Katherine MacAlister receives some much needed TLC at Careys Manor in the New Forest

I arrived in the smart and impressive reception at Careys Manor looking like an extra from Worzel Gummidge, bits of straw stuck in my hair, my dishevelled appearance, creased clothes and tired persona, immediately at odds with the historic surroundings of the impressive former manor house and its uniformed staff and smart clientele.

The receptionist’s eyebrows raised just a little when she caught sight of me, but immediately recovered, and asked if she could help.

“I’m staying the weekend,” I explained. “I’ve been sleeping in a VW Camper Van with my children all half term, so do excuse my appearance,” I babbled, recounting my fun but exhausting holiday experience.

“You’ve come to the right place then,” she said gently. “Shall we show you to your room?”

How I refrained from a full blown blubbing session I shall never know, instead being led through the extensive hotel to find my friend already in situ in our neat, if bijou, room overlooking a wonderful courtyard full of birds and flowers.

As Careys Manor is nestled in the bosom of Brockenhurst, which itself is in the heart of the New Forest, where flora and fauna abound, I’d forgotten that the wildlife and countryside was a given.

Careys Manor adds a modicum of civilisation to its surroundings however by running a revered and sophisticated hotel, spa and restaurant complex for the continual group of visitors, mini-breakers, weekenders and tourists visiting the area. We soon saw why.

While the rooms, although comfortable, were not opulent, the onus certainly concentrated on the more communal areas, and the numerous choices they offered their guests.

The restaurants for example are numerous and varied, with three to choose from: Zen Garden, a Thai restaurant overlooks its own Oriental garden. For a French dining experience you could also pop along to Le Blaireau and dine in the Parisian-themed brasserie.

However, we held out for a visit to Cambium, their most refined yet relaxed restaurant manned by well-known head chef, Alistair Craig, whose cuisine is based largely on the forest surrounding his calm eaterie.

Sliced tree trunks, moss and artful branches adorned its interior, the hushed atmosphere appropriate for such a retreat of a hotel.

Despite the plush surroundings, the excellence of the food and its presentation and precision still surprised me. Not only are Alistair and his team adept and thoughtful but the dishes were inventive, ambitious and modern, which in this part of the world, where tradition prevails over gastronomy, is rare.

We had dressed up thankfully, enjoying the elegance, peace and reverence of the service and the meal, gorging on delicacies as far removed from baked beans on toast as one can ever get until, gratefully, after a quick drink in the lounge/library, I took my weary body off to bed.

Breakfast in the Zen Garden followed the next morning where I ate kippers with a caper and butter sauce to my heart’s content, before handing my body over once again, this time to the skilled staff at SenSpa.

Deceptively large, there was a separate pool section for hotel guests, the SenSpa extending further still with numerous ice and heat rooms, showers, whirlpools and hot tubs, ice rubbing facilities, saunas, relaxation rooms and chambers, and more pools, until I was soothed in a way hitherto impossible a mere 24 hours before.

Led off to a treatment room, I was then given a Thai massage to remove the knots that had accumulated over the past week, until now horizontally transcendent, my relaxation was complete.

“Leave me here” I instructed my friend when she reluctantly informed me that our time was up and she needed to drive me home.

The receptionist didn’t recognise me at first when checking out, unsurprisingly considering my scarecrow demeanour just a day, now reformed and reinvigorated into a compos mentis human being. “It worked then?” she asked. It certainly did.

CAREYS MANOR & SENSPA Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire, SO42 7RH

01590 623551


Accommodation with breakfast and dinner starts from £229 for two guests.

Spa treatments are £80 per guest for a 60 minute treatment.