The first time I visited Burley Manor Hotel in the New Forest I had absolutely no expectations – not because I thought it was going to be terrible, but because it had never even crossed my radar before. It turned out there was a reason for this: while the original building dates back to 1852 and has been a hotel since 1935, Burley Manor has had a succession of owners over the last decade which doesn’t usually help a hotel build up a solid reputation.
Hopefully for Burley Manor, it is now under steadier ownership. Bought by New Forest Hotels in April 2015, it promptly underwent a £1.8 million refurbishment and reopened with a whole new look, styling itself as a ‘brand new, yet very old, restaurant with boutique rooms.’ I’ve now stayed at the hotel twice and both times had a really pleasant stay – excellent staff, food and rooms – and the second stay I felt the hotel was relaxing into its own personality, which is that of a grand country house but with a fun, informal air.
Aimed at adults – children over 13 are allowed though – I was pleased to see that the hotel retained many of its traditional features, such as the open fire in the entrance hall, the 164-year old carved wooden staircase and the ornate lettering round the front of the brick building: ‘Welcome the coming friend; speed the parting guest.’ There was no chance of us speeding on our way, though: we lingered so long over breakfast the next morning that it was half past eleven before we reluctantly left the pleasant dining room conservatory to pack up and check out. Continue reading Burley Manor hotel New Forest: relaxing country charm→
To arrive at Langshott Manor hotel is to jump back in time. One moment you are in urban Surrey, passing through towns like Redhill and Horley and driving though a modern housing estate, and then all of a sudden you arrive at a building unlike no other – with chimneys, mullioned windows, gables, a bell tower, patterned brickwork and basically looking as if it has come straight off the set of a film about the Tudors.
What is amazing is that Langshott Manor is the genuine article: a 16th-century manor house which has miraculously survived centuries of redevelopment even though it is just a few miles from Gatwick airport. As an airport hotel it must stand alone in the world as a way to jump forward 400 years between checking out of the hotel and the airport check-in desk and Langshott Manor certainly stands alone as a destination in its own right as well as a pre-holiday stopover.
Those used to spacious boutique hotels with endless corridors and acres of land might have to adjust to 16th-century dimensions: while Langshott Manor used to be surrounded by a moat and parkland, meadows and pastures just a semi-circular lake and a pretty garden at the rear of the hotel remain.
There’s a warm glow which comes when reading a newspaper article called ‘Cosiest pubs to stay in this winter’ and realising you are heading off to stay in one of those featured that very day. This happened to me recently when about to head off to The Bell Inn in the New Forest; reading The Times over my morning coffee I found that it had been singled out as the perfect place from which to enjoy bracing country walks (and to return to for post-walk drinks by its log fire).
Expectations were high therefore as I took to the road and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed – The Bell Inn is a charming place and I was fortunate enough to stay for two extremely cosy nights.
Having previously spent a considerable amount of time driving through the New Forest itself to get to various hotels I was surprised at how handy The Bell Inn is to get to – it was literally just a few minutes off the M27 so you don’t waste a moment snarled up in Lyndhurst traffic before getting stuck into some serious relaxing.
The Bell Inn has been in the Crosthwaite Eyre family for hundreds of years (since 1782 to be precise). Much of the food served in the restaurant has either been grown or raised on the family’s New Forest estate – some also comes from the family’s estate in Scotland – so the pub is very much a local enterprise and during my stay was preparing to host a dozen local suppliers in its annual Christmas fair.
If you like visiting beautiful English stately homes but hate the queues, the drive, the parking and the general hassle which usually goes with such visits, then Bowood hotel, spa and golf in Wiltshire has the perfect solution: its own fleet of golf buggies will whisk you across its 18-hole championship golf course to Bowood House, home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, in a matter of minutes.
You might arrive a little windswept but you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot and even better, entrance is free for hotel guests. When you want to return, you merely ask at the ticket office and your mini-chariot will have you back drinking cocktails on the terrace at Bowood hotel before you know it.
The 4-star boutique hotel was opened just eight years ago and was the brainchild of the current Lord Lansdowne. In a summer where the weather hasn’t been too great, our arrival at Bowood was in rare but welcome glorious sunshine, so having dropped our bags off at the hotel, we wasted no time in jumping in a buggy to make the short drive (stopping for the occasional golfer to take a shot) to explore Bowood House. Continue reading A classically English estate at Bowood hotel, spa and golf→
Some holidays are so jam-packed with things to do, places to visit and sights to tick off that you end up needing a holiday afterwards to recover. A island-hopping voyage around the Aegean with SCIC Sailing (it stands for Sailing Cruises in Comfort and is aptly pronounced ‘chic’) is thankfully not one of those holidays.
In fact, I think it is possibly the most relaxing holiday I’ve ever been on. It wasn’t just that with a cruise – I think I can call it that, even though our beautiful twin-mast 90ft Turkish gulet sailing ship was the polar opposite of a mega cruise ship – you can travel all around the region without fighting with hoards of tourists, but the fact that the itinerary was so leisurely that there was ample time for sleeping, reading, eating, swimming, sunbathing, relaxing and yet more sleeping and eating.
I averaged a book a day during my week’s holiday (admittedly I’m a fast reader) and I still had loads of time to explore the islands we visited, go swimming and snorkelling, enjoy the superb meals onboard (lots of fresh seafood, lots of rosé wine), attempt to get a tan (some of the other guests were mahogany by the end), have late nights dancing on and off shore and basically return to the UK completely blissed out.
I say itinerary, but the feature of SCIC Sailing is that there isn’t really a fixed schedule at all. The sails are practical as well as ornamental, and are raised whenever possible, so you enjoy the twin thrills of silently swooshing over the waves without the chug of the engine, but also not knowing where the winds will take you. Thankfully you can’t go wrong in this part of the world which has beautiful islands at every turn, but the joy of exploring by boat means you can access deserted beaches and moor in beautiful coves which are almost inaccessible by road, and have the whole place to yourself.