IN PRAISE OF CHEWTON GLEN: HAMPSHIRE'S MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL
Chapter 1: From Chelsea to Chewton
On a bright morning in early spring, we loaded up the car in Central London, high spirited and eagerly anticipating our escape to the New Forest. With at least 5 bags each, plus a large bouquet of birthday roses and lilies from Interflora, we were ready for action. It is a joy to travel with someone who understands, appreciates and mirrors your Monica from Friends style packing methods, we are always prepared for anything and everything.
I was of course travelling down with Mr Musings, who is an excellent long haul travel companion and a fellow optimistic adventurer. Born and bred in the city of London, Mr M is the archetypal 'city guy' with a penchant for good vibes, Patrick Bateman hair, careful outfit coordination and consistent hard work. We're a great travel team. Neither of us have have taken a day off in months and the time had finally come for us to physically and mentally switch off from the chaos of London.
As we were leaving London in the car, Mr M casually reported that there had been recent sightings of wild bears across the country of Hampshire. Given that he spends a lot of time listening to the radio and hanging out in the gym, I was almost certain that A.) he was telling the truth and B.) he is an excellent sprinter. I began internally weighing up my own survival options, planning a potential escape from a very large and aggravated brown bear. I added organic honey to the service station shopping list, deciding to hone kindness and friendship as my defence weapon of choice. I am originally from the countryside, but it's safe to say that the fast life in zone 1 has transformed me into a fully fledged city girl...
Chapter 2: The Arrival
After a two hour thrill ride involving Magic FM power ballads, a coffee refuel and one small shopping trip, we emerged from the hot, grey, motorway into the luscious, green, pony-studded land of Hampshire, stopping to video 3 cows that I am sure were biological triplets. At this point, it finally sunk in that we were out of the city and we began to unwind. I shook my ponytail out in slow motion, embracing the country vibes and feeling like Gemma Arterton in Tamara Drewe. The prospect of three days worth of relaxation away from the office was divine and we removed another layer of clothing as the sun beat down on the car.
On the approach to the main house at Chewton Glen, we drove down some perfectly maintained winding roads alongside pristine, freshly cut grass. We observed The Kitchen Restaurant (Tom Kerridge's residence for the day - excellent timing on our part) and sign posts leading to the famous Chewton Glen tree houses and golf course. After parking up and reapplying my lipstick, we walked over to the main house. We were wowed by the majestic grandeur and impressive scale of the exterior, the bright spring flowers, the gentle trickling of a sculptural fountain and a chorus of birdsong overhead.
A lovely Duty Manager named Holly greeted us at the hotel reception and speedily checked us in. She organised for our mountain of luggage to be seamlessly transported to our room and due to the noteworthy good weather, we were told about 'The Chewton Glen Beach Walk'. This suggested trail starts from the the outdoor dining terrace at the back of the hotel and leads guests up to the local beaches between Highcliffe and Barton-on-Sea. You can walk to Highclere Castle from Chewton Glen, a magical place to stop off for a cup of tea and a slither or slab of homemade cake, depending on your waistline goals.
Chapter 2: Night 1, The Phantom Ship
We were shown to 'The Phantom Ship', a bright and beautiful room in the ground floor of the main house, boasting Farrow & Ball walls, a myriad of seating areas and a private outdoor terrace with a hot tub. My birthday bouquet from Mr M had already appeared on the coffee table next to a bowl of fresh fruit, handmade chocolate truffles and my favourite Taittinger Champagne on ice. Two Champagne glasses sparkled in the sun next to a handwritten note.
'This is so beautiful, it is utterly Downton!' I cried, fishing around in a bag for my bikini collection. Mr M was whisked off to the spa for a pre-booked massage as I set about creating a makeshift office at the writing desk by the open terrace doors, torn between work and play. There is nothing more challenging than writing business emails in such close proximity to a hot tub and a chilled bottle of Champs after a long journey, but the Director in me persevered until Mr M returned.
Chapter 3: Bespoke Rejuvination in The Spa
Mr M, who is a business man, model, actor and stuntman with a passion for fast cars, back flips and late night soirees, chose the Chewton Glen 45 Minute Personalised Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage. Perfect for those with an active lifestyle, a unique combination of techniques is used to release tension in these areas. Following his treatment, Mr M was transported back to the suite where I found him catching 20C rays on the balcony, glowing in a robe like Hercules at his finest hour.
It's certainly safe to say that a mind, body and spirit transformation occured that afternoon, which quickly prompted our celebratory Champagne in the hot tub. During our stay, we each experienced a luxurious treatment in the award winning spa, which is complete with a stunning hydrotherapy spa pool, nail studio, aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam room, 12 treatment rooms and even an emergency make-up stand. Left your trusty red lipstick at home? Fear not.
I opted for a 50 Minute Personalised Facial. The therapist asked me some questions about my lifestyle, beauty routines and expectations in order to determine the best facial for me. I have a pretty hectic schedule in the city, frequently travelling for work and staring at my Macbook until 03:00am most days. I guiltily offloaded the truth to my therapist, Sophie, who had already guessed everything after removing several layers of make-up from my tired face. Using Natura Bissé products, Sophie worked her magic as I drifted off to facial paradise on a restorative oxygen mousse dream cloud. I promised her that I would work less, relax more and check in for regular facials. I half promised to drink less Champagne in a bid to improve hydration levels. She wrote these instructions down on a form for me to take home, which I will use as a reflective bookmark in my Filofax.
Chapter 4: Night 2, The Oak Tree House
The next leg of our Chewton Glen adventure involved a stay in the Oak Treehouse, a woodland suite that exceeded expectations and added another level of excellence to our stay in the New Forest. Available in different sizes across the estate, Chewton's tree houses are fully kitted out with all mod-cons. There are beds towering with plump pillows, a variety of luxury soft drinks and snacks (including freshly baked cakes and cookies), a coffee machine, wood burning stove and floor-to-ceiling glass exposing the natural world with panoramic views. The hotel will offer you a breakfast hamper each morning in the treehouse, which will magically appear in the kitchen cupboard alongside a 4 legged tray holding all the cutlery, glassware and dinnerware required for a luxury alfresco or indoor picnic.
We spent a little time listing famous tree houses throughout movie history (Stand By Me, Without A Paddle, Stepbrothers), but decided that this was most certainly the best tree house on the market. We stripped down to swimwear to enjoy the hottest day of the year so far in the hot tub on the balcony, taking the Taittinger ice bucket in with us for safe keeping. The view from the balcony stretches wide, showcasing luscious wild greenery as far as the eye can see. The calming trill of birdsong filled our ears as the bubbles from the hot tub mimicked a babbling brook - this is the perfect private spot for bird watching and other thrilling activities on a sunny afternoon.
The friendly and professional staff at Chewton Glen will organise transfers between the tree houses and the restaurants / main house for those who cannot complete a woodland walk due to stilettos and other pesky snags. After an afternoon of chilling, gleefulness, reading and catching up on emails, we called the hotel reception to organise a transfer to The Kitchen for Dinner.
Chapter 5: Tom Kerridge Sighting at The Kitchen
The Kitchen is a relaxed dining hot spot offering hotel guests and visitors an informal dining experience. The tempting a la carte menu features wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers, colourful superfood salads and plenty more. This purpose-built space is not attached to the main hotel, it was created to be a celebration of dining and culinary skills. The design of the restaurant is open plan; with bi-folding doors and glass panelling flooding the rooms with light. Surrounding the building are raised beds and a greenhouse that is home to the seasonal herbs and veggies that will end up on your plate in the restaurant.
'There's that famous bloke off the telly!' shouted a female diner as she entered the restaurant and flew past our table in a flustered panic. I followed her movements, praying for George Clooney or Daniel Craig.
'You don't suppose she's seen you on the TV?' I asked Mr M, who was looking particularly dishy (excuse the restaurant pun) and who had recently been filmed for a TV show. After a little careful research between gin and tonics, we discovered that Tom Kerridge was mid masterclass delivery behind the glass partition at the back of the restaurant. Mesmerised, I whipped out my notebook and added 'The Kitchen - Cookery School' to our 2018 bucket list. Mr M, disappointed but always positive, agreed to attend.
Living my best life as a self-professed millennial, I ordered the colourful, flavoursome and highly Instagrammable Wild Broccoli, Radicchio, Dorset Blue Vinney, Flambard's Egg, Violet Artichoke and Pine Nut Pizza. I eat more pizzas per week than I care to divulge with the general public, so I am qualified to rate this one a solid 10/10. Mr M went for a very succulent Field Mushroom, Bacon and Truffle Mayo Wagyu Trenchmore Beef Burger (the name of this burger screams 'countryside') and reported back that it was 'effing marvellous'.
Chapter 6: Bond Moments in the Bar
After dinner in The Kitchen, we were transported to the main house for drinks. Bond and Bond Girl obsessed and dressed to reflect this, we hit Chewton Glen's main bar to try several different martinis (Espresso, Porn Star, Lychee). An amalgamation of warm low lighting, lounge music, arm chairs and dark wooden panelling form a Mayfair-esque vibe, your perfect spot for catching up over dangerously good martini. The bar staff really know what they are doing.
I observed that the couples around us (new and 'advanced level') appeared to be completely absorbed in each other's company. There is something very special about a brooding bar that encourages and ignites romance. Mr M and I played a game of 'What's Their Situation', where you subtly observe others and guess the answers to the following questions: How did they meet? How long have they been together? What do they get up to? How long will they stay together?
Chapter 7: Lunch on The Lawn
On the morning of our departure, following a very peaceful night's sleep, we found ourselves at a table on the terrace outside the Pool Bar in the main house. Needing fuel for the next leg of our Hampshire adventure, we ordered gin and tonics, which sparked a conversation with a waiter who was extremely knowledgable about specialist UK distilleries. Having returned from a distillery tour on the Isle of Islay just days before, I was only too happy to accept the recommendation of The Botanist Gin.
My healthy and delicious lunch consisted of Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese and Chives, Truffle, Capers and Lemon. The size, freshness, flavours, textures and plating of this simple dish were flawless. With a side order of tomatoes with pesto, I had myself an impeccable alfresco dining experience. To my right, Mr M happily consumed corination chicken sandwiches with salad with the usual cheeky side order of fries. We enjoyed the sun whilst making each other laugh against the backdrop of the house, lawn, golf course and woodland beyond. For a variety of reasons, I struggle to think of a lunch I have enjoyed as much as this one.
The main purpose of my luxury lifestyle portfolio is to uncover transformative places, experiences and things that trigger moments of calm, inspiration and joy. I can thoroughly and genuinely recommend Chewton Glen to anyone looking for opulent excellence, true relaxation, fine dining, spa treatments, active exploration and a fantastic night's sleep. Ideal for casual stays and special occasions alike, you will not be disappointed.