Hotel review: Lainston House Hotel, Winchester, Hampshire
What's to love?
A 17th century country house hotel set in 63 acres of parkland, where the likes of Mariah Carey, Michael Caine, and Madonna have laid their heads.
The grounds offer an authentic country welcome with a tree-lined windy drive that opens up to a spectacular courtyard framed by pretty archways, which is home to the postcard-perfect house. Once inside, you'll be impressed with the modern and stylish decor, which manages to be rustic without the fuddy-duddy feel of so many other county house hotels.
This place is perfect if you...
Want to experience a real country retreat. Only an hour from London, it offers back-to-nature pursuits galore from clay pigeon shooting to fishing and cycling. It even boasts its own falconry, which houses hawks, eagles and owls in the grounds, and you can experience delights like Hawk Walks or Hunting with Falcons, as well as brilliant flying displays.
Best room in the house
All 50 rooms at the Lainston are individually designed, ensuring no two are the same. We stayed in a Traditional Junior Suite, and were charmed by its little quirks that added character by the bag full; particularly cute was the old-school door bell which rang all the way into the lavish walk-in shower. And, not only did we love our extravagant four-poster bed, there was an equally magnificent bath to match. This certainly isn't contemporary cool, it's country-cosy yet grand, intricate and luxurious.
First things first: pop to the exquisite Drawing Room for an Afternoon Tea. The decor brings the beautiful gardens inside, with leaf-print wallpaper and cushions, and vases bursting with fresh flowers. In summer, sit outside and enjoy tea al fresco, or, when winter closes in, cosy up in front of the fire. OK, they might not have been able to offer me any scones without sultanas, but, after a couple of minutes of feeling a bit miffed, my partner reminded me that the request was 'fussy' and assured me, mouth happily full, that I was 'really missing out'. Not to worry, I nibbled on delicious carrot cake, anyway. As evening rolls round, head to The Cedar Bar and melt into one of the squishy leather armchairs while enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail (the Casino Royal comes highly recommended). Unique features abound in here, too, with the panelling being crafted from a cedar tree that fell on the grounds in 1930. Dinner is served in The Avenue restaurant, an intimate space with fabulous views over the mile-long row of lime trees in the garden. The A la Carte menu (£55 per person) is full of finesse and locally sourced.
Take a wander - or a cycle - in the glorious grounds. Umbrellas and wellies wait for you at the door if needed, and there's a host of sights to see, including the ruins of the 12th century St Peter's Chapel; the Kitchen Garden, which not only supplies the restaurant, but is also home to the falconry; a croquet lawn; and, last but definitely not least, that impressive avenue of lime trees - at a mile, the longest in England - which was planted in 1716.
Any little extras?
Wifi, thankfully, is free, plus guests receive a complimentary newspaper on the first morning of their stay, and, if you fancy one of those lauded strolls around the gardens, you'll get a complimentary goodie bag packed with water, fruit and cake.
From £245 per night, room only.
Lainston House Hotel, Sparsholt, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 2LT, 01962776088/lainstonhouse.com