An Inspector Calls… 10 Castle Street in Dorset has a ‘fabulous’ collection of art – but the service was ‘largely amateurish’ and there were cobwebs in the corridors

  • The Inspector checked into 10 Castle Street in the Dorset village of Cranborne 
  • He was disappointed with the ‘mucky carpets’ and ‘largely amateurish service’
  • But he was a fan of the ‘fabulous collection of art’ and ‘delightfully slinky bar’

The Countess of Lichfield — one-time wife of photographer Patrick Lichfield — used to rent this magnificent Queen Anne mansion in the Dorset village of Cranborne from the Marquess of Salisbury.

When she moved out a few years ago, Alex and Gretchen Boon, who at the time were running the nearby King John Inn, took on the lease and set about creating a members’ club. It is also open to non-members, somewhat in the spirit of Babington House and Soho Farmhouse, albeit without the bells and whistles such as spas, pools and cinemas.

We get the impression it’s been tough. How else to explain mucky carpets, a faulty heating system, spasmodic wi-fi, flies in the curtains, stale air and largely amateurish service?

The Inspector checked into 10 Castle Street in the Dorset village of Cranborne

Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps this is not meant to feel like a pricey hotel, but rather a sense of staying with friends who have been lumbered with a big pile and don’t quite know how to keep the roof on.

And it is pricey. We’re paying £275 b&b, for which you don’t expect to meet cobwebs in the corridors, a first-floor sitting room that’s more like a sixth-form common room (sweet wrappers on the floor, cushions crying out to be plumped up) and a bathroom floor that the countess could have tolerated only on the grounds that she would soon be moving out.

What lifts the whole place is the fabulous collection of art, a delightfully slinky bar and a drawing room off it with an open fire and palm fronds. The dining room, too, has felt the love, with its dark walls, gorgeous central lantern and original fireplace.

It’s a tempting menu. I start with steamed prawn bao, followed by duck breast, perfectly tender and not overly rich. My wife asks for spinach, followed by a ribeye steak. She says the spinach is warm on the outside, cold on the inside. Her fries come in a ramekin dish that sits on the plate surrounded by jus.

Pictured is one of the rooms at 10 Castle Street. The Inspector gave the hotel a two out of five star rating 

Our drinks go all wrong. First, I order tonic on the side for my Campari gin and tonic and it comes already mixed; then I ask for a glass of white wine, but it takes so long to arrive that I cancel it and we order two glasses of red instead.

They don’t appear either. ‘Sorry, you’ve been caught in the crossfire,’ says a young waitress. At breakfast there is no orange juice, no smoked salmon to go with various advertised salmon dishes, and the buffet is derisory.

It’s wonderful that a house like this is alive and kicking, but I can’t help wondering how long it can survive in its present format.

TRAVEL FACTS

10 Castle Street, Cranborne, Dorset, BH21 5PZ. B&B doubles from £195. For more information call 01725 551 133 or visit 10castlestreet.com.  

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