As a city dweller I often find myself dreaming of long country walks through fields of grass and clover, riding horseback along silent treelined paths and looking out of my window over a misty expanse of emerald fields and gently grazing cattle.
This weekend my bucolic fantasy was finally fulfilled with an unforgettable trip to the Hampshire countryside, a mere 30 minute train ride from Waterloo and home to the Four Seasons Hotel.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that when it comes to holidays I can be quite uncompromising. I do not like shabbiness, threadbare linens, wrinkling my nose at unpleasant smells which permeate the upholstery or packing my own bathrobe and slippers. In everyday life I am not in the least fastidious. However, going away is another matter because I want everything just the way I like it. This is why, wherever I am in the world, I always try to stay at the Four Seasons.
Dogmersfield House is the home of the Four Seasons Hotel. A fully restored Georgian manor house nestled in 500 acres of rolling fields, lakes and canals. If you lusted after the rural grandeur of Downton Abbey, then the Four Seasons is for you and probably the closest you're ever going to come. Behind the beautiful redbrick facade is a country retreat that's not only perfectly beautiful but warm and homely. The hotel is full of things to keep you occupied, whether it's walking the outrageously cute resident labrador Oli, fishing in the lake or simply dozing off during a signature treatment in the spa.
From the moment I arrived I was treated with such warmth and consideration that I momentarily wondered if the staff had confused me with someone famous. But of course, it was simply the legendary Four Seasons hospitality. Nothing was too much. "Are you sure you won't be cold on your walk madam?". And as I thought I might well be, the nice man at the door promptly organised a toasty Barbour jacket in my size. Then there were other kindnesses like divine boxes of local handmade fudge, a jar of chutney from the area and the member of staff who organised my bike ride and also bought me a bottle of water should I get thirsty on my arduous expedition.
Now I also cannot help but mention the food. It was very good, a bit too good for the likes of me with a complete absence of self-control. Nearly all the produce is locally sourced and everything is fresh and flavoursome. I would walk through fire for a taste of that apple crumble.
I was staying in the manor room which was massive and impeccably appointed. My pet-hate is staying in hotels where the rooms have that 'lived in' feeling, but of course this was not the case during my stay. Everything was light, bright and sparkly. The bathroom was fully stocked with Asprey products, beautiful white orchids, large complementary bottles of Voss replenished as needed and the housekeeping carefully arranged and folded all the impractical miscellany I had bought with me for my weekend in the country. After a packed day of activities you cannot imagine how good it felt coming back to my lovely room and getting into my giant bed for the perfect nights sleep.
I will save you the painstaking description and simply post pictures. I could have spent all day outside had the weather been above freezing. To my delight, on arrival I learnt that the hotel welcomes pets and I felt a pang of regret that Plato had to miss out running across miles of open fields and barking at cows.
An interesting fact is that it was on these very grounds that Henry VIII first laid eyes of Catherine of Aragon, just weeks before her wedding to his brother, Arthur, the then heir to the throne.
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better retreat to recharge my batteries, get away from the mayhem of London and enjoy all the things that make the English countryside so special. Throughout my stay I felt as comfortable as I would at home and loved feeling so looked after and indulged. In fact I had such a good time at the Four Seasons that a family holiday is now on the cards around May. So if your racking your brains for somewhere to go for a rural retreat, this is your place.
Make sure you...
- Go horseback riding through the grounds
- Enjoy the bracing country air on one of the hotel bikes
- Take you pick; will it be fishing, golf, tennis, gym or floating down the canal?
- Relax after a long day in the spa
- Take books and curl up in front of the library fire
- Don't forget your swimming gear, the indoor pool is fabulous and also has an outdoor area that's heated to 32 celsius, even when the snow's coming down thick and fast
- The hotel is a short drive from Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey was filmed), Winchester Catherdral, Jane Austen's home, Hampshire farmers market and Stone Henge is also within driving distance
Telephone: 01252 853 000