Having had millions of pounds worth of investment, Stanwell House Hotel is beyond recognisable, in a very good way With its beautiful bright white Georgian façade, Stanwell House Hotel has long been a jewel in Lymington’s historical high street.

Visited by many, the hotel had a cult following under the management of local hoteliers Robert Milton and Victoria Crowe. So, when contracts changed hands last year and the new owners (of the Snakecatcher pub and Albero restaurant in Brockenhurst) took over, the pressure was on to improve the venue without discarding the history.

Walking in today the hotel is almost unrecognisable, in a very good way. The original entrance has been restored to create a stunning walkthrough, which leads all the way through to the new Orangery and Samphire restaurant at the back. The hotel was originally two separate houses, which is now really apparent as you stand on the original stone floor and take in restored details such as the outside lights welcoming you into Samphire, and the archway leading into the new Salt Bar (which also has an entrance off the street for day guests looking for a snack or a quick drink).

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The new owners have invested millions into the hotel, using lockdown as an opportunity to transform the whole building and create something really special for Lymington’s residents and visitors.

The welcoming reception is now a bright and airy space at the front of the hotel, and the staff upon arrival couldn’t have been more helpful; offering for us to take a seat in the bar for a drink before heading up to our family room. It was lovely to see local producers highlighted on the menu with beers from Flack Manor in Romsey and Purbeck Cider as well as fizz from Nyetimber; and the boys were served a very indulgent hot chocolate each with a delicious slab of homemade white chocolate cake.

We were honoured to be the first guests to try out the family suite within the main part of the hotel, always a tricky thing to get right when space is limited. But as we opened the door we were blown away by the beautiful feel of the main bedroom, with its bay window seat overlooking the hustle and bustle of the high street. In fact, it was a struggle to tear us all away from the people watching to explore the rest. A magnificent bathroom with double shower and roll top bath leads through to one of the most beautiful children’s bedrooms we’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in.

The boys were beyond excited to try out the stunning panelled built-in bunk beds, each with their own reading light and little privacy curtain. And the seating area and shelving meant that they played happily in their own space while we got to relax in ours. Having the bathroom between the bedrooms meant that once through the main door, we could spread out and enjoy our family time, without encroaching on others.

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The owners have taken time to source really gorgeous antique furniture, in keeping with the age of the building, and the beds and linen were of an excellent quality. I was lucky enough to take a peek at some of the other rooms, and each one had its own individual character, styling and furniture. This is not a one design fits all approach. The care and attention to detail has brought this historic hotel in to a new luxury era, an excellent asset for Lymington and something to really shout about.

Leaving the comfort of our room, we headed down for dinner at Samphire, the hotel’s new restaurant offering. The management and kitchen team have experience of working in other Forest hotels such as Balmer Lawn and Cambium, and so they understood from the outset the owner’s desire to showcase local produce in a luxury environment.

The dining room is a riot of colour, with bright floral wallpaper and sumptuous green leather and velvet banquette seating providing comfort. It really is a feast for the eyes, and sets the tone for the equally vibrant menu. Our boys love seafood and so we started off with the platter to share, showcasing Lymington crab, locally grown mussels and samphire with red shrimp and hand-dived scallops. Everything was beautifully presented and well-cooked and the portion was huge, more than enough for us all to dig in.

For mains the boys enjoyed their build-your-own burgers while we chose the Pan Roasted Seabass with Leeks, Celery, Celeriac Crumble and Truffle Sauce and the 28 Day Aged Sirloin with Short Rib Bonbon, Mascarpone Mash, Crispy Sprouts, Roasted Shallots and Red Wine Jus. Beautiful, grown-up dishes with some really unusual and unique flavour combinations. It’s a joy to try something new and different, and Samphire’s menu is sure to introduce something you’ve not had before.

Throughout, the staff couldn’t have been more attentive. The other guests too were incredibly tolerant of our children and the whole atmosphere had a celebratory feel about it. On a Saturday night, every table was full of laughing, smiling people clearly enjoying the new offering in town.

Once the boys finished their ice cream, we retired to The Orangery for cocktails and some warm milk. The exploratory feel extends to the drink’s menu, and my Chocolate Orange Martini was a wonderful discovery. We were all so well looked after, nothing seemed too much trouble, and the staff certainly set the tone for the whole environment, clearly enjoying their work and taking pride in delivering excellent service.

After an excellent night’s sleep, breakfast the following morning was of an equally good standard. The dining room taking on a different feel in the bright sunlight, streaming in through the glass doors, which lead out on to the terrace. This will be stunning during the warmer months. The full English was utterly delicious, and the continental offerings again provided something a bit different, with fresh smoothies and yoghurts on offer as well as pastries, fruit and juices.

When somewhere as iconic as Stanwell House gets taken over, I think everyone local to the area takes a sharp inhale of breath. Would they change it beyond recognition? Or ruin the historical nature of the place? Thankfully, the new owners couldn’t have been more sympathetic to the beauty of the building, the local surroundings and, judging by the busy tables and smiling faces, the guests and locals too.   Lymington is a beautiful town with so much to offer in terms of things to see and do, shops to mooch and walks to explore and now Stanwell House offers the perfect base for which to stay a few days and really get to know this enviable part of the New Forest.

Book your stay Weekend rooms start from £225 per night. For dog owners, the garden rooms are perfect, each with their own external door to the outside courtyard. Families are catered for in suites or adjoining rooms. stanwellhouse.com