THE HOTEL: This hotel and spa is in a restored, Georgian manor house set in 500 acres of pristine parkland and paddocks. Originally a private home, then seminary, then boarding school, it suffered a major fire in 1981 and was turned into offices before being completely renovated and transformed into a Four Seasons hotel in 2005. The hotel is 11 miles east of Basingstoke and just under five miles from Fleet Station, an hour’s drive from central London and a 35-minute drive from Heathrow. It is believed Henry VIII met his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in the grounds.
COVID STRATEGY: At the time of our visit, at the start of December, all staff wore face-masks and guests were instructed to do the same in public areas. In our room we found hand sanitiser and disposable masks. Hand sanitisers and mask reminders were also placed throughout the property. For social distancing purposes we were advised to book in advance to use the pool and were asked to select a time for breakfast. The hotel wasn’t that busy anyway, so we got our first choice for both.
THE CHECK-IN: We arrived in the dark and struggled to find our way from the guest car park. We ended up entering the hotel via the adjacent spa, which is connected via glass-encased walkway. After being directed by spa staff, we checked in at the cosy reception and were escorted to our bedroom on the first floor, admiring all the classy Christmas decorations on our way.
THE ROOM: The hotel has 133 guest rooms, including 22 suites, all recently refurbished. Rooms differ in design and decor but follow an English countryside theme. Our room – a Heritage Deluxe – had sage green walls, sumptuously soft Wilton carpets, a walk-in closet, and a spacious bathroom with bath and large walk-in shower. I was pleased to see re-fillable, more eco-friendly pump hand soaps and creams instead of the usual miniature toiletries. A note in the bathroom welcomes guests’ thoughts on this ‘new approach’. All rooms have the famous, super luxurious Four Seasons’ Sealy Bed with squishy pillows and crisp bedding and with high-tech headboards with USB and power points and reading spotlights. There’s also a super sleek 65-inch LG wallpaper 4KUHD TV, iron and ironing board, mini-bar, Magimix coffee making machine, kettle and two Four Seasons Hampshire mugs (not to take home!).
THE BUSINESS: In response to remote working, the hotel has introduced a new Work at Leisure programme with services and amenities designed for working guests, such as express lunches, ergonomic desk chairs, monitors, Bluetooth printers, wireless mouse and keyboards on request. The hotel also promises seamless Wi-Fi coverage and “abundant” bandwidth across the whole estate. It certainly worked well in my bedroom and in the restaurant.
THE FACILITIES: The main restaurant Wild Carrot is a large, open space but with private, cosy areas thanks to columns and alcoves. It’s also where breakfast is served – buffet or à la carte – from an open kitchen. The evening menu changes according to the season. My burrata starter (£19) was deliciously creamy and my main of Wild Sea Bass (£38) and sautéed spinach side (£6) was also delicious. The highlight was the dessert, a Christmas Eton Mess. For smaller expense budgets there are also burgers, salads, ploughman’s and fish and chips served in the adjacent bar. Service in both was very attentive.
The hotel’s crowning glory is its spa, with a stunning glass atrium housing a 20-metre pool linked to a heated outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Guests also get free use of the saunas and steam rooms, substantial gym and can even join classes. I joined some locals for a 7.15am Total Core class with Justin and then went for a 5km run around the grounds and along the canal – all clearly marked – then for a swim and sauna. Changing rooms are expansive and spotlessly clean.
There’s a separate pool for families – Sharkie’s Reef – with a slide, rotating umbrella fountain and bubble jets, plus plenty of outdoor pursuits including horse riding, a highwire adventure and birdwatching. Dogs can stay too (£35) and the hotel can arrange dog sitting.
VERDICT: An elegant rural retreat that’s geared up for work and play. Make sure you allow some time for a dip in the pool and a stroll around the grounds.
THE DETAILS: Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield, Hampshire, RG27 8TD; fourseasons.com/hampshire
Rooms from £540 inc VAT