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May 08, 2013

A Proper English Manor

By Amy Tara Koch | Travel

A Proper English Manor
Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire

The highbrow trappings of English country living—personified in the oeuvres of writers like Nancy Mitford, Jane Austen and D.H. Lawrence—have been tempting Americans for decades. But for most, invitations to grand manor houses are few and far between. Happily, those with a penchant for the aristocratic life can tap into their imperial dreams by checking into the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire at Dogmersfield Park.

Located about an hour from London, the Georgian estate-turned-hotel offers a perfectly curated rural retreat, complete with lodging at a former medieval palace, elegant afternoon tea served in an airy library and sweeping views of 500 acres speckled with stables, grazing cattle and pigs.

Dogmersfield Park’s impressive royal affiliations include being cited as the first meeting place of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Today, the hardest choice you’ll face is which pursuit to pursue. Choose from fly-fishing, narrow-boating, clay pigeon shooting or horseback riding (known as “hacking” around the estate). Swim in the indoor-outdoor pool, relax in the spa (converted 18th-century stables) or visit flea markets in the neighboring villages.

In the late afternoon, borrow a Barbour coat and wellies from the concierge and meander Elizabeth Bennet–style through the lush meadows. We highly recommend a falconry session; engaging with birds of prey is a magnificent and moving experience.

The integrity of the property is spectacularly preserved even though the rooms and bathrooms have been renovated. The food is also up-to-date. The British-inspired fare served at Seasons and the more casual Bistro is delicious and almost 100 percent locally sourced. Guests are even invited to visit the hotel chicken coop to collect morning eggs. How idyllic. Rooms start at $434; Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Ln., Dogmersfield, Hampshire; 44-1252/853-000; fourseasons.com.