Category Archives: Reviews

Burley Manor hotel New Forest: relaxing country charm

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.

burley manor hotel new forest
Burley Manor was recently refurbished at a cost of £1.8 million by its new owners

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.

burley manor hotel
Burley Manor dates from 1852 and become a hotel in 1935

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

Langshott Manor, Surrey: regal luxury in an Elizabethan manor house

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.

Langshott Manor hotel review
Langshott Manor is the genuine article: the building dates from 1580 and used to be surrounded by a moat and meadows

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.

Langshott Manor hotel review
The half-timbered building now stands in three acres of gardens and is next door to woods which make for a pleasant walk

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.


To book directly with the hotel, go to: Langshott Manor
To compares prices click on: HotelsCombined – Expedia  Hotels.com
To check the latest prices and read more reviews go to Langshott Manor on TripAdvisor


However while the approach to the hotel is through houses, the other side is pure forest with lanes and footpaths to explore and made for a lovely afternoon walk before the sun set and we headed back to warm up in our room. Continue reading Langshott Manor, Surrey: regal luxury in an Elizabethan manor house

The Bell Inn: a cosy New Forest coaching inn perfect for country walks

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).

bell inn new forest review
The Bell Inn is an 18th-century former coaching inn in the New Forest national park

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.

bell inn new forest review
Local food and drinks are served in the light and airy bar as well as the adjoining restaurant

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.


To book directly with the hotel, go to: The Bell Inn website
To check prices click on: HotelsCombined – Expedia  Hotels.com
To get the latest prices and read more reviews go to The Bell Inn on TripAdvisor


While the building might be old, inside it has the look and feel of a more modern establishment, with immaculate carpets, newly-painted walls, cream wood cladding around the bar and much smarter than the  uneven flooring, low ceilings and generally rickety feel that I was expecting, given its age. Continue reading The Bell Inn: a cosy New Forest coaching inn perfect for country walks

A classically English estate at Bowood hotel, spa and golf

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.

Bowood hotel, spa and golf
Bowood hotel, spa and golf is located in the middle of the 2,000-acre Wiltshire estate belonging to the Lansdowne family
Bowood hotel, golf and spa
Bowood hotel has its own fleet of golf buggies and a friendly member of staff will scoot you across to Bowood House whenever you like

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 nine years ago and was the brainchild of the current Lord Lansdowne. We arrived at Bowood in 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

Island-hopping (and relaxing) in the Aegean with SCIC Sailing

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.

SCIC Sailing
Our home for the week – the beautiful 90ft sailing ship Naviga 1

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.

SCIC Sailing
Cruising on such a small ship meant we could moor in little harbours and coves which other boats would be unable to reach

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.

SCIC Sailing
Before visiting the main harbour at Symi, we spent the morning swimming and sunbathing on this deserted beach the other side of the island

Continue reading Island-hopping (and relaxing) in the Aegean with SCIC Sailing