I don’t normally stay in the same place twice. Not only does my travel schedule rarely bring me back, but I also love to explore new places so much that I tend to choose uncharted territory over familiar. But sometimes a place leaves such a lasting impression on me that I make a special exception, and one particular place in the UK is a prime example: Lime Wood in England’s New Forest.
I stayed at the hotel a couple of years ago when it first opened, and I loved it so much that I vowed to go back the first chance I got. That chance comes now when the hotel invites me for a second visit, and I find myself heading south to Hampshire for an overnight break from London.
Lime Wood is right in the heart of the New Forest, a beautiful wooded area complete with wild ponies and mystical fog that makes it feel like I’m traveling into a fairytale. The hotel has changed a bit since my last visit, adding cottages, new spa products, and a different restaurant. I am excited to see the changes, but also secretly hope it isn’t too different from the place I fell in love with.
I know it’s a good sign when I walk into the main building, a large manor house, and see that the series of small lounges and libraries is still as inviting as ever. Overstuffed sofas and chairs, warm fireplaces, and tasteful colors and fabrics all make me want to sit down and never leave. The pretty Christmas trees and holiday decorations add a nice seasonal touch, too.
The main bar and restaurant areas have also been redesigned to be even more attractive than before. Leather seats and natural light give them an inviting ambiance all throughout the day, and with my appetite, I could stay and eat from morning till night.
I settle in that evening to read by the fire in the cozy library, then make my way to dinner at the new restaurant, Hartnett Holder & Co. It is a joint effort between London’s famous chef Angela Hartnett and Lime Wood’s Luke Holder. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the menu features a mix of Italian and British cuisine.
I start with the langoustines with leeks and dandelion, which offers a beautiful medley of flavors. The langoustines are plump and tender, and the bitter greens accent them well. My main of duck with wild mushrooms is decadent and rich, and serves as the perfect contrast to my starter. The sommelier’s recommendation of a glass of Ribera del Duero is spot on, and as I order the wine, I am once again wowed by the depth of the list and rarity of many of its bottles.
Dessert is zabaglione with poached pears and amaretti, which is the only part of the meal that falls a bit flat. The pears and amaretti swim in a sea of cream, and the dish lacks cohesion. Still, the other two are so amazing that I almost don’t notice.
And speaking of amazing, out on the grounds, the autumn colors are so bright, bold, and beautiful that I can’t take my eyes off them. Everywhere I look, the bright green lawns are dotted with red, yellow, and orange leaves, and a tall tree outside my room is awash with color.
My room itself takes up an entire small building, with a living room and bedroom on the ground floor and a giant master bedroom and bathroom upstairs. The real treat is the claw foot bathtub, which is surrounded by windows looking out into the woods. It is so stunning that I utter an audible “wow” as I walk into the room.
Outside the room I have more to explore. I walk past ponds, under vine-covered arches, and around sculptures, eventually coming to the Herb House spa. The complex has everything from indoor and outdoor pools to saunas and steam rooms, and I indulge in all of them before getting a Bamford Body Signature Treatment. It starts with a full body exfoliation with beautifully scented scrub, then moves onto a massage. It is relaxing and then some.
But not everything I love about Lime Wood is actually in the hotel. Out the garden gate is the New Forest itself, and I happen to be back on a day as foggy as the one I experienced on my last trip.
Walking into the woods feels like entering an enchanted forest, not least when I round a bend in the tree-lined path and stumble upon a group of ponies that are as curious to see me as I am to see them.
But as much as I love the New Forest and all of its creatures, I can’t stay forever. In the words of the beloved American poet Robert Frost, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep./ But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep”. Back to London it is for me, and with a heavy heart. But now that I have been to Lime Wood twice, I won’t mind going a third time. Or a fourth…or a fifth…