Nestled in the heart of the New Forest, Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa is the ideal place to enjoy a luxurious pampering weekend away. With plant-based menus available at each of its three restaurants, cruelty-free toiletries, and a 10 per cent discount for all guests travelling to the hotel without their car, it is bound to appeal to eco-conscious travellers.
Located a short walk from Brockenhurst station, the main travel hub for the New Forest with regular trains from London Waterloo, Bournemouth and Southampton, Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa is easily accessible by public transport.
Once a hunting lodge for kings, Careys Manor was given in the late 17th century by Charles II to John Carey, the lodge manager at the time. Over the years the property was extended by its successive owners and nowadays includes three restaurants, pool and gym leisure facilities as well as a spa.
We arrived at Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa on a misty and rainy Saturday. Graham and I had been looking forward to a weekend for just the two of us. The plan was to unwind, be pampered and enjoy some adult conversation.
A gravel driveway lined with large trees and green borders led to the entrance of the charming red-brick main manor house. With its large wooden staircase, open-fire chimney and large comfy sofa, the reception made us feel instantly welcomed, as did the extremely helpful receptionist. Our bags were taken to our room while we went for lunch in the lounge.
Careys Manor Hotel and SenSpa are organised on two levels. Bedrooms, restaurants, bar, leisure and spa facilities are all connected indoors via corridors lined with plush carpets so you can easily go from one place to another without having to go outside; a blessing on wet and dreary days.
Our bedroom was located on the first floor with beautiful views over a garden area. The room was spacious and comfortable, arranged with a king-size bed, large flat screen TV, small fridge, kettle and a sitting area with an armchair and a two-seater sofa. I cannot claim we spent too much time in it. We were too busy enjoying the pool and spa facilities.
After a quick lunch in the downstairs lounge, where we enjoyed a Spring Green Super Beetroot Burger and an Eat the Rainbow Salad with Corn Fritters, we headed for the pool and spa.
The corridor from our bedroom lead to the leisure and spa facilities, accessed through wooden Thai carved panel doors. All hotel guests have access to the leisure facilities and can upgrade to the SenSpa and treatments. The leisure facilities at Careys Manor Hotel include a 14m swimming pool surrounded by a jacuzzi, a steam room and a sauna. For something more energetic, there is also a gym complete with treadmills, bikes and weightlifting equipment.
Resting on the poolside lounge chairs, you can easily just watch the world go by. The setting is simply stunning. A large roof window provides light during the day and the pool goes from a light blue to a deeper blue as the daylight fades away. The sparkling starry ceiling adds to the overall peaceful mood.
The pool is UV treated to keep it clean and safe without the need for high chlorine levels. You could easily spend the whole day there between the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. Then again you would be missing out on the magic SenSpa hydrotherapy facilities.
SenSpa is an authentic Thai spa focusing on holistic wellness. It boasts 19 treatment rooms and has also introduced a range of products from vegan and organic skincare specialists SKN-RG.
Hydrotherapy has been used for centuries to relieve muscle pains and stress. The combination of hot and cold water treatments is known to stimulate blood flow in the body, help with muscle and joint stiffness and promote relaxation for body and mind.
SenSpa facilities include a large Hydrotherapy Pool, Herbal Sauna, Crystal Steam Room, Laconicum, Tepidarium, Experience Showers, Health Showers, Ice Room, Rhassoul Mud Room, Hammam Rooms, Vichy Showers, Relaxation room, Quiet Room and Thai Temple studio. Spread over two floors, all the facilities are accessed via the poolside.
You do need to upgrade to use SenSpa but considering all that is accessible the £37 a day pass is quite a bargain. I really enjoyed the warm Hydrotherapy Pool where a variety of water jets help focus pressure on different part of the body. While I moved from there to the Herbal Sauna, Graham was revelling in the ice room under extremely cold water. Somehow he was not able to convince me of the benefits of tipping a bucket of freezing water over my head. I was nice and cosy in the Hydrotherapy Pool.
By the end of the afternoon, we both felt completely relaxed and ready for the Quiet Room where we ended up snoozing in comfy lounge chairs, snuggled under a blanket. I could not even manage to read a magazine.
Somehow, we seemed to lose track of time and the day just flew by. We even missed out on the vegan afternoon tea which features a chocolate mousse pot, a seasonal fruit slice, a golden syrup rice crispy cake, and a coconut milk truffle, all served alongside a selection of open and finger sandwiches.
Feeling refreshed after our pampering day, it was time to head out for dinner.
Careys Manor features no less than a choice of 3 restaurants: French bistro Le Blaireau, Modern British brasserie Cambium and Thai Zen Garden restaurant. All offer a selection of vegetarian and vegan options as well as many gluten-free dishes. Careys Manor has also teamed up with Spring Green London to offer a nutrient-rich, plant-based Spring Green breakfast and all-day menu, which we enjoyed at lunchtime.
We headed for dinner at Cambium, whose head chef Alistair Craig has devised a tasty vegan menu, making vegetables the stars of the show. Whether it is meat, fish or vegetables, Cambium aims to source its ingredients locally, ensuring they go from farm to fork in the shortest time.
We both chose the Salt Baked Root Vegetable Salad with Pomegranate Granola and Herb Salad for starter. Fresh, tasty and crunchy, it had a lot of delicious flavours that worked really well together.
My main course, a vegan BBQ Cauliflower with Israeli Couscous, Preserved Lemon, Ras El Hanout & Coconut Yogurt, was superb. The hearty cauliflower was served on a bed of giant couscous, both perfectly complemented by the spice and lemony mix. This is one of the best vegan dishes I have eaten out.
Graham opted for the vegetarian Tarragon Gnocchi, Pinenuts, Sage, Mushrooms. This creamy dish had plenty of flavours and delicious soft textures that melt in the mouth. So scrumptious!
I was too full for dessert, but Graham picked the Cherry, Tonka Bean and Chocolate Neapolitan Parfait with Griottine Cherries and Cocoa Nib Tuile. Beautifully presented, this is a light and airy fruit and chocolate mousse.
Cambium has an impressive wine list and prides itself on having “one of the biggest collections of English wines in the country, featuring vineyards such as Marlings, Exton Park, Nyetimber and Goring”. We opted for an excellent vegan Rioja recommended by the sommelier, who entertained us with interesting wine anecdotes and facts.
Spacious and beautifully decorated, Cambium made for a truly enjoyable evening. The ambience was relaxed, and the waiters extremely helpful. The food was delicious and exquisitely presented: a pleasure for all the senses. There are a few vegetarian options on the main menu but you will have to ask separately for the vegan menu as the plant-based dishes are not listed on it.
Careys Manor Hotel and SenSpa has an impressive list of awards including “Best Spa in the South-East” and it is a Gold Member of Green Tourism scheme. General Manager Steve Woodrow is keen for Careys Manor to cater for the growing vegan market while reducing their impact on the planet.
“We have seen that veganism has been growing fast over the last few years and have made sure everyone will find something to love when they come to stay with us. Here at Careys Manor, we put traceability above profit and, to cut food miles, we use free-range meat and sustainable seafood from across the New Forest. We have also eliminated plastic straws, stirrers and cups, recycle our cooking oil into green energy, and partner with Clean Conscience, who recycle toiletries for developing countries.”
If you can be persuaded to leave to poolside and the spa, you can amble through The New Forest directly from the hotel. From wild pigs, deer, ponies and donkeys roaming freely around in the ancient woodlands of the national park to unique landscapes, lakes, heathlands, arboretums and quaint villages there is plenty to see and do. Bike hire is also available at the hotel.
Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa makes a perfect grown up getaway. Yes, you can bring children but keep in mind that under 16s are not allowed in the leisure and spa facilities, and only Le Blaireau restaurant welcomes children of all ages.
It was great to be able to use the spa and leisure facilities after we checked out.
We seldom travel without the kids, so this was a rare treat for both of us, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Besides the pool and the spa, we also managed a Sunday morning workout at the gym. SenSpa facilities are 5 star, the pool is stunning, our room was impeccable, the staff friendly and attentive, and the food truly delicious.
What a splendid and relaxing country break, and only an hour and thirty minutes by train from Waterloo.
Visit Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa for more information and booking information.