Luxury London heads to Hampshire for a little R&R, in the comfort of a Four Seasons dressing gown and slippers
Coming up the extensive driveway of the Four Seasons Hampshire hotel, I feel as if I’m having an identity crisis. Am I in fact one of five sisters from a family of landed gentry, who goes by the name of Elizabeth Bennet, waiting to be married off by my father?
There’s something very Pride and Prejudice-esque about this commanding Georgian property – and I feel this journey would be more apt in a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost than a Volkswagen Polo.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there’s anything old-fashioned about the hotel – quite the opposite. The sense of aristocracy soon dissipates as I find myself flying through the countryside on a breath-taking 770-foot zip line in a velour tracksuit – but we’ll come back to this. The perfectly manicured lawns, an 18th-century walled garden and a few cows dotted around the 500-acre site, this place is quintessentially English and makes for the perfect break from London’s urban jungle.
There’s something very Pride and Prejudice-esque about this commanding Georgian property
Located an hour from central London, the hotel provides a picture-perfect resting place to catch up with yourself and family. Hampshire embodies the classic countryside living lifestyle with its pastoral landscape and the small village of Dogmersfield lies between Fleet and Hartley Wintney.
As I enter the hotel, before I can even begin to take in my surroundings, I experience a wave of adoration – it’s the snoozing black Labrador in front of a roaring fire who goes by the name of Oliver Beckington, so named after two bishops who once resided on the Dogmersfield Estate (yes, he does actually have a surname and prefers to be called by his full name). I’m told by the doorman that he is the lord of the manor and this resident dog represents the hotel’s commitment to being a dog-friendly destination. It will even ensure that your hound’s luxury tastes are looked after too, as it has teamed up with London pet outfitters Mungo & Maud to provide elegant dog beds, and organic treats.
I’ve visited a few Four Seasons hotels in the past and one element that remains constant is its outstanding service, which is embodied in its little details and nothing-is-too-much attitude with seamless results. After the initial excitement of meeting Oliver, my guest and I check in at the wood-panelled and parquet-floored reception. It takes mere seconds before our bags are whisked off to our room ahead of us.
The room’s interior design is characteristically country-house chic – themed with muted tones, soft furnishings such as comfy armchairs, curtained headboards and photos of the historic house. Upon our arrival, there’s an ice bucket waiting with local ales, including the Four Seasons Hotel premium golden ale called 1086, which is brewed in Hampshire – a lovely touch that doesn’t go unnoticed and it accompanies me to the bathroom.
I refuse to take off my towel robe for the duration of the weekend aside from begrudgingly dressing myself for dinner at the restaurant Seasons
A Victorian-style, free-standing, roll-top bath sits proudly in the all-marble space – potentially slippery, but with my Four Seasons slippers on I am fine. Using Asprey bath salts and bubbles, I take the plunge and am transported to the highest echelons of happiness, before I step out and don my towel robe, which I refuse to take off for the duration of the weekend aside from begrudgingly dressing myself for dinner at the restaurant Seasons.
Headed up by executive chef James Dugan – who spent an early part of his career as a demi chef de partie at the Four Seasons Park Lane in London – he really emphasises the field-to-fork concept and uses lots of locally sourced ingredients such as cheeses from Winchester, salad greens from nearby Secretts Farm and other organic produce from Laverstoke Park Farm. The menu changes with the seasons, but my guest and I dine on langoustine in a spicy squash soup with buttermilk and samphire, saddle of venison with roasted salsify and pickled walnuts and a citrus rice pudding, served with lemon curd and caramelised almonds – each course is spectacular and masterfully paired with wines selected by the charming sommelier, Akos Hervai.
Seasons is also where breakfast is served, which after the meal the night before, I didn’t think I’d be able to face – but everyone knows that a buffet breakfast turns even the most demure of adults into juveniles. I feel as if I’m at a Willy Wonka extravaganza featuring hash browns and creamy scrambled egg.
After an extraordinarily stressful time of overindulging and looking out at the rolling hills of the countryside, I visit the spa, which is in a converted 18th-century stable block and offers an outdoor vitality pool and a quiet relaxation area – but I’m here for a treatment. I choose the Crystalus Body Massage (using Sodashi products), which uses healing stones and crystals to induce total relaxation and harmony between the mind and body. The 90-minute massage sends me floating through the corridors back to my room – hopefully not to be confused as a ghost haunting the hotel in my white dressing gown.
Also not to be missed here is the aforementioned zip line. Hidden amid the woodland is the Highwire Adventure – an obstacle course through the trees, with high and low-rope courses, a parachute simulator and the zip line, which launches you over the beautiful countryside – in my case, while screaming. I would advise doing this before going to the spa, however, as it does put you through your paces.
Live out your Jane Austen fantasy at the Four Seasons Hampshire, where children and dogs are more than welcome. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find your Mr Darcy in Bar 1086, or wobbling his way through the trees in a suspended tyre.