Established as a hunting lodge in the 13th century, this Regency county home today offers laid-back luxury to a clientele of city slickers and well-to-do locals. Yet, unlike other country retreats of its ilk, Lime Wood adopts a convivial approach, placing its focus on moreish food and quality time out.
In place of pretension you'll find pleasantness, while whispered tones are swapped out for friendly small talk. Humming with activity, the click-clacks of billiards in the games room are joined by the hubbub of a competitive game of scrabble at a neighbouring table; a similar scene plays out across the way at Herb House spa.
Contagious cackles spread from the pool loungers to the tables at the spa's adjoining restaurant, Raw & Cured - the telltale of a day well spent, relaxing with waffle-robe-clad friends. The dress code for dinner is almost as relaxed (stopping just shy of a terry towelling dressing gown), which comes as a real blessing after a day spent exposed to the elements, hiking or biking your way around the New Forest. The hotel's main dining space places a focus on family-style dining and favours wooden tables over white tablecloths laid with an arsenal of cutlery, making Hartnett Holder & Co the perfect note on which to end your day.
Eaves, the most compact room offering, has real character but if an attic abode is not your idea of fun, then the romance of the main house bedrooms might be a wiser avenue to pursue. One tier up, a homely, luxury cabin, just a few minutes' walk away from the main hotel offers an added sense of privacy - of these, the Lake Cabin, plotted at the end of a winding private pathway, is certainly the most novel. Then there are the knee-weakening options: the Pavilions.
Pavilion One (the grandest of the gang) is split over two levels. Downstairs there's a spacious lounge with a private terrace that leads straight out into the forest, plus a mustard-hued kitchenette and a big larder stocked with cocktail ingredients, bottles of wine and complimentary midnight snacks - Popchips, Ombar chocolate and Jelly Babies. Upstairs, a whimsical bedroom awaits you. Inspired by the woodland setting in which it rests, the master bedroom is decorated in forested wallpaper in periwinkle pink, to compliment the vaulted ceiling. In a room worthy of a Windsor, the huge bed and roll-top bath - not to mention a plethora of entertainment including a flat-screen TV, Roberts radio and board games galore and a library's worth of books - do what they can to keep you hunkering down longer than intended. Don't worry; check out isn't until 11.30am.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast is served from 7am to 11am in The Scullery. A spread of croissants in pyramidal piles and other butter-laden delights are shouldered by an assortment of fresh fruits and cereals, while farther along the breakfast counter a selection of freshly squeezed juices and smoothies stand to attention. The extended hot breakfast menu is worth surveying, too, for those after something a little heartier. If you want to take the morning at your leisure, order room service - pricing is the same as in The Scullery. Just remember to leave your breakfast card outside your door before 2am the night before.
How about lunch and dinner?
Hartnett Holder & Co - the brainchild of Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder - is the hotel's main restaurant and is open for lunch and dinner. Sharing and provenance take priority here; a menu of elevated, home-cooked Italian classics feels fitting. The primi selection is the menu's crowning glory. Choose from a sumptuous, handmade pasta dishes and follow with a scoop of lemon sorbet or cherry gelato.
Don't fancy a full meal? Take a seat at the restaurant bar and enjoy some nibbles - the on-site Smoke House is responsible for the smoked salmon, salami, pastrami, pancetta et al. that you see on the menu. Alternatively, dine in The Courtyard, where a menu of lighter bites (think simple salads and HH & Co nibbles) is served. The Courtyard also offers a scrumptious cream tea.
If you've gone for a treatment in the afternoon or a intense gym session and find yourself a smidge peckish, head to Raw & Cured, which is located within Herb House spa. The menu offers a selection of raw boards as well as healthy salads, courgette pancakes and lip-smacking smoothies.
Is there a bar?
The Martin Brudnizki-designed Courtyard Bar is the hearth of the hotel. It's a meeting point filled with cosy sofas and swivelling Chesterfield-style bar seating - enjoy a glass from its extensively researched wine list or a freshly shaken cocktail.
Note to self: make use of the helipad if you want to arrive in style. Once you're here (whether you've arrived by air, land or sea) get straight to exploring. If that extends to hilltops and hinterland you are welcome to use the hotel's bicycles and boots. If a lush spa with outdoor hot pool, indoor lap pool and hydrotherapy suite is more aligned with the expedition you had in mind, then make your way to the Herb House.
Spread across three floors, the Herb House spa's impressive treatment list includes relaxing Bamford massages and Sarah Chapman skincare treatments (Herb House is one of only three destinations in the UK where you can experience a Sarah Chapman facial). We recommend signing up for the Skinesis deluxe stem cell collagen activator therapy treatment. Spanning 90 minutes, itl incorporates microneedling, LED light therapy and a Skinesis gymnastic-style massage - you'll leave with the face of a flushed five year old (the redness subsides quickly while the regenerated youthfulness has some staying power).
On the top floor of the Herb House you'll find a state-of-the-art Matt Roberts gym with forest views and the very latest Technogym equipment. Sign up for a PT session, take a core class on the roof terrace or try aerial yoga in the studio.
Things you should know
Quite a few things, actually. Firstly, the nearest train station is Brockenhurst - it's a 15-minute drive from Lime Wood and a taxi will cost between £15-20. Next, a note on packing: there's a whole range of Hunter wellies and waterproofs to borrow at base, so no need to waste precious case space by towing your own.
Now to the main bulletin. Food is the centre stone of life at Lime Wood and to that end there are a couple of things foodies will find particularly interesting. To start, the Kitchen Table - the working kitchen next to the restaurant - is free to drop into if you fancy a natter with the chefs or simply want to sit amid the hustle and bustle with a newspaper and coffee. You can also arrange private dinners and lunches in this space. Perhaps you might want to sign up for a cooking class with Hartnett Holder & Co and get schooled on some of the dishes you've tasted over the course of your stay - that's also an option. Additionally, Amelia Freer offers her nutritional guidance across Lime Wood services - look out for her well-being workshops and cookery classes as well as other events hosted by Amelia across the calendar year.
Within a short walk you'll find
Lime Wood is situated in the heart of New Forest in Hampshire, so guests are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful landscapes (near and far) to explore. Ask for a walking-route map based on the time you'd like to spend out and about - the team will be able to share a planned-out route with you. Oh, and ask for a lanyard in case it rains.