The first days of summer are magical. Sudden surge of sunshine and warmth. Grey turning to green with a blink of an eye. A chance to let go of the winter coat and find a need to search for sunnies from the back of the wardrobe. These are the days I love. Year after year, summer feels like falling in love for the first time. I get all my energy back and see the world through more excited eyes. This was my experience during a sunny May weekend in the New Forest and now I have a big crush on the area.
The New Forest is an area in the South of England and includes a National Park of New Forest which is beautiful combination of woodlands and heathlands. Not only the New Forest is spectacular in its landscapes and tranquility but also very reachable from London. Frequent trains run from Waterloo in 1.5h to the heart of New Forest. We stayed two nights close to Brockenhurst in Rhinefield House Hotel which history dates back more than 130 years when it was a home for a very fortunate family. Some 30 years ago it was converted into a hotel and conference facility which it still is today.
The spectacular beauty of the grounds and the grand buildings is undeniable, so is the grandeur of the rooms in the Great House which stay very much in their original state. Regrettably I think the potential of the site hasn’t been quite fully used. For my taste the hotel has a bit too much business flair with bedrooms that are close to clones of those found in Marriott’s, Hilton’s and the likes (although to be fair, we stayed in the standard rooms) and hotel’s restaurant, the Grill, is overpriced and of average quality. It is a shame because Rhinefield House Hotel has got potential to be absolutely unforgettable. Fountains in the gardens, location nestled in the middle of the forest, ponies grazing on the heathlands on the way into the hotel pathway are all very impressive. So are some of the members of staff who are the most courteous and friendly (although some could have had a little better knowledge of the restaurant menus!). Despite some of its shortcomings, overall we did enjoy our stay very much and made good use of hotel’s facilities like tennis courts and an indoor spa.
Rhinefield House Hotel wasn’t the only hotel I had my eyes on when choosing lodging for the weekend. My first choice was The Pig which I had heard mentioned in many travel and design publications. Unfortunately The Pig was fully booked so we had to settle for lunch in order to enjoy the hotel for a moment. And oh, did we enjoy the lunch! The Pig has got admirably crafted atmosphere of an English country villa, upperclass stately apartment and modern boho chic in an honestly comfortable space. The restaurant served fabulous summer salads like the one I had with beetroot, delicious cherry tomatoes and goat cheese and light mains like pollock with pea purée. Knowing that the ingredients came from The Pig’s vegetable garden or from local fishermen, made the indulge even better.
Another one was Limewood, sister hotel to The Pig. Bank holiday weekend had taken its pick of the best hotels so again we decided to enjoy the hotel through its restaurant, Harnett Holder & Co. Being set up by Michelin star winning chef Angela Hartnett, the restaurant didn’t disappoint and was delightful with its dishes such as guineau fowl pasta and grilled red mullet and cannelloni beans. The decoration of the restaurant and hotel follows Italian style despite its very English setting. The result is a very modern and elegant space which you don’t want to leave at the end of the dinner.
Safe to say that the New Forest is a success from sleeping and eating point of view. But that’s not the only reason for choosing it as a long weekend destination. We loved the long cycling routes to admire the scenery and photograph wild horses enjoying sunshine on the fields. Playing tennis and relaxing in a spa were also fabulous. Apart from these activities, we didn’t stay long enough to visit sights and towns. That was just as well, as based on Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst village centers, there is not very much going on in the towns. The reason to go to New Forest is definitely the nature, scenery and fresh air. Although I would go back there also for The Pig!
Rhinefield House Hotel
Rhinefield Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QB, England
Tel: +44(0)845 072 7516
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