On Thursday we went a-pigging. And ’twas complete and utter bliss. So much so I almost hesitate to recommend The Pig hotel because you’ll all be booking it and I won’t be able to get a reservation for, oh, 100 years. It is gorgeous. And the staff are incredibly charming and so nice – even when you rock up for supper in the lovely restaurant with a two-year-old who’s clutching Peppa Pig in one hand and a Maisy book in another.
The Pig is one of those hotels which would be perfect for a romantic weekend. It’s beautiful – tucked away in the New Forest – but not remote (a five minute drive from Brockenhurst station). The rooms are fabulous – all giant beds, roll-top baths, monsoon showers and styled with very good taste (vintage meets Farrow & Ball and cosy luxe). It’s full of cosy nooks and crannies: a library with roaring fires, Scrabble, piles of books and magazines; a drawing room with sofas for two; a courtyard with a wood-fired oven for the summer and a roaring fire in the winter (around which child-free guests gathered to sip champagne and cognac – yes, it’s that sort of hotel which lends itself to simple decadence. There’s also a very enticing bar – oh, that bar that we barely entered… – with trolleys of bottles and sexy, low lighting under which cool couples lounged and gave each other lingering looks. Next time.
[The bar that we but glimpsed, longingly, through open door.]
But we went with C. And I am delighted to report that she loved it, too. And we loved her being there with us.
We have one rule as regards travelling with a child: we will not share a room. She wakes us. We wake her. And what are you supposed to do when they go to bed at 7.30pm? Lie there in the dark conversing in whispers. This makes staying at hotels expensive. I mean, we love Babington House (show me a person who doesn’t), but the family rooms are both pretty steep for non-members and booked up at weekends until C is 15 and won’t want to share one with us any more.
As gorgeous as the main hotel building at The Pig is (your every modest country house dream come true), with kids, I’d opt for a room in the quiet converted stable yard just a couple of minutes away from the main house. The family rooms are like little apartments (hey, I live in London – this is what is does to your sense of space) – one even has a sitting room with log-burning stove. Ours had one room with a bunk bed and a dear little vintage desk which I rather fancied for our house; a separate bathroom with roll-top bath; and another bedroom for the grown-ups (although you could easily fit two large and two small people in the bed for morning chats and books. We loved the considerate touches: a glass-domed dish of cookies and cakes to greet us on arrival (including a pig-shaped cookie with C’s name on it in icing which caused much excitement); a tiny wooden pig family in the children’s room; generous bottles of delicious shampoo, shower gel et al; a Nespresso machine.
Take wellies (although if you forget, they have them lined up in reception in every size, available for borrowing), there’s plenty to explore. Local walks straight from the hotel, for instance, although there’s enough to do on site to keep little people entertained. The old-fashioned walled kitchen gardens are a delight; there are hens and pigs to meet; even a tiny spa, The Potting Shed (okay, so the latter is more for the grown-ups). Ducks are, we were told, due to arrive soon so the pond will be complete.
I’ve been enthusing for far too long (you’ve booked already, yes?) but I have to put in a word for the food. You can visit the restaurant without being a guest at the hotel (there was a splendid birthday party in full swing the private Green Room) – and you should. The food is divine – much of it sourced from the garden or, if not, locally produced. If you’re there with children, the ‘Piglets’ menu has such delights as homemade sausages and mash; giant fish-fingers and hand-cut chips. C can confirm the deliciousness. And the breakfast buffet is so good, and so extensive, it could move a grown man to tears of thankful joy.
I’ve said too much, I know, to keep this place a secret. There is a sister hotel. The Pig in the Wall, in Southampton, and another. The Pig on the Beach, opening later this year in Dorset. Suffice to say – we’ll be hot-footing it to the latter. And we’ll definitely be back at the The Pig – with and without child. (Although – word to the wise: if you do take your children but want dinner a deux, call the hotel in advance as they can recommend, and you can book, a trusted local babysitting service.)
Rooms cost from £129; family rooms cost from £229 per room per night. Book here or call 0845 0779 494
All images courtesy of The Pig