Home / Country house hotels / The Bell Inn: a cosy New Forest coaching inn perfect for country walks

The Bell Inn: a cosy New Forest coaching inn perfect for country walks

There’s a warm glow which comes when reading a newspaper article called ‘Cosiest pubs to stay in this winter’ and realising  you are heading off to stay in one of those featured that very day. This happened to me recently when about to head off to The Bell Inn in the New Forest; reading the paper over my morning coffee I found that it had been singled out as the perfect place from which to enjoy bracing country walks (and to return to for post-walk drinks by its log fire).

bell inn new forest review

The Bell Inn is an 18th-century former coaching inn in the New Forest national park

Expectations were high therefore as I took to the road and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed – The Bell Inn is a charming place and I was fortunate enough to stay for two extremely cosy nights. [March 2021 update: The owners have decided not to re-open The Bell Inn for the forseeable future – watch this space to see what happens to this lovely coaching inn]

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Having previously spent a considerable amount of time driving through the New Forest itself to get to various hotels I was surprised at how handy The Bell Inn is to get to – it was literally just a few minutes off the M27 so you don’t waste a moment snarled up in Lyndhurst traffic before getting stuck into some serious relaxing.

bell inn new forest review

Local food and drinks are served in the light and airy bar as well as the adjoining restaurant

The Bell Inn has been in the Crosthwaite Eyre family for hundreds of years (since 1782 to be precise). Much of the food served in the restaurant has either been grown or raised on the family’s New Forest estate  – some also comes from the family’s estate in Scotland – so the pub is very much a local enterprise and during my stay was preparing to host a dozen local suppliers in its annual Christmas fair.

While the building might be old, inside it has the look and feel of a more modern establishment, with immaculate carpets, newly-painted walls, cream wood cladding around the bar and much smarter than the  uneven flooring, low ceilings and generally rickety feel that I was expecting, given its age.

bell inn new forest review

The bar looked much more modern than I had been expecting (but had still kept its original charm)

My room, number 12, was on the first floor overlooking the large garden which would be a great spot for some al fresco dining in the summer.  The room itself was extremely spacious, containing a smart bathroom with bath and separate shower (and a range of posh toiletries) and the bedroom itself had plenty of room for a king-sized bed, sofa, writing desk and lots of storage space.

bell inn new forest review

My room overlooked the garden and was very spacious

bell inn new forest review

The view of the large beer garden from my bedroom window

As you’d expect from a coaching inn there was the slightest sound of passing cars from the road (which doesn’t bother me anyway) but other rooms are completely insulated and you can’t hear a thing. It was all very smart and ideal for a country stay and couldn’t be faulted, although if I’m being picky I think it would be nice to have had some additional touches in the rooms unique to The Bell Inn (along the lines of the Dormy House’s owls or The Painswick’s maps) which would have made it feel a little more personal and a ‘home away from home’ feel.

bell inn new forest review

The Bell Inn does a great range of local ales

Downstairs in the bar which was filling up with locals (always a good sign) I enjoyed a pre-dinner half of Double Drop from the Flack Manor brewery just a few miles away. The local theme continued into the restaurant where there was an excellent ‘food map’ on the reverse of the menu showing where the food had come from: eggs from Ringwood, fish from the estuary, game, meat and poultry from nearby Swallowfields Farm and herbs from The Bell Inn’s own herb garden.

bell inn new forest review

The restaurant at The Bell Inn has a pleasantly rustic feel

bell inn new forest review

On the back of the menu was an information food map of where The Bell Inn sources its food

The food was a cut above your average pub grub, with an extensive menu ranging from ‘nibbles’ and salads to the full works, with daily special and gluten-free and vegetarian options. My pan-seared scallops with black pudding soil (I think soil needs to disappear from menus soon though) and fennel and pea puree was excellent, as was the Hampshire lamb with slow-cooked shoulder and crispy belly and roast loin.

bell inn new forest review

My starter of pan-fried scallops with fennel and pea puree and black pudding soil…

bell inn new forest review

….followed by Hampshire lamb with slow-cooked shoulder and crispy belly

I was even able to sample a tiny portion of cheese which was just as well as the Isle of Wight Blue was fabulous. (Full marks for a detailed and well-chosen cheese list).

As The Times had promised, The Bell Inn is a great place for country walks and a trip to the Rufus Stone made for an ideal way to walk off dinner and the hearty breakfast the following morning, being well signposted from The Bell Inn and a pleasant half hour stroll along a winding lane.

bell inn new forest review

The Rufus Stone is just a short walk from The Bell Inn and commemorates the spot where William II was accidentally shot and killed while hunting

This part of the world isn’t short of country pubs either; the William Tyrrell is on the way to the Rufus Stone and if you fancy a change from The Bell then the George just across the road does a very nice pint of Wadworths rum-infused Swordfish ale.

bell inn new forest review

Sampling some more local ales at The George pub across the road from The Bell Inn

Golf enthusiasts only need to walk round the back of The Bell Inn to find not one but two 18-hole courses at the Bramshaw Golf Club  (owned by the same family) including the Forest Course which is the oldest course in Hampshire. And for those who are slightly less activity-inclined – well, there’s always that roaring fire…

The Bell Inn, Brook, nr Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7HE

Compare prices and read more reviews of The Bell Inn on Tripadvisor here

If you’re looking for some great places to stay in the New Forest then look no further!

Burley Manor hotel New Forest: relaxing country charm

Boutique luxury at Daisybank Cottage bed and breakfast New Forest

Stanwell House hotel, Lymington: a New Forest welcome




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