While I’ve explored all over the New Forest for ALadyofLeisure.com, visiting hotels such as Chewton Glen, Lime Wood, Montagu Arms, Burley Manor and The Bell Inn, I had yet to make it all the way through the National Park to Lymington, right at the south-easterly corner of the New Forest where the Lymington River meets the Solent.
Thankfully I have now remedied this with my stay at the 29-bedroom Stanwell House hotel, which is right in the heart of Lymington. Even on a wet weekday in January, Lymington turned out to be a lively, bustling town with plenty of shops to browse in – both chains and independents – and a lovely cobbled area down by the quayside where yet more shops are to be found selling everything from scarves and earrings to pictures and touristy trinkets.
After a long bout of retail therapy, there’s nothing quite like a cup of coffee or stiff drink to restore energy and it was here where Stanwell House played its main role: its glass-topped conservatory was busy both mid-morning and afternoon with people laden down with bags and desperate for a restorative drink.
I’ll be honest and confess I wasn’t entirely sure about reviewing a B&B for ALadyofLeisure.com – not out of reasons of snobbery but because I usually write about hotels with massive restaurants, spa, acres of land and all the paraphernalia that comes with that kind of stay: I was worried that there just wouldn’t be enough to write about. Having stayed there, I’m now worried that I’m going to blether on for far too long about what a really lovely place Daisybank Cottage was.
From the friendly welcome to the immaculate and vast rooms, the excellent breakfast and the general feeling of being invited into someone’s lovely home and being really well looked after, Daisybank Cottage didn’t put a foot wrong. I can’t recommend it highly enough and have already been telling everyone I know that they need to look no further if they want a perfect New Forest weekend away.
Basics first: my room was larger than your average hotel room, with a huge double bed, wardrobe, large mirrors, plug points everywhere (including an extra one each side of the bed for your mobile so you didn’t have to unplug the digital radio or light), a separate lounge area with a sofa, fridge, coffee machine and TV and an immaculate bathroom with free-standing bath, cream shutters, walk-in shower and all the fluffy towels you could want.
It felt incredibly cosy and welcoming in a way that a hotel room isn’t and I instantly felt very at home. Each of the sevens rooms (four with bath, three with wetrooms) is individually styled with original artwork and excellent taste and leaves you thinking: ‘Why doesn’t my bedroom look like this?’
Run by the lovely Cheryl and Ciaran who are happy to invite you into their kitchen to warm yourself by the Aga with a cup of tea and a chat but are equally good at leaving you to your own devices, Daisybank Cottage is full of thoughtful little touches which you wouldn’t usually find in a hotel. I found little packets of ear-plugs in the bedside tables (you couldn’t hear the traffic anyway), homemade cupcakes, fresh milk, a massive DVD selection in the hallway for you to help yourself to, a pot of bath salts by the bath and even a bathboard to prop yourself up with should you wish to read while you relax in the tub. Continue reading Charming, boutique luxury at Daisybank Cottage bed and breakfast New Forest→
If you’re going to spend the night in a castle, then it’s appropriate to look the part, which is why it felt very fitting arriving at the luxury hotel Bovey Castle in the heart of Dartmoor in a £150,000 Aston Martin DB11.
A trio of valets clad in tweed plus-fours sprang into action to help us unload our luggage and admire the car (and point out that we seemed to have acquired a fair amount of the Devonshire countryside on the DB11, thanks to the incredibly narrow lanes we took to get there). However there wasn’t long to spend drooling over the car. Quentin, our archery instructor, had arrived for our lesson. See what living in a castle does to you?
Five minutes later we had walked through some of Bovey Castle’s rolling acres and swapped our very modern motor for a rather more traditional bow and arrow. The patient and friendly Quentin took us through the basics of how to shoot safely and accurately, and now it was up to us to put it into practice.
I managed to hit the target more often than not and even fluked a shot to the gold centre of the target. Flushed with success, I moved onto rifle shooting. This was much harder, with the tin cans and hanging yellow bath ducks proving much more elusive targets, until my friend Lisa suddenly ‘got it’ and was firing away like a modern Annie Oakley.
I left her to it while I made my way to our room, and when she returned half an hour later she was so pumped from her pinpoint accuracy with a lethal weapon that she barely noticed what a sumptuous suite we’d been given for the night: number 50, which was so vast we could probably have continued our target practice indoors.
There was a huge lounge with a walk-in closet, a vast bedroom, an equally large bath with freestanding tub and the whole suite was imbued with the air of luxury that only plush furnishings, epic views, a decanter of sloe gin and an ice bucket of Champagne can give. I could have happily spent the whole stay in our room.
I’ve been lucky to stay in some of the best hotel rooms in the country but for sheer romance it’s hard to beat a Beach Suite at the delightful Cary Arms and Spa on Babbacombe Bay, Devon – in the heart of the ‘English Riviera’. With a private terrace suspended over the beach, the views across the sweeping bay are your very own to enjoy, as is a lounge with flickering virtual fire and cosy sofa, an immaculate bathroom and a very smart bedroom, all decked out in a classic New England-style.
There are lovely touches, such as a coffee table handmade from stones and driftwood from the east coast of Scotland, a decanter of Plymouth sloe gin to tuck into, a bite-sized portion of seaside rock on your pillow instead of the usual chocolate and thick rugs for you to wrap yourself up in on the loungers outside for when the weather isn’t quite as clement as you’d hoped.
Some seaside hotels have great views but are far from the beach itself: the Cary Arms is right on the beach and has views to match from every room. The Beach Suites allow you to really embed yourself in the landscape, as both the lounge and bedroom have glass walls which fold back so you can roll out of bed onto the decking and simply spend the day soaking up the sun (or, if the weather is being very ‘British’ then enjoying the sight of the waves crashing onto Babbacombe beach).
There’s fast wifi, a fridge stocked with fresh milk and wine and the bathroom has all the fluffy towels and toiletries you could wish for (and a super-strong hairdryer). It’s the kind of place in which I’d love to live for a few months in glorious isolation, writing a novel while gazing at the waves, or enjoying a lengthy honeymoon with no-one to distract you except from the seagulls (seals – especially local favourite Sammy the seal – and even dolphins have also been spotted in the bay). Cary Arms can also be accessed directly from the beach and there are several mooring points for overnight stays in case the hotel is full (a likely prospect in the summer months).
It is always nice to be greeted on arriving at a hotel by someone saying enthusiastically: ‘You’re just in time for lunch!’ and even better when you are promptly whisked off to sit in the sun with a large G&T while you dither happily over a mouth-watering menu.
To really make that experience perfect though, you have to be in a place which takes food very seriously, but which isn’t serious in the way it serves it: which makes The Pig near Bath such a perfect example of a friendly, foodie place.
The Pig hotels are rapidly becoming a phenomenon: people are starting to collect them, in the way that once you’ve been to one, you instantly want to go and bag the other ones too. Founded by Robin and Judy Hutson, the husband and wife team behind the very successful Hotel du Vin chain – Robin also previously worked at the lovely Chewton Glen, and also owns the acclaimed Lime Wood hotel in Hampshire – there are now five Pigs.
To book directly with the individual hotels, go to The Pig Hotel To read more reviews and check the latest prices click here to go to The Pig near Bath on TripAdvisor
There’s the original Pig in Brockenhurst, the New Forest, opened in 2011; the Pig in the Wall (Southampton), the Pig on the Beach, in Studland, Dorset, and the Pig near Bath, which was where I was having my first Pig experience. There’s also the newest Pig, the Pig at Combe, near Honiton in Devon – and the group (which is co-owned by Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire chief executive of Ineos chemical company) has just announced that it’s spending £30 million on a further three Pigs to be opened in Kent, West Sussex and Cornwall. Continue reading The Pig near Bath: a heavenly, foodie, country retreat→