Charlotte Swift

The only place I feel comfortable in my bathrobe

Ah, the wonders of a good spa!

The only place I feel comfortable in my bathrobe
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I know James Bond is partial to strutting around not-quite-enveloped in a dressing gown, but whether your robe is monogrammed silk or cotton towelling, I’m guessing that unlike the famous spy, it’s not something you’d want to be spotted in.

Me neither. With one exception. When I’m at a spa. To be happy enough to be seen by strangers wandering around in a bathrobe, I have to be very comfortable in my surroundings. So I have to confess that, during my recent stay at Lime Wood, it was a struggle to change into something a little more refined come dinner.

When I first visited this New Forest spa hotel, the Herb House spa was a hard-hat zone. Since then, this former hunting lodge has well and truly brushed away the dust, and found itself in favour with the celebrity elite while maintaining its laid-back air.

Lime Wood is an hour and a half’s drive from west London and set in handsome landscaped grounds, with the forest and its ponies a short walk beyond.

I’m sure Lime Wood is already awash with awards but if I was to add one extra to its armoury, it would be for the fact it offers a retreat in which you could easily spend all day.

A morning at Lime Wood can include anything from a dip in the indoor pool, a high-adrenalin spin session (with a post-session detoxing juice in the spa’s Raw and Cured food bar), a workout in the timber-panelled gym, or a yoga class in the roof garden. And, for afters, a lunch of home-smoked salmon. Make sure you have time to fit in a chef’s tour of the smokehouse during your stay, as well.

Still with me? OK, good, because here’s where Lime Wood really excels. It’s time to hit the treatment rooms. There’s a vast menu of massages, body scrubs, wraps and the like to choose from. I decided on the Bamford rose relaxing upper body and facial massage. How brilliant to combine a massage and a facial — surely what every girl desires? It involved buttering me in a garden’s worth of floral ointments and it left me dribbling into the pillow. Always a good sign.

Parts of the spa look out into the forest, so you can easily while away the rest of the afternoon drifting between the sauna, the steam room, the caldarium, the indoor pool and the huge hydropool, which has enough jet pummelling options to keep you water bound for hours. And even if the weather’s not on your side, with the volume of steam rising from the outdoor hot pool you can be sure of a warming visit.

By this point, I guarantee you will be so comfortable in your Egyptian cotton robe that you will feel perfectly suitably dressed to savour a glass of white wine from the local, award-winning Wickham Estate in the spa bar. Well, isn’t that what 007 would do?

Lime Wood, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ;; tel: 023 8028 7177.