Breakfasts and Beds: 11, Carey's Cottages, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
01590 622 276
by Hashley Brown
Everywhere. Every book, picture, ornament or sculpture is a horse. And if through some thematic slip it's not equine, then it's a bird, or a hippo, or a panda, or a cat, or a dog. But mostly horses. Even the book casually slung by the bath is a novel starring a horse in a dramatic lead. Oh, and when you look out of the toilet window there's even a real horse looking back at you. This is more shrine than BnB, and when you look harder there're even a few religious icons; occasionally crucifixes peer down on the pile of saddles.
Stumble upon this unassuming cottage in the New Forest and it does feel like wandering into the disturbed dreams of a particularly horsey little girl, who also loves all the other animals on God's earth. But once you're past the initial shock, and wondering whether you'll find a horses head in your bed (maybe she shoots them in the face and makes sausages out of their bodies, my drunken comrade pondered) then 11 Carey's Cottages has all the charm of staying in a well-ordered antique shop.
After a deep sleep, undisturbed by horse heads or otherwise, we awoke with a surprising sprightliness that comes only from being hunkered down under freshly heavy blankets in an airy country house. Breakfast was heralded by the chiming of a grandfather clock and the tuneful chirping of a clutch of budgerigars, and the reassuring distant smell of frying bacon. Immaculately presented, the dining room was as far as you can get from generic Ikea-n catering, and the opposite of the over-manicured period guesthouse - it was clearly simply the home of our mildly eccentric host. As well as the oil paintings in the conservatory, and the stuffed magpie peering from behind a door; there was a sense of whimsy about the crockery designs, the jumble of teaspoons were old and monogrammed and from the depths of the last century.
Food was good, and followed the three course breakfast plan. Cereal to start; eggs, bacon and sausage to follow; and rounds of toast, jam and butter to end; and all accompanied by an ever replenished pot of tea. It wasn't the most gourmand of breakfasts I've ever eaten, but it fitted the surroundings so well. Immaculately presented in a homely fashion it made the perfect start to a rainy Sunday. And no, the sausages weren't made from horses.