The Knoll House Hotel in Studland Bay, Dorset is an iconic hotel steeped in a rich history. It has been a family run hotel for fifty years, attracting such greats as Enid Blyton, Sir Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh, Roald Dahl, Sir Michael Gambon, and many, many more. The clientele is mainly generations of families who come back every year, and as such it has the feeling of being a home away from home. I myself have been going to the hotel for my whole life (there are staff there who held me as a baby), and so I feel uniquely qualified to review it for you.
Run by three generations of the Ferguson family, the hotel has an incredibly traditional ambience. In many ways, as a guest you feel like you have stepped back in time when you stay there. Life seems to slow down, and a weekend break can feel like a week’s holiday. At Knoll House, you soon realise that your daily routine is completely governed by the three major meal times. And I use the word ‘major’ because the food here is a big deal. At each meal there is a weekly set menu with 3 or four options offered for each course, newly printed every day and full of old British favourites. As a returning customer, there is nothing more reassuringly wonderful than to be able to remember exactly which day you will be offered ‘Dorset Crab’, ‘Poached Scottish Salmon’, or ‘Steamed Golden Sponge Pudding’. Perhaps its because I went to boarding school, but the whole system is so heart warmingly familiar that it gives me enormous happiness to know what Im getting and when Im getting it.
The quality of the food at this hotel is simply astounding. Every lunchtime an incredibly varied Hors d’oeuvres Buffet is offered as an alternative to the starters on the menu which is of such high quality and freshness that it is practically unmatched in any other hotel that I’ve stayed at. Every evening, and even after 34 years of this, I am taken aback by the huge array of dessert options that are available. Every kind of dish under the sun is made anew, every day. You will literally want for nothing. In fact, It is a well know fact that guests to Knoll House leave significantly heavier and happier than when they arrived.
In my ‘About’ section, I refer to this blog as not just being a review site for 5 star hotels, because there are some fantastic hotels that have a lower star rating, but have stand out attributes that make it a special place to stay. That is particularly relevant in relation to this hotel. The bedrooms have gone through some modernisation in recent years, and are now of a good standard, especially the sea view rooms but you will have stayed in better hotel rooms . And the spa, which was once state of the art, is looking quite tired. You will have luxuriated in better spas. The swimming pool, which has been more recently re-hauled is still capacious and wondrously refreshing. But you will have even swam in nicer pools.
What this hotel has that so many do not however, is HEART. It has charm, it has personality, excellent service, a private golf course, tennis courts, acres of glorious grounds, the best food you will have ever eaten, the best childcare service parents will have ever experienced, and the friendliest guests you will have ever met. You will leave feeling refreshed, relaxed, inspired, nurtured and looked after. You will have probably drunk a lot of very good wine, and laughed a lot, and you may well leave having made friends for life, too. I certainly did.
And that is why, after 50 years as a hotel, it is so sad that Knoll House is on the market to be sold. The owners have decided that this brilliant hotel and everything that it offers is not relevant enough to the modern holiday maker. A remnant of the golden age of British seaside resorts, it has resisted change. The owners could have modernised, cut corners, cut staff, reduced the quality of the food, lowered the level of service, but I am so very glad that they have not. Instead they have decided that a more dignified end is to close its doors and shut up shop. If you haven’t visited, the hotel are still taking bookings until next Christmas and I implore you to do so.
On a personal note, Knoll House you have always been one of the great highlights of my life. To the Ferguson family, and the incredibly loyal and dedicated staff who have made the hotel what it is, Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been emotional.
To book your stay, visit http://www.knollhouse.co.uk or call 01929 450450.