Parents’ Travel Guide: What to Do in Hampshire
Located just over an hour southwest of London and very convenient to Heathrow Airport, Hampshire is the ideal destination to enjoy an idyllic family vacation in the English countryside.
Not far from Windsor Castle, the Queen’s favourite home, lies the stately Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, England. As you wind past a patchwork of fields dotted with farm animals and broken up by quaint English villages, a drive towards this inviting former residence now transformed into a luxurious hotel makes it is easy to see why the Monarch loves this bucolic part of the UK.
- Live like a Brit. Join the British gentry on this historic estate surrounded by 500 acres (202 hectares) of parkland—or at least live the life for a week or two.
- The “Downton Abbey” vibe. Thatched-roof cottages, manicured formal gardens, placid canals and meandering, tree-lined lanes abound.
- A town-and-country UK vacation. Relax here in the country after the excitement of a London tour (two Four Seasons choices: Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane and Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf). You can spend a day or more just exploring the extensive grounds by canal boat, pony, foot or bike. It’s a mixture of formal English garden and rolling paddocks.
- Great day trips. Make a sojourn to Windsor Castle, Legoland Windsor, Jane Austen’s House Museum and the New Forest National Park—all nearby.
- Sterling service. The staff are incredibly attentive; they think of absolutely everything. Come here to unwind and be thoroughly spoiled.
What the kids will love
- Fun country sports. Croquet, pony rides or clay pigeon-shooting, anyone?
- The kids’ club. The Hotel’s Kids For All Seasons boasts its very own clubhouse and hosts a variety of games and activities.
- Teen hang-out. Rose Cottage, a separate clubhouse for teens, is kitted out with table tennis, air hockey and other age-appropriate activities.
- Equestrian for a day. There’s pony riding at the on-site stables, plus an Own A Pony programme, where kids aged 7 to 16 can spend two hours at The Equestrian Centre learning how to care for the handsome steeds.
- The glass-covered infinity pool.
- Family bike rides through the gentle countryside.
What you will love
- The Spa. Treat yourself to a pedicure that will looked newly done for weeks!
- Fishing, canal boating and horseback riding.
- The pool. It’s lovely and warm with a large area for kids to play around in, while only adults can swim out a door to the linked heated vitality pool.
- The Kids For All Seasons kids’ club, giving you “me time.”
- Inviting, luxurious and spacious guest rooms.
- Outdoor, all-weather tennis courts (no need to bring your own racquet and balls).
The Hotel’s very own pooch-mascot, Oliver Beckington. The kids can even borrow him and take him out for walks.
(Families) With its casual, relaxed vibe, The Bistro, overlooking the gardens, is perfect for young families. On the menu: home-cooked favourites made from locally sourced ingredients. For a taste of rural England, opt for the Ploughman’s, a plate of cheeses, cold meats and pickles. The Chicken Pot Pie is tasty, too, but leave room for the Apple and Cinnamon Crumble. And don’t forget to make time for a traditional afternoon tea in the lounge during your stay!
Seasons Restaurant puts on a family-friendly, “interactive” Sunday farmers’ market lunch with kids’ buffet.
(Grown-ups) Moms, opt for a healthy boost (luscious salads) in the Spa’s Café Santé, located in a lovely glasshouse setting overlooking the gardens. For your date-night out, book a sitter (ask the Concierge) and tuck into French-European cuisine at sophisticated Seasons Restaurant, the property’s fine dining venue. Try the Ham Hock Foie Gras and Smoked Partridge Terrine or the Roulade of Lemon Sole and Portland Crab.
Just a few miles down the road, the historic Mill House pub and restaurant serves great food in a lovely riverside setting, complete with children’s play area. We loved the Deep Fried Haddock in Beer Batter and we ended the meal sharing the British Farmhouse cheese board with biscuits and chutneys.
Also be sure to savour afternoon cream tea at the Old Bakehouse tearooms in Beaulieu, or treat yourself to a Michelin-starred meal at the Black Rat Restaurant in Winchester.
5 family to-dos
1. Boating. Hire a canal boat and go for a cruise along the Basingstoke canal, which runs through the Hotel’s grounds. The Hotel will even provide a meal for you to eat in the galley.
2. Castle tour. Head to nearby Windsor Castle, just make sure the Queen is not in. Your kids will be very disappointed if they catch a glimpse of the elderly monarch in her headscarf and sensible shoes—it will shatter their dreams of a permanently crowned, jewel-encrusted ruler!
3. Lego heaven. Spend a day at Legoland in Windsor. See the sights of Europe in miniature.
4. Beach time. Hop on board a ferry to the Isle of Wight to enjoy the golden beaches and slower pace of life on this tiny island just off the English coast.
5. Birds of prey. Take up a sport that was once as popular as the Wii is now—falconry. The Hotel runs introduction to falconry courses for anyone over 12.
For more Hampshire travel tips, read Ann’s post on Ciao Bambino!.