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Dog-friendly getaways with The Epicurean Club

The traditional British pub is making a comeback as an alternative luxury getaway. Pubs have had a tough time in recent decades with as many as one quarter of those in England and Wales having closed since 2001. Those pubs that have not just survived this downturn but have, in fact, flourished are a select group that have focussed on being the best of the best. The consistent formula that appears to have won through is a great pub offering excellent food and drink, combined with high quality accommodation. Of course, people also often seek unique experiences when they travel nowadays so, include that into the mix also, and you have a pub fit for The Epicurean Club. The Epicurean Club offers access to a collection that recognises all the qualities necessary to be among Britain’s finest boutique inns and pubs. Full of charm and character, this carefully handpicked group represents many of the best British pub getaways, covering everywhere from Mayfair to the moors of North Yorkshire, and a whole host of other destinations inbetween. We went to see what all the fuss was about, staying at two of The Epicurean Club’s pubs in the North of England: The Durham Ox just to the north of York and The Battlesteads Hotel, close to Hexham. It’s simple to find pubs that cater for your requirements using The Epicurean Club’s website. You can very easily search by location, date, theme and/or type of experience. In our case, we were planning on a few days away with our English Springer Spaniel, George, so homed in on the ‘dog friendly’ offerings, but you could equally search for properties that are close to the water, quiet romantic getaways, pubs suited to special events and celebrations, or a variety of other options. The Durham Ox The Durham Ox is 300 years old and has been owned by the Ibbotson family for the past 20 years, during which time it has enjoyed numerous national and regional awards. Named after a celebrity-like beast of the same name that was exhibited throughout the country at the turn of the 18th Century (you can learn more about its fascinating history in the folder in your accommodation), the pub offers a rural bolthole in the charming hill-top village of Crayke, just two miles north-east of Easingwold, North Yorkshire. The accommodation We stayed in ‘Rose Cottage’, a lovely little property at the rear of the pub that is perfect for families, with a lounge, galley kitchen and bathroom downstairs, and two bedrooms – one super king double and one twin – upstairs. The bedrooms are cosy with beamed ceilings and a traditional, country feel. Downstairs, the bathroom is modern and spacious and comes with L’Occitaine toiletries, whilst the kitchenette comes complete with tea and coffee making facilities and complementary Yorkie chocolate bars (in case you wondered, they’re made in nearby York). The food The pub is very cosy and full of character with numerous blackboards adorning the walls, oak panels in the main bar that are late Victorian reproductions and medieval pew ends from a church in Somerset. Upstairs is The Private Dining Room that can sit 10-22 guests and an outside terrace at the rear for those warmer days. Try the baked Queenie scallops which are topped with garlic and prsley butter, and finished with a cheddar and gruyère crust. The food and service is good, with a wide choice of main meal options ranging from pea and mint ravioli to Yorkshire beef and Black Sheep pie. The experience The local area offers a rich source of heritage, beautiful countryside and picturesque villages and towns, all within easy reach of The Durham Ox. We opted for a family walk of the Crayke Estate – a circular route of approximately 3.5 miles along a permissive path through open fields and occasional wooded areas. Those with more time to explore the local area can enjoy visits to numerous stately homes, abbeys and gardens, including Beningborough Hall & Gardens, Byland Abbey, Rievaulx Terrace & Temple, Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley Castle, Helmsley Walled Garden, Nunnington Hall and Castle Howard. Or venture to York, renowned for its tangled network of quaint cobbled streets, to visit York Minster, the Jorvik Viking Centre or the National Railway Museum. Dog friendliness The Durham Ox is dog friendly and, if you let them know you’d like to eat with your dog, they’ll even book you a table in their Tap Room where your pampered pooch can enjoy the comfort of the fireside as you dine. As far as accommodation is concerned, with the exception of the Studio Suite, every room at The Durham Ox is dog friendly too. The Battlesteads Hotel Converted from an 18th Century farmstead, The Battlesteads Hotel is a pub, hotel and restaurant in the village of Wark, Northumberland, 12 miles north of Hexham, perfectly situated for anyone interested in exploring Hadrian’s Wall or Kielder Forest and Water. Over the last decade, it has developed a sustainable focus with all manner of initatives including the installation of a biomass boiler, the development of a flower garden to attract birds and butterflies, and inclusion of organic wines on the wine list to name just a few. The accommodation Behind the hotel are some very comfortable, modern lodges offering overnight accommodation. We stayed in two that were next door to each other, giving our teenage children some independence and privacy but with us close to hand if we should be needed. (There are also hotel rooms within the main building.) The interiors are very spacious, with a seating area that offer ample room to relax, plus a desk area should you need to work on your travels. The bathroom is also generous in size with separate bath and shower. The food We had the 8-course taster menu, the highlight of which was the duck breast with a savoury ‘granola’, black pudding ‘prune’, charred cauliflower floret and cassis jelly (pictured). Where possible, the restaurant prides itself on fresh, local and seasonal produce, with a number of ingredients grown on site in the hotel’s kitchen garden and smoked salmon and charcuterie meats prepared in-house. The experience A highlight of any stay at Battlesteads is the on-site dark sky observatory with its own retractable roof, situated in the Northumberland Internatioanl Dark Sky Park. This accessible, public observatory offers talks, activities, drop-in sessions, stargazing and astronomy courses to cater for a range of expertise levels from beginner through to professional astronomers. An evening at the observatory is a must if you ever need reminding of just how vast the universe is. We attended a dark sky discovery night where an enthusiastic but very knowledgeable amateur talked us through many aspects of the night sky, from the Milky Way to the universe beyond, first with some slides as the skies cleared a little and then with the aid of telescope and a more hands-on approach. It was very interesting, enjoyable and enteraining and, with our lodge just a stone’s throw away, only a short walk to bed afterwards! Dog friendliness At Battlesteads they recognise that your dog is part of the family and dogs are welcome (by prior arrangement) to share ground floor rooms with their owners. Facilities at the rear of the hotel allowed us to hose George down when he got a little muddy from his walks – what’s more, there was both hot and cold water so he could have a nice warm wash down! Whether you are looking for a dog friendly getaway, or something a little different – but always in good quality yet homely pubs and inns – then take a look at the carefully curated list from The Epicurean Club. By becoming a Friend of The Epicurean Club, which is free of charge, you can enjoy a number of additional benefits every time you book a stay or experience, such as the best rate on rooms, a house drink on the house for all guests on every Epicurean Collection stay, or even a free stay after every five overnight stays; there’s never been a better time to try some of Britain’s best pubs! Disclosure: Our stays were courtesy of The Epicurean Club.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Telegraph.

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  1. A free night stay after every five?? Woah! What a smart marketing tactic!! The reason is enticing enough for people like me to book not five, rather a ten night stay at the Pub.

    1. Just to be clear, you don’t have to book all five (or ten!) nights at once. After 5 one-night stays, say, you could claim your sixth, as I understand it.

  2. This is such a wonderful thing to witness- more and more hotels, pubs and resorts following the league of pet hospitality!!! Wondering is the Epicurean Club just specifically dog-friendly or an overall pet-friendly accommodation. If the latter, then up to how many pets can be in a room. Basically, I have a feline companion and a pet bunny- both are super attached to me. And as obvious, I can’t escape with one leaving the other to feel terribly left-out!!

    1. The Epicurean Club is a collection of independent pubs and inns so each establishment will have its own rules.

      What’s more, they are not just about dog-friendly accommodation. This is just one of the themes by which you can search the available properties. For example, you could also search by inns that are close to water, places that are located in towns and cities, or romantic pubs, to name just a few other types of stay to choose from.

    2. Wow. That’s soo amazing. This means that every time I plan a getaway to UK, I don’t need to get into the hassle of searching or enquiring endlessly about the best pub or inn that suit the nature of my vacations- be it romantic escape, a family union or a business trip. They will cater to all my needs.
      And I am asking about the pet policies of the two pubs mentioned in the article: The Durham Ox and The Battlesteads Hotel.

    3. I don’t know precise policies when it comes to dogs and/or other pets, in terms of whether you are allowed more than one dog, or whether you can travel with a cat, etc. You would need to check directly with each establishment in question, I think, just to be sure. It could even vary from one room to another within the same establishment, since I know for sure at The Durham Ox, for example, that there is one room (the Studio Suite) that does not accept dogs.

  3. Our Westie is impeccably behaved, he’s got his gold star obedience certificate but there’s a real divergence between pubs / hotels and their attitude to dogs. There’s a small minority who go out of their way to make dogs very welcome but there are many more who just don’t want to know. Good to see that the Epicurean Club is so enlightened when it comes to dogs.

    1. Not all pubs featured on the Epicurean Club website will be dog friendly, but they highlight those that are, so it should hopefully make it easy to identify the places that are right for you.

    1. Yes, very true, Jim! I wouldn’t want people thinking it’s a requirement to travel with a dog in tow!! In fact, I think we may have been the only guests staying with a dog at the time of our visit, at both places. So yes, very human friendly too!!!

    2. In many ways that’s the perfect scenario for a dog. They get loads of attention from all the human guests. Even more importantly they are not battling over territorial fights with other dogs.

  4. The second decade of the 21st century, has undoubtedly raised awareness and evoked empathy for animals more than it has ever before. From vegan food and products to pet-friendly destinations and now even accommodation options…this is such a pleasant change paving in. Of course, our pets deserve that equal lifestyle, luxuries and attention. I guess, the Epicurean Club is rightly setting the example and playing their part. Plus, I have a question. I love to pamper my bub, so does the two hotels listed above offer any kick-ass doggie-cuisine? Or do the guests have to take care of the food themselves?

    1. Not that I’m aware, Harry. Our dog is just on Eukanuba (and the occasional treat), so it’s not something I really looked out for, to be honest. I have seen meals for dogs on room service menus in large luxury hotels in the past, but I don’t think you’re likely to get that in the smaller establishments that the Epicurean Club tends to feature.

  5. The Durham Ox looks like my kind of pub. Reminds me of the Wensleydale Heifer at Witton (near Leyburn) which is another lovely spot if you ever get the chance.

  6. It seems to me that we are living in times of rapid change but one thing that remains constant for me is that people love a good country pub.

    I know that pubs, in both town and country, have suffered tough times and that there have been many closures, but the best ones still seem to retain their charm and keep pulling the customers.

  7. That sign “Wash area for muddy paws and boots” is such a little thing but it says so much.

    When you walk into so many chain pubs and hotels you get the impression that mud and dirt don’t exist in their super-sanitised environments.

    Personally, I feel so much more welcomed and at home in a pub like this that accepts the existence of real world issues like dogs with muddy paws.

  8. I often look at the pub guides and such for ideas of where to go so the Epicurean Club is one I’ll have to check out. I’ve stayed in a handful of excellent inns in the UK and you can get a brilliant experience as a hotel alternative. Plus I love that you can usually just nip downstairs to get yourself a G&T whenever you fancy it. Good shout giving some suggestions for dog friendly places because decent ones can be few and far between. That ‘wash area’ at the Battlesteads is so sweet!

  9. I wish there was something like this available when I had my old dog a few years ago, it was always a struggle finding places he’d be allowed. It’s great you can search on the Epicurean site to find options. I’ve been to a few pubs in recent times that have really catered quite well to dogs, with treats on the bar counter and water bowls outside. I’ve never seen a wash area like that before though, what a brilliant idea! I love that the Durham Ox lets you book to eat there while your pooch can snuggle by the fire, that’s such a lovely thing to be able to do rather than force dogs to wait outside.

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