The Long Weekend
By now, the story of Chewton Glen is the stuff of hotel legend: nearly fifty years ago, Martin Skan was looking to build a golf academy when he spotted a derelict eight-bedroom home with a leaky roof in Hampshire. The surrounding 130-acre property, bordered by England’s ancient New Forest National Park and the sea, was so bewitching that he became a hotelier on the spot and developed Chewton Glen into one of the U.K.’s premier luxury country house hotels. Skan boldly introduced what were then novel ideas back, like bathrooms with double vanities and showers with plenty of hot water. His hotel was the first to add a spa and the first in the U.K.to join Relais & Châteaux. Although Skan retired in 2006, selling his beloved property to a longtime guest, his innovative spirit lives on in the property’s latest addition: twelve fabulously luxurious Tree House Suites.
Unveiled in 2012, these lofty accommodations are a far cry from the cramped, splinter-filled versions of my youth. Upon entering my Loft Suite, I immediately canceled my reservation at the hotel’s Vetiver restaurant, opting instead for “tree service.” Fourteen hours later, I still hadn’t left my divine perch and was dreading the inevitable checkout. These airy havens of clever design with five-star service are ideal for love-struck couples, independent families and those craving a bit of peace.
Standing on stilts, the tree houses—each named for a different type of tree—are eye level with the tops of mature sycamores, beech, oak and a slew of other native trees. Blackbirds, thrushes, woodpeckers and buzzards float by. The only sound is birdsong, and sunsets are marvelous. There were no other guests chatting in the hallways, fumbling for their keys to adjacent rooms—just you and nature. Interiors, decorated in a neutral palette of soft, warm colors, feature oak-beamed floors, glass coffee tables with a cut-log bases and wood-burning fireplaces. Bathrooms, with huge walk-in showers and stand-alone tubs, and dressing areas are generously proportioned, and all have expansive forest views. Amenities are by Ren. The kids’ loft, which sleeps two, is reached via an upscale, Swedish-style ladder and has three skylights. Hooks adorn the wall, a tidy solution for untidy kids, and a host of board games encourages old-world entertainment (although downstairs there’s also a flat-screen television).
Chewton Glen’s management understands the importance of the small touches, as evidenced by the well-stocked kitchenette: Sophie Conran–designed china, a De Longhi cappuccino machine, glass jars filled with chamomile tea buds, coffee beans, healthy cereals and homemade little cakes and cookies. The closet holds a De Longhi toaster, ready for the sliced bread that comes with the complimentary breakfast hamper delivered quietly through a hatchway every morning. The bounty includes glass-bottled yogurts, fresh fruit salad, orange juice in a carafe, jams and pastries and top-of-the-line charcuterie.
With their dedicated Tree House Concierge and speedy room service, the Tree House Suites are nearly impossible to leave, but if you can pull yourself away, there’s lots to do at and around Chewton Glen. Guests can ride complimentary mountain bikes or cute New Forest ponies through the New Forest (its name is a bit misleading, since William the Conqueror created it as a hunting area in 1079). A the nearby National Motor Museum, Daniel Craig fans can check out “Bond in Motion,” showcasing fifty James Bond vehicles, including three from the Sam Mendes–directed Skyfall.
I had planned a brisk morning walk to the sea before catching my train back to London, but I couldn’t bear to leave my tranquil perch. Perusing the interesting books on the shelves of my suite, I came across one titled Black Cab Wisdom, a compilation of memorable backseat quotes collected by a London cab driver. I particularly liked “You are not only responsible for the things you do. You are also responsible for the things you don’t do.” I, for one, am doubly glad I “did” the Chewton Glen Tree House Suites.
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