run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Friday 9 June 2017

Luxury family travel: Lime Wood in the New Forest

 Lime Wood is the kind of place you go on a babymoon or minimoon (it has the most amazing food, a beautiful spa and a lovely New Forest setting), laze happily by the pool, fall in love, and fear you'll never be able to return to once you Become A Parent.

Luckily, having just returned from a brilliant two-night stay at the 32-room hotel just outside Lyndhurst, we can report it's a brilliant place to go as a family too. In fact, it might just be one of Britain's nicest luxury mini-breaks: fancy but not fussy; interior design that makes you wander if they'll notice if you fork-lift, say, the entire bathroom home with you, and food so good you're uber-grateful the New Forest is a (free-to-borrow) Hunter wellies waddle away, because you need those good long walks. 

We checked into Crescent Three, the ideal stay for families because it's probably more spacious than your home, if you live in London. The master bedroom is upstairs with a big private balcony gazing out over the forest, a king-sized bed with soft-cotton sheets, a roaring fire (with safety guard), beautiful decor touches (I loved the vanity table..) 

and a large bathroom with a huge roll top bath, underfloor heating and a walk-in waterfall shower. Plus oodles of soft towels, and Bamford toiletries. But that's just upstairs. Downstairs we had a cosy lounge (with reasonably-priced minibar stocked with THINGS YOU ACTUALLY WANT, Cadbury's Buttons and £2 big packs of Jelly Babies: YES PLEASE.), dining area with double doors that open up into the forest,  and the fab-for-families bit: another single bedroom with sleigh bed, and en-suite bathroom. So the kid(s) can have the downstairs quarters and you can have a lie-in.. 
Since tiny man isn't yet old enough to get himself some early Peppa Pig time, we asked for a cot upstairs. Again, the room is so big that there's plenty of space. There's also lots of entertainment: free wifi, board games in the room, DVD player and TVs, free newspapers each day and excellent in-room mags (Vogue, Tatler, Olive, not the usual free ad-fests). We recommend a room at the back of the hotel for maximum quiet and privacy. Opting for a Pavillion room does mean coats and having to go outside to access the main hotel, spa and restaurants, but it's only a one-minute walk.

The hotel staff are really friendly - somehow everyone knew tiny man's name, and gave him colouring books, and reading books, and there were high-chairs in all the restaurants. It's not Center Parcs: kids are only allowed in the pool from 8.30-11 on the weekends, but once you visit the Herb House spa, you'll understand why and appreciate your kid-free trips there if you can sort out a good shift system with a fellow adult.

Sure, there are endless fitness options - the schedule of classes, from yoga on the roof to spinning was more packed than my average holiday suitcase, and there's loads of Technogym equipment - but I couldn't stray from the three pools (warm indoor pool, pummelling hydrotherapy pool, and volcano-filled outdoor steam pool), the sauna and steam rooms and the ten treatment rooms and relaxation suite. I was whisked to the latter after a Pai facial so relaxing I'm pretty sure I was snoozing within five minutes. 

Next-door to the pool is Raw & Cured, with its uber-healthy menu of dishes for about £10 each: tiny man gobbled down raw courgette wraps and asked for more whilst we sipped smoothies, still full from the breakfast:

Hotel breakfasts are my favourite meal out and Lime Wood's is stand-out: a select buffet with crepes, squeeze-your-own fresh OJ, berries, fruit, croissants, granola ingredients, smoked salmon and meats (from the in-grounds Smokehouse), plus hot dishes to order: we sampled chili avocado on sourdough with poached eggs, and smoked mackerel during our stay.
The hotel has lots of hideaways to explore with kids - both inside, with rooms like a library, pool room, boot room and other nooks and crannies dotted around a central courtyard, and outdoors where you have the New Forest at your fingertips. Literally: the Forest gate and the front gate provide direct access, and there are useful lanyards with lots of walking routes in each room. There are small bikes and cars for kids (and big bikes with toddler seats) too.There really are ponies, cows, and if you're lucky donkeys and pigs a short stroll away: if you've a toddler, you'll know this basically provides unbridled, unlimited joy.
Lime Wood is also convenient for other New Forest attractions (Beaulieu with its motor museum and beaches were about a 30-minute drive away), but the hotel is so lovely you won't want to leave..

Once we'd knackered out tiny man and whisked him off to bed (aka the buggy in snooze position), it was time for dinner at Hartnett, Holder & Co, the Angela Hartnett-run Italian restaurant. Ask for the (not advertised) snack menu if you're only peckish, but the full a la carte, whilst not cheap (£20-£30 main courses) is utterly worth it. Norfolk quail under a bread crust was a showstopper; baked parmesan cauliflower gnocchi was like the world's best mac'n'cheese; even simple rigatoni with black cabbage and chilli made me want to ask for more. But thank goodness I didn't because I needed room for dessert, where the chocolate and hazelnut tart might be the best thing I've ever eaten.

You'll leave Lime Wood relaxed, well-fed, and full of countryside air... and vowing to come back.

 * Thanks to Lime Wood for putting us up for a review stay - but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about a place we really, really love.

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