Thanks to its unique microclimate, the Isle of Wight is one of the sunniest spots in the UK and here, Foresters Hall, a recently-refurbished boutique hotel, is quickly developing a reputation as the place to stay.
Foresters Hall is a Grade II-listed property bought last year by husband-and-wife team, Peter Sussman and Sara Curran, both television and film industry executives who have worked separately on shows such as Schitt’s Creek, The Favourite and The Night Manager. Formerly known as North House and located in the yachtie hotspot of Cowes, the hotel is the perfect spot for a summer staycation.
The hotel takes its new name from the building’s 19th-century history as a celebrated meeting hall for the Cowes branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters, and later became a public entertainment venue for concerts, exhibitions, lectures and balls.
WHAT TO PACK
Inside the clean white Georgian townhouse exterior on the charming slope of Sun Hill in Cowes’s old town conservation area, you’ll find high ceilings, original features, artful interiors, locally-sourced suppliers and a straight-from-the-heart welcome. The aesthetic cleverly walks the line between old and new, with uplifting paint tones and wallpapers, warm lighting design and dark-wood floors. Other sophisticated and classic touches include Chesterfield sofas, brass light fittings, roll-top baths and working fireplaces.
You can’t miss the incredible art collection, featuring English, Irish, Scottish, Canadian and North American artists, all from Sara and Peter’s personal collection. There are paintings by the American figurative artist Alex Katz, a Josef Karsh portrait of Ray Bradbury hangs in the private dining room, and there’s an Annie Leibovitz snapshot of Bruce Springsteen in the ladies’ bathroom. In the entrance hall you’ll spot the latest addition to the collection — a split canvas piece of poppies by Lisa Ridgers, purchased from Cowes Gallery on the High Street.
There are just 14 rooms, and all look and feel as though they could be straight out of a stylish friend’s home, featuring modern furniture from British designers and thoughtful details like thick blankets, quilted comforters and Roberts radios. Many have picturesque harbour and sea views, while others overlook Cowes or the hotel’s pretty terraced garden. Some have free-standing baths at the end of the bed, and all have smart bathrooms with Cowshed products and GHD hairdryers and straighteners available. Bill Giacomelli (based in Cowes) re-upholstered over 20 armchairs for the guestrooms and Vivien Bromilow (based in Bembridge) created all the new curtains and Roman blinds throughout.
The Little Extras
Outside, there’s a walled courtyard where guests can enjoy the use of a south-facing garden and sunny terrace, plus a bike rack stacked with Foffa bikes that you can borrow for free. The pièce de résistance is a lovely salt-water swimming pool surrounded by a white picket fence where the art theme continues with a newly-commissioned outdoor mural called ‘The Diver’ by the artists 3D Joe and Max. There is no better place to swim a few lengths and relax in the sun on a lounger after a day of sightseeing on this island.
The Food + Drink
In the restaurant, Peter and Sara have teamed up with the Isle of Wight group the Smoking Lobster to open their fourth site on the island, The Brasserie. The menu has an emphasis on Mediterranean influences and seasonal produce, with a focus on locally-sourced seafood and freshly-made pasta. The excellent wine list also comes from a local supplier, Wine Therapy, on Cowes High Street.
Elsewhere, there’s a cosy bar with low-slung armchairs in pink, blue and bronze velvets, retro lampshades and a wooden piano, and a library stocked with the couple’s books on art and wine – both perfect spots for an evening cocktail or two. In the mornings, the bar also plays host to a delightful breakfast buffet including cereals, toast and spreads, yoghurt and fresh fruits, plus you can sample hot dishes, such as eggs benedict, to order.
The To-Do List
As guests of Foresters Hall, you’re within striking distance of Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s beloved home on the Isle of Wight. It’s well worth a visit for a glimpse into royal life – inside the house there are private apartments and grand reception rooms lined with furniture and artworks, and you also have access to the flower-filled gardens and a beach where the royal children learnt to swim. Further afield, don’t miss a hike through Shanklin Chine, a stunning tree-lined gorge with a 45-foot waterfall that runs down from Shanklin Old Village to the sandy beach below (also home to a fun amusements arcade and mini golf course). And no trip to the Isle of Wight is complete without seeing the world-famous Needles Landmark Attraction on Alum Bay. You can reach the iconic chalk stacks and lighthouse by riding the chairlift down to the beach and get even closer by joining one of the boat tours that take visitors right out onto the water.
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