Rhinefield has more than just quirky style, however. For a start, it's located in the heart of the ancient New Forest. During the mile-and-a-half approach to the hotel, it's hard to keep your eyes on the meandering road rather than the Canadian redwoods, copper beech trees and rhododendrons. The hotel is an ideal refuge from the stresses of city life. In the surrounding forest you might find yourself in the company of a family of deer, or a field full of wild horses.

If you fancy gadding about a country pile indulging in some DH Lawrence fantasies this is also the ideal spot (the Walker family, who owned the house, are immortalised in some of his novels).

The hotel is undoubtedly at its best when the sun shines. It is then that you can take a very civilized afternoon tea on the terrace surrounding the ornate fountain, play croquet or tennis, or simply wander across the lawns to admire the timeless New Forest views.

The elegant, leaded-window restaurant offers a good choice of local produce and some delicious desserts - just avoid dining in the middle of the week if you've come to escape the corporate chatter. Pool parties are held on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

LOCATION

Rhinefield Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire (01590 622922; www.handpicked.co.uk/rhinefieldhouse). It's two hours' drive from London.

Time to international airport: Southampton airport is 22 miles away and takes around an hour depending on traffic

COMFORTABLE?

All but two of the 34 rooms are in a two-storey wing, built just over a decade ago in the style of the main house. Modern, sophisticated interiors in tastefully neutral colours are practical and functional rather than decorative. Wall-mounted 42-inch plasma televisions in every room give a slightly blokeish feel. The two suites in the main house, however, ooze period character and offer an ambience in which to chill out, far from the madding city, while enjoying the beautiful views of the gardens or the forecourt.

Freebies: Half a bottle of champagne, the usual toiletries, and use of a DVD film library.

Keeping in touch: Direct dial phones, internet, satellite TV, DVD.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start from £210 a night with breakfast; £274 with dinner.

I'm not paying that: Then try the Nurse's Cottage, Station Road, Sway, Lymington, Hants (01590 683402, www.nursescottage.co.uk). Half board costs £75 per person.

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