New Forest weekend getaway: A city-break at Burley Manor makes idyllic countryside escape
- Credit: Archant
New Forest is full of enchanting beauty any time of year. Zita Whalley escapes London for a weekend filled with good food, long walks and fresh country air
It’s hard staying cooped up indoors during these cold months. However, as the days begin to grow longer, the great outdoors starts to beckon. A weekend break in the New Forest gets you into nature and remedies winter’s cabin fever.
What once was William the Conqueror’s royal hunting grounds is now a national park, and it has a fabled beauty; quaint, historical villages, free-roaming ponies which keep the woodlands in check, and the deer and wildlife that rove the 140,000 acres of woods, heathland and valleys. Winter doesn’t dampen the New Forest’s special charm, and one of the best ways to experience it is by foot.
Over 140 miles of walking track meanders across the national park, guiding you across coastlines and countryside. The Lyndhurst parish walk is an easy but solid 8.5 mile loop that takes you through the surrounding woods and past neighbouring villages.
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The walk is incredibly pretty, coloured with reddish-browns and mossy greens. There are glimpses of deer, and the docile, longhaired horses are plenty. It can also be broken up with a half pint or two at the village pubs you will stumble across. The Waterloo Arms on the outskirts of Lyndhurst is particularly charming.
Of course, one of the nicest things about getting amongst the elements is returning to the comforts of indoors. Just outside Burley village, Burley Manor is a boutique hotel that captures New Forest’s bucolic charm.
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Set in 8-acres of grounds alongside Burley Park deer sanctuary (you will see deer in the morning), the 40-room hotel has recently undergone a £1.8 million refurbishment. The stately exterior dates back to 1852 and is Grade II-listed. Inside, the interior retains the manor’s original elegance while still being comfortable and relaxed. It’s also adult only – children under the age of 13 are welcomed between noon and 6pm. Dogs, however, are welcome to stay the night.
The hotel has several different styles of room. The garden suites are large, comfortable, contemporary yet rustic rooms in the newly built garden wing. It came with an impressively huge bed and a front porch that opened up to a superb view of the deer reserve and gardens. And attention was paid to the little things: a bag of locally made fudge and a jar of cookies, Temple Spa products, a big bath and the morning paper delivered to the door.
The restaurant serves simple food, done well, with a slight Mediterranean flair. It’s hearty and filling and feels good to eat. As advocates of Slow Food, the kitchen sources seasonal produce from local suppliers and you can taste the quality of the ingredients. Everything we ate was delicious, from the wild mushroom arancini, wood-roasted octopus and parmigiana to the strawberry panna cotta for dessert. There is plenty of choice for both meat-eaters and vegetarians including tapas, mains to share and a stack of sides.
The wine list is a regularly changing selection from traditional and New World regions. They come by the bottle or 250ml carafes if you want to sample a few.
The morning’s farm-fresh continental spread was another hit and compliments the hot breakfast options that boast all the brunch time favourites such as poached eggs, streaky bacon, smashed avocado and modern takes on the English breakfast.
The Temple Spa treatment rooms are easy to find. Just follow the fragrant wafts of aromatic herbs along the corridor. The Mediterranean marinade facial is 55 minutes of pampering with essential oils and a mask made of yoghurt and honey. It was so good I fell asleep; lulled into a daze by experienced fingers lightly pummelling my face and the waves of aromas washing over me. Best of all, my skin felt soft and nourished, and smelt great, even after a solid night’s sleep.