Turning my car in through the gateway of Careys Manor Hotel, I found myself faced with a quick decision. Hotel Arrivals or Main Car Park – I chose the car park and made the wrong choice, entering this delightful country hotel by the back door instead of crunching up the sweeping gravel drive. But no matter, whichever entrance you choose, the welcome is just the same. All the staff I encountered on my reverse journey from backdoor to front met me with the same friendly greeting, an atmosphere that continued throughout my stay.
Situated on the approach to Brockenhurst from Lyndhurst, Careys Manor was built as a hunting lodge and gifted to John Carey by King Charles II for services rendered from 1660 to 1685. In 1888, the original house was demolished and replaced by the present gabled property in 14 acres. Today it’s one of the New Forest’s leading 4-star hotels and the only one with a hydrotherapy spa.
And although I arrived by car, Careys Manor is less than 10 minutes’ walk from Brockenhurst station and village shops. Summer visitors can hop on the New Forest Tour which operates three separate loops, two of them passing through Brockenhurst, every day at hourly intervals from early July to early September. And there are great tips for other car-free experiences from the Travel Concierge team at Brockenhurst railway station over the summer period.
But if it’s relaxation you’re after, Careys Manor has it all. Some character rooms are located in the 18th century manor but my spacious Garden Room was in one of the modern wings behind the old house, well set back from the road and with a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking a lawn and shrubbery, which all added up to a super-quiet night. The understated décor was in calm shades of gold and cream with white cotton sheets on a bed so comfortable I wanted to take it home.
The bathroom was roomy if unremarkable, with a shower over the bath. If I’m picky, there was no magnifying mirror for applying that all-important mascara, and personally I’m not keen on fixed head showers, especially when you have to lean through the spray to adjust the temperature. But they are small complaints. The shower was powerful, the bath towels soft and fluffy, and the White Company toiletries more than acceptable. Other amenities included iron and board, dressing gown, slippers and plenty of make-up removing pads and tissues.
From my room it was just a short walk to the glorious 14 metre indoor pool with Jacuzzi, steam room, and sauna in an oriental setting, plus an adjacent gymnasium. So many hotel pools are too small for those of us who like to put head down and swim lengths, but this was one of the best hotel pools I’ve swum in anywhere. Access is free for all guests.
If, however, guests want to use the SenSpa, they have to pay a supplement. The spa is open to outsiders and numbers are limited. Arriving on a Sunday afternoon, I found it was already fully booked, but weekdays are quieter. Try the large hydrotherapy pool with massage jets, the scented steam rooms, herbal sauna and ice room. And feel the benefits of the experience shower where you can choose between warm tropical storms or a bracing ice storm, complete with sound and light effects. SenSpa also offers a full range of bookable beauty and massage treatments, including a rhassoul mud room.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, there are three restaurants to choose from, depending on your mood. Breakfast is served in the Cambium restaurant where you can also dine on British fare, much of it sourced in the New Forest. Try foraged mushrooms, Pannage pork from free-grazing pigs, local cheeses, and fresh seafood.
The other two restaurants transport diners away from the Forest. My friends and I were hugely impressed by the authentic Thai food in the Zen Garden which overlooks the indoor pool and its own Oriental garden. Another night, we enjoyed a change of both culture and cuisine in Le Blaireau, a Parisian-style bistro named after a common New Forest resident, the badger.
Watch the website for special deals including Spa Breaks, themed breaks and last minute deals. A Dining Break includes Full New Forest Breakfast, dinner in one of the three restaurants, and of course use of the pool and associated leisure facilities.
Take a short break at Careys Manor and it’s tempting not to stray very far, but the New Forest offers something for everything whether you want to walk, cycle or ride; marvel at vintage motor cars in Beaulieu; or stroll the old shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard. Browse www.thenewforest.co.uk and let yourself be sorely tempted!
Careys Manor & SenSpa