From above: Running downhill at Chewton Glen
Nothing says fun like autumn leaves at The Grove
The bridge at Chewton Glen
The Grove’s lovable eccentricities include a faux beach inside its Walled Garden, complete with buckets and spades, ice cream cart, beach huts and outdoor pool – all in typically English defiance of the weather. Alongside is the Potting Shed, where toys are scattered alongside boots and billiards. It’s like the lord of the manor’s rumpus room.
While these hotels embrace their inner child, they’re serious about adult indulgences: excellence reigns in the gourmet heaven of Coworth Park’s The Barn and Coworth Park Restaurant, and The Grove’s world championship golf course and sybaritic Sequoia Spa.
A brilliantly creative take on the new country house cool has just been installed at Chewton Glen, a 300-year-old Hampshire estate on the edge of the New Forest. This solid, traditional five-star hotel has catapulted itself into the 21st century by adding 12 eco tree houses in the woods next to the main mansion. It’s a sort of nature-meets-sci-fi-in-a-penthouse fantasy, enticing to adults and kids alike: chic, architect-created tree dwellings in the forest that inspired the English classic Children of the New Forest - with Taittinger champagne, private hot tub, gourmet Tree Service, 9,000 thread count linen and a bathroom masquerading as a top spa.
The Tree House Suites are not actually up in the branches but float on wooden stilts beside them. Each curves outward in a sexy semicircle for maximum panorama, with glass front, wraparound veranda and views from giant bed, vast bath and deep hot tub. Assets within include a meticulously equipped kitchen with complementary cake, cider and champagne, wood burning stove, and high-tech tablet ordering system catering to every need.
For such a decadent space it’s astonishingly child-safe so Arden is free to roam, clad in her very own tiny fluffy bathrobe. She loves peering into the secret hatch through which our breakfast arrives. “It’s how they serve food in prison cells,” chuckles my other half (he hasn’t been, he’s just seen movies). “Except this is the opposite.” It certainly is. The breakfast, delivered picnic-style in a big striped trunk, is a treasure box that keeps on giving, with food served in chunky glass jars, all fresh, home-made and hearty. Afterwards, Arden climbs inside the box. Imagine trying to do that with a buffet.
It’s to Chewton Glen’s credit that we tear ourselves away from the Tree House to sample fine dining Vetiver restaurant, wallow in the spa hydro-pool and play croquet on the lawn, Arden with her own miniature set. And then there’s the New Forest to explore as well as local beaches a 20-minute walk away.
At these hotels, you float through the prettiest pages of a children’s storybook with the world’s best wine list. We loved the hedonism, the chic, the innovation. But above all, we loved the memories. Nowhere lends gravitas to your family moments like a genuine British stately home. I shall proudly tell Arden that in one morning, she perfected walking in a 250-year old grand hallway and hit her first croquet ball on a lawn where royal feet have trodden. And then she held Javier Bardem’s hand. For a little lady, it doesn’t get classier than that.