Venetia van Kuffeler says paradise has been found – for children and adults alike – at the historic Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire
TO BE WOKENup by my two sons (aged three and five) at 5.30am to be told “Mummy, Mummy, this is the best hotel in the world,” was not an ideal way to start the day, but was surely a sign that the Four Seasons Hampshire must be doing something right. On arrival the day before, the boys had been led straight to a toy box to each choose a toy; a Star Wars figurine for the older one and giant bubbles for the younger one. Much like any parent of young children, there’s the inevitable unpredictability that comes with travelling as a family, but within minutes of getting out of the car they were beaming, and I could relax. All signs of the good things to come.
The hotel is an eighteenth-century Georgian manor house, set within 500-acres of the picturesque Dogmersfield Estate. Dating back to the Domesday Book, the estate passed several times between King and church before Henry I granted the manor to become a medieval palace. In 1501, Henry VII visited the palace with Prince Arthur, heir to the throne, to meet his future wife, Catherine of Aragon. In the party was Prince Henry, Arthur’s brother, who would go on to become the King of England and make Catherine of Aragon the first of his six wives. From here, the estate passed through several aristocratic families, eventually being restored to its former glory and opening as the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire in 2005. As if this isn’t tempting enough for history buffs, the hotel is also set in Jane Austen country. The houses, countryside and people of Hampshire provided the inspiration for many of her novels.
Today, many original features of the house and grounds remain, including a sixteenth-century dovecote. With classically English interiors, the 111 guest rooms and 22 suites make the Four Seasons Hampshire ideally placed for both VIP guests and families alike. The excitement continued in our Daneshill Suite, where the children were greeted with doggie shaped chocolate cookies. The suite included a separate bedroom for the adults, and the sitting/dining area easily transformed into a sleeping area for the children in the evening.
Aside from sleeping on a sofa-bed for the first time (and the adventure playground), the main source of excitement was Sharky’s Reef. Separate from the 20-metre indoor conservatory lap pool with connecting outdoor vitality pool, Sharkie’s Reef is a fun packed family adventure pool for younger guests. Designed by Disney and Warner Brothers sculptor Justin Pook, the pool is a water wonderland with a four-metre slide, rotating umbrella fountain, cascading water buckets and bubble jets that kept the little ones entertained for hours.
Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire has a range of loveable characters for children to meet when they arrive, a resident dog, plus two sweet mini-Shetland ponies Milo and Dougal. The frolics continue in winter, with the hotel’s atmospheric outdoor skating rink.
The Four Seasons Hampshire is not all about the children though! There’s golf nearby, plus an array of country sports like clay pigeon shooting, fishing, croquet, cycling, plus long walks and lakeside picnics in the grounds. Home to over 20 horses, the impressive equestrian centre offers guests (of all ages) lessons, a gentle hack around the estate or an energising canter.
For those looking to wind down, an eighteenth-century stable block has been converted into a vast spa and health club, with a tempting menu of treatments to satisfy even the most seasoned of spa goers. Using natural herbs like aromatic lavender, peppermint and camomile found around the hotel’s estate, the Hampshire herbal massage involved a hot herbal compress kneaded into my aching limbs; 90 minutes of bliss.
With great accessibility from London, it should not be forgotten that this hotel has some impressive business facilities. From conferences to incentive breaks and luncheons, Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire has the technical facilities, expansive space and dedicated staff to set a new standard in out-of-town entertaining. The beautiful ballroom has a banqueting capacity for 200, and the sixteenth-century walled garden for outdoor receptions or seated lunches and dinners.
The hotel restaurant, Wild Carrot, holds delights in store for both adults and children. All dishes are crafted with locally sourced ingredients, and seasonal produce from farms and markets further afield. Separate infant and children’s menus offer kiddie delights such as hot dogs and a knickerbocker glory. From the à la carte, burrata from Puglia with candied carrots and carrot ketchup on sourdough was a hit, as were the seared king scallops, served with British summer peas, buttermilk and summer truffle.
Throughout our stay nothing was ever too much trouble; the Four Season’s legendary service did not disappoint. Unlike most country hotels in the UK, the other guests were hugely international, no doubt testament to the strong draw of the Four Seasons brand. Aside from the early start, we had a truly wonderful stay.
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL HAMPSHIRE
Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield, Hampshire RG27 8TD
T: +44 (0)1252 853000