Lainston House Hotel, Hampshire, December 2011

by Emma Bumpus on December 12, 2011

“Exclusive” would best describe our festive stay at the Lainston House hotel near Winchester. Driving up to the house in it’s grandeur gave us a jaw dropping snapshot of 17th century architecture and history, igniting the careertraveller craving for a luxuriantly time traveller adventure.

Greeted by the “most” helpful Concierge began the chapter of what can only be described as first class hospitality. Gasps of delight from the children increased the excitement bar as they spotted the glowing fire and Christmas tree, creating the most memorable hotel entrance.
Observing wellingtons and hand made produce by reception radiated a style and warmth of an informal nature, oozing authentically genuine country house appeal. Feeling instantly “at home” we were escorted courteously to our Mayfly Suite, aptly named in association with one of Lainston’s many country pursuits; fly-fishing on the river Test.

LUXURY awaited us in the form of sumptuous double beds, a spacious relaxation area with comfy arm chairs and of course a spectacular “oasis like” bathroom with a spa bath, under floor heating and separate walk in “rain” shower. In suite style, we begun to sample the delights of Lainston House, noticing the fine and bespoke attention to detail they pay to relaxation, comfort and leisure. Nice touches included the Lainston William teddy bear, greeting card, array of magazines and beautifully presented information of Lainston House and Winchester.

Such hospitality created a magical family atmosphere from which to explore this alluring and sophisticated country house offering a variety of exquisite leisure services and facilities. From pillow menu to resident Falconer and kitchen garden on site, it became clear that Lainston think of everything, even thoughtfully little but subtle “green packs” with an “environmental friendly” touch. Visionary!

Armed with the hotel’s ready prepared map we began to unravel the hotel’s history, which with a 12th century chapel, dovecot and sundial garden gave the children plenty of freedom to explore all 63 acres of the hotel’s enchanting grounds, spectacular!

More to come was the tennis courts, pet cemetery and careertraveller favourite; kitchen garden. As if walking through a secret passage we found ourselves walking into a restored ancient walled garden, abundant with fresh organic brussel sprouts, cabbages and various leafy green produce. The aviary at the top of the garden was a success for the children who identified various birds of prey before meeting the hotel’s pigs in the surrounding woodland.

Our historical tour of Lainston house remained unfinished until our viewing of the seventeenth century piece de resistence; the famous mile long avenue of lime Trees! This dramatic vista gave us an insight to the playground of country pursuits Lainston offer from clay pigeon shooting and croquet to mountain biking or good old-fashioned walking!

Such beautiful landscape drew our attention towards the hotel’s restaurant, aptly named The Avenue, which overlooking the lime tree avenue in its’ glory granted permission for a pre dinner aperitif in true careertraveller style! Time spent relaxing in the hotel’s refined Cedar bar and opulent drawing room provided just the ambience for an award winning Bellini, whilst the children discovered a welcoming trunk of toys and board games galore.

Our rollercoaster of unique hospitality accelerated as we were led to the grand Avenue, an elegant room with beautiful décor of a contemporary and period feel in a relaxed setting. Sommelier assistance came to the rescue of my red wine indecisiveness, complemented the Saddle of Lamb with celeriac, leek and mint shoulder presse to perfection. Indulging the taste buds further came some traditional 12 month old Christmas pudding, oozing gastronomic festive flavour of a very high standard. First class!

No trip to Winchester would be complete without a cultural tour of the cathedral, an eleventh century architectural masterpiece set within the heart of Winchester city. Directly outside we took to the festive ice rink, which providing sensational photos of the cathedral, made this a contrastingly unique setting for traditional Christmas festivity.

Surrounded by a hundred wooden Christmas market chalets, offering exclusive hand crafted gifts, justified one final special activity (apart from the mulled wine and hot chocolate) – a “santa special” ride on the Watercress steam heritage railway!

Thanks to Lainston House for providing us with an exclusively hospitable country house weekend of traditional festive luxury and leisure. One regret, we did not stay longer!

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