Attlee: Lord of the Manor
As we approach Combe House Hotel, up a long drive through woodland opening out to fields and the glorious Elizabethan residence itself, I forget, for a few seconds, that I am Attlee Common, city dog of South-East London and imagine I am Attlee Double-Barrelled, hound of a country squire, canine king of all he surveys.
I live in this beautiful mansion house with walls the colour of toffee and my days are spent at my master’s side, my meals the finest scraps from the kitchen fed to me by cook. In the evenings I curl up by the fireside as the men of the house discuss the burning issues of the day.
Still, Common I might be but I am spending the night in a very posh hotel…..
Oh it is lovely, coos Jane as we step inside. It is proper old-fashioned with big comfy sofas in the communal areas (Jane gives me a look that tells me they are not to be leapt on by dogs); and mooses’ heads (I have to woof them, just to make sure they’re not real mooses) and dark panelled walls and open fires. It is, Jane says, a Cluedo sort of house and she makes a joke that only she finds amusing about an iron bar and the library.
Our room is not a room at all but something called a suite, The Marker Suite, where Alfred Hitchcock, a famous film director Jane informs me, once stayed for several months to write a script. The ‘suite’ has a front room and then a door that leads into the bedroom and then another door into a huge bathroom with a proper white old-fashioned tub.
The view out of the window is of forests and green paddocks, countryside as far as the canine eye can see and I want to be out, in that, rather than walking around the ‘suite’ marvelling at how amazing it is that Alfred Hitchcock stayed here, like the humans are doing, and pretending to stab at each other standing in the bath, which I don’t understand at all. Grrrrrrr-hilaire – not!
There are all sorts of strange things in the woods when I do get out for my walk but strangest of all are the hoove-pawed horses, a whole lot of them too, that have appeared in the paddock in front of the house. They are hot-hooving it around as if they own the place and, it turns out, they sort of do. They live here – all the time, lucky hoof-paws. I want to bark at them but Jane stops me and says they are a very exclusive sort of horse from Arabia. I think she is implying that I am not a very exclusive sort of dog, and not of the right class to bark at these prince and princesses of Persia. So I bloody well do bark at them, once, to prove I will not be cowed. And I will definitely not be cowed by a horse!
Anyway, it is not all about the horses because before dinner Jane and the photographer take me for a drink in the bar and there it is a lot about the dog. Jane chats to a couple with a springer spaniel and they tell her they come to Combe House on holiday every year because the springer likes it as she is made so welcome there. So the dog is choosing the holiday for the humans and that is quite correct and as it should be.
Ruth, who is the owner of the hotel, with her husband Ken, agrees with this when we meet her the next day. She gives us a tour of the Combe House grounds and as well as pointing things out to the humans she points things out to ME.
‘There are pheasants in the fields,’ she informs me and I imagine what a pheasant might be. A great winged bird with a beak the size of one of those stick things that people use to throw balls to their dogs in parks…
Combe House has its very own vegetable garden, where the vegetables that Jane and the photographer ate at dinner the previous night were grown.
(There were no scraps left over for me from dinner so I can’t comment on the quality of these vegetables.) I was saved a sausage from breakfast though and it was jolly good.
Combe House is so dog-friendly, in fact, that it even has a special book for dogs, written by Toby the Dalmatian, about local walks. I have heard of Toby before, because he has written a book about walks in the Dartmoor area. So he is a Snoopy scribe, like me, and I hope one day to meet him as there are very few dogs that can put paw to paper and we are very special and should stick together.
Phileas Fact Box: Combe House Hotel and Restaurant
Combe House, Gittisham, Honiton, Devon, EX14 3AD. Tel: 01404 540400
Prices start at £215 per night for two sharing a classic double room, including breakfast. Dogs cost an extra £10 per dog per night.
- Attlee’s Scores on the Paws: Five and a half out of five. Heaven for hounds!