Choose lovely Lainston House Hotel as your starting point for exploring historic Winchester and the South Downs
The family-friendly Lainston House Hotel near Winchester
The beautiful red brick and climbing rose facade of the Lainston House Hotel will make a good impression on you, before you've even stepped through the door. Plus the location, just outside historic Winchester and not far from the beaches at Bournemouth, makes it the perfect starting point for a family weekend away, or a few days' babymoon break.
Situated at the top of a long driveway this once private house is now an atmospheric, comfortable and relaxed hotel surrounded by 63 acres of pretty woods and gardens, with an outside terrace commanding some stunning views over the lush surrounding countryside.
Sumptuous bedrooms in the old or new wing of Lainston House
We stayed in the sumptuous Azalea room, part of the original house, which has its own outdoor seating on a small rooftop terrace, a sumptuous king size bed, plus an amazing double-height bathroom with TV screen and enormous power shower.
This attractive old house retains many original features like wood panelling, real fires and intimate but comfortable public spaces, so you feel like you are joining a country house weekend party, rather than being just another number in a big hotel chain. The staff are all courteous and helpful and the ambience is relaxed. We particularly liked the selection of big and small family wellies laid out for borrowing in the entrance hall!
On site state-of-the-art Season cookery school
If you feel the need to do something more than sink into a soft sofa, sip cocktails on the terrace or lounge around in the drawing room there are several more energetic options. Head to the onsite falconry to see some birds of prey up close and personal, take a walk down (and back up) the mile-long Lime Tree Avenue, try to find the ruined 12th-century chapel, or book yourself onto a course at the new state-of-the-art Season cookery school, all handily located within the grounds.
Sink into a sumptuous sofa for afternoon tea in the drawing room
We began our culinary experience at Lainston House with a spot of afternoon tea, served in the pale blue and soft velvet ambience of the drawing room, had drinks in the Cedar Bar and carried on to dinner in the Avenue restaurant, all ending with breakfast the following morning. We certainly didn't go hungry and there are plenty of bar menu or room service options to keep even the hungriest toddler satisfied, too.
It was all mouthwateringly delicious, from the warmed scones with clotted cream, to the local sausages and veg from the hotel's onsite kitchen garden. Dinner was exceptionally good, and we were pleasantly surprised how full we felt after enjoying the delicate plates of beautifully cooked and presented food. Fine dining indeed!
Winchester's City Mill has lots to entertain youngsters
It's worth dragging yourselves away from Lainston House to explore the nearby city of Winchester, where you'll find history, shopping and charm combined, all within easy walking distance. We wandered the streets of King Alfred's original seat of power and popped in to the National Trust's City Mill which has interactive displays, a working water wheel and shop selling local goods including their own flour. You can head downstairs to admire the powerful River Itchen driving the wheel and see if you can catch a glimpse of the resident otters (we were disappointed, but there is a 24/7 webcam link to catch up on their latest appearance).
Try a lunchtime pitstop at The Stable in The Square
While we were in Winchester it seemed wrong not to take a quick tour of the imposing and atmospheric Cathedral to pay our respects at the grave of Jane Austen, although this is more of an adult thing and probably not of much interest to youngsters, but if the weather's fine the grounds around the Cathedral make the perfect stopping point for a picnic or play space.
We chose to replenish grumblingly hungry tums with a delicious pitstop lunch of pizza and pie at The Stable in The Square, which is just off the top end of the cathedral grounds. Fast-paced, efficient and buzzing, the menu had something for everyone, and the service was quick and helpful.
Indulgence comes as standard at the Lainston House Hotel
One night at the Lainston House Hotel costs from £165 per room, with two people sharing (Dec 2015). Visit www.lainstonhouse.com for more info.
Other details can be found at www.stablepizza.com; www.visitwinchester.co.uk; www.exclusive.co.uk/season; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchestercitymill
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