of pork pies, is a treat for foodie families. Nearby, on the River Welland, is the town of Stamford, which resisted the building of a railway during the industrial revolution and as such is a wonderfully preserved model of a 15th century town, voted the best place to live in the UK by The Sunday Times. Ten miles from the hotel is picturesque Rutland Water, where families can enjoy a 25-mile cycle track or try a variety of water sports.