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An hour and a half from London via the M3 motorway, and 10km from Bournemouth, Britain's pre-war watering hole for the country's gentry, both middle and upper class, is Chewton Glen, arguably the best-known and most-highly publicized luxury hideaway in the British Isles. While their less-well-heeled cousins headed for Bournemouth, the nation's top-of-the-rank Movers and Shakers, plus quite a few of the same calibre from other countries, could be found relaxing at Chewton Glen.
This is the classic British country retreat -- not a resort in the American sense, yet offering all the facilities of the latter, in a very British way. A huge manicured lawn is the foreground to this red-brick, creeper-covered 3-story English mansion, its rooms equally British in decor and tradition. Chintz curtains, slip-covered armchairs, traditional British furniture, and modern bathrooms all make you feel like a house-guest of a wealthy aristocratic family. That feeling of genteel excellence extends to the dining room where impeccable service and dishes of Michelin Star standard combine to offer some of the best cuisine anyone is likely to encounter in Britain.
Chewton Glen's surroundings are idyllic. The New Forest is nearby, as is the English Channel, the Isle of Wight sheltering the waters if the weather gets really rough. Fishing? Try your luck on the rivers Test and Kitchen (yes they are rivers and not a cooking school). Golf? If the hotel's own par-3, 9-hole course is not enough of a challenge, ten other courses are in the area. Walks? Start with strolling around the hotel's own 70 acres of parkland, and if that is not enough, graduate to coastal walks. We started off with a great stroll around the grounds, but then found it hard to select from snooker, indoor tennis, outdoor tennis and croquet. But the heated indoor swimming pool eventually won out. Only the very best and most elegant British Country Houses have these, and the one here is certainly a delight. Had we wandered yet further, activity options like riding, sailing and shooting were all available nearby.
Here we also found a spa, sauna and computerized gymnasium. And the ladies love the pampering offered by the aromatherapy, facials, massage and other hedonistic delights available at the hotel's beauty parlour.
Sightseeing around here is also worth mentioning. Stonehenge, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals, the historic houses of Palace House, Wilton and Kingston Lacey at Beaulieu (pronounced "Bewley" on this side of the channel), the gardens of Heale House and Exbury, Broadlands, the home of the late Lord Mountbatten at Romsey and Portsmouth with the British Naval Museums, are all within easy driving distance. Chewton Glen is sadly no longer a member of the Relais & Chateaux group, but this establishment is better than ever and its friendly owners, Martin and Brigitte Skan, will make you very welcome and ensure that your stay there is a happy one indeed.