During October half-term, we were invited down to Fareham in Hampshire for a complimentary break for a couple of nights at the Lodge At Solent with access to the adjacent Solent Hotel & Spa. As it was the week before the missus went back to work from maternity leave, it felt a nice way to have a short break together (including the dog) before the new chapter in our lives began.
Having holidayed – or staycationed – in Hampshire for each of the last three years, we’ve really come to love this area of the country. As a family with young kids, we’ve discovered so many different things to do and places to see. Whether that’s hanging out by the beach, being active in the New Forest, ferrying across to the Isle Of Wight or visiting one of the many attractions, each day can feel like a different holiday.
Below, you’ll find my review of what we got up to whilst in the area, including our family-friendly and dog-friendly accommodation at Lodge At Solent, our meals at Parson’s Collar pub and Solent Hotel & Spa, some of the leisure and spa facilities available at the Solent Hotel & Spa, plus the other places we visited in and around Hampshire:
Lodge At Solent
Opened in 2017, the Lodge At Solent is one of the newest hotels in the area and is the latest destination to be added to the growing collection of accommodation owned by The House Of Daniel Thwaites – who, incidentally, also own the adjacent Solent Hotel & Spa and Parson’s Collar pub. However, rather than the more exclusive hotel, the Lodge is targeted at budget conscious business and leisure guests.
With wooden cladding exterior, glass balconies, a quirky art deco arrow sign and set over two levels, the place instantly felt different to a normal hotel. I’m not sure what vibe they were going for, but for me, it felt like a modern twist on the classic American motel with a bit of Scandinavian inspiration thrown in.
After checking in at the reception in the Parson’s Collar pub, you enter the Lodge At Solent with your key card via large, glass doors and begin to see some of the quirky features inside. In the lobby, there’s a wooden deck chair in front of a colourfully painted mural depicting life by the sea, complete with VW camper van, a lighthouse, a deckchair and beach huts.
In fact, this seaside inspiration continues throughout the Lodge with little nods to its coastal location in the lift, along the corridors and in the rooms. Talking about rooms, the Lodge At Solent is made up of 54 rooms (from £89 B&B), including standard double / twin rooms, standard family double rooms, signature double rooms and signature family double rooms. They also have interconnecting rooms which would be really useful with older kids.
We were in a signature family double room which was also dog-friendly (more on that below). This meant that we had a double bed for the adults, a sofa bed for L and a travel cot for ‘Beetle’. As it was a signature family room, this also gave us more space and an outside balcony with table and chairs as we were on the first floor.
Everything about it felt fresh, spacious, light, airy and modern, plus there were a few cool touches like the retro, yellow phone. The room had a desk, chair, plenty of storage (including under bed), 40″ flat screen TV with standard Freeview, an iron, an ironing board, a hairdryer, coffee making facilities and a USB port for a phone by the bed. In the bathroom, there was a walk in power shower.
Although it’s described as a budget hotel, the room certainly didn’t feel like it. There was an element of minimalism about it, but it was all very practical and exceeded our expectations. The only addition I’d like to see is a safe to store valuables. The website also stated that signature rooms have a Nespresso machine, but we just had a kettle and coffee sachets in ours.
We were really happy and impressed with the room – it’s the type of place we hope for when staying away as a family. For us, we want something clean, modern, spacious and functional – we forgot about grandeur, opulence and luxury many years ago when we became parents! We all instantly felt at home at the Lodge At Solent and would happily stay in this type of accommodation time and time again.
However, we did encounter one or two issues whilst there which related to housekeeping. These weren’t major or ruined our experience, but they are basic things I’d expect to be done as part of servicing the room. Our ice cream sundae glasses from the pub hadn’t been taken away, toilet rolls hadn’t been replaced and we only had a kettle and cups, no coffee sachets or tea bags. These were rectified quickly and with apologies when we rang reception though, which was good.
I mentioned before about the Lodge At Solent being dog-friendly. We always prefer to take Dax with us, but we often struggle to find short-term accommodation that caters for all members of the family. There’s plenty of cottages or holiday homes that are dog-friendly, but you can only stay for multiple days which isn’t very practical if you’re looking to get away for just a night or two.
The Lodge At Solent provides a great solution to this as they actively welcome dogs – you just pay a supplement of £20 per night. There are three dog-friendly rooms in the hotel and they go all out to make your four-legged friend feel at home. Within the room, we found a dog bed, two bowls, a toy, a blanket, a towel, some dog biscuits and poo bags – it was better for him here than at home!
In addition, our room had a balcony which gave Dax a bit of extra room to wander around outside. From a cleanliness perspective, particularly with a baby crawling on the floor, I was also pleased to see wooden floors in our dog-friendly room rather than carpets. Outside, there was also plenty of grass for him to do his thing – strangely though, we couldn’t find any dog waste bins or normal bins which seemed like a bit of an oversight.
Catering for dogs extended down to the Parson’s Collar pub too. Dax was able to come with us into the pub for our evening meal and for breakfast in the morning as there are designated seating areas. This made it easier for us, and less stressful for him, as we didn’t need to leave him alone in the room.
Included in the room rate is a continental breakfast over at Parson’s Collar. On both mornings, we were able to choose our table, grab a high chair and then get stuck into the food which was nicely presented on the bar.
As it’s a continental breakfast, there was a selection of things like pastries, bread, fruit, cereal, cold meats and yoghurt, as well as fruit juices and hot drinks. The food and caffeine certainly hit the spot, whilst the kids enjoyed eating more than normal in the morning! If you’re looking for a full English breakfast or something a bit more substantial, then you can go over to the Solent Hotel & Spa for an additional cost.
We were also provided with a complimentary meal at Parson’s Collar on our first night. Despite being a pub, the place wasn’t busy or rowdy – it felt very relaxed and had a nice, family-friendly atmosphere to it. It had the feel of a modern, country pub with nice decor, comfy seats, a log fire, large TV screens and an array of cask ales brewed in the Thwaites’ Lancashire brewery.
We were sat around the corner near the ice-cream parlour, so we were away from the main pub bit but still felt integrated – as we have young children and a dog, this worked really well. The menu sounded good, with things like burgers, hot sandwiches, steak, fish & chips and pizza from the wood-fired pizza oven. They also had a children’s menu which was a positive, but there didn’t seem to be any kid’s entertainment, e.g. crayons and an activity sheet, which is quite common these days.
We decided to start with the house nachos with chilli beef, then for mains I had the beef and ale pie with chips whilst the missus had halloumi and tomato hanging kebabs, which came with chips and flat bread. L went with the margherita pizza from the kid’s menu, which they were happy to bring out with our starter.
The nachos were great – really tasty with a nice kick, but the dish was so huge that we were pretty stuffed before we’d even finished them! The rest of the food was nice too – it was in line with our expectations and was certain better than a lot of pub grub we’ve eaten. I’m not quite sure I’d call my ‘stew with a pastry lid’ a proper pie though!
By this point, it was getting on a bit and ‘Beetle’ was getting grumpy. We asked if we’d be able to have dessert to go, and because we were staying in a room, they kindly agreed which helped us out a lot. As part of recent renovations, the pub has installed a cool looking ice-cream parlour with Hampshire’s own Jude’s ice-cream, so we thought it’d be rude not to try something from there.
The missus and I both chose tasty ice-cream sundaes – honeycomb explosion and rocky road – whilst L was able to choose three scoops of ice-cream with sweet toppings. I’m not quite sure what combination she went for, but it was exactly what you’d imagine it’d look like if a four-year old could pick any ice-cream and sweets they wanted! The whole ice-cream parlour thing was a nice touch and I can see it really appealing to children and families.
Solent Hotel & Spa
Although we didn’t stay at the four start Solent Hotel & Spa, we did spend a bit of time over there. It’s adjacent to the Lodge At Solent and is probably best described as the more sophisticated older sister. It still caters for families – there’s little touches in the rooms such as children’s robes, cookies and activity packs – however it’s more luxurious than budget.
There’s been quite a big refurbishment project recently which includes updates to rooms, the restaurant and spa – it definitely shows as the place looks great and has a real wow factor. It also does a good job of blending old with new – for instance, the dark wooden staircases in reception versus the bright and crisp spa.
During our stay, we visited the spa on a couple of separate occasions. This can be used by hotel guests, members and those who are having spa days, breaks or treatments. If you’re staying at Lodge At Solent, you can pop over to the spa for a small charge of £5 per adult and £3 per child to use the facilities.
We went into the swimming pool on both days and had fun playing and frolicking in the water. I was a little concerned beforehand about being “those parents with the kids” who were disturbing people’s relaxing spa days, but that fear was unfounded.
As well as the large pool – which was split off due to swimming lessons – we found a shallow paddling pool which was great for ‘Beetle’, a whirlpool which L loved, as well as a steam room and sauna. There was an enclosed seating area overlooking the pool for those not swimming, a number of seats around the pool and modern changing facilities.
As it’s a spa, they also offer a wide range of treatments including facials, massages, makeovers, tanning and nails. L was lucky enough to be booked in for a complimentary Little Miss VIP treatment, which gave her a first taste of the life of luxury. This lasts around half an hour, costs £20 and is for those between 3 and 12.
This treatment included a mini manicure and pedicure, plus allowed her to pick the nail polish colours she wanted for fingers and toes. It also included the use of a robe and a glass of pink lemonade whilst she was pampered – however, as she’s not a fan of fizzy drinks, I gratefully drank it whilst I watched on! She chose red for her toes and a sparkly gold for her fingers which she proudly showed off to anyone who did (and didn’t!) care.
The spa is also home to a gym and various fitness classes. Unfortunately, our stay coincided with the refurbishment of the gym at the beginning of November, which meant that we were unable to use it. I’d even packed my gym stuff with the aim of losing my dad bod during our stay! Although it was a bit of a shame, these things happen and their new plans for the gym sound great.
On our second night, we had the pleasure of a complimentary meal at the newly refurbished AA Rosette restaurant within the hotel called The Terrace. Initial impressions were great – it was light, spacious, the design was contemporary and it flirted on the edge of being posh. There was also plenty of seating choices, with tables, booths, cosy corners and even a covered outdoor terrace.
We arrived at 6pm when it opened, were warmly welcomed, were shown to our table and provided with a high chair. Again, from a family-friendly perspective, I’d liked to have seen some activity sheets and crayons provided for L, but we’d brought our own so it didn’t matter too much.
The menu looked and sounded nice, with the food being described as “British cuisine with a Mediterranean influence”. As the kids were getting a bit tired, we decided to skip starters and go straight for the main course. I ordered the seared scallops and sticky pork belly, which came with fries, whilst the missus went with the handmade beef burger, which came with cheese, bacon and fries.
There was a separate children’s menu with some good choices, so L picked the deli board, which was basically a deconstructed ham and cheese sandwich with a side of grapes. ‘Beetle’ isn’t old enough to need something from this menu just yet, but they were happy to give us some baked beans and mashed potato for him to eat.
For dessert, the missus and I both went with the chocolate brownie, which came with seared marshmallows and ice-cream (we swapped peanut ice-cream for salted caramel). L ordered the chocolate donuts which also came with a scoop of ice-cream.
The food was nice. It wasn’t as fine dining as I expected, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Having had the ‘pleasure’ of eating in many hotels during work trips, this was definitely a lot better than many hotel meals I’ve had. I enjoyed the scallops, particularly as I’ve not had them in a while, whilst the brownie certainly delivered that chocolate fix.
From a service point of view, we were made to feel very welcomed, the staff were friendly and attentive, plus they went out of their way to accommodate us, e.g. allowing us to grab a few bits of food from the Chef’s Table for the kids prior to the main meal.
However, we did find service a bit slow, particularly as the restaurant was pretty empty. It took 45 minutes to get our mains and we didn’t leave until 7.45pm. That’s fine if you’re on a date or meeting colleagues after work, but it’s a long time when you have two young kids who are ready for bed and starting to get grumpy. Ideally, we’d have started eating earlier, but the restaurant didn’t open until 6pm.
We didn’t get loads of opportunity to explore the immediate area prior to leaving, but we did have a quick dog walk on the morning of our departure. Having gone through quite a cool circular opening in the fence, we found ourselves at the back of the hotel enjoying a nice stroll through the autumnal foliage in a secluded wooded area.
Out And About
This was our fourth break to Hampshire during recent years and we love the variety of things to do and places to visit. The Lodge At Solent and Solent Hotel & Spa are situated in the town of Fareham – which is in between Portsmouth and Southampton – so it’s really well located to explore the rest of Hampshire and the South Coast.
We obviously spent a chunk of our time enjoying the hotel facilities, but just up the road, we found Whiteley Shopping Centre which had shops, a cinema, restaurants and Rock Up climbing centre – a good option if you want to go somewhere for a few hours close to the hotel. We also visited Gunwharf Quays and the beach at Southsea (more on those below as I’ve written about them before).
We also strayed out of the county with visits to National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum on our way to the hotel, as well as Moors Valley Country Park during our stay. The latter was about 45 minutes away from the hotel and was brilliant – incidentally, one of the members of staff at Parson’s Collar recommended it to us which was much appreciated.
There’s a Go Ape, miniature railway and numerous trails throughout the woodland. We embarked upon the Play Trail – which was about a mile in length – and had some brilliant playgrounds along the way, including a gigantic, wooden bird which is probably the most impressive bit of play equipment I’ve ever seen!
As mentioned, we’ve been to the area on multiple occasions now, so here’s a few additional ideas of family-friendly things to do based on previous visits:
- Beaulieu, cycling and kayaking in the New Forest, bowling and glo-golf, Hawk Conservancy Trust – read here.
- Hillier Gardens, Southsea Beach, day trip to Isle of Wight, Marwell Zoo, Gunwharf Quays – read here.
- Winchester Science Centre, West Wittering Beach, Blue Reef Aquarium, Paulton’s Park (Peppa Pig World) – read here.
We had a really nice short break to Hampshire and enjoyed our experience of staying at the Lodge At Solent and trying out the facilities at Solent Hotel & Spa. It’s evident that they’ve spent a lot of money over the last few years updating everything with the aim of attracting more families (and their dogs!).
Apart from one or two very minor improvements (e.g. dog poo bins outside and kid’s colouring sheets in the restaurants), they’ve done a brilliant job and we’d more than happily return to both the Lodge and the Hotel in the near future.
Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary accommodation at the Lodge At Solent, evening meals at Parson’s Collar pub and Solent Hotel & Spa and access to the Spa at Solent Hotel, including the Little Miss VIP treatment in exchange for sharing an honest review of our experiences.