The New Forest is a perfect location for a country house hotel. On our drive down from Solihull to Brockenhurst we trundled past gorgeous, picturesque villages and neighbouring forests scattered with wild horses and deer.
As we turned into The Pig and made our way up the tree-lined drive we knew we had arrived somewhere special. Instantly sensing and absorbing the laid back vibes.
As soon as we stepped foot into the spectacular house it was obvious our every whim was about to be catered for. We were told we could borrow a pair of Hunter wellies for an afternoon walk, a bike to cycle to nearby village Beaulieu, a blanket to sit outside by the roaring log fire or even a friendly cat to keep us company over a pot of tea in the library.
We excitedly made our way around to the back of the hotel, to the old stable yard which had been converted into cottages – complete with all the original features, timber frames and stable partitions. Ours was called The Pig Sty (very apt, as we found out the following morning – it over looks all the piggies roaming around in the field behind).
Our quaint abode was wonderfully rustic with a traditional cottage interior – wooden beams, shabby-chic furnishing and a log burner. Kitted out in earthy colourings and mellow lamps it had all the mod cons, flashy walk-in rain shower, DVD player and a huge selection of films, digital TV, DAB radio, a king size bed laden with pillows and as many board games as you could possibly need. Oh, not forgetting a full stocked mini bar and a complimentary bottle of champagne.
Despite being February 1st it was the perfect afternoon for a country walk. The sun was shining, there were no rain clouds in sight and the animals were all out in force.
We met an array of wild horses deep in the forest, they were divided into two herds, each with six ponies. Mainly chestnut in colour, apart from one grey stallion and one black stallion – who in turn seemed to be the leader of each posse.
This little chap was a bit camera shy….
As we strolled back to the hotel in the late afternoon sunshine there were swallows everywhere ducking and diving around us as we walked.
We then kicked off our wellies and headed into the in Drawing Room for some well deserved afternoon tea. We plonked ourselves down in one of the many huge armchairs surrounded by velvet cushions, dimly lit lamps and a collection of stuffed creatures (owls, pheasants and other birds) in glass cases.
We ordered ham sandwiches, which came with parsnip, carrot and beetroot crisps, a pot of Earl Grey and a few bottles of local cider.
After lazing around in front of the crackling fire for an hour or so, I made my way through the herb garden – past the pigs, chickens, quails and beehives – to a potting shed. From first glance the rickety wooden shed looked like any other ordinary old man’s shed. But this one is used for spa treatments.
Walking down the wooden path, over a bridge, which crosses a lily pond, heading to the bottom of the garden I could tell I was in for a real treat.
I opened the door to be greeted with an amazing oasis of warmth, calm and relaxation. The shed is perfectly kitted out, dimly lit with floral-scented burning candles and very cosy. As I laid down on the massage bed, I could see the sun setting across the water, down the garden through the cracks in the wooden beams.
The 60 minute Ultimate Luxury Facial was superbly self-indulgent and included a full head, shoulder, arm and hand massage. I could feel myself floating away completely absorbed by the relaxing music with soft vocals and gentle Balearic beats. The warmth, tranquility and mellow ambience made me feel like I was in sun-soaked Ibiza, not in a rustic potting shed, in the middle of winter, in Hampshire.
The perfect end to a magical day.