Oliver the black Labrador, must have the best job in the canine world. He is the hotel dog at the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire. That’s Hampshire in the UK, about an hour southwest of London. Oliver’s job description involves being stroked and cuddled all day long, breaking only to be walked or jogged around the hotel’s beautiful grounds or to take the occasional nap amidst the cosy luxury of the hotel’s interior. Only the hotel’s guests are more spoilt …
Traditional county house design
On check-in, our luggage was whisked off and my two little girls were shown to the toy chest and asked to choose a gift. Grabbing their doll and model-car kit, they trotted after us as we were shown to our suite, and what a suite it was.
There is this awful trend amongst British hotel designers to try and fix things that aren’t broken. They take a perfectly lovely room in a traditional manor house setting and decide to jazz it up. They leave the four-poster bed, but they add a zebra-print carpet and a Philip Starck Ghost chair. Nothing wrong with any of these, but when I go to a British country house hotel I want to feel the luxury, sophistication and opulence of the period to which it belongs; in this case, a time when all people seemed to do was drink Highballs on the lawn and enjoy themselves.
The bedrooms, and indeed the whole interior, at the Four Seasons get this feel of traditional, understated grandeur just right, minus the delicate ornaments that would break if hit by a paper airplane. They do it in a welcoming family-friendly way. Our suite was enormous and there were a lot of wows and gasps as we took our initial walk through it.
In the lounge room there was fresh fruit; children’s magazines for the kids; and, a dish of sweet treats bearing each of their names in chocolate. In the bedroom there were pint-sized bathrobes and slippers to match our own. And in the bathroom sponge letters spelt out the kids’ names on the tub.
Garden and grounds
We then made our way down to the spa, where my 7 and 4-year-old were treated to their first manicure! I had a pedicure and the varnish remains unchipped after almost three weeks.
Suitably spruced up, we grabbed bikes and were furnished with bottles of mineral water and we set off on a cycle ride around the delightful grounds, which are a mixture of formal English gardens and pasture with a pretty canal running through it. You don’t realise how extensive they are until you pedal through them and we couldn’t wait to cool off in the pool afterwards.
Conservatory indoor/outdoor swimming pool
The indoor/outdoor infinity pool is housed in a lovely period-style conservatory, which is thankfully adjoined to the main hotel. I hate having to walk outside to reach an indoor hotel pool – another common feature in British hotels, trying to create additional income from non-resident leisure memberships. Grown ups can swim from the indoor section into the outdoor vitality pool complete with a selection of massaging jets, and there is plenty of room for the kids to play in the half of the pool that is not sectioned off for serious swimmers.
There are three restaurants at the hotel. Café Sante, which is attached to the spa and open during the day for light meals and snacks. You can dine in spa robes here, which gives it a quiet hushed air so we steered clear of this with the kids. The home-style food on offer at the Bistro is perfect for family meals, whilst Seasons offers a more sophisticated French/European inspired menu that’s best enjoyed whilst a babysitter waits on the little ones.
Ready for pony ride on Scooby Doo and Choice
After having the full works for breakfast, the kids were ready for their pony ride. We strolled down to the stables where Ella and Lily got hatted and booted before being introduced to Scooby Doo and Choice. They then climbed on to the ponies and set off around the course.
After collecting their rosettes, we explored the well-equipped kids club – Kids For All Seasons run a fantastic kids programme during weekend and school holidays – and then we searched out Oliver. Lily felt the need to take another animal for a stroll. He showed us where the croquet lawn was and took us down to the canal. Then the rain came. The Four Seasons Hampshire strives to make everything perfect for its guests, and it succeeds in everyway, but it can’t control the weather.
Canal boating, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, tennis and falconry will keep until next time.
Out and about
If you can tear yourselves away from the hotel and its grounds, there are a host of places and attractions to visit nearby. Windsor Castle, Legoland, Jane Austen’s House and the prehistoric circle Stonehenge are just some of the places you can check out. Alternatively, you can explore the picturesque villages dotted around the Hampshire countryside or venture into the New Forest.
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Editorial Note: Ciao Bambino received complimentary accommodations at Four Seasons Hampshire in order to fully experience and review the property. As always, all opinions are our own. Photos by Four Seasons Hampshire and Anna Tobin