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Best hotels in New Forest 2023: Where to stay for romantic walks and family adventure

Fancy waking up to deer outside your window? Choose one of these sublime hotels in this ancient national park

Antonia Windsor
Wednesday 05 April 2023 19:55 BST
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The New Forest is home to plenty of lovely hotels, both peacefully remote or slap-bang in the centre of things
The New Forest is home to plenty of lovely hotels, both peacefully remote or slap-bang in the centre of things (Chewton Glen)

Sitting pretty in southern England – covering southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire – the New Forest was once a royal hunting ground for the likes of William the Conqueror.

Fast forward 1,000 years, and you’ll find the ancient landscape of glades, woodland, open moors and heathland hasn’t changed that much at all, with Willie’s “Nova Foresta” still full of mystery and romance – and ponies, of course (5,000 of them at last count).

Spend couple of days in the New Forest and you’ll soon get used to waking to the sight of deer grazing outside your window, having to put your foot on the brakes as those free-roaming ponies trot carefree across the road, and stopping every few minutes while on a walk to take photographs of donkeys grazing under ancient oak trees.

But where are the best places to stay? Whether you’re looking for a boutique room above a pub, a smart townhouse with top-notch food or a grand country pile with roaring fires, all these New Forest hotels have character, style and super service for a romantic getaway pour deux or an adventure-filled break for the whole family. Wild horses won’t be able to drag you away…

Best for centrality: Crown Manor House Hotel

This hotel is right in the thick of the New Forest’s centre (The Crown Manor House Hotel)

Neighbourhood: Lyndhurst

Situated right on the High Street in Lyndhurst, the “capital” of the New Forest, this is a great place to stay if you want easy access to the independent boutiques and bars that make up this vibrant town.

Occupying a striking half-timbered building at the top of the High Street, the Crown Manor House has plenty of historic flourishes in its design, including a kissing seat in the reception and a two-AA-Rosette restaurant bathed in the light from arched Victorian bay windows. The 50 rooms are all a little different in shape and size, and come with period styling.

Best dog-friendly hotel: Balmer Lawn

You might just wake up to some four-legged locals grazing outside your window here (Balmer Lawn)

Neighbourhood: Brockenhurst

Walk into the busy bar of this popular four-star hotel and you’ll find an array of furry friends curled at their owners’ feet, having been thoroughly exhausted by excited romps across the 500 acres of low-lying woodland that makes up Balmer’s lawn itself.

In winter, enjoy the Saltus spa and indoor pool, while in summer, head to the adjacent “Brockenhurst beach” to splash in the river and lounge on the shore.

Take a room overlooking the lawn and you might catch sight of a summer cricket match or a herd of grazing deer. The two-AA-Rosette Beresford’s restaurant serves up fine dining as well as afternoon teas and Sunday lunches.

Best for treehouses: Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa

Relax and unwind at the Chewton Glen, complete with treehouses and its own helipad (Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa)

Neighbourhood: New Milton

For a private and exclusive New Forest hideaway, book one of Chewton Glen’s treehouses. Tucked away in the grounds of this five-star hotel, these bespoke lodges come packed with luxury, including wood-burning stoves, arcade game machines and outdoor hot tubs with views over the treetops.

The hotel itself is full of country-house grandeur, while its impressive list of facilities includes hydrotherapy pools, spa, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet lawn and cookery classes. Don’t be surprised if a celebrity or two lands on the hotel’s helipad.

Best for lively drinks: The Huntsman of Brockenhurst

Neighbourhood: Brockenhurst

There’s a good dose of joie de vivre in this roadside inn on the route from Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst. The snazzy parquet floor with occasional turquoise tiles and tungsten bulbs in metalwork lampshades make you feel as though you might be in downtown Manhattan rather than on the edge of a somewhat sleepy New Forest town.

The boutique rooms in both the main building and the converted stable block have a similarly hip vibe, with diagonal metro tiles in the bathrooms and Orla Kiely-esque soft furnishings.

Come at the weekend and hang out with the locals around a firepit in the garden or indulge in a Josper-grilled steak or wood-fired pizza.

Best for river access: The Master Builder’s House Hotel

This historic building is the perfect place for any season (Master Builders House)

Neighbourhood: Beaulieu

This charming hotel is housed in the 18th-century home of the master shipbuilder, Henry Adams, and sits right on the river at the end of picturesque Buckler’s Hard village, where ships for Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar were built. In summer, sit on the terrace with a G&T and watch the swans drifting by; in winter, huddle around the fire of the wood-beamed Yachtsman bar with pots of Earl Grey tea.

Rooms in the main house come with lavish period furnishings, such as antique wooden trunks and Turkish carpets, while those in the new wing are more contemporary in style and some are dog friendly, too.

After a bit of fun and adventure? You can book watersports, such as paddleboarding and kayaking, from New Forest Adventures, which has a concession outside the hotel.

Best for shepherd’s hut stays: Burley Manor

Sitting pretty in the rolling hills, this manor makes for a perfect romantic getaway (Burley Manor)

Neighbourhood: Burley

In the eight-acre grounds of this baronial manor house is an unbelievably cute oak shepherd’s hut for a discreet romantic break in the New Forest. Lounge on the bed and look up at the stars through the overhead skylight, soak in the free-standing bathtub, and stoke your own fire in the wood-burning stove.

Breakfast can be delivered in a hamper in the morning, so you don’t even have to get dressed to go to the restaurant. For further pampering, book a Temple Spa massage or facial. In summer, you can cool off in the outdoor swimming pool.

Best spa hotel: Careys Manor Hotel & Spa

Carey Manor’s spa provides pools and the latest treatments (Careys Manor Hotel & Spa)

Neighbourhood: Brockenhurst

This grand dame New Forest Hotel is right in the centre of Brockenhurst, so it’s possible to make a car-free visit and get the train from London (1hr 30 mins). If you do arrive by car, it will be quickly whisked away by valet parking as soon as you’ve pulled up on the gravel driveway.

The manor house is resplendent with 18th-century wood panelling, chandeliers and large stone fireplaces – the rooms in this old part are the most characterful.

You can choose between fine dining in the three-AA-Rosette Cambium restaurant or French cuisine in Le Blaireau. However, the main attraction here is the SenSpa, which has a range of hydrotherapy pools and an ever-evolving menu of on-trend treatments.

Best for special occasions: Lime Wood Hotel

Neighbourhood: Lyndhurst

This wisteria-clad Georgian country house hotel is the perfect backdrop for photographs, whether you’re celebrating a birthday or plotting a place to propose. The attentive staff seem to have a limitless capacity for retaining knowledge of these things and you’ll get the VIP treatment – and heartfelt congratulations from everyone you encounter during your stay.

Even if you’re not celebrating, you can’t help but feel elevated out of the day-to-day drudgery as you walk on the manicured lawns, sip English sparkling wine on the terrace, or take a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi of the Herb House spa.

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