The Lime Wood Hotel, which began life as a medieval hunting lodge back in the 13th century, is set in the ancient heath and woodland of the New Forest.
As you drive toward through Lyndhurst, you’ll see wild ponies wandering around, grazing casually. If you’re escaping the city for the first time in a while (as I was), this will blow your mind. Your local taxi driver – if you’re coming from the station – will probably be too polite to laugh at you and let you have this moment.
As if that’s not enough, before you actually arrive at the hotel you will drive through its perfectly landscaped grounds, along a winding drive until you reach the front door of the The Lime Wood. Here, you will be welcomed by staff who, inexplicably, manage to be more helpful than most but, crucially, never overbearing.
The hotel itself, however, is anything but wild. It is a modernised stately home with a state-of-the-art spa set over three floors, impeccable interiors which are laid back but carefully considered (all down to designer Martin Brudunski of Dean Street Townhouse) and a restaurant serving seasonal Italian-influenced dishes (brought to you by Luke Holder and Angela Hartnett).
If you’re looking for a relaxing country retreat which has all the trappings of being in one of the UK’s best hotels, then look no further. You don’t even need to worry about bringing your own wellies – every size is available to borrow for the duration of your stay.
There are a variety of different options depending on what you’re after: for a romantic getaway there are large ‘Pavilion’ rooms away from the main house, for a quick and dirty weekend there are smaller abodes in the attic of the main house and, if you need something more family and/or dog friendly, that you can all pile into try the ‘forest cottages and cabin’ located in the grounds.
Some rooms come complete with an open fire places so, now that you’re reacquainted with wild life, you can test you can test your survival skills. If it all proves too much, reception will be on hand to send somebody to light the fire for you so that you can relax in your roll top bath.
What we ate (and drank)
The menu at the Hartnett and Holder restaurant changes seasonally as well as at least once a week. When I visited a heritage beetroot and goat’s curd salad was ordered to start and followed by a Glenarm rib of beef for 2 to share with heritage carrots on the side and washed down with Pinot Noir. Hardly adventurous, I’ll admit but after a day of walking in the New Forest (and falling over ungracefully in front of a crowd of children) a hearty dinner was much-needed. Other options included local Hampshire saddle back pork fillet with January king cabbage and roasted cox pippin, salt baked bream and an impressive primi selection covering everything from velvet crab risotto to venison lasagne off.
The dining atmosphere is deliberately informal yet polished. This is not fine dining, it is home away from home cooking with an emphasis on service.
You can also opt for afternoon tea or light plates at The Courtyard or something altogether healthier at Raw & Cured, the Herb House Spa’s café.
The room service breakfast is also not to be missed.
The Herb House spa is home to an extensive Bamford treatment list (I had the 60-minute destress massage). You’ll also find Sarah Chapman facials here, which need no introduction.
There are not one, not two but three pools – two indoor (one of which is hydrotherapy) and one outdoor, a steam room and a sauna. I could happily have stayed in the spa on rotation for the duration of my stay.
Find out more by visiting The Lime Wood’s website