Life moves as slow as cold honey in the New Forest, where wild ponies trot through picturesque woodland and farm-to-table restaurants draw in frazzled Londoners looking for a countryside escape.
Encompassing parts of Hampshire, Wiltshire and east Dorset, the national park in England’s southeast is home to 193,000 acres of woodland, 40 miles of sun-speckled coastline and charming villages such as Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst, which offer up some of the finest spa hotels around.
The best hotels in the New Forest are:
- Best for award-winning treatments: Chewton Glen, booking.com
- Best for bespoke facials:Lime Wood
- Best for outdoor swimming: New Park Manor, booking.com
- Best for exploring the countryside: Rhinefield House Hotel, booking.com
- Best for cozy couple’s massages: Balmer Lawn Hotel and Saltus Spa, booking.com
- Best for Thai treatments: Careys Manor Hotel, booking.com
- Best for a warm welcome: Passford House Hotel, booking.com
- Best for foodies:The Pig
Neighbourhood: New Milton
Relaxation is huge business at Chewton Glen, where the soothing ozone-treated indoor pool is flanked by ornate Grecian columns and lined by mosaic tiles as blue as the Med. The award-winning spa offers a contemporary, holistic approach to wellness, with treatments such as oxygen detox facials and reiki carried out by magic-fingered therapists using Oskia and Natura Bissé products.
The hotel is also home to Europe’s largest hydrotherapy pool, pine-scented aromatherapy saunas and crystal steam rooms in the swanky changing rooms. But if the thought of kicking back quite that much makes you angsty, there are more high-energy pursuits on offer, including tennis, golf, archery and, for the budding agriculturalist, duck herding.
Price: From £40 per night
Ever the haunt of wearied Londoners looking for a place to unwind and detox, Lime Wood – which dates back to the 13th century, when it started life as a hunting lodge – is a little haven of tranquillity set among manicured lawns and towering forests. The refined, glass-encased Herb House spa is a delightful place to succumb to knot-busting Bamford de-stress massages and bespoke Sarah Chapman skincare treatments, and the luxury continues with wood-burning stoves and deep roll-top bathtubs in the rooms and lakeside cabins. You’ll also find a swoosh-worthy hydrotherapy and steam pool circuit on site and for food, Raw & Cured serves up salads, cured fish and meat from Lime Wood’s own Smoke House.
Price: From £395
This 17th-century country house hotel was once King Charles II’s favourite hunting lodge and the place where his mistress Nell Gwyn, a famous comic actor of the Restoration period, resided. Now, there’s significantly less animal slaughter and adultery, and a lot more family-friendly spa fun. The on-site creche keeps kids entertained while parents chill out in the swimming pool, thermal rooms, foot spa, experience shower and outdoor hot tub. There are also thermal pools with panoramic countryside views and treatment rooms where frangipani salt scrubs and blemish control facials are carried out by flickering candlelight.
Price: From £159
For a truly good-looking take on wellness, Rhinefield does mock Tudor on an epic scale – think towering turrets, pristine topiary, carved fireplaces dusted with history and the Armada dining room, the walls of which are covered with impressive carvings of naval fleets. Oh, and it’s all within leaping distance of the forest. There’s plenty to do here beyond the exquisite Elemis hot stone massages and age-defying facials in the two treatment rooms, including croquet and giant dominos on the gleaming lawns, a dizzying Hornbeam maze, heated indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, and rental bikes. Pack a picnic and explore the winding paths of the New Forest at your own pace.
Price: From £257
The historic corridors of this fascinating family-owned hotel have played host to kings, queens and generals for hundreds of years. Not only is the land that it stands on mentioned in the Domesday Book, it’s also gone through multiple incarnations since as a hunting lodge, a Great War army hospital and the place where General Eisenhower issued orders for the D-Day Landings. There’s history hanging on the walls, with framed Second World War documents and beautiful antique furnishings lending an air of import to the terracotta-brick property. The Soltus spa is soothing without being showy, with reclaimed wood furnishings, ESPA facials and aromatherapy massages in six treatment rooms, as well as a cocoon-like couples’ treatment area for detox wraps and salt and oil scrubs.
Price: From £195
This pretty manor house hotel has an award-winning jewel in its crown: an indulgent Thai spa that defies you to be stressed on departure. SenSpa offers up all the traditional massage options, as well as more alternative wellbeing therapies, from Rhassoul mud treatments to AlphaSphere Deluxe, where you recline in your own private pod to be soothed by sound and colour therapy, aromatherapy and vibration. At the heart of the spa is a large, still ozone pool, together with a whirlpool tub, sauna and steam room. Next door, there’s a tranquil hydrotherapy area with a herbal sauna, crystal steam room, laconium (dry heat treatment), tepidarium (warm, radiant heat), health showers and ice room. Upstairs, rooms range from bijou and comfortable to four-poster and grand, and there are three restaurants to choose from, including Spring Green London, which serves up botanical superfoods for hardcore wellness seekers.
Price: From £200
This is a real ‘make yourself at home’ hotel – slightly shabby in parts, but as welcoming as a pair of worn-in slippers. The former home of Lord and Lady Arthur Cecil, Queen Victoria’s private secretary and his wife, this 16th-century coaching inn is steeped in history, replete with claw-foot armchairs, panelled ceilings, gilt mirrors and grand fireplaces with stories to tell.
Hole up in the bijou massage room for bamboo stick massages and Ayurvedic face lift facials, or take a stroll around the bloom-filled Monet garden, complete with lake, fountain, sundials, a model Concorde suspended from the trees and a cemetery of the former owner’s pets, including Ben the donkey, who departed this mortal coil in 1905. There are also more traditional tennis courts, fitness classes, a putting green and a gleamingly manicured croquet lawn.
Price: From £120
It’s a sneaky entry, this, because there is no designated spa at The Pig. But there are brilliantly quaint Potting Shed and Shepherd’s Hut treatment rooms at the bottom of the walled garden, where best-of-the-best therapists from (the often fully-booked) Lime Wood down the road come to administer bespoke massages surrounded by glowing lanterns and the gentle hum of the on-site beehives outside.
Guests at this glorious country house hotel – as loved for its well-stocked Kitchen Garden as it is for its forest hideaways and snug rooms – are also welcome to use the Herb House Spa (a 10-minute drive away) for a small fee, before returning for gin cocktails and “piggy bits” (i.e. posh crackling, sausage rolls and Scotch eggs) as the sun goes down.
Price: From £220