Port Light hotel, Bolberry Down

Port Light hotel, Bolberry Down

Sitting high on Bolberry Down outside Salcombe in Devon, the Port Light hotel calls itself ‘the most pet friendly hotel in the UK’ and it’s certainly got a good claim to the title.

For example, the hotel has a pet food fridge, dog wash (really) and large trays in all rooms for placing dog bowls in. As far as we could see there were no limits on the number of dogs you could bring – we met someone with four Viszlas.

We went a few years ago but the hotel’s still under the same management, so can reasonably be expected to offer the same sort of service. The hotel itself was at one point a golf club and has a feel of that still in the way it looks – square and white – but it makes up for any plainness in its stunning views.

To get to the hotel you drive down some of Devon’s classic narrow lanes (beware, those green sides are full of stones). A moderately steep and narrow lane leads to the hotel itself and a breathtaking view over the south coast with the sea glittering in the sunlight.

Because the hotel’s so dog-friendly you’ll find plenty of pooches around – it is very popular. You can bring your pets into the bar area, which is where everyone eats (there’s a separate dining room for anyone who doesn’t fancy eating with dogs in attendance, though we never saw it used during our stay).

This relaxed attitude to dogs at the table is also handy because you can’t leave them unattended in rooms, which means your other alternative is the car. For a hot summer’s day there are also some outside benches.

The hotel grounds lead onto some lovely moorland – wonderful walking territory, though we kept our dogs on their leads because at the edge of the moorland are the cliffs. During our stay we joked that the hotel was really close to the beach, the trouble being that it was 200ft straight down.

You can however walk along the cliffs in either direction and gain access to beaches – it’s about three or four miles to Hope Cove in a walk that has some bad moments if you suffer from vertigo, and less in the other direction to a lovely little cove. I would add that these aren’t walks for anyone who doesn’t like the odd scramble. The dogs managed easily though, despite Lexie trying hard to eyeball the sheep (giving me nightmares about being run over the cliff by a posse of panicking ewes).

The hotel has two outside bedrooms with their own patio areas – we had one of these and found it very handy and self contained. The room was comfortable and modern, a decent size with a tiled area where you could towel down a damp setter.

The food isn’t bad, and well priced, home cooked and locally sourced. You’ll find things like curries and lamb shanks, lasagne and seafood pie on the menu, a sample of which can be found on the hotel website here.

So, there are plenty of pros. Cons? Well, if you have large dogs you’re going to have to try to get yourself on one of the large tables in the dining area, as the smaller tables at the far end aren’t really suitable as we discovered. A very large and sleepy setter doesn’t fit easily under those small tables, and staff were having to step over bits of him to deliver food – the owner did ask us nicely if we could move him, but there was nowhere to move him to… It’s a conundrum I hope they have solved in the intervening years.

It’s a middling-priced hotel, as of now around £100 per room per night B&B depending on the season and the room, add around an extra £40 for dinner bed and breakfast. Pets stay free.

The area’s gorgeous – the views from the hotel are extraordinary and you’re not far from the yachting heaven that is Salcombe. Totnes and Dartmouth aren’t far, and there are plenty of beaches – the hotel has a list of those that have dog restrictions and those where dogs are welcome. It’s a lovely area to explore, it helps if you’re fit to get the most out of it and if you have a head for heights you have it made.