Chewton Glen Hampshire, 90 minutes’ west south-west of London, is the ultimate English country house hotel surrounded by forest, in this case The New Forest, renowned for its wild ponies and centuries of history. It was proclaimed a royal forest, indeed, by William the Conqueror and the rights of common pasture exist today, in a total 28,924-hectare area that remains a habitat for many rare animals and birds.
The 72-room hotel has expanded from a classic 18th century two-floor brick house, which once belonged to the brother of Captain Frederick Marryat, author of the all-time favourite book, Children of The New Forest, which he wrote here in 1847.
Today, Chewton Glen also offers eight amazing treehouses, 200m from the main house – think semi-detached wood units, three-metres above the ground, each unit set with semi-secret sleeping cubby-holes that kids adore. Plus, wood-burning stoves that are delights for all ages, and, on the treehouses’ wide terraces looking into forest, there are private hot-tubs, ideal for moments with at least a glass of the hotel’s favoured Veuve Clicquot.
I also like room #65, an 80 square-metre ground-floor corner space. It is in the main building and opens directly to the croquet lawn. One of the main Chewton Glen highlights is its activities range, which also includes indoor tennis, golf, biking, hiking and riding. Explore the 175ha of rolling grounds and discover the dozens of modern sculptures, mostly metal and many by top UK artist Simon Gudgeon. Some pieces even adorn the most impressive, and immaculately manicured, walled kitchen garden. Beyond this is a 190-tree fruit orchard, and a petting farm of rare sheep.
Here are just two more specials. Dine in one of the many rooms of the main restaurant – its Wine Room is a special treat. I also personally like taking a hotel shuttle 500m to The Kitchen, a separate venue for even more casual meals. Food is English at its best. My own favourites from top chef Luke Matthews include pressed Dover sole wrapped in spinach, unadulterated oysters, spiced avocado with poached eggs and do not miss the triple-cooked chunky chips, truly world-beating, or any dessert: try the sticky toffee pudding with home-made gingerbread icecream.
And many loyalists return again and again for the spa and wellness. You have an outdoor pool and a superb year-round indoor pool, 17-metres long, ozone-treated and adjacent to a vitality area with six stations for sybaritic water-massaging of parts of the body you never knew needed it. Chewton Glen Hampshire can easily become a way of life.