Passion Points: Style
Complete with dense woodland, rolling countryside, coastal marshes and pretty villages, sprawling New Forest National Park has long been an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. For those wanting to spend the night, however, the park offered mostly camping and caravan sites, not terribly appealing options for day-trippers (the park is located about a ninety-minute drive from London). The recent opening of Lime Wood, a 29-room boutique hotel, is poised to change all that.
The brainchild of Jim Ratcliffe, Lime Wood is a modern take on the classic English country house, complete with a main Regency-style home, which was painstakingly restored during a five-year renovation, as well as more cottage-like country lodges. For this $46-million project, entrepreneur Ratcliffe brought on a star-studded roster of hospitality veterans, including Ben Pentreath and Charles Morris, the architects who designed the Orchard Room at Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate; talented interior designer David Collins, who transformed the Connaught Bar and Claridge’s and hotel director Justin Pinchbeck, who comes to the country from London’s chic Zetter hotel. (It also helps that as of March 2010, Robin Hutson, formerly of acclaimed country resort Chewton Glen, was appointed chairman of the Lime Wood Group, the company that operates Lime Wood as well as another hotel in Hampshire and a chalet in Courchevel, France.)
The property’s rooms and suites occupy the main building as well as three freestanding garden lodges. When I visited with my daughters, Kate and Julia, we stayed in a Forest Hideaway Suite, which we loved thanks to its abundant space, privacy and lovely forest views. Residing in the main building’s sleekly designed rooms has its draw as well, especially during colder months or for travelers who want easy access to the main sitting rooms and restaurant. Most of the cozy rooms have log fires or wood-burning stoves. Our two-floor suite had wooden floors (bathroom floors are heated), pretty antiques, bespoke furniture, eye-catching art and such thoughtful touches as umbrellas, an iPod docking station, old-fashioned telephones, a wide array of current magazines and even a doggie bed for our pug. In the main building, there’s a fun boot room stocked with colorful Wellies, and four beautifully designed sitting rooms with fireplaces (don’t miss the all-green Morning Room).
Small caveats included somewhat sluggish room service (trays took too long to be removed and our meals on the terrace were slow in arriving). The girls also weren’t impressed by the dated movie selection (though my film-loving eleven-year-old thought the horror selection wasn’t bad). Activities at Lime Wood focus on the great outdoors. During our stay, we walked the long, meandering paths that start right behind the hotel; we took a nature-filled bike ride past Shetland ponies and lazy cows; and we visited scenic nearby Lyndhurst, the capital of the New Forest that dates back to 1079 and William the Conqueror. A more motivated group could have indulged in such activities as visiting seaside villages, sailing to the Isle of White, exploring the maritime museum in Buckler’s Hard or the Motor Museum, in Beaulieu, which has more than 250 vintage cars. The hotel provides bikes, skateboards and an electric scooter.
We spent much of our visit reading, relaxing and enjoying the fourteen acres of garden and trout-filled ponds. One afternoon, friends visited for tea and scones, which are served in a pretty interior courtyard, and one of them immediately made a reservation for her upcoming wedding anniversary when she saw the gorgeous dining room overlooking the majestic gardens. This fall, the 16,000-square-foot Daylesford spa will debut, offering another compelling reason to stay put (it will include a hot tub on the roof, a swimming and a hydrotherapy pool, and a treatment menu focused on holistic pampering). Sometimes doing nothing is the best relaxation of all. Rooms from $350.
Contact: Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst; Hampshire; 44-23-8028-7177; www.limewoodhotel.co.uk.
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