Basil’s Review & Critique

Basil’s Brush With ...

OK, I hold my hands up!  Basil and I already know this hotel rather well. However, just because of its familiarity, we didn’t want this fact to preclude us from sharing our experience with you of this rather lovely, river-fronted property.  So, in Basil’s words… ‘Maties’ (or should I say ‘Shipmates’) this month, we are delighted to review the Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa, Christchurch, Dorset

Lead in one hand, rolling two suitcases with the other; secretly impressed by my Mum’s dexterity, we arrive at the entrance of this privately owned, south coast hotel.  I wait, momentarily, for the ‘swooshing’ of the doors, as if to signify the hotel’s desire to offer a wide open ‘Welcome Aboard’ to all em’barking’ guests.

I trot ahead.  Like a good boy, I sit patiently on top of some luggage (as you do) while Mum wheels in the suitcases.

Jumping down, I follow her to the front desk.  ‘Hello Basil!’ I hear a lady say. Looking up, towards the direction of the voice, I see a lady leaning over the desk; our eyes meet, we engage and, bingo!  ‘Would you like a treat Basil?’  ‘Do Roos like to Bounce!’ I thought and conveyed my approval by fervently wagging my tail, causing a ripple effect of sideway movement snaking all the way up through my body to the tip of my brown nose.

Mum busied herself checking in; munching on my biscuit, I take the opportunity to have a fresh look around.  The nautical nod is obvious but in my Mum’s words, ‘It’s not overdone in a themed ‘Disney-ish’ kind of a way’.  But play as I must, as after all I’m still a youngster, I contemplate there and then, for one night only, I might just drop my ‘aussie-isms’ in favour of some ‘nautical-isms’ instead! ‘Wait there Basil, please.’ Mum requests…

 ‘Aye, Aye Captain! I silently voice to myself’

It was sadly a rather dreary day but that didn’t mean it was gloomy inside, far from it. The slightly iffy weather meant that there were lots of people (many accompanied by their pooches) sipping from teacups, topping up from coffee pots and chinking of wine glasses.  Seems the perfect way to while away the time to me!

My first brief encounter was with a demure short-haired Dachshund – sitting by her Mum who was drinking tea and relaxing in a cosy seat – I was a little shy to introduce myself in person but I tried to engage with her from afar.

(Pssst, she’s behind me!)

Mum was keen to join the other guests in the Lounge, so we made a beeline for a seat by the window… which window will it be, ah yes, the ‘round’ window.  

Although dogs are welcomed as VIPs (Very Important Pets) at the Captain’s Club, us pooches still need to remain on the floor rather than clamber up on the furniture. Naughty, I know, but Mum couldn’t resist scooping me up onto her lap for a quick cuddle. 😉 

I was keen to get down off Mum’s lap so to adopt the most perfect pozy… ‘eye’, or should I say, ‘mouth’-level, to the coffee table.   You see, I’ve come to appreciate that when ordering coffee… the cup would normally be accompanied by bikkies of the biscuit kind!  

(I’m not daft!)

Waiting for her refreshments to arrive, Mum took to reading up on the hotel along with its Boutique Spa and boating possibilities. She was, however, momentarily distracted by the numerous framed accreditations on the wall.  She stood up to peer at the certificates, absent-mindedly reciting a few of the many Awards; ‘Four AA Silver Stars, Bournemouth & Poole Tourism Small Hotel of the Year 2017, Best Loved Hotels South Region Hotel of the Year 2017’ and, Gold Award for The Green Tourism Business Scheme…’  

I nonchalantly gazed out of the floor to ceiling windows (which I could see ran the whole length of the building) across the terrace and out to the river beyond. On the opposite bank I noticed a group of dogs, blissfully happy, plunging in and out of the water. I glanced around to see if the other pooches, sitting comfortably in the lounge, were also as spell-bound.  Lady Dachshund, didn’t, however, avert her gaze for anyone… she was fixated by the bikkie held in her Mum’s hand.  ‘Hmmm, beauty AND brains’ I thought!

Meanwhile, ‘back in the room’, which is, in my Mum’s words; ‘light and contemporary with hues of sea blues, greens and greys’ the freshly brewed coffee arrived.  Abby, a smiley crew member,  also brought over a fresh bowl of water and…yep, a ship’s biscuit, well, some crumbly homemade shortbread, anyway!

Our bedroom wasn’t quite ready for us to occupy so, after we had enjoyed our break, Mum decided to take me for a little stroll.  She wrapped up warm – I didn’t need a coat as I am sporting a rather thick one of my own at the moment – and off we set.

Swish went the doors… shiver me timbers, it was a bit chilly!  My nose engaged with the crisp air – I took in a deep breath and swirling around my nostrils I could identify the smell of the river but not in a pongy kind of a way but in an ‘outdoorsy’ fresh kind of way.

Within a matter of moments, I was off the lead, trotting alongside the River Stour (or so my Mum told me it was called).  I spotted boats, quacking ducks, and hissing swans, all bobbing on the water. In front of the bandstand, we spotted even more birds gathered, noisily vying for attention from the passers by who came armed with bags of seed and bread.  

Watching from the distance, Mum explained to me that ‘the hotel supports the organisations that look out for birds on the river.’  ‘Even the hissing ones!’ I ventured!

I was thrilled to find ‘sticks’ in abundance on the park that ran alongside the Stour.  There, we freely played, until Mum put me on the lead to walk around the Priory grounds.

Priory to our port side, we walked past an interesting looking statue (couldn’t quite make that one out) and onwards we ambled through a little woodland. Popping out the other end, we stopped in our tracks for a moment to take in the magnificence of the religious building. 

Through the arch we went, strolling through the rose garden stopping to take in the view by the bridge until we reached the base of a mound, where I scampered up to the top and sat within the ruins of a castle … I felt like I was King of the Castle! 

Carefully, we climbed down and walked back towards the hotel, the river on our starboard side.  Brrr, it was chilly, I was looking forward to ‘swishing’ back in to the warm!

The gentleman on reception announced that our room was now ready and our bags had already been sent up, so that was bonzer news. (Oops, hard to break the habit of a lifetime, albeit just a 22 month old lifetime!)

En route to our bedroom, Mum stopped briefly to admire the pictures on the walls painted by local artists.  She also peered into the glass cabinets displaying nautical styled gifts and bespoke jewellery that she seemed to also like very much.

We opted to take the stairs rather than the lift to the first floor – apparently, all the bedrooms have river views and the hotel allows us pooches to stay in any one of the twelve suites.  ‘Suite number 102 Basil, this is us. ‘ She said, sliding the key into the door.


Open sesame… Mum was clearly as happy as the dogs playing on the riverbank. Venturing through the hallway, she pointed out the ‘contemporary style and quality fittings’ within the open plan lounge, dining room and kitchen area.  But, most importantly, I spotted a bed just for me! 

Scooting around the lounge, we made our way into one of the bedrooms where Mum gave me strict orders not to jump up on either of the twin beds!

Together, we strolled into the master bedroom, complete with its own en-suite shower room. (She forgot to tell me not to jump up on the bed in this room!) 

After a photo, I jumped down to peer out of the window.  I loved the fact that both the bedrooms and the lounge had amazing views of the River so I could keep a watchful eye on the comings and goings of those messing about on the opposite bank.

We continued our walkabout (aghhh, I am trying)… inspecting the bathroom, which had a bath (funnily enough), a modern glass sink and lovely fluffy towels – I sniffed those out for Mum pronto!  ‘Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, robes and slippers. Yes, that will do nicely,’ murmured Mum.  

‘But, what’s this room? I conveyed through puppy dog eyes and a tilt to the head.  Mum explained that it was a ‘home cinema’ – ‘So, should we leave you in the suite on your own, you could watch a film to keep you occupied.’ I felt all at sea at the mere notion. ‘Only joking Basil, as if we’d leave you in the room!’ Panic averted, I happily continued to follow Mum around our spacious pad that was to be our home for 24 hours.

Our smiles continued to widen as we once again entered the kitchen where we spotted some bowls, walking map and some personalised doggy treats laid out especially for me. 

Mum read from the welcome letter, which included some house guidelines for us pooches.  Mindful of one of the requests, she placed my protective blanket on the comfortable sofa, and there we sat, all cuddled up, chilling out together.

Before we could get too comfortable, it was soon time for us to meet Anna, my lovely vet, who was joining us for an Afternoon Tea.  I was very excited.

It took me less than 30 seconds to get ready; to change my collar and lead –  whereas for Mum, a little bit longer.  We headed towards the door, stopping by the long mirror, fleetingly, to check ourselves out. With a small approval bob of the head, we made our way downstairs, passing the nautical nods to luggage and round windows on the way.

Pulling open the Lounge door, we could instantly hear the easy sound of friendly chatter. We observed fresh faces sitting on stools at the Quay Bar and on the many comfortable sofas and seats dotted around the Lounge . 

I spotted even more pooches that I could say G’day to from afar but, wait a minute, dinki-di, I recognize that face… it was Paul!  I’d met him before. He was the Food & Beverage Services Manager.

Walking with purpose towards us – cue, wagging tail snake movement – he smiled and gestured towards the location of our reserved table. My greeting was a scrubbed head whilst he enquired if Mum would like to have a glass of Taittinger in the Lounge or at the bar first before going to our table?  Silly question really, he obviously had a lot to learn where Mum and Champagne were concerned but I liked him very much. 

He joined us for a while and shared the exploits of his own pooch, Baxter, the Beagle.  I was, of course, enthralled, and continued to wag my tail with enthusiasm – rewarded by not only a hug but a treat too!   

When Anna arrived we took our seats at our corner table which also had lovely views over the terrace and out on to the river.  ‘Hmmm, now let’s look at the menu, shall we Basil?’ Anna considered.

Anna recounted the menu in full. It all sounded lovely with a mixture of savoury wraps, finger sandwiches, scones with cream and strawberry and ‘champagne’ jam (Mum’s eyes lit up with that one) followed by some homemade cakes and pastries. ‘Two of those please!’ Mum promptly requested whilst lifting up her glass of bubbly towards Anna. ‘Cheers.’

When the Afternoon Tea arrived, you could hear the muttering of the immortal words…  ‘We can’t possibly finish all this!’ But, funnily enough, they both managed splendidly. I managed splendidly too… hoovering up the crumbs.  

Tums full, after saying toodle-oo to Anna, we wandered back to our room where I was thrilled to see that Dad had joined ship!  There, we played together but after all that frolicking, I felt compelled to have a little kip.

A few hours later, fully rested, din-dins beckoned.  Downstairs the environment was buzzy and noticeably different from the day time; lights were dimmed, candles lit, background music now slightly more foreground but in a ‘cool bar’, ‘we-still–want-to-be able-to-talk’ kind of way.

Paul greeted us once again, this time he came fully prepared with a cocktail and bar menu. Mum plumped for the Virgin Mojito whilst Dad chose a Czech lager which was apparently very tasty.   

Jumping down from my Dad’s lap, I took the opportunity to sniff out some more new pals in the bar and to ‘high paw’ those crew members serving behind it. 

It was soon time for us to take our seats at our table, which, although not situated within the 2 AA rosette Club Restaurant, was located within a comfortable formal area of the Lounge.

Sitting next to our table was a pleasant couple and their pooch. Gypsy was a two year old, long-haired Dachshund and very friendly.  Whilst our Human Parents happily engaged in some chitchat, my partner in crime and I set about coaxing a treat or two out of Michael the Host – I’d sussed out the stash sitting enticingly on one of the Welcome Desk shelves a little bit earlier – he had little choice, strength in numbers and all that!

My HPs immersed themselves in the menu, ‘overseen by head chef Andrew Gault.’ After what seemed an age of contemplation, changing their minds each at least twice, they finally ordered the Salmon Gravadlax with Conker gin & beetroot cured salmon, caper berries, pickled fennel, roast honey beetroot and lemon zest and the Scallops with salsify puree, golden raisin and crispy chorizo.

By the sound of it, the starters were enjoyed very much. 

Next on the agenda was ‘Fish of the Day’ for Mum which was Rock Bass, served with new potatoes and mixed vegetables whilst Dad selected the Bavette Steak – slow cooked 27 day aged beef, mashed potato, tomato concasse and creamed chanterelle mushrooms.

Again, I think they enjoyed that course too!

Mind you, I wasn’t left out. I was asked whether I’d like to choose anything from the Doggy Menu? (A range of dry food choices of fresh salmon, chicken & rice, Lamb & Rice or Senior Turkey and Rice – some grain and gluten free.) Or, ‘Chef could cook up something fresh… either a chicken breast or maybe a juicy steak?’ My mouth was salivating but as I’m on a strict diet at the moment, trying to get on top of my itchy paws, Mum had to sadly decline. I was a little hangdog but I settled down to my game kibble right enough.  No worries!

Dessert time. Mum chose the Mille-Feullie, black cherry & chocolate mousse whilst Dad selected the French Vanilla & Mascarpone Torte, berry fluid gel, custard puree and blackberries.   I love my Dad, he gave me a tiny dollop of his pud to make up for my disappointment.

Relaxing at the table, considering whether my HPs had space for the homemade treats to accompany their coffee, the proprietors of the hotel, Tim and Robert, along with some of their friends, invited us to join them. Fair dinkum, I love a nice fire and social gathering…  it wasn’t long before Willow the hotel’s pooch joined us too which made the occasion even more special.

We swapped stories and sang sea shanties (we didn’t really but I thought it would be fun to throw in a nautical-isms here), but we did have such a beaut time.  

A quick nose to nose goodnight to Willow…

… before popping out with Dad for my evening constitutionals whilst Mum went on up to our suite to prepare some hot drinks, made with the fresh milk that had been left so thoughtfully for us in the fridge. There, we settled down as a family for the rest of the evening. Bliss!

The distant sound of halyards brushing against the masts of the boats swaying on the river in the breeze was mesmerizing and sent us all off pleasantly into a deep slumber.


The next morning we woke well rested, nice and early; peering out of the bedroom window, from what I could tell, it looked like it was going to be a far brighter day – it was a little hard to gauge as it was only just turning light but I could just sense it.

After donning my harness, Dad grabbed an obligatory poo bag before taking me out for a quick early morning ‘wee’.  We made our way to the front door, stopping by to bid ‘G’day’ to Nicci on reception.

‘Swish’ and we were outside. Taking in a deep breath, as if to set us up for the day, we strolled the short distance to the riverbank. The wildlife were still asleep; huddled together, heads tucked under their wings, gently bobbing in sync with the movement of the tide… all was so peaceful.

Mum watched from our bedroom window for our impending return before making her way down to join us.

Guests and their pooches were still deep in slumber, so, as the hotel was quiet, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take some photos in the lounge and at the entrance to the Club Restaurant.  Well, after all, I do have to earn my keep, in particular, my breakfast! 😉

Nicci had kindly arranged for us to eat together, so we returned to the familiar table that had been allocated the evening before. I was famished… early birds catch the worm and all that, or, in my case, hopefully tea, toast and Marmite!

After receiving instructions to stay on my blanket next to the table, ‘like a good boy’, Mum and Dad wandered through to the Restaurant to inspect the buffet which had been I-spied during my photo shoot; Dorset cereals, yoghurts, cheese and hams, fresh fruit, home made granola, fresh honeycomb and pouring honey, and, if that wasn’t enough, a selection of breakfast pastries including croissants, pain au chocolat, cinnamon swirls & Danishes!

Dad returned to our table carrying, with great care so as not to spill any, glasses of juice whilst Mum took her seat to order two full cooked English breakfasts.

I was offered a sausage by the lovely crew member but, alas, as you may suspect, Mum had to decline.  The breakfast arrived promptly… Dad commented upon the bacon being lovely and thick and very tasty.

I was, however, happy as an ant-eater with a long sticky tongue to the prospect of being fed some toast and Marmite!   

During the time that it took to eat our leisurely breakfast, the weather had, indeed, turned out rather lovely so we decided to take in the sunshine and walk off our brekkies. No complaints from me, I loved mucking about by the river!  

The birds were now wide awake and even the swans seemed to be more serene this morning, with a distinct lack of ‘hissiness’ – it must have been the sunshine!  It makes everyone feel so much more light-hearted, doesn’t it?

Reluctantly, Mum and Dad expressed that it would soon be time for us to leave.  Returning to our suite; bags were busily being packed.  I took the time to take one last look out of the window…

and, what a view!

Our time at the Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa had now, all too soon, come to an end… all that there was left to do was to salute the crew for their friendly service and to say cheerio to my pal, Nicci, the head receptionist.   Fare ye well, The Captain’s Club, thank you for welcoming us aboard. ‘Everything’ was truly ship shape and Bristol fashion.  It’s definitely a sailor’s life for me!

A Word from Mum

Although it was Basil’s original intention to scatter his Review with a plethora of nautical-isms, after experiencing the hotel, I think he felt that it was important to reflect the Captain’s Club sentiments and, well, simply not to over do it!

In my opinion, the hotel’s true focus is apparent and that is to provide the very best experience within the most perfect of settings.

The environment is stylish.  The atmosphere is both calm and buzzy, depending upon the time of day or night. The facilities are extensive.  The food is great.  The service is friendly and the bedrooms along with their stunning views have the WOW factor.  The hotel is, also, in my opinion, totally unique in terms of its location with the riverbank, park, beach, New Forest and the vibrant historical town of Christchurch all on its doorstep.

This is a very special dog ‘welcoming’ hotel and if asked to come again, our response would, following Basil’s suit, be an unequivocal, ‘Aye, Aye, Captain!’


Basil and his Human Parents were guests of the Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa

‘Let sleeping dogs lie.’
Robert Walpole (first Prime Minister of Great Britain)


Basil’s review is posted ‘in his opinion’. Although he has been entirely honest about his experience, as ‘toast’, ‘tea’ and ‘sticks’ are high on his ‘happiness’ agenda, please feel free to undertake your own research too – after all he is just a dog, albeit a rather discerning one! - Karen, Basil's Mum

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Creature Comfort Critique

As friends of non-pooch owners, we do appreciate that not everyone wishes to share their social space with our four legged friends. (Hard to believe, we know, however, each to their own).

We appreciate, therefore, that hotels, B&Bs and pubs/restaurants with rooms must have a tricky time striving to create the perfect environment for everyone.

Based upon those venues that we feel, as a family, have struck a perfect balance, the experience has been critiqued from a highly-attached pet owner’s perspective (also a seasoned venue find agent), rating the comfort, convenience and inclusivity that we experienced when travelling with Basil.

It’s a bit of fun, based on our own opinions but, hopefully, will be a useful insight to fellow discerning travellers.

Ample car parking
Staff greeting
Location of bedroom
Accommodation grounds fit for pooch
Bits and bobs helpful for caring for pooch
Bedroom comfort
Inclusivity (to eat and drink together)
Comfort of dining area
Surrounding area suitable for pooches
Pooch information (ie walks) available
Overall pooch welcoming
Toasted to perfection
A lovely cup of tea
Accessibility to sticks
  1. The location couldn’t be better for pooches – with river walks, play park, beach and headland literally on the doorstep!
  2. The bedrooms are luxurious with the most fantastic views
  3. The hotel staff are sooooo dog welcoming

The Waterside Suite is a dedicated meeting space – a pillar free environment with natural daylight and direct access to a private terrace.

Suitable for conferences, team building and private dining events for up to 120 guests.

Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa
Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa
Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa

My Visit to Christchurch

The historical town of Christchurch is within walking distance.  Its Priory Church and Castle ruins help give an olde world charm to the attractive bustling town centre with its range of independent shops, high street stores and regular markets.  There are plenty of dog friendly restaurants, coffee shops and bars within the town itself.  It’s a delight to visit, even on a rather drizzly day!

All you need to know about Christchurch is here:

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'If you'd like to make contact and stay at the venue with your pooch, my Mum has gathered together some details for you.

Upon booking, would you mind mentioning that you read the venue's review on the Travel With Basil site?

I’d be like a dog with two tails if you did!'

Captain's Club Hotel & Spa
Wick Ferry,
Dorset, BH23 1HU

t: 01202 375086

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‘I love, love, love this website.’

Kos – London

‘Loved Basil’s blog… hooroo’

Jamesina – Dorchester

‘Can’t wait to find places that get the importance of families, kids and dogs, being able to share quality time together.’

Anna – Wimborne

‘We love spending our weekends with our puppy and love this website… ’

Steve – London

‘As a family of dog lovers, we have historically had to trawl through many many sites to find what often turns out to be anything but a dog “friendly” hotel! We can’t wait to have a dedicated website to proven dog friendly hotels. What a wonderful idea!’

Sarah – Bristol

‘Can’t wait to follow the gorgeous Basil on his travels.’

Grahame – Bristol

‘We’re looking forward to cuddling up with our puppy when at home, we want to do the same when we stay at a hotel.’

Sophie – London

‘Good luck with the website, can’t wait to see where Basil goes next!’

Phil – Cirencester

‘For my dog to relax, he needs to feel welcome… and so do I!’

Penny – Downton

‘I’m really looking forward to being able to have a review and reference site so I can travel with confidence with my two dogs safe in the knowledge that other dog owners have been happy there.’

Angie – Eccleshall