I started this blog a little over a year ago, with the intention of ‘finding myself’. Ok that sounds rather hippy and dramatic but let me explain…
I was hoping to find the me after the school run, the one who disappeared under a pile of nappies, school uniform and endless rounds of CBeebies about 17 years ago.
So far, so good.
Another aim, was to spend a little more time with the husband. Now that our children are pretty much fending for themselves (teenagers like to think they are but anyone who owns one will know that the emotional drain is enough to tip any sane person over the edge), I was hoping that would be easy.
In reality, and I hate to break this to any parents of younger children, family life appears to have ramped up a gear. With children staying up later than us and lifts being required at all times of the day and night, we rarely spend any time on our own. These days it’s more likely to be us going to bed at 7pm (through sheer exhaustion, before you get any other ideas into your head!).
When The Bell Inn invited us to spend 24 hours as just the two of us, it couldn’t have come at a better time – the perfect opportunity to cash in on having teenagers by leaving them to practice house and pet sitting.
If the horses haven’t already given away its location, The Bell Inn is situated in the heart of the New Forest, in a hamlet called Bramshaw, about 7 miles from Lyndhurst. The inn has been owned by one family for over 200 years and is one of the oldest independent family-owned pubs in Hampshire.
From the moment we walked through the front door, I knew that this was going to be the perfect place for a 24 hour retreat.
Our room (one of 28) was situated on the first floor, overlooking the road. Having said that, I think we saw more horses than cars on that road and the window had thick double glazing to shield us from any noise.
The room couldn’t have been more charming – gorgeous wooden beams, a super king size bed and the thickest curtains you’ve ever seen (I do like my sleep!). Another bonus was plenty of cupboard space. Oh and mirrors. Anyone else noticed that hotel rooms often don’t have enough mirrors? This one had them in abundance!
We were looking forward to a break from the responsibility that comes with our four-legged friends but it’s worth noting that eight of the rooms in this hotel are dog-friendly. Discovering somewhere that will take dogs (that is nice!) is a rare find.
Temperatures were dropping rapidly and the snow was threatening to fall when we arrived, so the roaring log fire in the bar was a very welcome sight. Packed full of real ales and the most extensive selection of gins I’ve ever seen, we probably could have spent all afternoon and evening reading, chatting and putting the world to rights.
Instead we decided to spend the evening, sampling the restaurant’s food. The Bell Inn is well known for its food, all created from locally sourced ingredients. It’s very popular with locals and we could totally see why – a cosy inn with excellent food is not easy to come by.
The menu had a good selection of food, from steak and chips, to fish of the day (the former his choice, the latter mine) and portion sizes were excellent. Sadly neither of us had room for dessert. I’ll blame the incredibly tempura prawns for that little faux pas!
Breakfast was served between 7.30 and 9.30am, in the cosy, tastefully decorated oak room. We were served a choice of cold or hot food (or both if we weren’t still full up from the night before). As is custom when away from home, we went for the full cooked breakfast and again, the bacon and sausages were locally sourced (and delicious to boot!).
The atmosphere was very relaxed, we didn’t feel at all rushed and it was so lovely to take our time over a leisurely breakfast.
Only an hour from home, The Bell Inn proved to be the perfect place to escape for 24 hours. The staff were friendly and extremely attentive, even offering to return an item of clothing we left in our room (anyone else have a habit of doing that?) by post.
We honestly could not fault our stay and will almost certainly be back – next time with dogs in tow!
Our thanks go to The Bell Inn, Bramshaw who invited us for dinner bed and breakfast in exchange for this honest review.