Shaftesbury, an ancient country seat, has seen its fair share of history. In 888 King Alfred founded an abbey here; in 1035 King Canute died within its walls. It is surrounded by flawless country, with Cranborne Chase rolling south for miles on end. By day you go in search of sweeping vistas, ancient woodlands, the odd prehistoric hill fort. By night you return to this cool inn to make merry. Inside, the sitting-room bar doubles as a café and acts as the hub of the inn; it’s open all day and buzzes with local life, so sink into a sofa, grab the daily papers and while away the afternoon. Elsewhere, an airy restaurant for wood-fired pizzas and local steaks, then a conservatory that opens onto a courtyard in good weather. Bedrooms upstairs are just the ticket: none are small, some are huge, all have warm colours, big beds and sparkling bathrooms. One opens onto a balcony, one suite comes with a chaise longue, the other has a claw-foot bath in the room; all have coffee machines, flat-screen TVs and posh oils. Gold Hill, a steep cobbled street around the corner, is famous for its timeless view.