Hotel of the week: The Acorn Inn, Evershot

Where is it? In beautiful quiet Evershot, which is apparently the highest village in Dorset. Address: The Acorn Inn, Evershot, Dorchester DT2 OJW. (tel: 01522 538881; fax: 01522 511321; net: www.acorn-inn.co.uk; e-mail: stay@acorn-inn.co.uk).

Where is it? In beautiful quiet Evershot, which is apparently the highest village in Dorset. Address: The Acorn Inn, Evershot, Dorchester DT2 OJW. (tel: 01522 538881; fax: 01522 511321; net: www.acorn-inn.co.uk; e-mail: stay@acorn-inn.co.uk).

What's it like? A 16th-century stone inn fictionalised by Thomas Hardy in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, who renamed it the Sow and Acorn. Not surprisingly the hotel makes something of this connection but, blessedly, not very much. Instead the owner, Martyn Lee, seems to have a good eye for unusual and very un-PC fox-hunting pictures and memorabilia.

Ambience? Intimate, individualistic and seductively relaxing country hotel-cum-village pub.

Service? The right side of informal - grown up, you might call it. A slightly bohemian country-house weekend without all that b&b claustrophobia. Our mid-afternoon arrival seemed to catch front-of-house in a post-prandial slump, but by the evening everyone was well into their roles. The chef toured each table soliciting views of his efforts, and the young waitress was impressively professional.

Rooms? Eight in all, each named after Thomas Hardy books, characters or locations. A room with a four-poster bed and Jacuzzi will set you back £100, while £80 got us a cosy (bit of a squeeze to get round the bed to the bathroom) and well-presented room, with Laura Ashley-type trimmings, real antiques and a pretty tree at the window.

Food? Hit and miss. My mackerel with bacon starter was toothsome, while my girlfriend's vegetable soup was reportedly "subtle". The ingredients in my game stew were apparently shot locally, although the mashed potato tasted school dinner-ish, and my girlfriend's pork steak was on the dry side. Nothing wrong with the price, however, which came in at under £50 for two with bread and butter pudding, and lashings of wine and coffee.

Awards? Martyn and Susie Lee bought the Acorn only in 1998, but their first venture, the Fox in nearby Corscombe, is a former Dorset Dining Pub of the Year. Prizes shouldn't be too long in coming.

Clientele? A sprinkling of "middle-youth" couples at breakfast suggests the Acorn is more of a romantic bolt-hole than family hotel.

Things to do? Country walks radiate from the hotel. Cerne Abbas with its tumescent hill carving is a couple of villages away, or you travel further afield to Bridport with its Saturday market, Lyme Regis, or Dorchester to Thomas Hardy's cottage.

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