Sunday 19 February 2023

A Night at Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa in the New Forest

(Press visit for the purpose of review - see disclaimer)

With half term looming, we booked a night away in the New Forest at Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa so we could spend some time as a family and make use of the swimming pool. Balmer Lawn is a luxury family hotel in the heart of the New Forest boasting a number of rooms, delicious dining options and two swimming pools. The hotel is really close to attractions such as Paulton's Park, Beaulieu Harbour and Southampton so it's a great location for families. 

Situated on the outskirts of Brockenhurst, Balmer Lawn was once a Coaching Inn during the mid-1800s as it was the ideal resting place for passing travellers before being used as a field hospital during World War 1. During the Second World War, the Army ran the hotel as an Army staff college and in 1943 it became the centre for marshalling the forces for the Normandy invasion. Over the years it became various hotels until the current owners, the Wilson family bought it in 1997. 

Being an old building, it is said there is a ghost although we never came across it. He appears in doctor's whites with a stethoscope...

Contemporary yet stylish, their bedrooms combine timeless design with comfort to offer a luxurious overnight stay experience. The family rooms are especially great for travelling with children and can be adapted with the addition of a cot or extra beds if required. 

We were in room 18 (you can check all the rooms on the website which I loved!) which housed a kingsize bed that could be split into two and a set of bunk beds. We had a cot placed at the end of the bed for our youngest. 

The hotel also left an activity pack on the bed for our eldest along with a personalised note which went down very well! 

The bathroom was spacious and had a bath, perfect for washing both the children after being in the swimming pool. We found the room a really great size, it never felt cramped and there was plenty of room for both of them to run around and play. 

I don't think we'll share a room again any time soon though - for our family, it just didn't work. If it wasn't the one-year-old waking the five-year-old it was the other way around and there was a point where everyone was up between 12-3am. This is no reflection on the hotel, it was just our excitable children that didn't want to sleep.

The main pull for us at Balmer Lawn was the sheer amount of amenities available to enjoy. With the New Forest easily accessible from the hotel it meant that a range of outdoor activities was right on the doorstep and the lawn right in front of the hotel was the perfect grazing spot for horses, pigs and rabbits - great for animal-loving children.

There are over 5000 wild ponies in the forest just be sure to keep your distance and never feed them.

There are a huge array of indoor activities to experience within the hotel - indoor and outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzi, Scandinavian sauna, gym, outdoor garden area, zip wire and kid's room.

With the children in their swimming gear, it was there we headed first. Accessible via your room key, the pool area has two changing rooms, lockers and seating around the pool. Perfectly warm, we spent a good amount of time with both children splashing around. It was such a lovely area and while the outdoor pool is closed until May, I can imagine that area is just as popular.

The food at Balmer Lawn is absolutely something to shout about - the hotel is incredibly proud of its diverse and carefully curated menus, each designed with seasonality and local ingredients in mind. They make it a priority to ensure the menus are as fresh as they can be while still being flexible. Fresh produce is received daily and they strive to make sure each dish is as traditional and uncomplicated to suit all while still delivering maximum flavour. 

Dietary needs and allergies are catered for and we found the children's menu exceptional.

There are two dining areas, The Beresford is their award-winning two-rosette restaurant offering lunch and dinner with a decadent selection of dishes to choose from while The Lodge Kitchen and Bar is an outdoor-covered dining concept serving hearty favourites and delicious cocktails.

We booked into The Lodge Kitchen & Bar as we felt it would be better suited for the children. Delivering apr├Ęs-ski style decor and warmth, it is equipped with outdoor heaters, fluffy blankets and cosy seating to help you relax with friends and family. We were seated in one of the 'shed chalets' adorned with ski memorabilia, heaters and fairy lights across the ceiling.

The children's menu featured favourites such as sausages and mash, mozzarella dippers and scampi, and fries and peas while the adult's menu included succulent steaks, squid and burgers. We tried a few of their nibbles and tucked into the juiciest steak with warming peppercorn sauce. Surprisingly the fries were the main show for all of us, they were just SO good and we could've happily ordered more to enjoy.

The five-year-old managed to tuck away a gooey chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream and we ended up ordering desserts after seeing his arrive at our table.

The service was excellent throughout our time at The Lodge - perfectly accommodating to our needs and engaging with the children. It was a really enjoyable experience, even if one of us ended up finishing our mains in a dark bedroom to settle a very grouchy one-year-old.

I don't know about you but I'm a big buffet breakfast fan so I was absolutely looking forward to waking up and seeing what lay ahead. I also feel this is the best way to eat with children because they can try a bit of everything. There was everything you could think of - continental and typical English breakfast pieces with fruits, nuts, grains and yoghurts.

After ordering coffee, we made the decision to load a tray up and head back to the room and eat while the children chilled and watched Cbeebies. I love that we had that option because it just meant the morning experience was much calmer. The food was really great and the children tried so much more than they usually would. Balmer Lawn sure knows how to put on a breakfast spread.

Check-out was at 11am so we took our time in the morning with breakfast and packing. I'm not sure our eldest wanted to leave the bunkbeds - he's been asking us for some for a while.

We had such an enjoyable time at Balmer Lawn and it's somewhere I would love to stay again, possibly without the children so we can make use of the spa and try The Beresford restaurant.

To get the best rates, it's better to book directly with Balmer Lawn - be sure to check out the offers and vouchers section of the website for some bargains.

It's a total gem in the beautiful New Forest!
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