Well, more specifically, Basingstoke. We have a friend from Basingstoke who almost choked on his beer when we told him we were having a romantic weekend away in his home town, followed by the question, ‘why?’. Well first off Mum and Dad bought James and I a voucher for money off a brand of hotels and the cheapest one happened to be in Basingstoke. Plus the hotel looked really nice, was set amongst it’s own grounds and not too far away from Bristol.
We took the Monday off work and headed up on the Friday so we could make the most of the trip. We were staying at Audleys Wood which was on the outskirts of town, a Gothic Renaissance mansion with an impressive and grand long driveway.
We enjoyed two evening meals and two breakfasts, most of the food was really good with only a couple of dishes in the evening letting them down however the breakfasts were great.
On the first morning we could help ourselves to a buffet and the next morning it was table service but you still had plenty of choice and could make up your own cooked breakfast (James had all the hashbrowns).
About a 30 minute drive from the hotel was the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstock which we explored on one of the days. We did the self discovery experience which included a quick 10 minute welcome and introduction to the mill, then a self guided tour of the outside areas which had audio points dotted around and the large greenhouses.
A very impressive and pretty feature that was an Instagrammers dream.
After some very laid back meandering and photos, we had a short 15 minute guided tour inside the Dakin Still House, this is where the magic happens and all the delicious gin is produced. In fact, every bottle of Bombay Sapphire is produced here and sent all over the world – the stills are working very hard all of the time. You hear all about the history and the origin of the gin whilst getting a sniff of some of the pure stuff – not too close or you’ll lose all your nose hairs!
There is then another area where you can go around the room sniffing different spices, botanics and flavours to work out what kind of cocktail you’d like to drink at the end of your session.
You make a note on a piece of card and then take this to the Mill Bar for a complimentary drink. I obviously narrowed it down to something sweet and enjoyed a Rosy Rain (made up of Bombay Sapphire, MARTINI Rosato, Bottlegreen Rhubarb with a hint of Ginger Cordial & Schweppes Salty Lemon Tonic) whilst James had a Gin Basil Smash and tonic (Bombay Sapphire muddled with caster sugar, lemon & a generous handful of basil, shaken & lengthened with Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic).
We checked out the gift shop before going to have some lunch in the double decker-turned-cafe just behind the bar. A couple of paninis were just what we needed to soak up the gin.
Our next port of call was The National Trust’s West Green House Gardens, an 18th Century house surrounded by a series of walled gardens. Designed by acclaimed garden designer Marylyn Abbott over the last 20 years, a stunning 10 acre maze of various gardens.
We spent a good couple of hours wandering around, discovering something new around every corner. Had it been warmer we could have spent the whole afternoon there and if we were more prepared, taken a picnic. Definitely worth a visit to take a relaxing walk and enjoy the tranquility, or be a bit silly in our case.
I don’t think we fully explored all that Hampshire has to offer but certainly saw some highlights that would have has visiting again. Basingstoke was a great base too, you’re not too far from the countryside or if you wanted a bit more excitement, London isn’t much further.
A wonderful long weekend break full of big breakfasts, gin tastings and secret garden walks.