Find out why the Bell Inn in the New Forest is perfect for a luxury country getaway in a quintessentially English Inn.
If you’re looking for a break from the everyday hustle and bustle, then a short break in the countryside may be high on your list.
And there are many wonderful places in the UK where you can rest, relax and refresh.
I was fortunate to be invited to stay at the Bell Inn recently. It’s a traditional English inn, set amidst the stunning scenery of the New Forest.
And I was joined by my teenage son Lyle for the weekend. We love going on a road trip, and he’s a bit of a foodie, so we were looking forward to a bit of mother-son time.
Read on to find out why the Bell Inn is the perfect place to get away from it all…
What is the New Forest?
The New Forest is a unique area of natural beauty, and is famous for the New Forest ponies.
There are around 5000 ponies which roam freely around the forest, and you will often come across them on the roadside or even in the road.
By the way, although they look adorable, these ponies are wild and you shouldn’t approach them or try to pet them. I took my photographs using zoom on my camera!
The ponies are wild in as much as they roam freely, but they are all owned by the New Forest Commoners. The Commoners have the right to graze their cattle and ponies on the open forest all year around.
This tradition dates back to the days of William the Conqueror, who made the area his own private hunting ground. In return for the strict laws imposed on them, the locals were given the rights to graze their livestock on the ‘common’.
This area became known as the New Forest, and the grazing helps to maintain its landscape and rare species.
History of the Bell Inn
The Bell Inn has been privately owned by the Crosthwaite Eyre family since 1782, but the family’s relationship with the New Forest stretches back to the 11th century.
The family have been closely involved in the care of the New Forest for hundreds of years. They were instrumental in the signing of the 1877 New Forest Act, which prohibited further enclosures by the Crown.
The Act also decreed that seven Forest Verderers should be appointed, one by the monarch and six chosen by Parliament and the Commoners.
A member of the Eyre family was one of the first Verderers selected under this system, and Oliver Crosthwaite is the most recent member of the family to have been elected to the position.
The Bell Inn was also a founding partner of the New Forest Trust. This organisation supports the conservation of the flora, fauna and commoning practices of this unique area.
How to get to the Bell Inn
Although the Bell Inn is surrounded by the ancient woodland of the New Forest, it is only about 5 minutes’ drive from Junction 1 of the M27.
This makes it very easy to reach by car, and perfect for a relaxing weekend away.
If you decide to travel to the Bell Inn by train, the nearest station is Brockenhurst, which is around 20 minutes away by taxi.
Lyle and I travelled down to the Bell Inn from Shropshire by car, a journey which took us just over three hours. After spending most of the journey on motorways, it was lovely to head onto the country roads which took us into the heart of the New Forest.
There’s plenty of free car parking behind the Bell Inn. So after parking up, we headed inside to check in and then went up to our room.
A Cosy Bedroom at the Bell Inn
There are five different categories of room at the Bell Inn: Snug, Classic, Forest, Estate & Manor. You can also book the Warren Suite, a luxurious first floor suite ideal for use as a Bridal suite.
The Bell Inn is also a dog friendly hotel, so it’s ideal if you’re planning a New Forest holiday with dogs.
Lyle and I would be staying in a Classic room, and I was delighted at how cosy and comfortable the room looked. It was decorated in cosy neutral shades, with a feature wall covered in brightly coloured wallpaper.
Our twin beds initially felt very soft, and I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t suit my temperamental back. But actually, I slept incredibly well at the Bell Inn.
Although my mattress was soft, it was also very supportive and I didn’t even have a twinge of backache in the morning.
The room had a small dressing table with a couple of novels and a folder full of guest information on it.
The inn has free WiFi throughout and although we’d been warned that the signal might not be very reliable in the bedrooms, neither of us had any problems logging on.
There was plenty of storage for luggage and clothes, and a comfy armchair sat by the window. And the hospitality tray carried a selection of teas and coffees as well as some yummy biscuits.
There was no water provided as standard, but you can call down to the bar if you would like some to be brought up to you. The inn also offers room service, and there’s a menu in the room information folder.
And I was impressed by the size of the ensuite bathroom at the Bell Inn. The room was large and bright, with a pleasant neutral decor.
There was a rainfall shower over the bath, and a selection of complimentary toiletries was provided. Guests staying in Manor rooms or in the Warren Suite can enjoy a selection of Bramley bath and body toiletries
Altogether, the room felt both cosy and luxurious, and I was really looking forward to my stay.
Take a look around the Bell Inn
As you enter the Bell Inn from the car park, you walk straight into the bright and airy Reception area. The friendly staff here are on hand to help with any queries or requests you may have.
There’s also a cosy corner with a soft welcoming sofa to relax on. This is something that the Bell Inn does very well, there are plenty of little corners to snuggle up in. They give the Inn a very welcoming atmosphere.
The New Forest Room
The New Forest Room leads off from reception, and is a quiet, calm place to relax with the daily papers.
It’s decorated in cool shades of grey, which gives it a refined and peaceful air.
But ultimately it’s still a very comfortable and relaxing place, with sofas and armchairs arranged in groups around the room.
The ground floor of the original part of the Bell Inn is taken up by the bar. With its low ceiling, wooden beams and flagstone floor, this is a room that is full of character.
The bar has a great selection of beers on tap or in bottles, and you can choose from a wide range of wines as well.
Or if gin is your tipple, they have plenty of those to choose from as well as other spirits.
The bar has all sorts of cosy corners, and you can order a pot of tea or a cup of coffee to relax with. And this is a fabulous area to enjoy a quick pint and a snack, or linger over lunch with friends.
Or why not indulge in a quintessentially English Afternoon Tea, with sandwiches, scones and delicate little cakes!
And if the weather is fine, then you can always take your drink out into the glorious garden behind the inn. It would be perfect on a warm summer’s evening, don’t you think?
After we’d enjoyed a drink in the bar, Lyle and I headed up to relax in our room for a while before dinner.
Dining at the Bell Inn
At the Bell Inn, you can enjoy delicious food with an emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients. They place great importance on sourcing produce from their own estate and their farming neighbours, so you get a true taste of the New Forest.
You can choose to dine in the bar, in the light and airy Garden Room, or the wonderfully cosy Oak Room.
We ate in the Oak Room, with its lovely country farmhouse decor (pictured above). The restaurant was clearly very popular, and every table was in use on the evening that we visited.
Our orders were taken, and we ordered a bowl of olives to nibble on while we waited for our starters to arrive.
We didn’t have to wait long, and both of us were very pleased with our choices!
Lyle really enjoyed his chicken and chorizo croquettes, which were served with a tomato ragu and a light Parmesan foam.
I think we were both expecting the croquettes to be creamy, like the croquetas that we’d had in Spain, but these had a more meaty texture and great flavour.
My starter was absolutely delicious. A thick slice of toasted brioche provided a base for a fricassee of wild mushrooms in a creamy truffled sauce.
The firm, meaty texture of the mushrooms and the intense flavour of the sauce make this a starter that would be enjoyed by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Other options for the first course included Lymington crab brulee, crispy whitebait served with bread and butter, and a Madeira scented chicken liver parfait served with toasted brioche and a red onion jam.
And our main courses were just as delicious as the starters.
Lyle opted for the roasted breast of Noah’s Ark chicken, which was served on a bed of fresh tagliatelle. The sauce featured wild garlic and asparagus for a seasonable touch.
He allowed me to have a taste of the tagliatelle, and it was perfectly cooked with a fantastic texture. I didn’t try the chicken, but the fact that he ate all of it makes me feel sure that it tasted good!
My main course was fabulous, a beautiful dish showcasing local and seasonal ingredients.
It started with a base of samphire and saute Jersey Royal potatoes. I absolutely love Jersey Royals, and their short season means that you have to indulge whenever you get the opportunity.
Sitting on top was a delicate fillet of sea bream which was cooked to absolute perfection. I don’t generally like eating fish skin, but this was really crispy and flavoursome. Yet the fish itself was tender, not at all dry, and tasted beautiful.
It was all topped off with little brown shrimp in butter. Such a simple dish, but the quality of the produce and the skill with which it was cooked meant it was absolute heaven!
I also ordered a selection of seasonal vegetables to go with my main course. The vegetables included asparagus, broccoli, peas and greens, and they were bursting with flavour.
Other options on the menu included a roasted rack of spring lamb with crispy lamb belly, a 40 day aged sirloin steak, and pan fried gnocchi served with asparagus and a wild garlic pesto cream.
After all of this wonderful food, neither Lyle nor I felt we could squeeze in a pudding. They did look very tempting though, with options such as rhubarb, apple and ginger crumble and a baked coconut cheesecake.
But we did think that we might have room for a little cheese.
So we ordered a cheese board to share, and it hit the spot perfectly. There are six cheeses on the menu, and you can pick any three or all six.
We selected the Beau Farm Goat’s Brie, the Isle of Wight Blue and the Black Cow cheddar. Each of them was absolutely delicious. The cheddar was sharp and crumbly, and the brie was delicately flavoured with a light and melting centre.
But my favourite was the Isle of Wight Blue, the rich flavour and texture were divine. Alongside the cheeses were a selection of crackers, some grapes and walnuts and a couple of slices of membrillo.
It was a delicious end to a fabulous meal, and we were both feeling very full and sleepy afterwards.
Luckily, that cosy room beckoned, and we both slept wonderfully that night.
The next morning, Lyle and headed down to the Garden Room for breakfast. This is room is lighter and airier than the cosy Oak Room, and a lovely setting for breakfast.
Our orders for hot food were taken, and tea and coffee brought over to our table. While we waited for our cooked breakfasts to arrive, we went to explore the continental buffet.
There was a good selection on offer including large jugs of juice, and a pile of fresh pain au chocolat.
You could also help yourself to a selection of cereals, along with yoghurt, dried fruits and fresh fruit salad.
Before long our cooked breakfast arrived, and Lyle was very pleased with his full English breakfast. The sausage was very meaty and full of flavour, and he really enjoyed the thick slices of bacon.
Meanwhile I was tucking into the vegetarian version of the cooked breakfast. The vegetarian sausages were tasty, and I’d opted for poached eggs rather than the fried eggs that Lyle had chosen.
It was a delicious and filling start to the day.
After one last cup of coffee, we headed up to pack our suitcases after a wonderfully relaxing stay at the Bell Inn.
Things to Do at the Bell Inn
The Bell Inn is perfect for a relaxing few days away from it all. And nobody would blame you if you simply wanted to wrap yourself up in the inn’s cosy atmosphere and forget about the world outside.
But if you’re feeling a little more energetic, then the Inn’s location is perfect for walking or cycling. You can explore the New Forest, soak in the beautiful countryside, and see those famous ponies. Just remember not to get too close!
And at the back of the Bell Inn’s car park, you’ll find the Bramshaw Golf Club. All guest at the Inn are given temporary membership at the club, so it’s perfect if you want to fit in a quick round.
The club has two outstanding 18 hole golf courses. The Manor Course offers a traditional golfing experience in a parkland setting with manicured greens and excellent fairways.
Meanwhile the Forest Course is the oldest course in Hampshire, dating back to the late 1800s. The course stretches through the National Park of the New Forest, and is certainly a tough test of your golfing skill!
Things to do near the Bell Inn
And if you want to go a little further afield, there’s plenty to see and do near the Bell Inn.
As well as walking, cycling and horse riding in the New Forest, you could take the 10 minute drive to Paulton’s Park. Parents of young children will probably know this as the home of Peppa Pig world!
Alternatively, you might prefer to visit Beaulieu Motor Museum, which is 30 minutes drive from the Inn. Their extensive collection of vintage and modern cars and motorbikes dates all the way back to 1875!
And for something little more sedate, Exbury Gardens have beautiful floral displays throughout the year. There’s also a steam railway on site, and three fabulous places to eat. Exbury Gardens are about a 30 minute drive from the Bell Inn.
Lyle and I headed to Portsmouth for the day when we left the Bell Inn. It’s about a 25 minute drive from the inn, and there’s plenty to see and do. We visited the Historic Dockyard to see HMS Victory and the other museums there, took a boat ride around the harbour, and then went up to look out over the city from the top of Spinnaker Tower.
The Bell Inn, New Forest: My Review
If you’re looking for a quiet escape, somewhere to get away from it all, then the Bell Inn is pretty much perfect in every way.
It’s an Inn with bags of character and charm, but with added touches of luxury that make it a very special place to stay.
The location is stunning, a perfect escape from the everyday world. And the excellent food served in the Inn’s restaurant means that you’ll feel very spoilt indeed.
After just one night at the Bell Inn, I left feeling thoroughly refreshed and relaxed. I can only imagine how relaxing a longer stay would have been!
The Bell Inn, Brook, New Forest, Hampshire, SO43 7HE
Tel: 023 8081 2214