Hotel & Spa
In the heart of the New Forest, all picture-postcard villages, thatched cottages and wild ponies, stands Elmers Court. Its Scottish heritage is seen in the décor - baronial-style wood panelling, tartan carpets and hangings.
The old building, looking like Manderley in the Hitchcock classic Rebecca, is alas divided into apartments that are the subject of a fractional ownership. The new hotel rooms, though, are chalets and lodges in the sumptuous grounds.
Our room was on the lower half of a two-storey bank of lodges, meaning we had a sun-soaked lawn to sit out on; those upstairs had a wooden staircase and veranda for copping the rays. The room was enormous, with a king-sized bed, a sitting area, separate bathroom and - to my daughter's joy - an alcove that had been cleverly made into a dressing-room with floor-to-ceiling mirrored wardrobe and a banquette to sit and do hair and make-up. Family suites come with a separate room with bunk beds.
Beautiful grounds and palatial rooms aside, it's the pool which is the real draw of this place.
A decent-sized indoor pool (the outdoor pool was not yet open for the summer) meant I could do those lengths while others could go into a shallower area to one side for horsing around and a separate pool for toddlers. There is a well-constructed whirlpool area, and even a sauna and steam room.
Nearby attractions for the family include a theme park (Paultons Park) and the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. A two-minute drive from the hotel at Lymington brings you to the Wightlink ferry to the Isle of Wight, a 32-minute crossing, for those who wish to continue the trail southwards. Perfect for lazy, sun-filled breaks that needn't cost the earth.