Welcome to Off The Beaten Path, our new feature where we, the IdleSociety team, travel all over the world sampling the most spectacular boutiques and big-name hotels and resorts that are out there for budding travellers and worldwide wonderers. We breakdown each hotel and its offerings, rating each experience out of five giving our readers honest, thoughtful reviews. We’ll cover everything from the basics to the little something extra that will make every customers stay that bit more special.
For our first feature we decided to stay closer to home with a country escape at the Lime Wood hotel in the heart of the New Forest. A hotel that has been on our list from day one, the Lime Wood is set in idyllic, country surroundings and promises to offer “laid-back luxury”. With its offering of 33 rooms, you’ll really feel part of the exclusive crowd. A flick through the pages of any high-society magazine and this country estate’s name will pop up as a favourite of London bankers, lawyers and high-flying executives. Now you may think all thats rather posh, maybe even slightly snooty, but don’t be fooled. This may be a 5* luxury hotel, but to us, it felt like coming home.
The Venue: Lime Wood Hotel,
Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst SO43 7FZ
The Lime Wood, which was originally a 13th century hunting lodge, is a boutique country house hotel set in the heart of the New Forest National Park just 1.5 miles outside the small own of Lyndhurst (roughly a 1.5hr drive from London).
Renovated in 2009 by its latest owner they invested a whopping £38million on a full refurbishment of the establishment, grounds as well as erecting new buildings to expand the overall residency beyond the main house. Designed by Charlies Morris and Ben Pentreath, the duo set out to bring a contemporary twist to the hotel, keeping in mind its long heritage, history and of course the original buildings bundles of charm. On the interiors a recent refurbishment on all the rooms by the very talented Susie Atkinson has done what many set out to do (and often fail) but more on that later.
Location & Arrival:
The New Forest National Park is a place of natural beauty, untouched and unspoilt, the perfect place to unwind and forget the hustle and bustle of modern life. From the moment you pull onto the lane leading to the entrance gate of the hotel you feel you’ve been whisked away to a remote corner of the planet, totally alone apart from the iconic New Forest ponies wondering through the dense cluster of trees, bushes and surrounding countryside.
Through the main gates and up the long, winding driveway to the hotel, there’s nothing but picture perfect scenery and total silence. At this point you can either park your car yourself or, should you choose, pull up right outside the main house where you’re eagerly greeted by helpful runners who will handle the process for you as well as confidently guiding you into the main entrance hall to check-in. Don’t be too surprised if you see the odd Ferrari, Porsche or Mercedes G-Wagon, the front of the main house could possibly a petrol heads dream.
Walking through the front door of the main building was like walking into my grandparents cottage from my youth. The crackling fireplace and homely feel of the decoration and furnishings made you feel welcome, instantly comfortable in your surroundings. At the front desk we were greeted by what I can only describe as the nicest woman on the planet, Jane, who along with her young, tweed jacket / riding boot wearing assistants, gave us a warm welcome and explained that because we were early our room wasn’t quite ready, but not a problem they had us covered with a quick tour and drinks (we were pretty eager and arrived around 3hrs early). After a simple, speedy check-in, Janegave us a guided tour of the hotel (her knowledge was pretty impressive) after which we were dropped off at the courtyard bar for refreshing drinks – we recommend ordering the non-alcoholic cocktails.
Location & Arrival: 5*
Front of House Staff: 5*
(A special mention for Jane – She was a true delight. Anybody who is considering working in customer service or hospitality must be trained by this woman.)
Accommodation & Interiors:
On our initial tour around the residence and other buildings – Which consists of 33 bedrooms across the main house, cottages, lodges and a lakeside cabin, as well as the hotels wellness offering Herb House, their restaurant Hartnett Holder & Co and healthy cafe Raw & Cured – we were blown away by the attention to detail in every aspect of the hotel. Quirky and charismatic furnishings across the residence and surrounding buildings were thanks to a recent refurbishment of the interiors across all rooms this year by Susie Atkinson. The Lime Wood team really have thought of everything, including a huge selection of Hunter wellies in the boot room that you can choose from when you fancy taking a wonder around the grounds or use for a number of walking routes the hotel have pre-planned out that you’ll find in your welcome pack. Or, perhaps walking may not be your thing? So for those of you who prefer to stay indoors and cosy up to the fire you can pick from a number of ‘activity rooms’ such as the small library where you can choose from a large, broad spectrum of books, play chess or simply relax. Why not play pool? A quick walk through the connecting rooms from the library and drawing room and there you have it, a pool table all to yourselves.
After a quick walk around the building to get our bearings and a drink (or two!) we were soon guided by the front of house staff to our room. During our stay we bunked down in one of the Lime Wood’s forest suites which are situated in the main house. On entering the room we came into a well-sized living room we were greeted by rolling views of the surrounding grounds and again the same charismatic, quirky furnishings as throughout the rest of the hotel. To say the room was well equipped would be an injustice. With a full size bath that can easily fit two, plus a walk-in waterfall shower and Bamford products throughout you could spend hours in its bathroom without even needing to use the rest of the room. In the living room was a well-sized sofa, plasma TV & mini-bar area complete with a collection of gins, vodka, wine, even craft beer. All finished with classic martini glasses, a Nespresso machine and all the glassware and old school tea sets you would expect from a country estate.
When it comes to going to sleep don’t forget to use their turndown service, there’s nothing better than coming back from dinner to find the curtains drawn, mood lighting on and Bamford sleep spray on a perfectly readied bed. Speaking of the bed, you spread out, thanks to the super king size mattress there’s enough room to not have to fight for space with your partner. Before bed take advantage of the incredible bath on offer, a tub so big you’ll need two of you just to fill it. The cherry on top is the provided bath salts and Bamford bath products, a must if you’ve had a hard day of relaxing in the Herb House spa.
The Lime Wood team have equip the rooms so well with everything a person would ever need means you’d actually never have to leave the room if you wished. What Susie & the Limewood have managed to do is, as I said before, what many try to do but often fail (miserably) and thats make a hotel feel like a home. I don’t mean just make it a nice hotel thats well constructed, but to actually make you feel, physically and emotionally that this could be home, that is exactly how you feel from the moment you step into this hotel.
Accommodation & Interiors: 5*
Amenities & Offerings:
Hartnett Holder & Co is the Lime Wood’s in-residence restaurant. With its relaxed, stylish and comfortable setting it really is a restaurant full of character but completely unpretentious. Angela Hartnett (protégée of Gordon Ramsay) and Lime Wood’s Luke Holder are both famed for their informal and grounded style of cooking, along with their team they create locally sourced Italian dishes with a respectful nod to each of the seasons. Hartnett and Holder’s food comes with a much loved Italian approach to eating, full of textures aromas and feel good, hearty food. Again, going back to the notion of feeling at home the style is chefs’ home-cooked food not food cooked for restaurants. For our dining experience we decided to start with a mixture of crab soup accompanied with crab meat muffins and Monkfish Carpaccio. The crab soup may be the best starter of your life, we kid you not. Moving onto the main course and we decided to give the pork cheek and a chicken pasta dish a whirl, both equally mouth watering, packed full of flavour and delicately presented, both dishes were a real treat. Beware however, food FOMO is a real thing at Hartnett & Holder, no matter what you order you’ll always feel as if you’re missing out by not having everything on the menu. One thing we’d advise, before you order your drink take a decent look through the jam-packed wine list (its actually more like a book), there are some really gems in there such as the 2016 Antinori ‘Cevaro della Sala’ Chardonnay from Italy.
Staying on the cooking front, ever fancied trying a cooking shcool? Drawing on Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder’s fresh, confident approach to cooking and eating, HH&Co Backstage Cookery School offers a fun and informal way of learning how to cook. Suitable for complete beginners to budding masterchefs, its a hands-on approach that aims to improve culinary skills and give guests bags of inspiration for cooking at home. This is an experience we’d highly recommend.
The Herb House at Lime Wood is a luxury destination spa dedicated to natural wellbeing. Originally inspired by its forest surroundings, the Herb House instantly invites a sense of calm and serenity topping off the ultimate rejuvenating country retreat. The spa has ten spacious treatment rooms, including two double signature rooms, as well as hot pools, thermal rooms (the Forest Sauna, Steam House), the Hands and Feet Room for manicures and pedicures, and private soak baths in their spacious changing rooms. There is also a 16 metre indoor lap pool with retracting glass doors to the garden and hot tub. We did get to sample the workout studio in partnership with celebrity personal trainer Matt Roberts (counting David Cameron, Michael Mcintyre and many more as clients) offers a series of classes (rooftop yoga and pilates in the summer), as well as one to one training sessions and much more. We had the chance to do a one to one coaching session with their lead coach Justin and would highly recommend it! A full reviewing of their coaching and training options at Herb House will be coming in the next few weeks.
Raw & Cured is the restaurant in the Herb House Spa which offers delicious, natural and healthy food, including freshly made salads, cured fish and meat from Lime Wood’s own Smoke House; as well as fresh juices and smoothies. Raw & Cured is about eating simply and focusing on the natural taste of quality ingredients to reflect the natural, authentic approach to the Herb House treatments.
Country walks and woodland running is also on the cards with a number of outlined walks in the welcome pack you receive in your room. The paths cross the surrounding area, everything from a couple of miles to full on treks into the surrounding area stopping off at just about every pub on the way, perfect. If you don’t fancy walking or running however there’s also the option of jumping on a couple of mountain bikes and riding off across country into the sunset and beyond, beware though, winter months means there is plenty of mud and bogs on these walks so we’d advise taking advantage of the provided Hunter wellington boots in the Lime Woods boot-room.
Amenities & Offerings: 5*
A stay at the Lime Wood is like entering persons idealistic thoughts of what perfect country living is and by choosing to stay at the Lime Wood you are deciding you want a flawless, luxurious country five star experience. The surroundings and the hotel itself, bundled together with its endearing, hardworking staff and the hotels incredible ability to make you feel as if you’re simply coming home means this is more than just a weekend away, its an full 360 assault on the senses. If you haven’t visit the Lime Wood we can assure you, it is nothing like you’ve ever experienced before, you must stop whatever you’re doing right now and book it, immediately. Forget the high-flying London hotels or Shoreditch with its ‘quirkiness’. The Lime Wood is the jewel of this country as far as we’re concerned, may she rein for a long time to come.