The Pig hotel in the New Forest in the south of England is one of those rare things: affordable enough not to break the bank, and yet utterly special. If you take someone there, hide the bill: they'll assume it costs twice as much as it actually does.
The reason The Pig manages to deliver so much, at comparatively reasonable prices, is largely down to the fact it has been positioned as the little sister of one of Britain's best country-house hotels, Lime Wood the AA's hotel of the year in 2012.
But while the owners may have dropped the price for this new offering, they haven't dropped their standards. The Pig is basically therefore Lime Wood on a slightly smaller scale.
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That means you can still expect an imposing country-house offering: several public areas with open fires, luxurious bedrooms featuring monsoon showers, roll tops baths, huge soft beds, and an assortment of antique furniture.
Once you've sunk into an arm chair in front of the fire with the newspapers and a pot of tea, you really feel like you've stumbled across a parallel universe where you are suddenly the Lord of the Manor. It helps that everything is simply billed to your room, with no signatures required.
Outside in the sprawling grounds you'll find tennis courts, a large walled kitchen garden, pig sties, hen houses, a pond, a croquet lawn and trees with swings attached. A walk in the garden leads you to The Pig's hidden gem. Stroll across the lawn, through the kitchen garden and over the pond and you'll find a small shed at the end of the path.
This is The Potting Shed, a tiny space where guests can enjoy a variety of massages, reflexology or the signature treatment of a massage and facial. I enjoyed one of the best massages of my life here while listening to cows gently lowing in the field next door.
The Pig describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, but to my mind this doesn't do justice to the facilities on offer. However,the owners are certainly right to trumpet the restaurant.
The food is, at times, adventurous; my dining companion happily tucked in to the pig's cheek complete with jawbone and teeth. I, on the other hand, opted for the less visually demanding, but equally delicious, scallops with smoky bacon (unsurprisingly there's plenty of pig on the menu).
The puddings are less show-stopping but perfectly executed the marmalade sponge pudding in particular was excellent. As for drinks, the wine list is extensive with options for all budgets.
After-dinner options include simply stumbling contentedly back to your room or enjoying a digestif in front of the dying embers of one of the open fires. Either way, you'll sleep soundly in the New Forest silence, before returning to the dining room the following morning for a pretty irresistible cooked breakfast.
A double room costs from £129, which I think is a bit of a steal given the level of luxury and service on offer here. Breakfast starts at £10 per person, while a three-course meal will cost around £35 per person, plus wine. For more information, visit www.thepighotel.com or call 01590-622354.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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