Where is it?
Right in the New Forest, so wild you actually have to wait for some ponies (wild!) to cross the road as you drive into the village and then make sure you don’t get distracted by the deer jumping around in the field on your way to the car park.
Why so lovely?
Apart from those wild surroundings, it’s a 19th century manor house in a vaguely Tudor style in grounds that go back centuries that has just had a multi-million-pound redevelopment, which is like the perfect combination.
Apart from the pony/deer reception committee, you’re struck that even having spent the millions, they haven’t mucked it up. It still feels very much the old English manor house with snooky bars and salons to go AWOL in.
And the accommodations?
You can stay in the house proper, in some converted out-houses or the annex, which has been created to blend in with everything else with floral wallpapers, roll-top baths, muted antique colours and views over those frolicking deer. Oh and the little outdoor pool.
And the food?
The theme is Mediterranean and there’s certainly no shortage of choice from a tapas menu of arancini, croquettes, crispy squid and salt-baked beetroot caponata to a Forest & Coast menu of freshly-caught fishes and recently murdered meats. Oh and a wild mushroom linguini.
What is there to do?
The mini-spa does a fine line in treatments, there’s that pool to splash in and lounge about next to and other seats out facing the deer. Or you can go for a walk in the beautiful New Forest, a lot of which is flat, heather-covered heathland. Beware the ponies.
And the gay bit?
Bournemouth has a bit of a gay thing going on and if you drive to Studlands there’s a very gay-flavoured – if totally natural – nudie beach. But this is more about country relaxation than getting dolled up and disco-ing on down.