Before ‘Lockdown 3.0: This Time Christmas Is Cancelled’, we were incredibly lucky to stay at Lime Wood. Now our thoughts can finally start turning to booking summer staycations, I simply had to share this – and hope you’ll plan in a little treat for yourselves, too.
Driving through the bucolic New Forest’s miles and miles of trees (clue: Forest) and fields, it felt incredible to be out of the city. Little did we know the restrictions that were coming our way. Turning into a sweeping driveway flanked by manicured grounds, then pulling up outside the gleaming white country manor that is Lime Wood hotel… even better.
Warm light beckoned us in, the heavy front door held open for us...
Here to spend the night, we were greeted by the world’s friendliest doorman, who whisked away our bags without question. Already, it seemed this trip would live up to expectations – everyone we know who’s visited simply purrs: “Oh, Lime Wood? It’s the best”.
Hopping out of the car, you spot a large greenhouse bursting with life, and there, perched on the lakeside, a cosy-looking wooden cabin peeping out from behind the trees. Warm light beckoned us in, the heavy front door held open for us.
First impressions were simply sublime, as we were greeted by a huge, crackling fireplace and friendly staff donning chic uniforms. Huge, seasonal flower arrangements cover the surfaces. It’s hard to settle on what to admire first, each design-led detail pulling together to create an air of laid-back, yet high end luxury.
First impressions were simply sublime, as we were greeted by a huge, crackling fireplace and friendly staff donning chic uniforms...
Tall ceilings, heavy artworks and an elegant, sweeping staircase are in keeping with the Georgian exterior, yet there’s a super-fresh, contemporary feel throughout. One room might follow a slick monochrome style, while the next soothes with cream and pastel colourways.
Sumptuous bedrooms are found in the Main House, or scattered about the grounds. Forest Hideaway Suites boast two floors, a dining area and a lounge for ultimate privacy, while the Forest Lodges are the largest and most indulgent – choose one and you can expect fireplaces, a well-stocked pantry and your own private terrace.
Ours was an opulent Main House boudoir, with uninterrupted views of the grounds. Bags set down in the beautifully-appointed living area, we checked out the tea and coffee station, where we found pretty china teacups and a booze-laden mini bar housed in an antique cabinet. The bathroom was the stuff of dreams, marble surfaces lending the deep bath and separate shower a super glamorous feel. Over in the bedroom, we dived onto the delightfully soft bed and crisp sheets, admiring the sweet dressing table’s countryside views.
Downstairs in the airy Courtyard (it’s wonderfully bright, thanks to the fantastically high, atrium-style ceiling), we ordered a restorative gin and tonic before hitting the Herb House Spa. But not before a plate of complimentary arancini was happily plonked on our table – a pitch perfect little extra for all guests. To our right, young children quietly set to work on the hotel’s bespoke colouring books featuring local wildlife, while Mum and Dad peruse the cocktail menu – though undoubtedly upmarket, Lime Wood caters to little ones with understated ease, never compromising on style.
We ordered a restorative gin and tonic before hitting the Herb House Spa...
Working with boutique product houses from the British Isles, the spa offers 10 rooms to enjoy an extensive range of natural treatments. Poring over lotions and potions by Bamford, VOYA and Bamford Grooming Department in the beautiful adjoining boutique, we eagerly awaited our turn.
Our classic Bamford 45 minute massage started with a warm foot cleanse, followed by some Japanese shiatsu rocking techniques to open the meridians, and a full back and body massage. Super relaxed (and sleepy), we drifted into the spa, delighted to find not one, but two warm indoor pools.
The first can be found next to the steam room and sauna – it’s basically a giant bath, complete with beds that allow you to wallow near the surface enjoying the gentle bubbles. The second is best for a brisk swim, with a view of the outdoor jacuzzi – great motivation to polish off a few exercise laps. Nippy temperatures are swiftly forgotten once you’ve lowered yourself in, steam rising towards the dark skies, and your uninterrupted view of the stars.
Tempting though it is to slip between your ironed cotton sheets and take a nap, we strongly advise dinner in Hartnett Holder & Co.. Gordon Ramsay’s protégée Angela Hartnett has firmly placed her stamp on the buzzy neighbourhood Italian. Dim lighting, music, candlelight and fabulous service was almost enough to make us weep, after months devoid of atmosphere – and the food, oh, the food. Gorge on anti pasti followed by cacio e pepe, Wiltshire pork belly or whole roasted Dover sole – divine.
All these words, and we’ve barely mentioned the grounds. Acres of surrounding woodland and greenery beckon you to try a 5k route pre-breakfast (walking and running maps are provided, so you’re all out of excuses). There’s something transcendental about running through the woods with dozens of cows and ponies for company – the biggest crowds we’d seen in a while. Feeling a true sense of calm, we couldn’t help but think if things were to stay this way a while longer, we’d hardly mind. If only we could book in to stay for good…
Zipcar were kind enough to share a whip with us for the weekend, and we’d highly recommend a ‘Roundtrip’ for total ease of use, great insurance coverage and very understanding helpline staff (who don’t laugh when you manage to set off the alarm three times). Downloading the app, choosing a car and pick up/drop off via a Zipcar bay was a breeze. They even passed on some new research: apparently, 73 minute car journeys unlock the most meaningful conversations. Lime Wood is about an hour and a half’s drive from London – see if your chat can beat our exceptionally high standard (scrapping over directions, the aforementioned alarm and squealing every time we spotted a donkey).