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The last few weeks had left me feeling a little stressed, so what better way to de-stress than with a weekend in the countryside?
Living in London it’s easy to just stay in London. I have everything on my doorstep – spacious green parks, funky rooftop bars and every cuisine you could ever imagine by the creativity of companies as Roofco. But the UK is so incredibly beautiful, and it’s so easy to forget that there’s so much more out there. So when the summer comes along, I try to drive outside of the big city and see and explore the surrounding area a little bit more.
This past weekend I stayed at Burley Manor in New Forest, Hampshire, which if you look on a map is basically a 2-hour drive away on the way to Bournemouth in the south of England. Declared a royal hunting ground in 1079 by William the Conqueror, New Forest is a unique landscape, with tall skinny trees and dramatic heathlands. Wherever you go, it’s easy to spot wildlife such as horses and deer.
Driving through Burley I saw horses just laying in the middle of the road – they didn’t even bat an eyelid at cars coming their way. Supposedly they’ve been doing this since Medieval times, although the roads would have looked very different back then. New Forest has all sorts of incredible hiking routes, so you can spend your afternoon walking through the countryside then stop off for lunch and a beer in a quaint rural pub.
I knew nothing of New Forest or what to do there before I visited, but somehow I didn’t really need to. New Forest is about enjoying nature and exploring the countryside without an itinerary or plan.
Located in the village of Burley, the history of Burley Manor dates all the way back to 1212, although the original building was demolished in 1852 by Colonel William Clement Drake Esdaile, who replaced it with the new building you see today. In 1935 it became a hotel, and has hosted guests ever since. This Grade II listed building has more recently been restored and has undergone a complete revamp, with a new Mediterranean menu created by award winning chefs.
We stayed in one of the Burley Suites, which have a balcony overlooking the deer park and swimming pool. I loved being able to wake up in the morning and walk right out onto the garden with a cup of tea and a biscuit in hand. And boy were there lots of tea choices in the room 🙂 It’s always about the little things, and I appreciated the fact that there were complimentary fresh biscuits and bottles of still/sparkling water for us.
The room itself had a regal, “manor house” type feel, with a generous seating area, antique furniture, beautiful textiles and a large Hypnos bed. It had that perfect blend of old and new, with a modern bathroom, fluffy bathrobe and Temple Spa goodies. The first thing I did was draw a bath and use the lotions and potions to soothe my aching limbs.
Dining at Burley Manor
The menu at Burley Manor is quite diverse, with a Mediterranean influence and tapas-style plates that are ideal for sharing. For our evening meal we tried a starter of venison carpaccio and Cornish crab toast, followed by a chateaubriand of beef to share. The chateaubriand automatically comes with a side of patatas bravas, but personally I think it would be more suited to some Jersey Royal potatoes – a minor point as the steak was delicious there was something about the Spanish flavour that didn’t quite mix.
For dessert we shared a tonka bean panna cotta with poached rhubarb and a mint chocolate fondant with white chocolate and mint lokum ice cream.
The following morning was an absolutely gorgeous day so we decided to sit outside on the terrace in the sunshine. To me there’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a morning cup of tea outside in the sunshine – I just wish I could live like this all the time. The breakfast is part buffet-style, part a la carte. I helped myself to cheese, salami, pastries and fruit, then we ordered the French toast and eggs Royale from the menu.
One of the big draws of this hotel is its outdoor swimming pool, so if it’s a glorious summer’s day this is the ideal place for swimming and sunbathing. If it’s a grim rainy day…well…you’d better stay indoors. One thing I thought that is missing is a hot tub, which would be great for swimming in the evening or early morning when the outdoor temperature is a bit too cool for the pool.
Another highlight off Burley Manor is its spa, offering a wide array of treatments including massages, facials, body scrubs and mud wraps. The products used here are by Temple Spa, which are also featured in mini bottles in the rooms, so you have the chance to enjoy them in the comfort of your own room. I chose to try the “Drift Away” massage, which is a top-to-toe massage formulated with a blend of essential oils, followed by a face and scalp massage using an aromatherapy resting cream called REPOSE.
If you’re visiting Burley Manor on a weekend away with your partner, you can actually book a package, which includes overnight bed and breakfast stay for two in a snug double room, inclusive of a 55 minute treatment each of your choice. In June to October the cost starts at £253 per couple, while in November to May prices start at £244.00 per couple.
Only a 2-hour drive from London, New Forest makes for the ideal weekend break. It’s not as far as places such as Cornwall or the Lake District, so you can easily hop in a car and be there in no time at all. I loved being Lady of the Manor for the weekend and enjoying a more laid back way of life. There’s nothing quite like some countryside air to clear your mind and leave you feeling revitalised again! If you want a spa break in a stunning location, Burley Manor fits the bill perfectly. Rooms can be booked on Booking.com here.