PSA: UK staycations are a-go! Boris Johnson this week announced hotels and other related travel businesses will reopen on May 17 and they’re booking up fast. Don’t believe me? I was on hold to one British hotel for *four* hours yesterday. I kid you not. I love a healthy dose of Vitamin D as much as the next person but in my humble opinion, nothing beats a quintessential Great British staycation – and I’m grateful the pandemic has given us the opportunity to rediscover the incredible haunts our country has to offer.
Last winter, I was fortunate enough to spend an idyllic few days at one of the UK’s most revered hotels, Chewton Glen. The five-star privately-owned luxury hotel and spa, which is situated on the edge of the ancient New Forest and a short walk from the sea in Hampshire, is one of those hotels shrouded in #ifyouknowyouknow mystery. It’s the place where celebrities and London city boys retreat for a much-needed antidote to the capital’s debauchery; it’s also where families come to celebrate weddings, birthdays and, well, life. You’ve probably seen the hotel’s iconic treehouses all over your Instagram grid – you know, the ones where a thousand ‘candidly-sipping-champagne-in-my-hot-tub’ snaps have been captured – but the hotel has so much more to offer than a backdrop for Insta likes. Indeed, it was named ‘The Best Country Hotel In The World’, so what makes it worthy of such an accolade?
Located within 130 acres of gardens that you can actually roam (unlike country manors that boast acres upon acres of grounds that are actually condoned off by aggressive farmers), the drive up to Chewton truly sets the scene for a weekend of luxury ahead. It’s the kind of hotel my mother always demands (‘you know, the one that just feels like you’re at home, albeit a much more lavish version where there’s staff who remember your name’ – yes, that). A part of the Iconic Luxury Hotels group, the hotel is in good company with Cliveden House, The Lygon Arms and the newly-opened Mayfair Townhouse as siblings.
The hotel’s decor is that perfect fusion of comfort and class and its walls are rich with history. According to historic documents, Chewton was built in the early eighteenth century, with land and premises known as ‘Chewton Glen House’ appearing in 1732. The hotel also boasts famous literary links, with Capt. Frederick Marryat using the hotel as a base in the 1840’s when he was gathering material for his famous novel “The Children of the New Forest” – you’ll notice that many of the hotel’s rooms, which are really special and wonderfully unique, are named after characters from Captain Marryat’s novels.
Roaring fireplaces, plush velvet sofas and an extensive wine list that’s akin to a tome make this place the ideal place to hibernate in the winter. As a staunch fan of chintz interior, this is my Mecca. I’ve also been in the summer and can confirm it’s a completely different – albeit equally wonderful – proposition. It’s an all-seasons hotel – somewhere you can happily hole up in regardless of the weather. Days can be wiled away poring over a good book in one of the hotel’s many cosy lounges (glass of Malbec, optional), enjoying a game of golf on the 9-hole par-3 golf course, making use of the indoor (or outdoor!) tennis courts or ambling down to the beach. There’s also a croquet lawn, mountain biking, shooting, archery, falconry and duck herding (yes, really). But wait! The hotel’s pièce de résistance is without a doubt its brand spanking new spa.
The spa’s epicentre is its breathtaking 17 metre indoor pool, which is flooded with natural light and adorned with wall murals. Through double doors, you’ll find a hydrotherapy spa we spent so much time in, we left akin to soggy prunes. The spa has reimagined the ancient tradition of the ‘water cure’ with six hi-tech therapy options: an ‘air-tub’, which provides a rather pleasant all-over bubbly Jacuzzi-like effect; an ‘air bench’, that softly massages your body while you lay on your a**; powerful body jets used to target specific muscles and joints (and cellulite, in my case); 60 ‘pin prick’ jets, which sound much scarier than they are and in fact provide a deep lower body massage; blissfully relaxing air loungers, for ergonomically controlled, therapeutic body massages; and a central pool offering neck and shoulder massages of varying pressure. Phew! Feeling relaxed yet?
There’s also a brand new spa treatment menu which includes two alfresco treehouse treatments. The refreshingly ‘stripped back’ spa menu – the first of its kind in the UK – has taken a ‘less is more approach’ that will see therapists create fully bespoke treatments for guests based on their needs. After trying numerous facials where I had no idea whether the countless products the therapist was pummeling into my skin were actually suitable, this is a welcome addition. No, I don’t want an all-singing-all-dancing champagne/bubble facial, I just want someone who understands my skin’s needs and makes it glow, thank you very much. Try the Oskia facial for exactly this: a hands-on approach to your skin from a really in-the-know therapist.
If the spa (and its fancy hydropools) weren’t enough to lure you to Chewton Glen, the food probably will. Lunch can be enjoyed casually in one of the hotel’s lounges (that Caesar Salad though!) or at The Kitchen Restaurant & Cookery School. Located a short walk down the estate’s driveway, The Kitchen is both a cookery school and a 42-seater informal restaurant, both overseen by celebrity chef and former alumnus, James Martin. Yes, the one off the telly.
James Martin, along with the restaurant’s Head Chef Adam Hart, has created a bloody sumptuous menu of casual comfort food classics done right (think woodfired pizzas crisped to perfection and the best fish and chips of your life), as well as succulent fresh fish and superfood salads curated using vegetables, fruit and herbs foraged from the hotel’s garden.
For a more formal affair, The Dining Room is spread across several rooms, ensuring one night feels very different to the next. Led by Head Chef Simon Addison and Executive Head Chef Luke Matthews, this is fine dining at its very best. Hits among our group included the fresh chopped chicken salad, Thai lobster curry with coconut rice, mouthwatering crab and a showstopping twice-baked Emmental soufflé.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, the working cellar at the heart of The Dining Room, dubbed The Wine Room, will impress. The space wasn’t designed to be a stuffy, pretentious and intimidating cellar area for wine toffs but rather a vibrant space to be enjoyed either for private parties of up to twenty guests, or the location for an informal wine tasting and briefings including the regular Saturday night open tasting sessions which are available to all guests. Cheers to that.
If you’ve been squirrelling away annual leave during lockdown (and you’ve checked with the latest government travel advice to make sure you’re good to go), Chewton Glen is the perfect place to recharge and rejuvenate after this god-awful year. Dubai, who?
2020 rates start at £370 Bed & Breakfast depending on availability and type of room or suite.
We travelled to Chewton Glen in the Honda Jazz Crosstar, which has been developed with dynamic, active lifestyles in mind. The stylish little car sports a tough, muscular style featuring a distinctive grille, sleek integrated roof rails and a raised ride height for easier access and a commanding view of the road ahead (seriously ideal for taking in those stunning New Forest views – and ponies). The best part of the Jazz Crosstar is how economical it is – the e:HEV hybrid powertrain engine means the car is super efficient. Automatically alternating between three driving modes – EV Drive which is fully electric, Hybrid Drive when the petrol engine and electric motor combine for optimum power and economy and Engine Drive for sustained, higher-speed cruising when the petrol engine is at its most efficient – the Jazz Crosstar does it all. To make life even more convenient (because we’re all so damn lazy these days), using the app you can remotely communicate with the vehicle, such as sending journey information ahead of time and also locking and unlocking the car remotely. Everything has been well thought out to simplify your life.