Sometimes you just need a little luxe in your life. To be pampered, looked after and reminded that yes, actually, you really are rather fab. Which is why a night or two at Limewood, the luxury boutique retreat in the heart of the New Forest is exactly the kind of pep-me-up we all need…
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I used to be a Travel Editor, the kind of gig that for once is actually as good as it sounds. And so thanks to years of road-testing honeymoons (again, it really was as good as it sounds), I’ve become pretty well-versed in what makes a good hotel. It’s not about razzmatazz and who’s got the biggest toys, those kind of hotels actually tend to be a bit blah or show-offy or full of the kind of w***ers you really rather you weren’t spending your holiday with. In my book, it’s all about great, honest, friendly service, gorgeous interior design (again this doesn’t necessarily mean the shiniest, newest, most expensive things) and those little extra touches that make your stay feel super-special. Of course, location and facilities also play an important factor, but what do a great location and a killer swimming pool mean if the staff are grumpy and the rooms a dump? Anyway, back to Limewood. The verdict? It rocks.
Squirrelled away in a sleepy part of the New Forest, it is country house grand without the chintz, attitude and stuffiness. It actually manages to combine the best of London (a cool vibe, stylish decor and slick service) with the best of the country (friendly, welcoming, calming and cosy). Super-relaxed, it’s the kind of place where, on arrival, you can be whisked to a table and plied with tea, cocktails and scones, before you check-in just because you are too darn hungry to wait (ahem, that was us). It’s also the kind of place where aforementioned scones are DELICIOUS (side note: I only ever – and always – eat scones when I’m at a hotel. Love ’em) and the glass-roofed courtyard in which they are served is just the kind of place you can imagine propping up the rather glamorous bar for hours on end.
Limewood is also the kind of place where the rooms are gorgeous. Comfortable, homely (if your home was super-luxe) and classic with a twist of contemporary, you settle in straight away – thanks in part, to fab touches such as a pre-loaded iPod playing in the bedroom, stacks of magazines and gorgeous Bamford products in the bathroom. Ask for your fire to be lit, crank up Abbey Road and just luxuriate in that country house weekend vibe.
The rest of the hotel is equally inviting with lots of nooks and crannies to hide away and read books or newspapers (lots available), drink cocktails, eat scones, sleep or just watch the world go by. The main restaurant Hartnett Holder & Co (from super-chef Angela Hartnett) has a relaxed clubby feel with a bar in the middle of the room, Italian-themed menu and delicious food. Breakfasts are spreads to devour, served in the smaller, very informal scullery, whilst lunches can either be raw and healthy in the spa cafe (much yummier than that sounds) or more robust and comforting in the courtyard.
Aside from eating (more scones anyone?) there’s the spa (complete with pool) where you can be pummelled or pampered to your heart’s content, and plenty of acres of woodland in which to lose (or hopefully not lose) yourselves. Just pull on a pair of wellies (there’s a host of different colours and sizes to borrow) and off you go. Limewood. We loved you.
The room: Choose from rooms inside the main building or if you’re going all out, then one of the self-contained two-storey rooms set outside. These are obviously to die for.
With kids? Without kids? Either. We were child-free, but small people are welcomed with open arms. However, there’s no kids club, if that’s what you’re after.
When to go: Year round. We went on a Sunday night (the ideal time to beat Sunday blues), although any day at any time of the year would be fab.