On a rainy Spring day, after a few months of hard work and city life I craved a peaceful escape. Somewhere to recharge, explore and nourish my body with fantastic food and a serene landscape. So I set off on the motorway for 2 nights away. Where to? Nestled amidst the verdant landscapes of the Dorset and Somerset border lies a haven steeped in history and hospitality – The Queen’s Arms.

For the Mackenzie-Francis family who bought and renovated The Queen’s Arms in 2020, this was more than just a business opportunity; it was a beloved local pub  where they had forged cherished memories living in the neighboring village, and a place they couldn’t wait to make their own. 

Doune Mackenzie-Francis, the director of The Queen’s Arms, was excited to dive into this new project bringing her culinary expertise and passion for hospitality to the forefront, ensuring that every guest is treated to an unforgettable experience. Her journey, from training at the esteemed Ballymaloe Cookery School to rubbing shoulders with culinary luminaries at Leiths School of Food and Wine, had imbued her with a profound understanding of what it takes to delight the senses and nourish the soul.

But it’s not just Doune who shapes the soul of The Queen’s Arms; in the heart of the establishment lies the kitchen, where Head Chef Rich Townsend (formerly at The Newt) and his team work tirelessly to conjure culinary masterpieces using the finest local ingredients. On my stay I experienced some unforgettable food, as a vegetarian pub-dining hasn’t always been easy, let alone jaw droppingly delicious. On both evenings I devoured the treacle and oat bread with marmite butter and a fantastic starter of Wild mushroom parfait with pickled shemiji mushrooms, tarragon emulsion and chargrilled bread. This parfait was like none other, and a must-order. Along with two incredible mains I enjoyed during my stay including a favourite of grilled broccoli, crispy chilli and garlic, charred halloumi, teriyaki mushrooms and cashew cream. 

Beyond its culinary delights its newly designed interiors were food for the eyes. Speaking to Doune over coffee on my last morning she told me about the adventure she’d had with her friend Rupert picking out all the materials and fabrics to furnish the pub in. Finding old family photos from Scotland and heirlooms to bring into the space to give it a sense of personal history. With the idea to use bold colours in the pub including the incredibly beautiful Edward Bulmer paint, Azurite that you can’t help but swoon over in the main restaurant area and soothing softer tones in the coach house. 

The room we stayed in was in the coach house; with antique furniture and beautiful textiles the room was both spacious, warm and cosy, pulled together with divine Jane Clayton green and pink ikat curtains. Lovely 100 acre products for hair and body care were found in the bathroom with tea and coffee trays ready and waiting. They have 10 bedrooms with dog friendly options and a small cottage for a family getaway. 

Staying just 10 minutes from Sherborne, a beautiful honey-coloured town full of market stands, antique shops and many historic buildings to explore; from the incredible Abbey, to the Caste & Gardens. If you’re traveling with a four legged friend in tow, or like to explore your surroundings on foot The Queen’s Arms leave a beautifully illustrated map of the local walks, of which there are many with extensive view over the valley.

Whether you’re seeking a tranquil retreat amidst the rolling green hills or a taste of authentic English hospitality, The Queen’s Arms beckons with open arms. With ten refurbished bedrooms, including dog-friendly options and a quaint cottage nestled in its embrace, it offers a wonderful base for a min-break to Dorset. I’ll be back!

words by Saskia Gregson-Williams