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The more real wedding features I have the pleasure of writing, the more couples I encounter who tell me their first port of call post-wedding is to take some much-needed R&R, not in some far-flung exotic location, but here in beautiful Britain.
The rise of the domestic minimoon isn't at all surprising when you consider how much this country has to offer from heritage to culture, and everything in between. After all, there's a reason we welcomed more than 29million overseas visitors to the UK in 2019 alone. One of the most delightful and characterful regions of our stunning sceptred isle is the New Forest, thanks in no small part to the gorgeous ponies. Despite staring down 40 I still found spotting them while out and about on our travels to be great fun!
Situated in the heart of the New Forest, Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa cuts quite an impressive figure as it comes into view on the approach to Brockenhurst. Built in the mid-1800s as a hunting lodge, it's played a part in some of history's most dramatic chapters, such as being commandeered as an army hospital in WWI. It was here, at this classic country hotel, where we'd rest our heads for the next two nights.
I'm always like a kid in a sweet shop when I set foot into a hotel room for the first time, and being told that I'd be treated to a luxury balcony room, my excitement levels were already off the charts. The front-facing balcony, complete with garden furniture and its own (artificial) lawn was a real highlight. One that I was determined to make the most of despite it being mid-February, chilly, and pouring with rain. I was also immediately in love with the super king bed, so vast and luxurious I was barely aware of my mum's presence way over on the other side of it!
Balmer Lawn has a brilliant online booking system, whereby you can see pictures of each and every room before you book. Being the ultra-nosey person that I am, you can bet your bottom dollar I took them up on that! It's well worth checking out this feature to ensure your room has everything your heart desires, whether it's just the two of you, or if you're joined by your family or fur-baby.
The hotel offers a fabulous dining experience. I was particularly swept away by the seven-course chef's tasting menu, every bite of which was beyond delicious. Dishes included an artichoke velouté, Creedy Carver duck breast, and salted caramel fondant. With appetites well and truly satisfied, it was off to the comfortable bar and lounge for an espresso martini night cap, before reclining in front of Netflix back in our room.
MINIMOON AT BALMER LAWN FOR £530
Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery
01256 890 909 | www.bombaysapphire.com/distillery/
Whether you're a gin expert or novice, you're sure to enjoy a day out here. With a variety of experiences on offer whether you want to be guided or left to your own devices, it's a fascinating visit. Crucially the experiences culminate in a cocktail, based on your own aroma preferences. We had so much fun. It's also worth popping into the Whitchurch Silk Mill on your way back through the town.
The New Forest is bursting with traditional idyllic villages and Burley offers everything you'd expect. Witches, smuggling and dragons are all part of its character - a history which certainly hasn't escaped the local shops. What's more, if you're lucky you'll find ponies roaming freely as Burley is one of the few remaining villages still to practice the old tradition of commoning, allowing them to graze on the open forest. Burley is a wonderful place to while away some pleasant hours wandering around quirky shops and stopping for a bite to eat.