B&B and Beyond: Ampersand House, Shaftesbury, Dorset

A London graphic designer has brought fresh clean lines to one of England’s oldest towns, as Tracey Davies discovers

The western counties are well trodden by rat-race defectors. Seven miles south of the A303, the narrow artery that pumps roofboxes and caravans from the south into Devon and Cornwall each year, lies the pretty market town of Shaftesbury. Perched on a hill 719m feet above sea level, Shaftesbury is one of the highest and oldest towns in Britain, with views stretching across Dorset, Wiltshire, and Somerset. Ampersand House, a B&B in a Grade II-listed building and the rural idyll realised by London graphic designer, Kathryn Sampson, opens next week.

The Bed

The two double guest bedrooms are both en suite. Named after typefaces, Gill Sans is the larger with a king-size bed, generous bath and a fold-out sofa. Caslon is slightly smaller with eggshell-painted floors, modern prints and a power shower. Thoughtful extras include an iPod dock, a small television and DVD player, a Teapigs selection box and a glass jar filled with home-baked and wholly addictive amaretto biscuits. The Korres toiletries (including hand cream) in the bathroom are generous and covetable.

The Breakfast

The breakfast room and lounge is bright and modern, in bold contrast to the house's 18th-century origins. A Mackintosh sideboard is loaded with Dorset cereals, fresh juices and the weekend papers, while a steaming cafetière of fresh Monmouth coffee suggests you can take the girl out of London but you can't make her drink low-grade coffee.

The hot breakfast menu offers a variety of treats from a full Dorset breakfast to eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale. The warm home-baked bread and croissants with local butter and jams which follow are not entirely necessary but inevitably devoured.

Ampersand is upping the traditional B&B game by offering an on-demand menu of home-cooked dishes. Starters and desserts start at £4.50 and a small selection of main courses at £9. A selection of wine and an honesty bar means you can kick back in front of the log fire with a glass of decent shiraz or a whisky.

The Hosts

The name Ampersand House is a nod to owners-cum-hosts, graphic designer Kathryn Sampson and Andrew Monaghan, head of English at a nearby school. Leaving London a year ago, Kathryn, with her illuminating smile and friendly, nurturing manner, is very much at home as a north Dorset landlady, but has brought her immaculate eye for design to this too-often chintzy industry. Perdy, their gorgeous lurcher pup, will happily lead you on a tour of the area.

The Weekend

There's good reason why the market towns and tea-stained villages of north Dorset attract DFLs (Down From London) in their hordes. Shaftesbury has enough independent shops, antique dealers and delis flogging organic brownies and craft teas to sate any ex-city dweller. Gold Hill, the cobbled setting of Ridley Scott's Hovis advert, is an essential photo opportunity. Salisbury and Glastonbury Tor are both within easy reach, and you can barely go a mile or so without sniggering at signposts for places such as Piddles Wood or Girdles Coppice.

Ignoring a pressing urge to move to Gussage All Saints, I took the looped path around the town to view all three counties from this elevated position. Serious ramblers should check out the Fontmell and Melbury Downs (nationaltrust.org.uk) while the ruins of Old Wardour castle, (which is open weekends until the end of March and then daily) is a great romp for families (01747 870487; english-heritage.org.uk). And, of course, in this part of the country barely a weekend goes by without a literary festival (literaryfestivals.co.uk).

The Pit stop

Shaftesbury has a clutch of proper pubs with beer mats and pork scratchings. The Mitre (01747 853002) has stunning views overlooking Blackmore Vale and Ye Olde Two Brewers (01747 854211; 2brewers.co.uk) at the bottom of Gold Hill is equally as pretty and serves excellent food. Venture out into the wilds of the Dorset/Wiltshire border and there are excellent gastropubs including the King John Inn in Tollard Royale (01725 516207; kingjohninn.co.uk). Back in town, check out Turnbulls, "the West Country's finest cheesemonger" (01747 858575; turnbulls-deli.co.uk); along with a variety of Dorset cheeses it serves a good lunch menu including cheese fondue (obviously) and a lazy Susan piled with English tapas.

The Essentials

Ampersand House, Christy's Lane, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8DL (01747 858613; ampersandhousedorset.com). The Caslon is £85 a night and the Gill Sans is £95 a night, including breakfast. The nearest railway station is five miles away in Gillingham.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor