In the heart of the New Forest is the captivating Lime Wood, one of the most exciting retreats to hit the British country house hotel scene in the past decade. Just an hour and a half from London this former Regency manor offers the perfect escape for a mid-week or weekend getaway.
There are 14 suites and 15 bedrooms at Lime Wood: - nine suites and seven bedrooms in the main house; two duplex suites in the Pavilions – opposite the stunning water garden; four suites and one bedroom in The Crescent adjacent to the water garden; and four Coach House Suites plus one bedroom in The Coach House which is (conveniently) next to Herb House, the spa to end all spas.
Quirky details within all of the rooms include a mini bar that offers guests giant Chocolate Buttons, Sherbert fountains, Luscombe Ginger Beer, bed socks and a classic Louis Armstrong CD. In one of the drawers can be found a selection of postcard-sized maps which guide guests around the lanes and cycle routes of the New Forest. And last but by no means least ‘Do not disturb’ signs made out of solid oak come in four different shapes – a duck, a dog, a dove and for Christmas time, a reindeer.
The food scene at Lime Wood is in a league of its own. With its own dedicated forager, Garry Eveleigh, few dishes are put together without a decent helping of fruit, veg or seafood from the New Forest or Hampshire coast. Head chef Luke Holder can't plan his menus more than two weeks ahead because it all depends on the forager’s finds, courtesy of our gloriously unpredictable Mother Nature.
The Dining Room is Lime Wood’s fabulous restaurant – think glamorous but relaxed – while The Scullery brings a country house kitchen feel to the hotel with its huge, open fireplace and chutney-lined farmhouse dressers. Food is painstakingly sourced from local, organic suppliers, complimenting the foraged food brought in from the wild. For a morning cappuccino or a glass of fizz before lunch head to The Courtyard, a chic café-style area with a retractable roof for balmy days.
The joys continue.... wine at Lime Wood is taken seriously. Not surprising given that the Chairman, Robin Hutson, founded the Hotel du Vin group so his wine knowledge is profound. Alongside delicious, reasonably-priced bottles are some extremely rare wines that would impress the most discerning palates including the much sought-after Screaming Eagle 2001, housed by very few UK hotels and currently at its most drinkable. Sommelier Daniel Britz organises wine tastings entitled 'Welcome to Wine - The big six grapes' and 'Wines of the World - Experience a new dimension', two entirely different sessions giving guests the opportunity either to master the fundamentals of wine or, for those in the know, to expand their existing knowledge. Additionally, Max’s Bar has over 100 different cognacs and Max, the head barman (who runs cocktail master classes for guests), mixes probably the best Martini Cocktail in Hampshire.
A relatively new string to Lime Wood’s bow is the Herb House spa, which threw open its oak doors at the end of 2010. A destination spa dedicated to natural wellbeing, Herb House is inspired by its forest surroundings, naturally exuding calm and serenity for a truly rejuvenating retreat.
Set over three floors, the spa has ten spacious treatment rooms including two double signature rooms - The Bath House with an indoor double bath and private steam room, and The Bath Garden with an outdoor double bath and private steam room. There are hot pools and thermal rooms galore (the massive Forest Sauna, The Steam House, The Mud House, a Caldarium), a Hands and Feet Room for manicures and pedicures, and decadent changing rooms with private baths. There’s a state-of-the-art roof top gym with forest views and the very latest in Technogym equipment, a 16 metre Ozone treated indoor lap pool with retracting glass doors to the garden and a workout studio offering an exclusive range of classes from Body Pump to Zumba, Yoga to Tai Chi.
Wicker chairs and benches are dotted about Lime Wood’s extensive gardens, ideal spots for a good book reading session. If kiddies are present there are mountain bikes aplenty so families are able to explore the New Forest, with its super safe cycle trails to appease even the most neurotic of mothers. The neighbouring riding stables are delighted to lend guests fine fillies for the day, something that Lime Wood’s uber-efficient team can arrange.
Guests at Lime Wood feel excited, they feel as though they’ve discovered a hotel that ticks all of the boxes and pulls it all off in a calm, relaxed way. As noted by Victoria Mather, doyenne of the luxury travel world, “at Lime Wood you feel cool”.
To stay at Lime Wood costs from £245 per room per night. Lime Wood (02380 287 177; www.limewood.co.uk)
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