Words by Anjana Gosai
If your thoughts are turning to a post lockdown escape or you simply want to get away from the city, then look no further. This elegant, Hampshire-based historic estate is within easy reach from central London and it boasts everything you need for a glorious rural break. Spectacular countryside views, lavish rooms, a splendid spa and an epic kids’ adventure pool, make this retreat a draw for couples and families alike.
This grand 18th century Georgian manor is steeped in history and is perfectly positioned in Dogmersfield Park, a sprawling 500-acre estate dating back to the great Domesday Book of 1086. Four Seasons took over the property in 2005, restoring it to the elegant hotspot that it is today.
Upon arrival my guests and I were welcomed by two staff members who diligently took us through a quick screening procedure, including temperature checks, while reminding us to follow the hotel’s Covid guidelines. The staff deserve a special mention, because they were delightful – even behind their masks. They were not the least bit fazed by any request and their warmth towards children was particularly admirable.
The hotel has a classic style with all the modern comforts you would need and the grounds are huge and perfect for an idle wander. Guests can easily avoid others, by spending time exploring or partaking in a range of recreational activities, such as cycling, tennis, fishing, clay pigeon-shooting, horse-riding, croquet and bird-watching.
My 11-year-old had a super time swinging through the trees at the hotel’s Highwire Adventure, which includes exhilarating tree top challenges and zip wires. Meanwhile, my four-year-old spent hours in the outdoor play area and loved the walk to the equestrian centre to gaze at the ponies.
There’s no need to fret if the weather is not on your side – adults can hibernate at the spa or snuggle up by the crackling fire in the hotel’s cosy library.
Those with kids absolutely need to book a slot at Sharkie’s Reef – a fun-filled indoor adventure pool featuring a four-metre slide, rotating umbrella fountains and bubble jets. If you are visiting during the festive season, little ones can take part in special treasure hunts organised by the property’s very own Pirate Bobby. My kids were certainly wowed by the experience and have been keen to go back ever since.
December guests are in for a festive treat. You can experience relaxing horse drawn carriage rides across the estate and the skating rink is also ready – the moonlight sessions are said to be particularly magical. Once you’ve had a skate, rink-side refreshments including mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies await.
There are 111 guest rooms and 22 suites, all of which are incredibly comforting and adorned with subtle English furnishings and portraits that represents the hotel’s country setting. There are five room types ranging from the grand manor room to the mews room. They all come with spacious marble bathrooms, Asprey amenities and fine views over either the estate’s vast grounds, lush courtyard or historic stable block.
Most rooms can accommodate two adults and one child and we stayed in one of the suites, which was beautiful and had ample space to allow larger families to spread out. The Park, Duneshill and Belvedere suites can comfortably fit a family of four. All rooms and suites include plush king size or twin beds and a selection of squishy pillows. If you really want to spoil yourself, book the royal suite. Spanning over 2420 square feet, it includes two bedrooms with king size beds, a living room, dining room, two bathrooms and a terrace complete with fire pits.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served at Wild Carrot – the hotel’s flagship restaurant, which buzzes with a relaxed and unpretentious vibe. It is distinctly British in design, with classic details alongside contemporary pieces. Floor to ceiling windows allow diners to take in the rolling countryside views. ‘Tis the season to indulge and you’ll find a host of delights amongst the seasonally changing menu.
Executive chef Paolo Belloni is committed to sourcing produce from local markets, which he uses to whip up wholesome and nourishing plates. I started with the warming British pea soup followed by the south coast wild seabass served with beans – it was flavoursome and prettily presented – and I was thrilled to be eating something that I hadn’t prepared myself for the first time in weeks.
Kids can pick from options such as crudités, spaghetti, cheeseburgers, milkshakes and a nostalgic knickerbocker glory, which was a big hit with my little ones. Adjacent to the dining area is a chic, art deco style bar with comfortable seating and a menu offering classic cocktails and creative, artisanal concoctions.
For lunch, I’d recommend Café Sante, near the spa, which dishes up light, healthy cuisine like salads, soups and smoothies. If you can, try the traditional afternoon tea in the library – a classic country-house sitting room with wood panelled walls, lush sofas and blazing log fires.
The spa is an absolute must-visit. It is conveniently open until 10pm, which meant I could spend some quality time there while my kids were in bed. Set in the old stable block, it’s a serene space, that is connected to the main hotel via a bright, glass-encased walkway.
Here you will find everything you need to feel relaxed and rejuvenated – a fully equipped gym, steam and sauna room (currently closed) and a spectacular glass atrium housing a 20-metre lap pool that is linked to a heated outdoor hydrotherapy pool. The indoor pool is lined with loungers, this area never felt crowded and the staff were vigilant about keeping it tidy and replenished.
Treatments are carried out in a quiet section of the spa and include options such as massages, facials, hypnotherapy and manicures – these are practiced by therapists wearing face shields. I went for the Beeutiful rose spice candle massage. Melted candle wax and essential oils were drizzled over my limbs, then massaged in using gentle strokes and stretches – a deeply unwinding experience.
With plenty on offer to keep guests occupied, it’s doubtful that you will have time or feel the need to venture out of the hotel’s grounds. If you do, Jane Austen’s House – a museum dedicated to the life and works of the author – is nearby, as is Highclere Castle – where Downton Abbey was filmed. Outdoor enthusiasts should head to New Forest National Park, which is a 50-minute drive from the hotel. Explore 140 miles of tracks and footpaths with plenty of country pubs, cafes and the cute ponies along the way.
In a nutshell
A luxurious, welcoming family and dog-friendly hotel with picturesque grounds, immaculate rooms, a stunning spa, indulgent dining, impeccable service and an array of activities to appease all interests. The new rules and restrictions are meticulously adhered to and somehow don’t detract from any of the pleasures you would expect from a break away.
Rooms can be booked from £450 per night.
Address: Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield, Hampshire RG27 8TD
Phone: 01252 853000