While I’ve explored all over the New Forest for ALadyofLeisure.com, visiting hotels such as Chewton Glen, Lime Wood, Montagu Arms, Burley Manor and The Bell Inn, I had yet to make it all the way through the National Park to Lymington, right at the south-easterly corner of the New Forest where the Lymington River meets the Solent.
Thankfully I have now remedied this with my stay at the 29-bedroom Stanwell House hotel, which is right in the heart of Lymington. Even on a wet weekday in January, Lymington turned out to be a lively, bustling town with plenty of shops to browse in – both chains and independents – and a lovely cobbled area down by the quayside where yet more shops are to be found selling everything from scarves and earrings to pictures and touristy trinkets.
After a long bout of retail therapy, there’s nothing quite like a cup of coffee or stiff drink to restore energy and it was here where Stanwell House played its main role: its glass-topped conservatory was busy both mid-morning and afternoon with people laden down with bags and desperate for a restorative drink.
While Stanwell House’s location right on the High Street makes it a perfect place for an arrival on foot, if you’re coming by car it is a little more difficult as the hotel doesn’t have an adjoining car park, It’s wise to have a good look at the website before you arrive so you know to drive past the hotel and make a series of turns to double back on yourself towards the town car park, of which a portion is reserved for Stanwell House hotel guests. Once parked, it’s a short walk across the main road to the hotel but it does mean you might want to travel light with your luggage.
Immediately inside the hotel is a lounge on one side and a small but well-stocked bar on the other (signed by local hero and sailing champion Ben Ainslie, who used to live across the road and who supplied the photos in the bar) and directly in front, the conservatory which seems to be the heart of the building.
After checking in – reception staff were very friendly and were quick to advise of everything from parking to the wifi and other essentials – we settled down at one of the tables in the conservatory and relaxed over a latte and a glass of prosecco before heading up our rooms to change before dinner.
The hotel is actually two town houses knocked together and was bought ten years ago by hotelier Robert Milton and his wife Victoria who live just up the road.
The couple celebrated their decade at the hotel by refurbishing the hotels’s restaurant Etain (French for tin, which symbolises a 10th wedding anniversary) and adding a private little dining pod at the end of the hotel’s garden which seats 10 and is available for private hire.
As Etain was booked for a private business function the night we were there, we dined in the less formal Burcher & Co restaurant at the front of the hotel, which had some fantastic-looking tables hewn out of New Forest wood and an extensive menu which included a selection of British tapas including whitebait, lamb hotpot and salt and pepper squid as well as mains from the grill.
We were able to choose from the Etain menu however, and started off with seared scallops and an excellent Isle of Wight blue cheese and sourdough (which would have been just as great as a cheese course) before moving onto an excellently cooked fillet steak and loin of venison with black cabbage and sunflower seed crumble.
The waiter recommended the dark chocolate delice as being the chocolatiest thing we’d ever taste but it didn’t quite live up to its billing: however the chocolate ganache petit fours which came with coffee were quite excellent and would have made a great dessert on their own.
The bedroom was very cosy and well-equipped with almost everything you need in a hotel room – local information, coffee and tea-making facilities (although no fridge), good wifi and TV and lots of pillows – and some things you didn’t (does anyone use trouser presses anymore?) and I slept well in spite of the occasional rumble of traffic from outside – an understandable hazard with rooms which face the high street.
There are some nice touches around the hotel itself too, such as large, ornate mirrors wherever you go, interesting pictures along the hall wall and adornments such as old-fashioned manual typewriters dotted here and there.
Breakfast the next day was back in Burcher & Co and an excellent mix of continental and cooked, with speedy and friendly service. Afterwards the central location of Stanwell House came into its own as we could check out but leave our luggage with reception and head off on a walk around the town (and some more shopping).
Just one night at Stanwell House can be turned into two full days of exploring Lymington and had the weather been better, we would probably have gone for a longer country walk around the estuary. An excuse to return though?
Hotel information and to book Stanwell House
Stanwell House Hotel
14-15 High Street, Lymington
Hampshire, SO41 9AA
Tel: 01590 677 123