Lime Wood hotel and spa is close to Lyndhurst, about an hour and a half drive from London. My husband and I treated ourselves and our 12 month old son Harvey to an indulgent overnight stay to help beat the winter blues.
Set in beautiful countryside in the heart of the New Forest, the hotel building is relatively new, yet retains the feel of a traditional country house. An informal reception area leads through to a series of snug spaces with inviting sofas and open fires, such as the Library, Study and Drawing Room, as well as the highly-acclaimed restaurant.
The welcoming staff took our bags and led us up to our spacious suite which overlooked the front lawns. Harvey immediately made himself at home, padding up and down, opening drawers and rolling his ball out of reach under the kingsize, four-poster bed.
Mod cons included two TVs and a dvd player, a coffee machine and a few too many light switches. A small lounge area, which was ideal for the cot, separated the bedroom from the large bathroom, where a deep bath was so inviting I actually got in there with Harvey that evening.
Room types at Lime Wood range from ‘Eaves’ and ‘Cosy’, through to suites, and there’s interconnecting rooms available. You can choose to stay in the Main House - as we did - or in the external cottages. Families with a nanny or two families travelling together would be more than comfortable in one of the roomy Garden Lodges.
While there isn’t a kids club, the hotel is really welcoming to children of all ages, with babysitting available and plenty of activities to keep older ones occupied. There’s lots of indoor wet-weather activities such as lego, games, books and drawing pads.
With no time to lose we headed straight for the Herb House spa. Decked out in marble and slate it’s a super swish affair, with robes, fluffy towels and flip flops waiting for you in your locker.
Children are allowed in the lap pool between 3:30 and 5:00pm each day and then also between 9:00 and 10:30am at the weekends. The spa menu includes some special treatments for children aged over ten too.
While James glided Harvey up and down the pool, I slipped into the adults-only area for some pampering time. There’s a steam room and large sauna, with tall glass windows overlooking the forest. The same views can be enjoyed from the hydrotherapy pool, where jets pummel and massage various parts of the body.
Our visit was on a chilly February day, so it was a short, sharp dash to the warming waters of a second hydropool outside. In summer, they open the large glass doors between this and the main pool, and there’s sun loungers to relax on.
The spa has a food bar called Raw & Cured, which offers a healthy, largely vegan menu, using raw and seasonal ingredients. Children are welcome and you can order kids size portions from the main hotel menu. We tried some of the raw carrot cake and a fresh fruit smoothie, which were absolutely delicious.
The boutique sells a selection of activewear and beauty products from independent product houses in the UK. We poked our heads around the door of the gym, which has treadmills overlooking the grounds and herb garden, where they hold exercise classes in warmer weather.
Fitness classes run seven days a week and range from yoga and Pilates to spinning, aerial yoga and suspension training. Personal trainer to the celebs, Matt Roberts, is holding a series of special fitness courses throughout the year too.
The Hartnett Holder & Co restaurant is something of a destination in itself, with Michelin starred Amanda Hartnett at the helm, in partnership with chef Luke Holder. Although kids are welcome in the restaurant, we splashed out on a babysitter - it’s £60 for a minimum four-hour stint, so not cheap - but was worth it for us to focus on the food!
We celebrated our night off duty with pre-dinner cocktails in the ‘Courtyard’, a stylish lounge with comfy sofas, crackling log fires and a centrepiece bar. My tasty Berry-Rino was from the lightly alcoholic range while James went for a full throttle Negroni.
The restaurant is a set around a central bar where you can have nibbles, with well-spaced tables lit by candles and dimmed lights which add to the ambiance. Relaxed, stylish and comfortable it felt welcoming and not at all pretentious despite the high pedigree of chefs in the kitchens.
The Italian-themed menu features antipasti, pasta, fish and meat dishes, with a strong emphasis on home-cooked fare. We opted for the five-course tasting menu, which highlighted the best seasonal ingredients on a series of sharing plates.
First up was a selection of smoked and cured meats from the on-site Smokehouse, including salmon, bresaola and salami served with homemade taramasalata. This was followed by a platter of young vegetables on ewes cheese, a gorgonzola risotto with squash and venison with flageolet ragout. Just when we were fit to burst, they presented us with a ‘Forest Floor’ - a chocolate charged dessert with berry sorbet. We couldn’t resist.
Thick curtains, soft pillows and incredibly comfortable beds ensure a decent nights sleep, even if you do have your own little alarm clock sleeping in a cot nearby.
Breakfast is served in the Scullery, which has a real country house kitchen feel to it, with a relaxed atmosphere, complimentary newspapers and a real fire. We helped ourselves to the substantial buffet of cereals, fruits, yoghurts, toast and eggs. You can pay extra for a cooked breakfast too if you wish, although we didn’t feel the need. Again, Harvey was welcomed with smiles and a highchair, and he ate almost as much as us from the buffet.
With the New Forest literally on the doorstep, outdoor activities are a must-do here. In the Boot Room there’s complimentary Hunter wellies of all sizes and bikes to borrow, so there’s no excuse not to march off some of that sourdough on a forest ramble or ride.
All in all, Lime Wood is an expensive, but truly magical treat - with or (perhaps preferably!) without kids.