Basil’s Review & Critique

Basil’s Brush With ...

To be honest I didn’t know very much about the Isles of Scilly nor had I consider it to be an ideal location to take Basil but after our friends had encouraged us to reassess our own bucket list, their praise of the cornish Isles of Scilly awakened our spirit of adventure… Karma St Martin’s, here we come!

‘I get that you may feel a bit daft Basil but you know your Mum, ‘safety first!’’ Dad busied himself putting on my buoyancy aid in preparation of us boarding a transfer boat now being expertly docked alongside St Mary’s quayside. 

Gingerly, my Mum and I made our way down the steps until we were level with the boat’s bobbing deck.  After being hoisted on board (hmmm, okay, those handles on the buoyancy aid did come in handy after all), Mum chose our outdoor seats and I settled down next to the wooden bench. 

‘Ah, here comes my mate, Monty.’  We met on the quay and he was off to St Martin’s too! The sun was shining and the sea was calm and bluer than a blue thing. 

After setting sail, my Human Parents (or HPs for short as you may remember I like to call them) took turns to navigate their way around the boat to find the best spot to gaze at the views and to try to establish which of the many islands ahead was our destination – whereas, I was perfectly happy just basking in the sunshine, sitting quietly next to my new pal, no worries.

Within half an hour, I could sense the heightened excitement of the guests as the ‘Voyager of St Martin’s’ slowed and manoeuvered its way towards a charming jetty. The passengers occupied themselves by gathering up their bags, ready to alight, and to set foot on the subtropical island of St Martin’s.

Waiting on the quayside was a welcoming committee ready to warmly greet us fellow pooches and voyagers.  After enduring the momentary embarrassment of being ceremoniously lifted by my handy handles from the deck onto the picture perfect pier… four paws safely on terra firma, we were enthusiastically greeted by staff members of the hotel. ‘Hello Basil, welcome to Karma St Martin’s.  My name’s Fynn.’

After shaking hands, Dad set about removing my snazzy jacket; peering through the gaps between his arms, I could see that the hotel, situated right next to the jetty, didn’t really look like a hotel at all – it seemed that Mum was thinking the exact same thing, I could hear her chatting to one of the other passengers about it ‘resembling a small cluster of stone cottages rather than a luxury beachside resort’.  Well, as an, ahem, seasoned traveller myself, I must say that it did ‘blend perfectly into its landscape.’  And… the hotel was literally a stone’s throw from the beach so dinky-di, I couldn’t be more pleased! Obediently, we followed the cheery lady who seemed perfectly dressed in black trousers, stripy T and flats, off we strolled up the exotic flaura framed pathway, stopping briefly to be introduced to and say G’day to Bjorn the General Manager. 

After a quick tickle under the chin (given by Bjorn, not the other way around, as that would be a wee bit over familiar at this stage), I trotted through reception and out on to the front lawn for an informal check-in.

There, my HPs were served some welcome drinks of ginger, lemon and soda water, (and a fresh bowl of water for me) as they took their seats at a table ideally positioned to take in the breathtaking panoramic coastal views overlooking the very blue waters and surrounding islands.  Fynn, who later introduced herself as the Assistant Front Office Manager, explained to us that the islands that we could see were of Tean and Tresco.  As lovely as they were, I was, however, more interested in checking out the grass before sniffing the fresh air and enjoying the spring-time breeze. By crikey that was good! 

It was soon time for our show-round and I was pleased to hear that there were very few places (namely the Lower Restaurant and Spa) that I wasn’t allowed to visit but I was welcome everywhere else within the hotel and its grounds. 

Mum absorbed the ambience of the hotel and at the same time, got out her pad.  She makes notes for me you see. Looking upwards as if searching for some divine inspiration, she penned, ‘luxurious in its simplicity, contemporary, yet cosy… in a very cool way’. Mum went on that the vision was ‘conceptualized’, whatever that may mean, by Tina Kirschner an award winning Interior Designer.

Making our way through the Bar and Lounge area, our bedroom was on the ground floor.  It was a Superior room called ‘Dolphin’. Passing rooms Annet, Borlase and Carnweathers en route, apparently, all of the thirty bedrooms are named after connections with St Martin’s and located in alphabetical order.  So, you could never get lost.  Mum liked that idea!

Turning the ‘real’ key – another thing that Mum seemed to approve of, Dad was pleased to see that our luggage was already waiting in our room.  (You may recall, that he normally fashions himself on a mighty fine pack horse, heavily laden with our copious, packed to the gunnels, ‘just in case’ luggage.)

I agree with Mum, ‘the room was subtly designed to reflect the natural setting, incorporating colours of blue and green with white furniture and crisp linen and a king size bed!  Light and airy, it had the most lovely view out over the front garden showcasing the Scillonian waters and islands beyond – perfect sightline for me to keep a watchful eye over the comings and goings and natural inhabitants of the islands!

Protective throw stretched out over the bed, tick – my HPs know I’m a sucker for a comfortable place to lie – they checked out the room’s facilities; fresh milk in the fridge, tick! Robes and slippers, tick.  Observing, from my comfortable vantage point, next on their To Do List came the unenviable task of unpacking the array of ‘just in case’ clothing.  I kept myself occupied by playing one of my favorite games.  ‘I spy with my little eye,’ ah yes, ‘something beginning with B.’ Blanket, bowl and biscuits and they are all for me.  Shucks, gets me every time, I just love my creature comforts.

Looking out of our window, we could see that the sun was soon to set, so we made our way out of the hotel – a short five minute stroll up a lane dotted along the way with a few pretty homes –  where we found The Seven Stones pub which, as advised by Ty, the F&B Manager, had the best vantage point to watch the sun go down over the islands.

Outside we sat, taking in the vista. Mum ordered a Cornish Gin of orange & honey whilst Dad plumped for the Cornish Pilsner.  Me?  Well, there was plenty of fresh water available.  As the last of the evening sun danced on our table, Mum absently observed, ‘Even the gin and tonic sparkles.’

The view didn’t fall short of expectations… Dad pointed out the far island being Tresco whilst closest to us was the uninhabited island of Tean.  He went on to explain that the stretch of water nestled in-between was called ‘Tean Sound’.  I was most impressed by his knowledge. Alas, he was reading from information provided by Fynn but I still love him all the same!

Strolling back down the lane, I sniffed the Wild Garlic (Mum wasn’t so wild about that, given her allergy to the bulb) but I loved the smell and I also came nose to beak with some chickens.

There was just enough time for us to have a little relax in our room before changing for dinner.   When dressed, I thought that I looked rather smart in my tan ‘shiny’ collar whereas Mum and Dad’s ‘smart casual’ choice selected from their extensive ‘just in case’ wardrobe, fitted in perfectly. 

Dad suggested that he take me off to the beach for a quick ‘wee’, whilst Mum made her way to the Wine Lounge & Library.  Here, the area housed books (as you may well expect) and games along with a record player and a cracking collection of vinyl.  It also was the home of the unique wine dispenser and Mum had in her possession a magical ‘wine tasting’ card.  Some may say that this was not the brightest move on Dad’s part.  Peering through the glass cabinets of the aptly named Wine Emotion System, Mum got quite emotional after spotting two of her favorite vintage wines from the World range.  One swipe of the card and they were hers for the tasting!

There we left Mum; glass of Puligny Montrachet in one hand thumbing through the hotel’s vinyl with the other – selecting, with glee, a Barbara Streisand LP out of the collection. 

Walking back into the Lounge area, I was thankful that she hadn’t taken up the hotel’s offer to become DJ for the night … By jingo, I love a bit of Barbara like the next pooch but thankfully the order of the background music for the evening remained the chilled vibe of jazz fusion but not in a tinky-tonk, saxophone re-make, lift-y kind of way, but in a relaxed, cool kind of way, suitable for the most critical of jazz enthusiasts! 

Mum and Dad took a seat on the comfortable leather sofa whilst I turned my attention to a member of staff who was walking with her hands outstretched towards me. Inga was very lovely and after a quick cuddle placed a special Karma’s Kanine Menu on the table.  I couldn’t read but Mum recited it out loud to me… I could choose from a ‘Super Smoothie’, a ‘Big Bag of Bone’s, ‘Posh Dog’s Crunch’, ‘A Royal Dog’s Dinner’, ‘Skinny Dog Special’ and for dessert, some ‘Pavlov’s Ice’.

Mum plumped for the Royal Dog’s Dinner – way to go Mum – a meal of steak strips, brown rice and vegetables topped with a low sodium gravy.  Bonzer! 

My HPs then ordered for themselves; Salt & Pepper fried Squid and Charred Tandoori Scallops (with mini chickpeas, Cornish yoghurt and lemon gel), followed by Honey Baked Duck Breast with sliced potatoes, carrot puree, tender stem broccoli and rosemary glaze for Mum along with Pan Fried Turbot with lobster squid ink ravioli, ruby chard, clams and minestrone of seasonal greens for Dad.

After sipping, evidently, two rather lovely glasses of Gevrey Chambertin from the magic dispenser, we were taken to our table situated on the upper part of the Cloudesley Shovell Restaurant (named after the Admiral who was an English Naval Officer and sadly lost his life when shipwrecked off the Island so the story hung on the wall told).

Sitting comfortably, I laid alongside my HPs and close to Monty 2, another Border Terrier (not to get confused with Monty 1 my first bestie I met on the quayside).  My HPs were served some Amuse Bouche to tantalize their taste buds followed soon after by their starters… meanwhile, I sat patiently waiting for my dinner.

Drum roll please… din-dins arrived – with some extra green beans and asparagus  – the staff had overheard how much I liked veg! 😉

All this sea air made us very hungry so we tucked enthusiastically into our dishes of steak, squid and scallops.

Dad was delighted to have chosen the seafood as he explained to us that ‘the hotel donates £1.00 to The National Lobster Hatchery to help conserve vulnerable stocks.’  He seemed very happy to have helped contribute in a small way but mostly he was happy, in a big way, with his menu choice! Whereas I can confirm, as per the pet menu name, it was defo tasty and fit for a King!

Next the main courses came of Duck and Turbot – having had my dinner already, I sat and waited for any crumbs that came my way!

Although I would have very much liked the scoop of vanilla ice cream with a dog biscuit wafer, I had had enough treats during the day but my HPs still seemed to have room in their tummies for something sweet.  Mango Cheesecake (with poached berries) for Mum along with an Assiette of Apple (apple sorbet, panna cotta and tart tatin with apple crisps and butterscotch sauce) for Dad. Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to have a Barbara sing song; ‘We’ve got nothing to be Guilty of’… as my HPs certainly didn’t seem to be!

Full tums.  It had been a long day.  Our beds beckoned…

***

The next day, Mum threw back the curtains to reveal, ta dah, another beaut day!  The sun was shining and apart from the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore and the birds twittering away hidden within the island’s distinctive vegetation, not another sound spoiled the moment.  Apart from me, I had a ball and I let it be known that I wanted to play on the beach.  Dad duly complied. 

We left Mum muttering to herself about some clothes that would have been perfect for today but she had neglected to pack.  (Strewth, hard to fathom, given the amount of luggage we had with us!)  As we closed the bedroom door on our way out, Dad and I noticed a note tucked under our door name. ‘Self-confidence is the best outfit.  Rock it and own it.’  I liked that. It could be my new mantra and, of course, the sentiment might just strike a chord with Mum, forever a Rock Chic at heart!

Dad and the all new confident me arranged to meet Mum back in the Restaurant for breakfast where my HPs helped themselves to the buffet consisting of fresh juices, Karma Bircher Muesli & cereals, fresh fruits, Cornish cured meats, baked ham and cheeses and assorted breads and pastries – Aymie took their cooked order of Eggs Benedict and a sausage for me!  

Set for the day, it was time to explore the Island!  Layers were the order of the day for my HPs as it was a bit cloudy but Dad said that the weather forecast indicated that the sun promised to break through as the day progressed.

Stopping briefly to look at the many accolades the hotel had been awarded and to pick up a map of the Island, Dad asked for some route guidance from the lovely Melanie and Meyer in reception. 

Noting the doggy towels by the front door on our way out – made me feel a little more relaxed (so did Mum) that it would be okay to get a bit wet and sandy during our exploration. 

It was lovely to feel so free – off lead, I walked and ran like the clappers, without a care, from the moment we set off from the rear of the hotel.  (Passing the dedicated poo bins along the way – Dad always happy to tick this off our dog ‘welcoming’ list.)  We followed the heathery cliff paths, stopping regularly for my HPs to take in the views of the rugged undeveloped coastline, peppered with the yellow flower of the Western Gorse.

My nose successfully sought out secluded bays, coves and beaches of powdery soft, white sand. Crystal clear seas surrounded us with uninterrupted views of the islands.  It was as if we were the only ones on the Island!

Passing pretty stone cottages, we made our way inland where the contrasting landscape presented us with fields, fenced by dry stone walls and Pittosporum hedges, built to protect the famous scented Narcissi from the Atlantic winds – sadly, for us, just out of season but it was still a lovely sight.

We didn’t quite make it all the way around the two mile long Island but just shy of four hours later, we returned via the beach….

Having grabbed a doggy towel from the basket, we made a beeline for the oasis that was the familiar table positioned perfectly on the sand within the hotel’s front garden.  

There we sat quietly reflecting upon the day with a sense of calmness, our thoughts momentarily interrupted, when joined by the ‘new pooch on the block’, Hendricks.  Hendricks, an Italian Pointer, a youngster like myself, bounded over to say hello.

A little spooked at first, although, as you know I am braver than a dingo in the outback, I soon warmed to Hendricks.  Mum left us and our Dads to get acquainted as she had an appointment at the spa.  ‘You boys have fun, I’m off to enhance my inner health and external beauty’ she exclaimed!

An hour or so later, back in our room, Dad and I were woken from our slumber as Mum wafted back in, looking a picture of relaxation after her ‘Sacred Balinese Massage.’ She explained that she had had a massage where essential oils and warm coconut oil had been poured over her body! Describing every detail of her massage, she made it sound amazing and actually, all that talk of food made me feel rather hungry! 

En route to the pub, having confirmed tomorrow’s boat departure time with the hotel, we bumped into M&M (Monty 1 and Morris his HP). Rapt that they happily accepted the invite, they joined us for drinkies on the terrace and accompanied us to dinner inside the quirky pub.   

‘What ho’, sitting on the bench taking in the view, were also Hendricks’ HPs – Hendricks was pooped from the walk so had been left in their bedroom… there the HPs chatted together easily.  The conversation turned to the now familiar topic of how best to describe the Island and the impact that it has on us, as visitors.

‘It’s like a mixture of the best of Scotland, ruggedness of Dartmoor and the Mediterranean flavour of Tuscany combined. I’m thinking, we could move here!’ I overheard one say. 

Back at the ranch, armed with a soft, clean blanket for me, we sat comfortably by the fire.  Aymie was on hand to offer a bowl of water – which I duly accepted.  After my ‘hand-watering’ I sat back to have a good read (well, to look at the front covers at any rate) from some books that Mum had chosen from the Library.  

The conversation continued to flow with other hotel guests with one recurring familiar topic.  ‘It’s like Mauritius on one hand but nothing like it on the other!  We were just thinking whether we should consider moving here.’ 

Hmmm, it seems that my HPs were not the only ones aspiring to best describe the Island by means of a comparison to other places visited.  Nor were they alone with their contemplation that living on St Martin’s could be idyllic.

With that lovely thought in mind… it was time for bed.

***

Today’s Morning Post read… ‘The secret of being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most out of everyday.’  ‘Well, fair dinkum, I’m very happy being here and about to make the most of it, so we’re on track!’

It was such a beautiful morning so Mum thought it would be a special experience to take our breakfast outside to enjoy the tranquil surroundings one last time.

Our bags were all packed, so after breakfast we still had plenty of time to chill together and to take in the spiffy surroundings for one last time…

and, have a walkabout.

All too soon, it was, however, time for us to be off.  Just enough time to have a photo taken with my new pals…

before returning to reception to say toodle-oo to Meyer, Melanie, Bjorn, Ty and the rest of the lovely Karma team.

Sad to leave, we reluctantly climbed on board one of the few vehicles that we had actually seen on the Island which would take us and other guests and their pooches, including Hendricks (yay), a few minutes down the road to a larger jetty to catch the boat to St Mary’s, homeward bound.

The team waved us off and as I waved a paw back – I could sense another ‘Barbara’ moment coming on. I may not be ‘A Woman in Love’ but I am very much a pooch that has fallen for the charms of this captivating island.

***

A Word from Mum:

Karma St Martin’s, as the name may suggest… it is impossible to separate the hotel from the Island, they are intrinsically linked – both enchanting and serene.

The Isles of Scilly are very special and as hard as one might try, the Scilly Isles and, in particular, where we were concerned, St Martin’s, in our opinion, cannot be compared to any other location as there simply isn’t any other location like St Martin’s.

All who step their sock free foot onto the Island and feel the soft white sand between their toes seem to experience something extraordinary; a metamorphosis which awakens a longing for amongst other things, simplicity.

Basil couldn’t fail but to love Karma St Martin’s as he fed off our heightened wellbeing and he too felt relaxed, free and most definitely ‘welcome’.

It’s a place that takes you far from the everyday.  It provides the perfect environment to reconnect with yourself and, if you like, those close to you. Without wishing to sound to ‘happy-clappy’ it’s a place where you can rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.

My advice would be, therefore, to leave your heels and formal shoes behind, pack for leisure & comfort and travel with an open mind (and, of course, your pooch!)

Karma St Martin’s proclaims that it ‘provides the space and freedom to do everything – or next to nothing.  It is a magical, peaceful and unforgettable place – a resort that will surely leave you longing to return. ‘  Amen to that, I couldn’t agree more.

One thing is for sure, I’ve got something new to add to my bucket list… to once again return with Basil to Karma St Martin’s – the only difference being next time; we will stay longer (who knows, maybe forever 😉  ) and, most importantly, I will embrace my inner Rock Chick and try to travel light!

This little ‘tail’ was brought to you by Basil (with help from his Mum)
Basil and his Human Parents were guests of Karma St Martin’s
April 2018

‘Man is troubled by what might be called The Dog Wish, a strange and involved compulsion to be as happy and carefree as a dog.’
James Thurber

Disclaimer

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
  • N/A
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 Island – it simply couldn’t be better for walking with your pooch
  2. The hotel - super relaxed and super welcoming to Human Parents and pooches alike.
  3. Calmness, tranquility and simplicity – there simply couldn’t be anywhere better to spend quality time together with your pooch.

Conference and meeting facilities for up to 60 x delegates can take place in the Events and Wedding room...The Tean Suite.

The hotel is also ideally situated for outdoor activities and team building.

Day and overnight packages are available.

Karma St Martin’s
Karma St Martin’s
Karma St Martin’s

My Visit to St Martin’s

28 miles from the coast of Cornwall, St Martin’s is one of five inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly.

Around 120 people live on St Martin’s with around 140 islands uninhabited by people but home to wildlife and rare seabirds.

Exposed granite headland, white sandy beaches and rugged moorland make up the breathtaking island.  It is evident at the outset why the Isles of Scilly has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Island undeniably has fantastic a fantastic landscape including the iconic red and white Daymask but it also has a thriving local industry and community.  Slightly inland these include a tea room, art gallery, bakery and flower farm whilst nearer to the coast a busy snorkelling center for those hoping to come face to whisker with the Atlantic seals.

Owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, it is common place for members of the Royal Family to visit with Prince William and Catherine last seen ‘stomping the heathlands’ in 2016.

The Isle of Scilly Wildlife Trust manages the majority of the area of the Isles and plays an important role in protecting wildlife and habitats.  The Trust pays the princely sum of one daffodil per year for rent!

For more information about St Martin’s please see here.

https://www.visitislesofscilly.com/islands/st-martins

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Reservations

'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!'


Karma St Martin's
Lower Town, St. Martin's,
Isles of Scilly,
Cornwall,
TR25 0QW
(The hotel closes on the 30th October and re-opens on the 29th March.)

T: 01720 422368
E: reception@karmastmartins.com
W: www.karmastmartins.com

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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