This 13th-century stately pile has belonged to countless aristo types over the years but it was Jim Ratcliffe, the chemicals billionaire-turned-financier who had the vision (and the dosh) to create “the best country-house hotel in the country” – Lime Wood Hotel.
Two hours’ drive from London in the heart of the New Forest – the expansive, truly beautiful stretch of ancient woodland on England’s south coast.
The DFL – “down from London” – weekend crowd, often with kids in tow. Smart locals who lunch.
The attention to detail really is something – not just in the well-calibrated welcome or the rural-luxe room aesthetic. It extends to brilliant ideas such as the idiot-proof maps for local hiking and running routes.
With treatment rooms spread over three floors, including a much-vaunted mud house, the spa is a destination in itself. So, too, is the restaurant, where chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder have devised an Italian-inspired menu that’s big on comfort and local produce, foraged nearby or cured on site. The result is cooking that’s both soulful and expertly finessed – not a combination that’s usually found in a country hotel.
It might be unfair to say Robin Hutson took everything he learnt from his involvement with the Pig Hotel chain and Soho House Group and put it into Lime Wood, but it feels like that. The hotelier, who oversees the property, is responsible for much of what’s great here, though David Collins must take credit for the interiors: eccentric twists like the Tracey Emin artwork hanging in the restaurant and grand architectural statements befitting of a Regency manor house (think, marble fireplaces), combine to create something luxurious yet full of fun.