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Staycation: Balmer Lawn, New Forest

by Liz Stansfield
Staycation: Balmer Lawn, New Forest
Balmer Lawn Hotel

Come rain or shine, this cosy foodie hotel makes a delightful weekend bolthole – with bonus four-legged friends.

Image: Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image: Balmer Lawn Hotel

I adore the New Forest. This glorious perfect national park is the ideal outdoorsy staycation: miles and miles of walking trails and bike tracks, wonderful restaurants and pubs for refuelling, and more ponies to chat to than you can shake a (metaphorical, of course) stick at. However, our visit to Balmer Lawn Hotel falls on a bit of a wet weekend. The drizzle starts as we step off the train at Brockenhurst station, and doesn’t really stop for the duration of our stay. Having had a few wonderfully sunny breaks in the New Forest over the years, I feel a bit disappointed that we won’t be putting in the miles on two feet and two wheels on this trip. But I shouldn’t have worried – this gorgeous hotel is the best possible place to hunker down and enjoy roaring fires, excellent cocktails and fantastic food. It sits in the heart of the forest: it backs on to open moorland, is next to the river (for dipping your toes on warmer weekends), and the ponies happily potter outside the gate, welcoming you to their manor with a cheerful nod.

Evenings here feel just the right side of fancy. The hotel’s restaurant, Beresfords Wine & Dining, is filled with groups of friends and families eating good food and drinking even better wine. On our first night, we tuck into a fluffy baked pancetta soufflé and seared scallops, followed by pork belly and an Indian-inspired cod with saag aloo. Pudding is strawberry pavlova (delicious) and ‘one for the road’ (or stairs, in our case) by the fire, before we roll up the grand staircase and fall into our king-size bed. If you’re after lunch or a drink on a sunny day, meanwhile, look no further than the hotel’s Lodge Restaurant & Bar, which is more relaxed than the fine-dining Beresfords. I’ll be heading there this summer to enjoy an Aperol spritz with a view of some four-legged friends.


The next day starts dry(ish), so we venture out for a stroll around the village. We spot ponies and donkeys, and visit local shops and the very cute village book exchange, before warming up in the hotel’s small spa area and dozing the afternoon away in the Jacuzzi’s toasty bubbles. You can also enjoy a variety of spa and beauty treatments (but the space isn’t huge, so book in advance). When we – reluctantly – check out of the Balmer on Sunday morning, the heavens of course open yet again. But as I shake off my raincoat once we’re aboard the train home, I realise that it really didn’t matter after all. A break in the New Forest can be glorious, whatever the weather.

How to book

A standard double at Balmer Lawn Hotel starts at £165, including breakfast and use of the leisure facilities. For more information and to book, call 01590 623116 or visit

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