Set in a restored 18th-century manor on 500 acres of picturesque grounds an hour outside of London, the Four Seasons Hampshire is an escape that offers a slow pace of life, a chance to reconnect with family, and modern luxury.
The history of the location, Dogmersfield Park, reaches back a thousand years. First mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was the site of Henry VII’s first meeting with Catherine of Aragon. Some of the original features remain, including a 16th-century dovecote.
The current hotel, which opened in February 2005, was designed by Nicolas Khalili to combine its deep historical roots with modern interiors. The main building is a 400-year-old Georgian manor house with period-style additional wings, a conservatory pool, and 133 rooms featuring English furnishings and classical architectural details.
The expansive grounds encompass sweeping lawns, enclosed gardens, stables, and a canal. The activities on site range from skeet shooting and falconry to fishing and croquet. The spa, a converted 18th-century stable, offers a signature treatment of soothing lavender therapy and an outdoor vitality pool.
Dining options are of the highest quality at Hampshire, with locally sourced ingredients such as beef, pork, and lamb from local farmers, organic produce from Laverstoke Park, and cheeses from Winchester, Tunworth, Waterloo, and Barkham Blue. The Wild Carrot restaurant features modern British fare, live music on Friday evenings, as well as a private dining room with buffet service for up to 26 guests, called Fox Hollow. Try the chef’s signature clotted cream blackberry Vacherin, which includes a homemade blackberry sorbet made from local seasonal berries.
A wide array of activities from the relaxing to the adventurous will ensure an enjoyable time for all members of the family. Younger guests can find playgrounds, game rooms, and special themed dinners and activities. The forest adventure, hidden in the resort’s woodland, is a high ropes course through the trees with zip lines, a giant seesaw, and a sensational parachute simulator. Sharkie’s Reef, the resort’s waterpark-like family pool, is complete with a 12-foot slide, a rotating umbrella fountain, and bubble jets.
In true British style, however, the main attractions take place in the countryside. Under expert guidance, guests can discover the fundamentals of falconry with an introduction to birds, including eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and vultures. The canal boat and fishing lodge provides plenty of ways to get out on the water.
The resort’s equestrian center offers a full program of lessons, hacks, carriage rides, and grooming experiences. Whether you’d like a full gallop across the countryside or a gentle hack around the estate, there is something for riders of all abilities.
The resort’s Own a Pony program offers young horse lovers ages 4 to 16 the opportunity to join the equestrian team and have fun while learning the A to Z of caring for their very own ponies. Children can join for either a morning or afternoon session that lasts two hours and includes a 30-minute hack and lessons on horse grooming and stable management. Each year, the Four Seasons Hampshire embraces the 200-year-old tradition of drag hunting on the grounds of Dogmersfield Park by welcoming the Sandhurst Draghunt, one of the oldest in the country, for their New Year’s Day Meet.
Dating back to the 19th century, this thrilling British sport is an alternative type of hunt in which the pack of hounds follows an artificial scent laid over a course, normally by a human runner. To lay the scent, the runner will simply dip a cloth into a scent mixture and drag it along the ground. The course includes marked obstacles and fences that are challenging and make for an exciting spectacle.
The New Year’s Day Meet is set up for officers and soldiers from mounted units and army saddle clubs with up to 16 enthusiastic hounds, rewarded with biscuits upon their return from catching the runner. Foot followers are welcome to watch the action unfold from the warmth of a suitable vehicle with a cup of hot chocolate. Aside from the New Year’s Day meet, the resort plays host to other drag hunts throughout the year.
Another plus for many equestrians: the resort is pet-friendly. So bring your dog and experience the luxury, elegance, and adventure of the English countryside. See the website.