A pint of real ale and a huge glass of Pimms, sat in an idyllic riverside pub garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The only thing that could possibly make this scene any more “British” would have been the rain. Luckily however, the weather played ball during Björn and my mini road trip along the South coast of England last month. We even managed to get a bit of colour, though Björn’s pale Icelandic skin went from white to a lovely shade of pink, rather than sun-kissed tan.
After mine and Björn’s fun-filled Icelandic road trip to the Westfjords back in April, Björn decided he wanted to me visit me in the UK. As much as I love my home town (and boy, do I love it), I didn’t want him to be stuck in Reading for the five days he was over – after all, he had shown me some of the most beautiful parts of Iceland, it was only fair I reciprocated. So I planned a mini road trip for us along the South coast of England, with stops in Brighton, West Wittering, Bournemouth, the New Forest, Swanage and Lulworth. Our night in the New Forest was by far the best night, with delicious food at The Mayflower in Lymington and a really restful night’s sleep at The Mill at Gordleton.
When searching for accommodation for our road trip, I wanted to book somewhere a little different, somewhere less mainstream, not a bog-standard hotel chain. I wanted a place to stay that Björn couldn’t experience in Iceland (or any other country in Europe), somewhere with character that screamed “this is England”. You can’t really get anymore British than a good, old boozer, so the creeper-covered Mill was the perfect choice.
It was definitely not “run of the mill”…
Where is Gordleton Mill?
Located in the tiny New Forest hamlet of Gordleton, The Mill is a short drive from Brockenhurst, Lymington and Milford-on-Sea, so an ideal stopover if you’re heading to the New Forest (which you most definitely should be doing – it’s my favourite part of the UK). Set alongside the river Avon, the building is a former water-mill surrounded by lawns and woodland, and crisscrossed by weirs, rivulets, ponds and little bridges.
After being lovingly restored, the Mill turned into a traditional British public house with a twist: if offers eight boutique bedrooms for guests in the main building, and a further four situated in the Mill House.
Though I once worked in a pub with rooms, I’d never actually stayed in a pub myself, so was really looking forward to our stay. And while it may not have been a 5 star, all-inclusive resort (like the one mum and I booked in the Dominican Republic), it was definitely one of the prettiest, most picturesque, places I’ve spent the night.
Inside Gordleton Mill.
The decor inside The Mill can only be described as “eclectic”. Traditional wood paneling and earthy neutral tones clash with vibrant velvet prints and glitzy gold gild frames. Mismatching pieces of period furniture that should – in normal circumstances – never be placed next to each other, are somehow compatible, complimentary.
The light and airy, yet cute and compact bar area was my favourite part of The Mill. If the bruised and battered parquet flooring could talk, I’m sure it’d have plenty of stories to tell. Stories of pints being pulled from the shiny pumps protruding from the polished bar, and bottoms squidged on the worn leather of the Chesterfield armchairs, cosy in front of the fire. If I could design my dream living room, it would be an exact replica of that bar area (complete with giant goblet of Pimms).
From the bar to the lobby, even the floor of the toilets had Instagrammable details:
And then into the sitting room, which was dominated by a gigantic mirror, a gorgeous cast iron fireplace, a reclaimed old chest and some beautiful chairs. See what I mean about mismatching yet complimentary? So many details; I could have snapped a hundred more pictures, at least, had there not people passing through to the dining room, staring at me as I clicked away with my mobile phone.
I then stepped down into an unoccupied private dining room, with a huge table laid up with The Mill’s finest silverware and polished glasses. It looked fit for a Disney-style feast, and I half expected the knives and forks to get up and give me a verse from Beauty and the Beast. Dining room goals, or what?
The room can be hired for private functions, business meetings and events, for which The Mill can provide screens, free wifi, stationary and catering. But, if you’re looking for something a little more personal, the pub is also licensed for wedding ceremonies, with room for up to 16 guests. Just gotta find me a groom now…
Rooms at Gordleton Mill.
The main building at The Mill has eight individually decorated rooms, all of which have an en-suite bathroom with toiletries, tea and coffee-making facilities, a TV and free wifi. The Mill House, which is separate from the main building, has another four rooms, designed for guests looking for a chic, boutique room with contemporary modern comforts. Along with the en-suite and toiletries, the Mill House rooms also come with a Smart TV (with Netflix and BBC iPlayer access), as well as some locally made shortbread biscuits, bottled water and a selection of teas. We were booked into one of the Mill House rooms, and boy, what a room.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a prettier room than ours at The Mill. As I opened the door and stepped inside, my gaze was instantly drawn to a big, beautiful bed in front of me. Covered in a blush pink throw, adorned with matching cushions and crowned by a chunky, grey crushed velvet headboard, it took all my willpower not to jump right in and snuggle up. And, had it not been 3pm in the afternoon I may well have done, after taking a million pictures, of course.
But wait a moment, what was that little creature in the middle of the bed?
On closer inspection, I realised The Most Beautiful Bed In The World was being guarded a duck-shaped doorstop. I’d overheard a group of people discussing duck in the bar earlier, but thought they’d been talking about their food. Intrigued, I had a quick look on the pub’s website: Crispie Duck seems to be a bit of a celeb at The Mill, after being rescued and hand-reared by manager Terri and her husband, back in 2007.
Unfortunately Crispie has long since passed, but her legacy lives on around the pub, with beautiful handmade door stops in every room, fabric duck paper weights and gorgeous little key rings. Made by local crafters, they can all be purchased as souvenirs of your stay at The Mill. What’s more, proceeds go to HART (Hampshire Art for Recreation and Therapy), so not only are these little duck souvenirs cute, they’re for a good cause too.
Fast forward eight hours, and after a lovely meal in Lymington, it was time to get into The Most Beautiful Bed In The World. It was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in such a long time. Waking up the following morning I felt refreshed, energised and ready to face anything. I honestly don’t think I’ve slept that well since January last year (doesn’t help that, as I’m in the process of decorating my new house, I’ve been sleeping on a sofa bed for the last six months).
Apart from the beautiful decor, the floral prints, the pastel colours and the really comfortable bed, the bathroom was definitely a highlight of staying at Gordleton Mill. Modern, clean and tastefully decorated, it was small, but big enough, if that makes sense?
There was a selection of Anne Semonin toiletries laid out by the sink, and big, fresh fluffy towels hanging on the heated towel rail. The best part of the bathroom though, was the amazing, state-of-the-art shower:
I’ve never had a shower experience like it. It had both a handheld shower hose and an overhead shower head, and the overhead one had four different settings. Can you see the buttons on it? One of those buttons turned the powerful jet spray into a mini massage, which pulsated on my head. It’s hard to describe, and I have no idea what make or model shower it was, but take my word for it: Best. Shower. Ever. Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to head to The Mill and check it out for yourself.
Leisure facilities at Gordleton Mill.
Sitting on the edge of the New Forest, The Mill ideally situated for day trips into the Hampshire countryside or for exploring the south of England and its stunning coastline.
The 13th Century Beaulieu Abbey and the maritime village of Buckler’s Hard are less than 30 minutes drive away, and a little further afield are Salisbury and Winchester cathedrals. The quaint villages of Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst are nearby, perfect for afternoon tea, or you might fancy a bit of yacht spotting at Hamble Point. And as already mentioned, the Georgian sailing town of Lymington isn’t far at all – which was where we headed after we left The Mill.
If you’d prefer to spend your time just at the pub (I mean, who wouldn’t when the pub looks this pretty?), you can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life by escaping to the grounds of The Mill. There are plenty of hidden spots and places to sit and relax – which looked really beautiful in the May sunshine. Or you can wander around the pub’s Art Gardens, which feature sculptures and exhibits from local artists.
Food and drink at Gordleton Mill.
After checking out of our hotel in Bournemouth early on the Sunday morning, I drove us to Christchurch for a wander around a food festival. It seemed the whole of Christchurch and his dog was there, making the most of the glorious May weather. As we made our way through the throng of people, Björn looked a little overwhelmed by the amount of people (remember, he comes from an island with a total population of 330,000 – that’s 37,000 less than the population of Christchurch alone!). But he was also curious about all the stalls selling homemade, locally produced food and drink. We grabbed a beer and sat in the sun for a few hours, people watching and chatting.
After realising our car park ticket had run out, we made a dash back to the car, and followed the twisty-turny country lanes over to Gordleton.
Too early to check in to our room (check in is at 3pm), we grabbed a seat in the bar area and I ordered Björn a beer and myself a Pimms. As I carried them back to our table he looked confused. He then matter-of-factedly asked if I had to “drink the drink and eat the meat”? Cue fits of giggles as I realised that when the bartender had said he needed to put “mint” in my drink, Björn had misheard it for “meat”, and then mistaken the grapefruit slices for pieces of cured ham.
After wiping away the tears of laughter that were rolling down my cheeks, I went back to the bar to order us some sandwiches to tide us over until our dinner reservation later that night.
I’ll admit, the sandwiches were a little disappointing. There were only two options on the menu: ham or cheese. I plumped for ham while Björn went for cheese, though we decided to do swapsies and have a couple of each others, just to mix things up a bit. The bread was a normal, shop-brought loaf and the ham looked suspiciously like it’d come straight from a packet from the fridge, too. Considering the price we’d paid (£7 each), I expected a more than what we got. But it filled a hole and kept us going until dinner time.
I can’t comment on the food served in the restaurant, as we didn’t eat in there – but the plates of Sunday roast that were coming out to diners seated in the bar area near us looked pretty impressive.
We did have breakfast the following morning though…
When we headed back over to the main building for breakfast, the dining room was busy but silent; that was until Björn and I arrived and started chatting animatedly about everything on the menu.
I really wanted to try The Mill’s full English breakfast, because again, there isn’t anything more quintessentially British than a fry up of (slightly burnt) sausages, bacon, eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes and fried bread (hold the baked beans, I hate them). But after our big meal at The Mayflower the night before, I decided to go for a healthier, smaller option: smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast. Accompanied by a glass of ice-cold apple juice and a big mug of milky coffee, it was the perfect way to start the day.
Björn opted for sunny-side up fried eggs and beans on toast, with a side of porridge. He said the porridge was delicious, though I’m not a big porridge fan myself, so didn’t try it.
Tips for staying at Gordleton Mill.
If, after reading my review, you’re considering a stay at The Mill, here are a few things to bear in mind:
- When approaching the pub from Lymington, the sat nav will take you down Sway Road. This turns into Silver Street at the top of a hill, and as you head down and round the bend, The Mill will be there on your right. It’s a sharp turning, so go slow or you’ll miss it.
- Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten anything toiletry-wise, as the bathrooms at The Mill have everything you could ever need (including Björn’s beloved cotton buds, and an emery board for when I broke a nail).
- Remember that The Mill is a pub – and what do pubs produce a lot of? Empty glass bottles, which will need collecting from a recycling lorry early in the morning. So if you’re a light sleeper it might be wise to request a room at the back of the property. I’m not sure if bin day is every day, but certainly that Monday morning we were awoken by the smashing of glass as the bins were emptied into the truck.
- The rooms all have a maximum capacity of two people, which is perfect for a romantic retreat sans kiddies, but if you’ve got a larger group then you might have to book two (or more) rooms.
- There is plenty of parking for guests staying overnight (though my little green car looked a somewhat out-of-place next to the Land Rovers and Porches of the New Forest parked at the front, so I hid it round the back by the Mill House garage).
Gordleton Mill: the verdict.
If you’re heading to the New Forest and looking for somewhere pretty, rural, traditional yet quirky to stay, then I cannot recommend the Gordleton Mill enough. Home to The Most Beautiful Bed In The World, I had the best night’s sleep there, as well as the best shower I’ve had in ages.
My only regret about staying at The Mill, was that I didn’t stay there longer. As I mentioned before, the New Forest is my favourite place in the UK, so I would have loved to have spent a few extra days in Gordleton, exploring more of the local area and trying some of the food in the restaurant – it did look pretty tasty, and the menus online are very tempting. The Art Gardens looked lovely too, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore them.
But as the New Forest is less than a two-hour drive from Reading, I’m sure I’ll be back soon enough (hopefully while the weather is still “Pimms perfect”).
Disclaimer: We stayed at The Mill at Gordleton on Sunday 13 May 2018 for one night, in a standard double room on bed and breakfast basis. The room cost £159 for two people for 1 night, but my stay was gifted by StayInAPub.com and Gordleton Mill. All opinions in this review are my own, however.