Summer Lodge, Summer Lodge Country House, Red Carnation Hotels


Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant is a luxury retreat in the beautiful village of Evershot, Dorset, in the southern region of England.

Discover Enchanting Evershot, Dorset

The Quintessential Country House Escape

By Jordan Staggs | Photography courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels

“The sky was clear—remarkably clear—and the twinkling of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse.”

These words by poet and novelist Thomas Hardy perfectly describe a clear, early autumn evening in the English county of Dorset, where he once lived. Traveling through the rolling countryside a few hours west of London, it is easy to see how the landscapes, punctuated by centuries-old villages, forests, and the River Frome, inspired Hardy’s romantic works. It’s in the tiny town of Evershot, just eleven miles outside Dorchester, where travelers can find respite in the form of the idyllic Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant.

Hardy himself was a big fan of the property and surrounding parish, having even designed an extension to the lodge in 1893. In his works, he referenced Evershot as the fictional village of “Evershead,” the setting for his 1891 novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles (one of the present-day cottages is named Tess Cottage for Hardy’s heroine). The literary heritage is still a point of pride among the locals, especially the staff and patrons of the Summer Lodge, which also served as the film set for the 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, among other movies.

Today, guests at the Red Carnation Hotels property can enjoy its impeccably manicured gardens, stately common areas and dining rooms, twenty-five cozy guest rooms, and charming cottages, all tended by an incredible staff who genuinely make every visitor feel like family. The hotel also boasts a spa, indoor pool, and treatment rooms for world-class massages, facials, and more.

“As the general managers at Summer Lodge, we are privileged to lead an exceptional team in such a beautiful part of the world,” say Alex and Jack Mackenzie. “The well-being of our guests and teams is our highest priority, and our guests tell us that Summer Lodge is a haven of relaxation and the ultimate place to escape to. We look forward to welcoming you to Dorset very soon.”

Leading their team of around sixty staff members, the Mackenzies have done a remarkable job making guests feel at home, from greeting everyone by name to remembering their favorite drink order. It’s no surprise that Summer Lodge was recently named fifth overall among the best hotels in the UK and Ireland, with 96 percent of its 1,270 Tripadvisor reviews rating “excellent” or “very good.”

If you’ve ever been told dining in the UK is bland, The Restaurant at Summer Lodge begs to differ. The hotel offers a twenty-four-hour menu of light fare and room service, along with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and happy hour in its Regency-era parlor and the Whisky Bar. Still, it’s dinner in The Restaurant, led by head chef Michael Moirinho, executive chef James Mearing, and their team, that is truly a memorable experience. Both chefs boast a pedigree of working in award-winning restaurants, including Michelin-starred and AA 3-Rosette-rated establishments. Guests can enjoy several courses featuring locally sourced ingredients, such as Dorset Blue Vinny cheese, Dorset beef, Liberty Dairy products, Evershot Bakery artisan breads and pastries, wines from the property’s sister vineyard in South Africa, and much more. And don’t skip dessert!

“The well-being of our guests and teams is our highest priority, and our guests tell us that Summer Lodge is a haven of relaxation and the ultimate place to escape to. We look forward to welcoming you to Dorset very soon.”

Those staying a few days and wishing to explore dining options outside the hotel only need to walk the short distance to the Summer Lodge’s sister property, The Acorn Inn, just down the main street. Stroll past stone cottages and a few local shops, and you’ll find yourself at this charming, sixteenth-century coaching inn and pub with cozy dining rooms and a lively bar atmosphere. It’s another favorite of Thomas Hardy, who drew inspiration from it for “The Sow and Acorn,” featured in multiple works, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Here, guests will find more award-winning local, seasonable, and sustainable fare accompanied by a traditional English pub atmosphere.

Exploring the tiny village of Evershot is easily done in an hour or two. Still, visitors should consider hiking along the Hardy Way, a long-distance footpath that runs through the village and the surrounding countryside. The route itself runs 220 miles throughout western England for serious outdoor lovers, but a couple of hours’ jaunt on various paths around Evershot will take even novice hikers through beautiful scenery, including the Melbury Park estate. Don’t miss a chance to glimpse the Melbury House, a gorgeous country manor tracing back to the medieval period, acquired in 1500 by the Strangways family and rebuilt in 1546 using ham stone from a nearby quarry. The estate is privately owned by the Honorable Mrs. Charlotte Townshend, a wealthy landowner and philanthropist who inherited it from her mother, Lady Theresa Fox-Strangways.

A short drive from the village of Evershot, visitors can find ample shopping, dining, and historic destinations in Dorchester. Another mile from there is Poundbury, a charming new town established in 1993 by the Prince of Wales, who, in his new position as King Charles III, still seeks to create a walkable, self-sustaining model of urban development there. Poundbury employs the principles of New Urbanism under the direction of its head planner and principal architect, Léon Krier. The former Prince of Wales visited New Urbanism developments, including Seaside, Florida—widely recognized as the first of its kind, under the leadership of founders Robert and Daryl Davis and planners Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk—to gain insight and inspiration when creating Poundbury. The charming town, an ongoing project of the Duchy of Cornwall, is due for completion in 2025 and has been studied by architects and town planners worldwide. These included members of the VIE and Seaside Institute team as attendees of the 2023 International Making Cities Livable Conference in October, when we had the pleasure of experiencing the magic of the area.

A highlight for most Dorset visitors is the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the southern coast of England. It stretches around ninety-six miles from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset and boasts gorgeous views, unique beaches, and multiple tourism opportunities, from exploring castle ruins to cruising along the English Channel. Those who scour the beaches might even find fossils from as far back as the Jurassic period for which the coast is named. Lyme Bay, Durdle Door natural stone arch, Lulworth Cove, and the Isle of Portland are some highlights one might experience on a guided minibus tour, which the Summer Lodge is happy to arrange via its local partners.

Getting to Dorchester from London is easy enough by a two-to-three-hour train or car ride. For those traveling by rail, the Summer Lodge offers pickup from Dorchester (South) or Yeovil stations, both about a twenty-minute drive from the hotel. For those flying in and going directly to the lodge, Bristol Lulsgate, Exeter, and Bournemouth (Hurn) International airports are all within an hour-and-a-half journey from Evershot. Other tours, programs, and workshops are available year-round at the Summer Lodge with themes ranging from gardening to literature, so be sure to browse their website for a complete list of offerings.

No matter how you get there or whether you plan to hike, explore the coast, visit historical sites, admire the architecture, or simply relax and enjoy all that the Summer Lodge has to offer, a journey to Dorset will feel like an experience worthy of a fairy tale. Just ask Mr. Hardy!

— V —

Visit to learn more or book your stay. Check out other RCH properties at

Share This Story!