One of the best ways to escape it all is to spend a night at a luxury country house hotel.
After reading up a little about Lainston House Hotel near Winchester, we set off to see if we could make the most of a quiet weekend and just relax.
It is surprisingly easy to get to - literally just a couple of minutes off the A34 near Winchester - and is set in some beautiful rolling countryside.
The house's facade is very impressive, looking down a tree-lined cutting which seems to go on forever.
Entrance to reception is through a beautiful walled garden, where the drive encircles a pretty green lawned area.
On a winter's day there's nothing more welcoming than a crackling log fire.
As you walk through the door the warmth and distinctive smell of the fireplace envelops you.
Reception is small yet very efficient and before we knew it we were being shown to our room.
Everything here at Lainston is kept at a personal level.
No room numbers, just names. We were in 'Delft', a magnificent, grandiose room with incredibly high ceilings and a view to die for.
Talking of views, what on earth are those two white lines down there on the lawn?
Strange? Some sort of game?
On closer inspection it was in fact 3 white lines, in the shape of a big white letter 'H'. Ahhhh! I see.
Despite retaining its lovely old character, it had all modern comforts and some very nifty little additions such as the remote light controls situated on each bedside cabinet and a large flat-screen television complete with DVD player.
One of the first items on our agenda was to sit down for Afternoon Tea. Decadent, yes, but absolutely worthwhile.
Having spent a couple of hours on the road getting there it was the perfect way to wind-down ready for the break ahead.
The tea was brewed to perfection and the scones, cream, sandwiches and cakes were beautifully prepared and presented.
After simply chilling out for a few hours, dinner was beckoning, so we freshened up and made our way down for a little aperitif before our meal.
We were offered some mouthwatering cocktails and finally settled on one of the hotel's renowned and flamboyantly-prepared vodka Martinis (said by some to be the best they'd ever tasted) and a tried and trusted Bellini.
As well as packing a real punch, the cocktails put us in a really relaxed frame of mind before we were called through for dinner.
We seemed to spend an age perusing the menu and trying not to salivate at all the mouthwateringly delicious descriptions.
In opting for the 'Taster' menu we had the chance to try a real variety of the food on offer. Each course was impeccably presented and served with a friendly smile.
The wine for each course was presented and described by our wine waiter, Peter, who had obviously put much thought into things and talked us through each one before serving.
I have to say that his choices were excellent and they really put the finishing touches to each of the exquisite courses.
What was most apparent was that at the end of the meal we felt satisfied but not over-full.
The balance was perfect. Enough to really enjoy, but not so much as to leave us feeling 'podged' by it all.
The wines had done their duty of keeping the taste buds sharp but at the same time had served to mellow things perfectly after a hard evening's dining.
A luxurious evening candlelit bath and a quiet and restful night in a veritable galleon of a bed saw us waking refreshed, and fighting fit.
Breakfast was accompanied by some of the most delicious pastries we'd ever tasted. It was only at this point that we realised that Lainston has its own award-winning pastry chef.
Our neighbours on the adjacent table were obviously impressed by the almond croissants too as they actually ordered a few extra to take home for their children.
Lainston House is a luxurious home-from-home, with tremendous character.
The crackling fires and original décor transports you to a bygone era.
The ambience, though at times we thought a little over-formal, was really relaxing and this added to the overall pleasure of the visit.
It offers visitors the chance to really indulge but at the same time wash away the stresses of normal daily life.
Our thanks go out to Cliff Hasler and all the staff for their superb welcome and hospitality throughout.
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