Take your place at the inn
No better place to spend the festive season than here, says the writer travel2011
DPark And Spa has a distinct Jane Austen ring about it, conjuring up notions of Regency England and period piece dramas.
And it is exactly the right sort of place to enjoy a traditional festive season.
This classic mansion in the heart of rural Hampshire certainly has infinite Hollywood potential. It has been lived in by both kings and bishops, is within close proximity to Alton village and the house where Jane Austen lived and wrote and in the same county, which spawned Charles Dickens. However, thankfully, the latest of the Four Seasons Collection, eludes olde worlde silver screen location hunters, while attracting the discerning modern sybarite, who arrives typically by helicopter and hot air balloon, rather than by faux carriage. Yes, for unadulterated contemporary epicurean value, Dogmersfield Park is unsurpassed as the hotel ‘for all seasons”, especially the festive season.
I swept up the long undulating driveway surrounded by 500 acres of verdant parkland, in the midst of an Indian summer, with the sun blazing down on regal swans drifting surreally across the sparkling surfaces of surrounding lakes.
The only hint of autumn reflected in the contrasting red carpets, under copses of golden oaks and majestic lone elms and maples, trademarks of this magnificent landscape, so tantalisingly close to the bright lights of London. Further down the road lies, ex F1 champion Jody Scheckter’s renowned Laverstoke Park, which supplies several of the organic locally grown vegetables and meats (not least of all Christmas turkeys) on executive chef, Cyrille Pannier’s titillating fusion menus.
At Dogmersfield Park, not only the deer, foxes and pheasant roam freely, gourmet picnics are the order of the day. More energetic guests can jog or walk for miles (in fact all the way to London) from the nearby quaint village of Barley Mow to historic pubs, like the Fox and Hound at Fleet along the Basingstoke canal – in Victorian times the main highway – bordering this historic property.
One is spoilt for choice when it comes to elegant country pursuits and the state- of- the- art equipment immediately at hand. Horse riding, falconry, trout fishing and clay pigeon shooting are par for the course – less so is the hotel’s show-stopping private canal boat, boasting a fireplace and flat screen television anchored on the canal, next to a curious Aberdeen Angus Bull and available to hire, for leisurely pub cruises or ice-bound winter barbeques. There are gleaming Land Rovers on standby with knowledgeable local drivers to ferry you between the stables and the fishing lodge – all within a stone’s throw of the cosmopolitan dining room where food is prepared to perfection, by the very model of a modern Michelin French chef, who collects 18th and 19th century cook books.
No visit to quintessential Jane Austen country could be complete without a visit to the immaculate Four Seasons Spa, a spa to rival any Roman variation, followed by the ultimate high tea..
As seasonal rituals go, it doesn’t get more magical than Christmas at the only rural Four Seasons on the planet.
“Let there be Light!” – must be the mantra of any self respecting Christmas angel, of which there are many in this precinct, dispersing that divine element so universally synonymous with the festive season – firelight, candlelight, tree lights. It is this ingredient, which contributes largely to the resounding superiority of Dogmersfield Park, during all four seasons.
The warm, glossy neo-georgian interior of this Four Seasons is a brilliant testimony to the perfect harmony of natural and artificial light.
There are a host of themed children’s costume parties in the communal areas of the spa. Off-duty parents can still serenely nurture their glass of bubbly in front of a blazing fireplace, in the “Withdrawing Room” while their clan skate merrily across Tundry Pond, or toboggan hysterically down Chalky Lane Hill with several of Santa’s “elves” in tow.
The mansion is exclusively for inhouse guests over this period and the aura of a never-ending house party presides. On Christmas Eve a local choir from Hartley Whitney dressed in Edwardian costumes gather in the snow, at the foot of a landmark tree and herald the angels.
Trees being the perennial feature of this unique Four Seasons property, you can rest assured the “festively dressed” ones, gracing the reception area and Seasons Restaurant, match the sky high outdoor species in terms of grandeur. The lights cascading from frosted branches twinkle as brightly as those Bethlehem stars
Exuberant children are provided with hand-embroidered stockings and hot chocolate and garnished baby carrots are left near roaring fireplaces in anticipation of Father Christmas and his gifts.
Everyone receives a gift on Christmas day and you can consider yours “heaven scent”, if you unwrap one of the miraculous flower- based Espa products in your own stocking.
There simply is no other place in England to wallow in winter wonder, than the Four Seasons in Hampshire.
TIMELESS: Enjoy an unforgettable Christmas as you take a step back in time at the Four Seasons in Hampshire.