Drive out of picturesque Brockenhurst and if it wasn’t for the sign beside the Sway Road, you probably wouldn’t give Daisybank Cottage a second look. Set back in a large garden behind a gated drive, it’s a quirky Arts & Crafts cottage from the turn of the 20th century, but nothing immediately out of the ordinary.
Yet behind the whitewashed exterior lies a delightful B&B offering 7 surprisingly spacious en-suite rooms, all on the ground floor, and – in a quiet corner of the garden, a new Shepherd’s Hut with private facilities and terrace. Far from providing a home-from-home, Daisybank Cottage could even be better than home.
Daisybank Cottage is home to Cheryl and Cieran from Dublin who opened their doors to guests in 2010. Since then, they have won several awards and featured in many respected guidebooks such as Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay, Lonely Planet England, and The Michelin Guide. And it doesn’t take long to see why.
Arriving before the other overnight guests, I’m given a quick tour of the bedrooms before settling into the Garden Suite with its huge bay window, luxurious bed, and vast bathroom with free-standing bath and walk-in shower. Classic FM is playing quietly from the Roberts radio on a bedside table. Beside it, a cute teddy bear is a handy indicator for those who want privacy – simply pop him outside the door and nobody will come in during your stay.
I like the eco-friendly cotton bag hanging on the back of the door, a thoughtful gift bearing the Daisybank Cottage logo, and the welcome tray that includes a chocolate snack from Beaulieu Chocolate Studio. Just the thing after my energetic afternoon walking through the trees, heaths, and wetland of the New Forest. My fridge contains fresh milk and complimentary bottled local water, and if I fancy a snack or alcohol tipple, there’s an honesty bar in the kitchen.
The property was built in 1901 and designed by Charles Brightiff, a student of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. An identical cottage next door was sadly bombed during World War II. Cheryl and Ciaran bought Daisybank 25 years ago and raised their children here before entering the hospitality business. Over the years they have met with the families of several previous owners and the information folder in each room tells the full fascinating story.
The folder is one of many homely touches that lift Daisybank out of the ordinary.
I also love their commitment to supporting local businesses and producers. They have commissioned art from local artists as well as a whole range of accessories from key rings and trays to cushions and teddies. The plates and mugs come from a potter in Milford on Sea and the door handles and coat hangers from Lymington.
Everything echoes the ethos and atmosphere of the unique landscape of the New Forest. And everything comes with a story. Four years ago, the National Park granted them planning permission to rebuild the old corrugated Gardener’s Cottage in the back garden. Now it has been sympathetically reincarnated to form The Lodge. Similarly, they bought a shepherd’s hut five years ago and a privy (shower room), landscaping the area around them in 2017 and opening the hut as a unique guest room in April this year.
Visitors to Brockenhurst are spoilt with the choice of hotels, restaurants and pubs in which to eat dinner, but I’d advise saving room for the New Forest Breakfast served overlooking the Daisybank garden. A modest breakfast eater, I go for local smoked salmon and toast, but there’s a choice of cooked free range breakfast fare, as well as award-winning jams, made in the Forest or course. Simply leave your menu choice in the flowerpot outside your door before retiring.
I’m only staying one night and find myself wishing I had time to stop longer. But sometimes it’s good to leave wanting more – hopefully I’ll be back before long.
An overnight stay costs from £110 per room with two sharing, including full New Forest breakfast.
For more information call 01590 622 086 or visit www.bedandbreakfast-newforest.co.uk