It's officially time to cosy up, whack the heater full blast and plan your next adventure to escape the winter blues. Good news is, you don’t have to go far to get that holiday feeling.
With over 100 miles of off-road trails to explore, the New Forest is the perfect winter getaway for tired Londoners looking to unwind. The Hampshire landscape lends itself perfectly to long walks that showcase the changing hues with the added excitement of watching free-roaming animals. And the charm doesn't stop there. Its picturesque towns are home to historic castles, local farms, artisan shops and plenty of traditional pubs to relax in after sunset.
Where is it?
You are guaranteed to spot a few deer and horses en route to the 13th-century village of Beaulieu, home to The Montagu Arms and the famous National Motor Museum, which holds a vast collection of iconic cars from back in the day through to today. You don't need to be a motor enthusiast to marvel at the remarkable feat of engineering and sublime designs. A short walk from the hotel is Palace House, where you can discover more about the rich history of the Beaulieu Estate and the Montagu family.
Located on the village high street and well worth a visit is Fairweather's Garden Centre. Many of the plants sold here are locally grown. Whilst there, make sure you follow the crowds to Steff's Kitchen for tea and cake.
From the outside, The Montagu Arms feels like a part of the tapestry that's been there for ages. You can see the original elements of this 17th-century Grade II-listed building in the exposed wood and the original staircase leading to some of the 33 bedrooms and suites. The ground floor has two lounge spaces, ideal for a pre-dinner drink, and the hotel's fine dining restaurant called Terrace. At the centre of the hotel is a meticulously-kept circular garden paying homage to its natural surroundings.
The overall design is very much in keeping with the age of the building, showcasing natural materials like wood and a boldly patterned carpet depicting New Forest's very own deers, pigs and horses. Depending on which room you book, the furnishings vary from traditional to modern, but wherever you are, expect to see floral decorations freshly picked from the hotel's backyard - a lovely and personal touch to remind you of where you are.
The new Courtyard Deluxe Rooms sit next to each other, each with its unique style. Floor-to-ceiling French windows makes up one wall of the room, flooding it with light and offering uninterrupted views to the garden and vegetable patch beyond it. Inside, the high ceilings give a sense of space and grandeur, while the wooden beams bring to life the history of the building, which was once a 1920s chauffeur garage. The pastel-coloured walls and country house style decor are all inspired by the flora and fauna of the New Forest.
The massive rooms come with a living space to put your feet up and watch the telly and a bathroom the size of most London studio apartments. To one end is the walk-in shower and to the other is the piece de resistance: an oversized freestanding bathtub you most definitely would want to experience. There are other luxury touches like the range of SenSpa toiletries to take home post your stay and the double vanity marble sink.
Food & Drink
The hotel is home to the award-winning Terrace Restaurant, led by celebrated chef Matthew Whitfield. Born in the New Forest, Matthew has spent many years living and loving the fresh produce and livestock in the area. Every ingredient is a hero, respectfully treated to enhance the dish and elevate your dining experience. At dinner, guests can choose between a four or seven-course menu, including vegetarian, meat and seafood options. Vegetarians and vegans can tailor the menu to suit their dietary needs.
We went for the four-course pescatarian menu, and the flavours had my tastebuds dancing with joy. To start was a perfectly cooked BBQ Monkfish with borlotti beans topped with green peppercorn sauce, followed by fresh mussels from St Austell accompanied by charred pickled cucumber, toasted almonds and a curry sauce I would happily eat from a jar. To end the savoury menu was turbot over a bed of local potatoes and spinach.
Desserts were a dainty-looking mille-feuille layered with camembert and My Dad & Me -a salt caramel & malt tart with beer from Matthew's dad's brewery.
Your dinner at the Terrace would be incomplete without tasting some of the 2,000 bottles of wine they hold in the cellar. Head Sommelier Sergio dos Santos is the man for the job and a top entertainer who truly made our evening. Opt to try a different wine with each meal and learn about some organic wineries and more established wine producers.
Pub lovers don't have to go far to get a grub either. Located on the other side of The Montagu Arms, Monty's Inn serves delicious homemade food and have a fine selection of local ales.
There isn't a pool, gym or spa on-site, but guests looking to use these facilities can head six miles to their sister hotel Careys Manor & SenSpa. Guests can enjoy complimentary access to SenSpa, including the indoor pool, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and gym, with treatments and access to the hydrotherapy pool available at an additional cost.
Lovers of nature will adore The Montagu Arms for its quiet location and proximity to walking trails. The new luxury addition to the hotel will appeal to young couples looking to spend a weekend relaxing and dining. People with pets will be glad to know that The Montagu Arms welcomes four-legged friends in the Courtyard rooms and suites.
Rooms at the newly opened Courtyard Suites start from £381 per night including breakfast. To book, visit The Montagu Arms