Natalie French

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When the sun shines over the rolling fields of Hampshire, there’s nowhere better. Blessed with the perfect blend of countryside, coast and city, it’s also home to two beautiful National Parks – the New Forest and the South Downs – and no less than 40 vineyards. Whether you want to feast on local fare, wander in the woodland or get horizontal beside one of the ‘coolest pools in Britain’ - this indulgent county has got you covered. 

Foodies should hotfoot it to the New Forest to feast on locally-sourced Italian-influenced dishes created with a nod to the seasons; think: roasted celeriac salad, hand-rolled pasta, boozy tiramisu and an Espresso Martini nightcap. This vintage-style restaurant – with views over the mansion’s gardens – take its name from the chefs at the helm, Angela Hartnett, Luke Holder and team. Don’t miss the midweek lunch menu – a steal with three-courses for under £40. Special occasion? Order the Glenarm Estate salt-aged beef rib for two and get acquainted with the extensive wine list. There’s an onsite Smoke House, too, where smoked salmon, dry-cured ham and a selection of charcuterie delights are cured.  

Restore your senses in 180 acres of award-winning gardens and arboretum. Situated just outside Romsey, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is home to 42,000 trees and shrubs; the collection of oaks, camellia, magnolia and rhododendron are noteworthy. What better place to sign up for one of the monthly forest bathing sessions? The gentle, 3-hour, guided mindfulness-in-nature experience promises to leave you feeling cleansed, calm and with a deeper connection to self and to the natural world. Expect guided sensory meditation, mindful photography, a spot of foraging for natural materials, journaling and reflection. Tree hugging optional, but highly recommended. 

Chewton Glen’s signature Treehouse Suites have continued to create a buzz since they opened just over a decade ago. From the floor-to-ceiling glass and wrap-around balconies to bubbly hot tubs and log burners – all complete with epic views over the 130-acre grounds. For bigger glamping gatherings, opt for the largest and most secluded treehouse, The Yews, which sleeps up to 12 guests. There’s even a new fantasy-like treehouse-style kid’s club, The Beehive - a nod to Chewton Glen’s 70 resident beehives, home to five million bees. When the adult-only spa beckons, drop the kids off at the Beehive and let them curl up in the comfy reading nook, hang out on the treetop 360 balcony or enjoy supervised fun and games in the grounds.

Located in the converted well house within the grounds of Lainston House, Season Cookery School has a state-of-the-art-kitchen, a modern dining space and a kitchen garden complete with pizza oven. A huge array of cooking courses are on the menu, from the art of cooking Japanese sushi (Hosomaki, Temaki, Uramaki, Sashimi and Nigiri) using fresh fish and traditional ingredients, to perfecting a steak (dry-aged sirloin steak, on-the-bone Tomahawk, Bavette and rump) in the barbecue masterclass. You can even hone your knife skills under the guidance of the award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs. 

Penned as one of the ‘coolest pools in Britain’, Tylney Hall’s outdoor heated pool is the place to be seen this summer. Spa-goers and hotel guests in-the-know don sunglasses and saunter to nearest available poolside lounger to soak-up the rays in this pretty sun trap. Located behind the Victorian red-brick hotel, it’s a great spot to unravel with an ice-cold G&T and enjoy a quiet moment. If you can drag yourself away, the 66-acre grounds are well worthy of an exploration - expect beautifully manicured Italian Gardens, a serene Boathouse Lake and the longest uninterrupted view in Hampshire, flanked by giant redwoods

Petrol heads will love Beaulieu. Along with the 285 cars in the National Motor Museum and the buzz of the Supercar Weekend, Beaulieu also pays homage to the world’s biggest car show. World of Top Gear is the place to see all the modified and battered cars that the BBC’s Top Gear team, from every era, have spectacularly trashed throughout the years - from the Reliant Robin Space Shuttle to the Sinclair C5, which Freddie Flintoff took down a Norwegian bobsleigh course. During the school holidays and weekends (until October) keep an eye out for the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reconstruction driving around the grounds. Wind and the Willow’s fans will also be able to book a ride in Mr Toad’s infamous bright red car. 

With nine hectares of gardens, two lakes, a 17th century summer house and a 600-year-old oak tree to marvel at, National Trust property, The Vyne, makes for a good day out. Come the summer, it’s all going on: from an outdoor cinema (Romeo & Juliet, anyone?) to traditional games on the North Lawn - skipping ropes at the ready. Surrounded by Hampshire countryside, it’s rich in wildlife, too. Bring your binoculars and grab a handy spotter sheet from reception and tackle the wildlife spotter challenge; guaranteed to keep all-ages occupied as you wander the woodlands on the look-out for butterflies and dragonflies. The bird hide – with its wetland views – is the perfect place to get your twitching on. 

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