There is no better way to wind down a grand tour of Britain then by relaxing at a stately manor house in rural England. The country’s poshest palace, the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire can be found on 500 acres of farmland featuring perfectly manicured lawns, heritage-listed walled gardens, stables and quiet canal. The 18th century Georgian manor house stands in historic Dogmersfield Park which dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086. It was also in this very spot that Henry VIII’s first met Catherine of Aragon.
Today the Four Seasons Hampshire sits a short drive from the hustle and bustle of London, offering the English capital’s elite a calming countryside escape. It’s the perfect luxury retreat for those looking to find quiet on the weekend. And while there are plenty of activities to be had on the property I’m tickled pink by the star attractions which are only a short drive from the delightful duvet and plush pillows which I hug tight every night. In the morning the sun splashes across the horizon, peaking through bedroom windows, warming cheeks until you’re forced to admit you’ve indeed found heaven in Hampshire.
Grand Manor Room
The Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire is centred around a luxurious Georgian manor house, originally built in 1728, which features three adjoining wings. Each guest accommodation features beautiful English country stylings and are equipped with spacious bathroom and modern business and entertainment amenities. If you’re looking to make your visit extra special be sure to book yourself into one of the Grand Manor Rooms, located in the restored Georgian Manor House. The regal 500 sq ft room offers plush king sized bed, thick terry bath robes, fabulous roll top soak tub with vintage ball and claw feet, bathroom amenities by Bond Street London based Aspery and captivating views of the Estate’s grounds.
Room Service with A View
My idea of a perfectly posh moment of relaxation is soaking mid day in a foot of suds. White marble lined floors offer an elegant launching point for twinkling toes before they plunge with a soft splash. My room is adorned with pretty pink orchid pot and vase featuring violet flowers which offer a fresh floral aroma to “me time.” Take advantage of the hotel’s top notch In Room Dining services by ordering up a pint of craft beer and cheese plate featuring oozing brie and crisp green grapes. There really is nothing more decadent than beer and cheese in the bath.
Whilst relaxing in the bath I was offered a lovely view of the surrounding estate. After pressing a member of the hotel’s staff on the history here I came across an outrageous anecdote, “Dogmersfield was originally built where we now have Tundry Pond, until Sir Henry Midmay decided he wanted a view of a lake from his window and ordered all of the houses and the church to be moved, brick by brick, to where they are now.” Whilst enjoying the stunning unobstructed views of the property from my bubble bath it was hard not to giggle at the hard work which went into creating such an impressionable landscape.
Whether you seek a countryside canter or a gentle hack around the Dogmersfield Park Estate, the Equestrian Centre offers an unrivalled experience for those looking to horse around. With courtyard stabling for 14 horses, two outdoor arenas, groom’s cottage and 500 acres of gorgeous parkland to explore, The Equestrian Centre features top class facilities. The Club Lounge, with bi-fold patio doors opening out towards the menage, is where family and friends can rest in comfort and watch the progress of the riders. Stylishly decorated with equine sculptures and artwork, the lounge is an unexpected space in which to relax. I spent 30 minutes taking a tour of the properties lush surroundings via handsome Arabic horse. My hair waved in the wind as I tried my best to trot while across the lake I spotted pretty white swans which quickly ducked under an ancient stone bridge.
Afternoon Tea in the Library
Located in the Manor House, The Library has been restored to its formal glory as an elegant, beautifully appointed residents’ lounge. Decorated in warm earth tones, The Library boasts an abundance of lush armchairs, supple sofas and coffee tables for relaxation and luxury. The speciality served up here each afternoon is High Tea, a quintessential British thing to do.
Start by choosing your favourite sipper from a selection of loose leaf tea’s, served in steaming pot with milk and sugar cubes. Nibbles include finger sandwiches (cucumber cream cheese, celeriac carrot cheddar, smoked salmon mousse, prawn cocktail, roast beef with horseradish cream) sweet pastries (caramelized honey Battenberg, strawberry cream macaron, mint and chocolate chip macaron, blackberry apple chocolate opera and slices of banana, chocolate and carrot cake), and freshly baked plain and apple cinnamon crumble scones slathered with strawberry jam, tart lemon curd and Cornish clotted cream.
Cocktail Sips at Bar 1086
Bar 1086 was built on the site of the original Drawing Room and today features a contemporary style and intimate sense of luxury with a fireplace, crystal chandelier, wood flooring and peacock feather accents. The bars name pays homage to the date of the first documented record of the estate in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book. Premium spirits are Bar 1086’s standard pour while a selection of wines and champagne are also available by the glass.
In June the bars expert mixologists launched a Garden to Glass cocktail program which celebrates local herbs and fruits which grow across the Hampshire hills. Winners include the Butterfly Effect (gin, lime, cucumber, green apple, mint), Estate Cobbler (sauvignon blanc, black current tea infused lillet, camomile syrup) and Spring Fizz (vodka, lemon, mixed berries, egg white, lemonade).
Relax at the Spa
Located in the hotel’s 18th-century stable block, the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire creates truly relaxing spa experiences using natural products from world-renowned brands such as Sodashi and ESPA. Guests have access to Swedish sauna, steam room, world class fitness facility, stunning glass-covered infinity pool and heated outdoor vitality pool containing numerous massage features that in seconds wash your worries away. During my visit I indulged in the spa’s signature Deeply Warming Clove and Eucalyptus Massage which features warm stone treatment that releases muscle tension and leaves one blissfully content as they waddle back to their room.
Stroll Through Lush Gardens
Find inspiration in fine florals while strolling through the hotel’s lush 16th century walled garden whose entrance is flanked by two Dovecoats, the oldest of which dates back to 1570. At the time, doves were a staple food so the larger the dovecotes the more affluent the family. The walled garden is traditional Victorian in style and planting includes a variety of Ferns, Magnolia grandiflora and Peoniona. Adjacent to the spa there is a Wellingtonia tree which is believed to be the tallest in Hampshire. Having been struck by lightening in the past it now has its own lightening protection system installed! Be sure to visit the tiled alcove for a moment of quiet introspection, a popular spot for marriage proposals. Then walk from the Walled Garden along Lavender Walk, you’ll pass the Zen lawn where the hotel hosts outdoor yoga and personal training sessions; Chef’s Patch with lots of homegrown produce (Spa therapists use the herbs for inclusion in their signature treatments) and then onto the Orchard and croquet lawn beyond.
Visit Bombay Sapphire Distillery
Discover the craftsmanship and heritage behind Bombay Sapphire at the newly unveiled distillery in the heart of England. Laverstoke Mill in beautiful, rural Hampshire is the setting where you are invited to go behind the scenes as one of the world’s most famous gin’s is prepared in a state-of-the-art facility.
Cocktail fans tour the space via self guided tour which offers a multi-sensory Willy Wonka dream-like experience. Take in the crystal clear water and beautiful natural surroundings as you walk along the River Test. Step back in time to uncover the fascinating history behind Laverstoke Mill in the Heritage Room. Discover the ten exotic botanicals in Bombay Sapphire gin in the Glasshouses (designed by famed architect Thomas Heatherwick) and Botanical Dry Room and then join a friendly guide as they take you behind the scenes of the unique Vapour Infusion distillation process in the Dakin Still House. Immerse yourself in the history of gin and Bombay Sapphire in the Gin Academy, then your experience culminates in The Mill Bar where a complimentary gin spiked cocktail offers a thirst quenching finale.
Dinner at Bel & Dragon in Odiham
If you’re looking to hop off the property one night to grab a local bite be sure to book a reservation at Bel & the Dragon. The Grade II-listed former inn with features dating as far back as 1540, sits in the historic village of Odiham near Hook in Hampshire. I’m greeted by a stunning white and pink accented dining room flooded with warm light by glass adorned doors which lead to a spacious al fresco backyard patio. Lush bouquets featuring nothing but white flowers adorn a central harvest table where pretty pink bottles of rose offer a swoon-worthy welcome. Comfy benches are topped with multi-coloured textiled pillows, tables offer the lonely flicker of a single white candle, shelves are teaming with old books and a choir of vintage botanical posters hang from the walls.
Pretty plates parade out of the kitchen with highlights including Poached Duck Egg, Marinated Beetroot with Burrata, Broad Bean and Watercress Risotto, Roasted Suckling Pig with spiced apple chutney and a meringue, strawberry and Jersey cream whipped Eaton Mess.
Explore Windsor Castle
Towering above the town on a steep chalk bluff, Windsor Castle is an undeniably imposing sight, its chilly grey walls, punctuated by mighty medieval bastions, continuing as far as the eye can see. Inside, most visitors just gape in awe at the gilded grandeur of the State Apartments, while the real highlights – the paintings from the Royal Collection that line the walls – are rarely given a second glance. More impressive is St George’s Chapel, the most important resting place for royal corpses after Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey. Windsor is a short drive from Heathrow Airport and offers a perfect spot to spend your final morning before hopping on a flight home.