"A weekend in the country, so inactive that one has to lie down." - Stephen Sondheim.
The countryside has an inexplicable capacity to tire you out through little more than a leisurely stroll. Perhaps it's the fresh air, those afternoon slices of coffee cake, or ever-beckoning sofas. Whatever it is, Heckfield Place is more than culpable of seducing you into a leisurely stupor from the moment you roll into the drive.
A Georgian family home, plotted on a 400-acre estate just an hour from London (urbanites we hear you revelling) this is one of those very rare, utterly faultless places. Centred on sustainability and surrounded by heather and woodland, idyllic isn't adjective enough. A modern luxury hotel, Heckfield's grounds carry the hallmarks of the Georgians' fascination with nature and predilection for socialising. Hedonists and horticulturists alike, prepare to be unequivocally enchanted by these sumptuous surrounds.
Choose from six room types, situated in the main house and off the corridors. "Guest Rooms" are cosy and perfectly proportioned with all the modern luxuries you could require - bedside USB ports, sleekly disguised kettles and panel-controlled mood lighting - without compromising on an overall homely heritage feel. Hand-knotted woollen rugs and mats (made from rushes harvested in East Anglia) don the floors, complementing the rooms' muted aesthetic and adding to the warmth. "Friends Rooms" are the snuggest in size but come with all the hallmarks of Heckfield's larger suites.
For those looking to go all out, the "Signature Rooms" are insurmountable. Of these, the "Lake Room", positioned in the heart of the house is worth the additional zeroes added to your room bill for the sweeping bay windows alone, while Casanova types will be taken in by the "Coppice Room" - enter by way of intimate candlelit sitting room, adorned in a delicate palette of sage and dusty rose.
Rooms are partitioned, meaning that regardless of spec or size all feel like miniature apartments - "living quarters" if we're keeping things distinguished. Before bed, climb into the freestanding bath for an evening soak or hunker down on the corner sofa with a weighty throw, a well-reviewed tome and a glass of Dom served in a frosted champagne coupe glass plucked from your in-room bar.
What's for breakfast?
Veering away from standard breakfast classics, the morning menu at Marle restaurant serves up some less prolific British classics - try bubble and squeak or kedgeree for a hearty start to the day. Freshly brewed coffee and bottomless bread baskets accompanied by the morning papers are prerequisites here. Perch table-side in this greenhouse-style space until noon before taking to the lake for your late-morning constitutional.
How about lunch and dinner?
Seasonal dining is the order of the day at both Marle and Hearth. Open for lunch and dinner, kitchens are led by culinary director Skye Gyngell (of Spring and Petersham Nurseries acclaim) and her presence as well as her pioneering cuisine is palpable throughout.
At Marle, interiors combine marble, slate and wood, complemented by views across the woodland and lakes. Bulbous, hand-blown vases and trellised greenery sprawling overhead are subtle hints to the restaurant's connectedness to the landscape. Here, diners can expect food that is fresh and simply prepared.
Centred on an open fire, Hearth adopts classic cooking methods with a set menu that changes daily. Open two days a week, and available only to residents, it's best to book a dinner seating in advance. From introductory plates of langoustine to the final notes of poached pear dipped in dark chocolate, dinners at Hearth are intended to be lengthy and indulging. Relax (and digest) in the subterranean, brick-clad dining space, with views of the fire.
For those who get peckish between lunch and dinner, complimentary afternoon tea is served in the drawing room between 4-5pm.
Is there a bar?
Decompress at the Moon Bar under the flickering light of the XXL-disco ball that hangs above the bar counter. Inspired by the lunar phases, cocktails are dangerously drinkable and best sipped after sunset.
Alternatively, head underground to the 280-bin cellar, which holds a selection of wines from established and emerging producers. Choose your bottle before crossing over to the Cellar Bar where the resident sommelier will talk you through your pick.
The Little Bothy Spa sits at the nucleus of a small but considered wellness centre. Comprising of five treatment rooms, it offers all-natural treatments with ingredients drawn from the apothecary garden. Kick back post-treatment with a juice or infusion before heading to one of three studios for a personal-training session, yoga or ballet class provided by Bodyism.
After an afternoon of cardio, vegetate in the 67-seat private screening room in front of the latest cinema release or indie documentary.
Things you should know
From London, take the train to Winchfield or Reading - leave work early to beat the weekend traffic as city folk make a mass exodus for the countryside. Incomers can reach Heckfield from Heathrow Airport in just under 45 minutes, while Gatwick is a one-hour drive away.
Within a short walk you'll find...
With Heckfield's commitment to the land and focus on biodynamic farming, a visit to Home Farm is worth it. You'll sight saddleback pigs, a 70-strong flock of sheep and an impressive market garden consisting of herbs, vegetables and fruit as well as scented flowers grown for the house.
East of the estate, Heckfield's upper and lower lakes are perfect for a quiet stroll. Walk in the pleasure grounds or though walled gardens among wisteria, lavender and fragrant English roses.