It isn’t often you plan on spending the night at a rather grand country house hotel and find yourself sleeping in a treehouse on stilts in the middle of a forest. But the treehouses at Chewton Glen, the five-star hotel and spa located deep in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire, are about as far removed from the rickety wooden contraptions of one’s childhood (or Bart Simpson’s) as you could get.
In fact, they probably shouldn’t really be called treehouses at all, but maybe ‘luxury forest lodges’ probably didn’t sound, well, as much fun. The hotel’s own blurb describes them as secluded and romantic with the ‘exterior architecture in perfect harmony with the surrounding treescape’ and ‘on stilts, delicately balanced between the valley and tree canopy.’
I would probably describe them as ‘a really posh and gorgeous set of rooms which for some reason are plonked in the middle of a forest.’
They might be on stilts but thankfully they didn’t feel at all delicately balanced and indeed once you were inside, it was easy to forget that you were hovering several metres above the forest floor.
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.
You have to be deeply relaxed to nod off during a massage, so falling completely asleep, not once, but twice, during my treatment at the Lime Wood hotel spa shows how totally unstressed I was.
This was quite an achievement considering that on the drive through the New Forest to get to Lime Wood, my car’s windscreen wipers packed up just as it started raining and so finding the way up Lime Wood’s winding country drive was a matter of guesswork.
However the warm welcome I received on entering the spa – staff seemed genuinely pleased to see people arriving, which is certainly not true for every spa – went a long way to alleviating the travel tension. Within 10 minutes I was tucked up in a fluffy white robe on a lounger overlooking the indoor pool and well on my way to spa bliss.
Herb House – to give the spa at Lime Wood its proper name – is a constant presence on top hotel spa lists and it’s easy to see why. While it isn’t the biggest of hotel spas, it makes great use of its space and its attention to detail and little personal touches are what you would hope for from the team behind the excellent Pig hotels. The changing room is immaculate; the lockers are stocked with towels, robes and slippers, there are rainfall showers, mirrors, all manner of luxury products and even a room with a tin bath in for that home-from-home experience. Continue reading A deeply relaxing day at Lime Wood hotel spa in the New Forest→
The brochure for The Montagu Arms in the New Forest encourages guests to ‘take your cue from the ponies: graze, wander and enjoy the quiet.’ I did all three during my stay at this 200-year old hotel and emerged feeling as relaxed and content as the beautiful ponies which roamed freely around the surrounding roads and meadows.
The picturesque village of Beaulieu (fittingly, the name means ‘beautiful place’) is tiny, and seems to have more ponies than people living there. A handful of Georgian cottages line the few streets but it is certainly far less built-up than its New Forest neighbours such as Brockenhurst and Lymington.
This means that The Montagu Arms, located right at the heart of the village, is quite a striking landmark, rivalled only by the 13th century Beaulieu Abbey Church which lies across the river.
The hotel’s charming and traditional exterior is replicated inside: this is no modern boutique venue but old-fashioned in the nicest sense of the word- the reception is oak-lined, the lounge with its view of the pretty garden was full of people enjoying afternoon tea and the overall atmosphere is of quiet refinement. Continue reading The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu: a New Forest feast→
I arrived at Burley Manor Hotel in the New Forest last weekend with 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 has just reopened with a whole new look, styling itself as a ‘brand new, yet very old, restaurant with boutique rooms.’
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 – the New Forest’s newest, oldest hotel→