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→
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→
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→
News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge