After three days of exploring London, my family and I were looking forward to a bit of fresh country air and all that it implied: leisurely walks, smelling the proverbial flowers, cycling, perhaps even pony rides. And in less than an hour by train, we found plenty of it in Dogmersfield Park, Hampshire.
(Maybe you will, too? This July’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games is in London—your excuse for a Town & Country vacation? Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, England is the ideal Olympic retreat—close to the city, but without the hustle and bustle.)
The refurbished and extended Georgian manor house that is Four Seasons Hampshire is set on 500 acres of green parkland and heritage-listed gardens. Inside it looks exactly as you’d expect a proper English house to look: refined and elegant, with wood floors, warm textiles and a natural palette. The 111 rooms and 22 suites are impeccably decorated in period furniture, beautiful chandeliers, lush sofas, gorgeous silk curtains and supple velvet settees.
Outside our suite window, we could see a courtyard, gardens and the idyllic rolling hills beyond. There were plenty of creature comforts, too, including a deep soaking tub in the marble bathroom, iPod docking station, flat-screen TV with DVD player and Wi-Fi throughout.
The children—three-year-old Chloe and one-year-old Eliot—made themselves quite at home, playing with dolls and miniature cars they had selected from the toy chest, which all young guests are presented with upon arrival. My husband sat by the window and buried his head behind a newspaper. I don’t think they noticed as I slipped through the door and made my way to the spa.
Inspired by nature, the spa is set in an 18th century stable block featuring the original arched gateway and bell turret. Rosemary, lavender, mint and other herbs and flowers sourced directly from the hotel’s garden are used in signature treatments that help detoxify, cleanse and energize body and soul. Luckily, they were able to fit me in for a massage. And within minutes, I was under the hands of a masseuse who—using a warm poultice of crushed chamomile and sage blended with calendula and jojoba oils—expertly melted away city tension and soothed tired muscles. There’s also a 20-metre indoor swimming pool where kids are welcome during family hours.
Of course, the countryside is about the outdoors, and Hampshire has plenty to offer. This is the kind of hotel where Wellies are welcome. And dogs. Four Seasons Hampshire actually has its own hotel Labrador, Oliver Beckington, and welcomes families traveling with their pooches. (Along with their humans, canines get their own luxe amenities.) The gardens are a horticultural feat, and horses from the stables are available for exploring further afield. Indeed, the hotel even has a program, Own a Pony Day, designed especially for kids aged 7 to 16.
While mom and dad relax back at the manor, kids can join the equestrian team to learn how to care, groom and ride their very own pony. Still too young for the program, my kids were happy enough to visit with the horses and feed them apples. There are also tennis courts, the aforementioned pool and a croquet lawn, of course. And during falconry walks, kids can learn how to handle the handsome birds of prey.
The next day after feeding our equine friends, we borrowed a couple of bikes and a bike trailer. With map in hand, rode past the pond and through the woods to a trail by the river, where the kids were delighted to spy swans and ducks swimming with their chicks. After lunch at a charming little pub, we rode back to the hotel for well-deserved naps. Later in the afternoon, we sat in the cozy library for traditional afternoon tea—a delicious way to end our stay in Hampshire and in England.
Read more about Hampshire in Four Seasons Magazine.
Celeste Moure has written about travel, design, music, beauty, architecture and food for various publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Spin, National Geographic Traveler, Real Simple, LA Times and Travel+Leisure. She also edits On Tippy Toes, an online mag that brings modern families the most inspiring ideas and products found at the intersection of parenthood and design. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two kids.
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