Muddy reviews: New Park Manor, Brockenhurst
Still not booked any summer hols? Fear not, Muddy's found family staycation nirvana right here in Hampshire's beautiful New Forest…
Back in the 17th Century, Royal pleasure seekers came to the beautiful New Park Manor to hunt for deer. Today, visitors are still on the hunt – for is a place to stay where all the family can relax and have a good time. And by jove, I reckon they’ve found it.
A beautiful grand country house hunting lodge, slap bang in the middle of the National Park, New Park Manor was once a favourite leisure destination of Charles II.
Fast forward a few hundred years and (before the Mudlet came along and weekend flits didn’t involve military planning and packing), the hotel was my go-to for spa days and the occasional birthday overnighter. Returning with Mr. Muddy and my five-year-old, we’re full to busting with pent-up staycation anticipation…
A friendly front-of-house welcome sets the scene for a relaxed vibe throughout, with plenty of space for kids to play and roam without disturbing child-free guests, or parents making the most of room monitors with hotel-wide coverage. In the lounge and dining rooms, part of the main house, original interior features like beautiful fireplaces and stained-glass windows blend seamlessly with contemporary furniture.
Since my last (child-free and carefree) visit, New Park Manor have upped the ante on stuff for little ones with even more thoughtful details for all their guests. We’re talking full family staycation goals…
The first changes I notice are the handy ground floor family kitchenette and baby changing area and conservatory-style family dining room. As we discover later, the bright, airy space is practically-designed for messier eaters, with easy-to-wipe tables and floors and a door leading straight out to the play-friendly garden.
A free (yes, really!) 1.5hr childcare session is included in every family booking at New Park Manor. Kids are looked after in an impressive creche with friendly staff. Time it wisely and you might just get that long overdue massage/salt scrub/pampering bliss-out in the spa… or just a peaceful hour dipping in and out of the hot tub and flopping on a lounger.
Making the most of the sunny weather, we dump the bags and head straight for the outdoor heated pool for a splash about. It’s a welcome dose of vitamin-D and we quickly feel in holiday mode.
Once King Charles II’s favourite hunting lodge, characterful bedrooms ooze English country house, albeit updated with contemporary furniture, crisp linens and ESPA toiletries. Premium coffee from pods packs a satisfying punch, with tea and biccies to nibble on too. Call down for the fresh milk – dairy-free if you like it – there’s also a small fridge to keep it chilled.
Going the extra-mile on the family-friendly touches, as it does so often here, in the bathroom are gorgeous ‘Little B’ premium children’s hair and body washes. Our room also has a large roll top bath (above) to make the most of them in. And if your little treasure has forgotten their jammies (or you just can’t resist them, like us), there are super-sweet White Company PJs (designed exclusively for the hotel with dotted deer logo) to buy or pre-order.
Just as I remember it, the indoor pool has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over panoramic views where we spot horses roaming around beyond the fence. On previous visits, I’ve spotted some beautiful deer while relaxing in here too. Families are welcome but children certainly don’t dominate the space. Outdoors, the child-free hot tub and deck loungers have a distinctly grown-up feel. And in my peaceful, adults-only treatment room, a superbly relaxing back, neck and shoulder massage leaves me floating off the table and feeling fabulously restored.
SCOFF & QUAFF
As it was a light, warm, school holiday evening on our visit, we opted to eat together in the family dining room. Families also have the option to give children an earlier evening meal and head for the adults-only restaurant once the little darlings are in bed, something we’d probably do in darker months. We’d scarcely ordered when the Mudlet spied some other kids playing outdoors and scampered off to join them, returning briefly to bolt down a well-executed cheeseburger and chips (£10) and side of corn on the cob (£3), while I polished off a sneaky pre-dinner Bombay Sapphire G&T (£6.50).
Starters were small but super tasty thai fishcakes (£9), above, and moules marinière (£10). Mr. Muddy tucked into a well-plated main of plaice with new potatoes and spring greens (£18) while I enjoyed a fillet of seabass with celeriac, elevated by a beautifully light Pernod sauce, from the specials menu (£19.50). To go with, we had a few sneaky glasses of a beautiful French viogner (£7).
Puds were rice pudding (£6.50), a touch on the stodgy side, and a tasty-but-rich chocolate tart (£6.50). Once we managed to get her in from playing with new friends in the rather sweet outdoor tepee den area, tucked away behind a beautiful rhododendron bush, the Mudlet was easily persuaded to a couple of scoops of strawberry ice cream (£4).
New for this year, New Park Manor has a gorgeous family-friendly afternoon tea we absolutely couldn’t miss (£27pp adults/£15 children). Based on a Wind in the Willows theme, we tucked into finger sandwiches, clotted-cream and jam-laden scones. On the Willows theme were Badger’s tasty chocolate and berry swiss roll, delicious carrot cake cupcakes and – my favourite – Ratty’s cool, creamy lemonade posset. Highlights on the children’s tray were carrot sticks and hummus in a terracotta pot and a green Mr. Toad biscuit (not the most appetising colour but the Mudlet assured me it tasted good!). Making it more fun was the bag of icing sugar to pipe a wide smile on his face.
OUT & ABOUT
So much to do right on the doorstep in the New Forest. Always a favourite, hire some bikes and freewheel it through the woods (stopping off for a cream tea, naturally…). Attractions-wise, the National Motor Museum and Furzey Gardens are both around 15 minutes’ drive away. Paulton’s Park (home of Peppa Pig World, aka littlies heaven), and the beautiful Exbury Gardens are 20 minutes’ drive.
The best indie shops in the area are down in lovely Lymington (above), on the coast and under 15 minutes’ drive from New Park Manor. Head there for designer boutiques like Stanwells and homewares heaven at scandi-inspired interiors shops like BluBambu and Willow Lifestyle.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: All the family, from the oldest to the very youngest. New Park Manor has retained its wonderfully traditional English country house vibe while delivering modern creature comforts in abundance.
NOT FOR: Plenty of child-free residents looked relaxed and untroubled by the youngest guests. But for a rare, childfree weekend away, I’d probably opt for somewhere with a more adult vibe.
££: Rooms cost from £189 per night B&B in Spring/Summer, and from £119 per night in low season. It’s by no means the cheapest place to stay, even by New Forest standards, but added extras and facilities make it pretty good value, especially for families.
New Park Manor, Lyndhurst Road, New Forest, Hampshire, SO42 7QH. Tel. 01590 623467. www.luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk