Until July 2019, Cottage Lodge was an average New Forest restaurant with rooms – nothing special. Then, it was taken over by Maurizio and Francesca, bent on realizing their dream of running a small hotel. With hospitality experience in Italy and Britain, the couple have begun transforming Cottage Lodge into what could be the best middle-range place to stay in the entire New Forest.

Originally built in 1650 using parts from a trading ship, it is set back from a road leading away from Brockenhurst’s centre. It’s cosy and countrified, but without the brown furniture that bogs down many similar places. The bedrooms, each individually designed, are surprisingly spacious and come with quirky four-poster beds – as pictured. 

Maurizio and Francesca have plans to upgrade the whole place gradually, with the ambition of providing better-than-expected standards for the prices. The downstairs Snug sitting room is first on the list in early 2020, and the adjacent White Tails restaurant will also be redecorated. Here, the food is fairly priced, but the menu was without surprises on our visit.

They also want to make Cottage Lodge the first fully sustainable place to stay in the New Forest. Ingredients, toiletries and furniture are locally sourced, with plans to move to carbon neutral energy. As you enter the front door, a cycling map of the New Forest reminds you of the hotel’s superb location surrounded by 94,000 acres of the national park. The walking and cycling, mostly on flat terrain, really is almost endless here.

Cottage Lodge lacks the facilities and style of some New Forest hotels (like the nearby Pig), but its unpretentious, eco-friendly style puts it in a niche of its own.