The month before Christmas, with our babysitter [my mum] rudely on holiday for what seemed like forever and us holding our eyes open with matchsticks, the three of us [including toddler] threw our cares to the wind and checked into heaven on earth – Lime Wood in the New Forest.
A 5 Star Babington House-esque boutique hotel under two hours drive from London and founded by former chairman of the Soho House Group, Lime Wood boasts a three storey Spa with sprawling forest views and two relaxed but stylish eateries headed by lauded chef duo Hartnett Holder & Co. serving up locally sourced Italian food.
Like something out of my windswept Regency fantasies we drove past wild [unfenced] horses and up a winding hill on which a 13th century former hunting lodge sat atop. Immediately welcomed by lovely staff in tweed blazers and hunting boots our car was parked for us and we sank back into the luminous surroundings of the Courtyard cafe – an elegant light-filled space with a marble bar, relaxed seating upholstered in patterned linens and only a sleek sheet of glass separating the room from the elements.
Aarya kicked back with her toys, immediately at home and we shrugged off our weary city skins, didn’t even bother logging onto the wifi and tucked into some comfort food.Of course the first thing I did was explore each room and drink in all the design details. A collaboration between Ben Pentreath, Charles Morris [architecture] and David Collins Studio [interiors] the hotel re-imagines an 18th Century home – and is filled with characterful artworks, ceramics and original touches. I loved the brilliant attention to detail in which every aspect of interior composition, window view and landscaping beyond was framed, building up layers of pleasing visuals. Dedicated delightful spaces included the likes of ‘The Scullery’ for a Downton style breakfast and ‘The Boot Room’ stocked with waterproofs and Hunters in every conceivable size and colour.
After lunch we were shown to “Cottage 2′ on the grounds. Laid out on two floors with a living and dining area and little garden with cafe seating on the ground floor, it was the size of a mini town house. Decorated in White Company style rustic furnishings and kitted out with an affordable mini-bar, an iPod, flat screen TV and most importantly two luxurious bathrooms plus an enormous bed it was just perfect for our little family. Our garden looked out onto the glowing warmth of the spa and the surrounding forests – and we could see and hear the outdoor jacuzzi bubbling away from our bedroom window – it was the perfect combination of seclusion and connectedness.
We spent some time exploring the cottage but quickly headed over to the Herb House Spa for a swim as kids were only allowed in the pool between 3.30pm-5pm [my one bugbear] and I had a spa treatment booked. A minutes’ walk from our cottage through beautifully landscaped courtyards to the glass encased building, the spa itself housed Raw and Cured a stylish organic cafe and a shop brimming with great fashion, beauty ad design products.
After a snoozy blissed out time spent in the pool, I anticipated a ‘hangry’ [ hungry + angry ] meltdown from Aarya and called ahead to the cafe from the changing rooms. The lovely staff at the cafe whipped up a delicious cheese and ham plate even though they were closing. I left Dave and Aarya to it and disappeared for my spa treatment.
Since having Aarya a year and a half ago – I had really neglected my skin – even the simple daily ritual of moisturising my body – was relegated to once a fortnight… if I remembered. Plus earlier that year I caught adult chickenpox – all round yuck. My body was desperately in need of some TLC so I booked myself in for the VOYA Seaweed Wrap. For a glorious 90 minutes my body was scrubbed with a mixture that incorporated crushed walnut shells and then massaged and wrapped in ocean harvested seaweed, I could literally feel the oily nutrients seeping into my skin. I was then treated to a scalp massage using an incredible conditioner –VOYA Forget Me Knots. I am definitely no beauty buff and never buy into branded products but this conditioner left my coarse unruly hair feeling like I had just had a sleek blow dry. Life changing!
Later that night we dressed and walked through to the main hotel – resplendent in festive goodness. Seemingly choreographed for us, we watched as a tweed adorned young man pull a wicker cart up the path laden with logs and piled them on the crackling fire in the reception hall. We had dinner that night by candlelight at the fabulous Harnett and Holder whilst Aarya snoozed next to us [phew!].
We could have stayed forever, alas we only stayed one more night. Although there weren’t any specific activities for small children, the staff were amazing with Aarya and she was even taken into the kitchen to meet the chef! The entire experience felt luxurious with lots of rooms to relax, read and explore, three places to dine and drink – yet it felt homely and intimate and most of all we weren’t made to feel like we had to be precious with a small child.
Lime Wood, Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ England T: +44 23 8028 7177