The bike in Standing Hat
Standing Hat fireplace
Four poster from a tree
Cottage Lodge Dining Room
New Forest Ponies
An eco love in - Brockenhurst, England
For whatever reason you are looking to book a bolt-hole – hot loving, escape from the growl of the city or just the bliss of assuming the position of a starfish across a luxurious bed that you haven’t made yourself – I have a discovery for you. In my time spent as a professional global bed hopper (so to speak), I have slept in all kinds of rooms but I think that I’ve now narrowed down the most romantic B&B bedroom in the UK to a shortlist of one: Standing Hat at Cottage Lodge in the New Forest.
I appreciate that it might not always be possible to arrange for a snow flurry to sweep you and your paramour from the station, past the wild ponies nodding in encouragement and into Cottage Lodge, but it would really work a lot better if you could because this is a B&B built for a winter liaison.
Standing Hat (and it MUST be Standing Hat - it would be shameful to be so close to Standing Hat but not in it) combines the three things that set me all aquiver – eco luxe, quirkiness and a big dollop of romance.
There’s a four poster bed carved out of a storm fallen village beech tree piled with mountainous pillows; a wood burning stove in the corner that warms the room making the New Forest Douglas Fir give out a beautiful dusky wood smell; and beside the window there is a bike and (I can hardly type with excitement now) this bike powers the television. There is a walk in water efficient shower, big fluffy towels and local chocolates on the pillow.
If you venture out of Standing Hat, the Snug has a fire, an endless supply of cake, and an honesty bar serving Ginger and Whiskey Liqueur or bottles of Three Cows wine from Marlings vineyard. Breakfast is entirely made out of Forest ingredients – including the most delicious sausages I can remember – and is served on Denby Pottery (from a range created from clay sourced from the Denby garden) either in your room or in the Dining Room – on tables made from another fallen tree which have reshaped themselves as time has dried the wood.
Eating locally is taken seriously in the Forest with the New Forest Marque singling out produce that has been created in the area. Hiring a bike and heading out into almost two hundred miles of off road tracks is a great way to work up an appetite. The snowy ground squeaks and fizzles like a bowl of Rice Krispies as you bike over open moorland, past more ponies and over tiny bridges.
After a small map reading incident and a two hour detour, lunch at The Oak Inn at Bank beckoned. This cosy pub with wooden tables and a warming stove has a relaxed attitude to slightly crazed Londoners walking in caked with frozen mud and panting for carbs. The Oak displays The New Forest Marque alongside qualifying entries on its permanent menu and happily gives guidance as to which of the specials are the most local. I chose a Fish Cassoulet - bursting with flounder, perch and mussels from Lymington and washed it down with a deep Pinot Noir - over Forest Venison Sausages or Pheasant. The ride back to Brockenhurst swoops down the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive - which will be ablaze with Rhododendrons and Azaleas in a few months but for now, is lit by silvery winter light – back to the indulgence of Cottage Lodge.
- Cottage Lodge is offering Lady Adventurer readers 10% off of their stay. To receive this discount, please quote Lady Adventurer when you book
- Country Lanes rent out bikes from the car park at Brockenhurst Station. They will also provide helmets, backpacks, toolkits and maps.
- thenewforest.co.uk is the official visitor website for the area and contains libraries full of information about bike and walking routes, local eating and days out.
(Picture of New Forest ponies courtesy of thenewforest.co.uk and all other images courtesy of Cottage Lodge)