Beaulieu, an ancient royal hunting ground, was gifted to Cistercian monks by King John in 1204. Their abbey took 40 years to build and you can visit its ruins in the nearby grounds of Palace House, seat of the Montagu family since 1538. As for the village, its tiny high street is a hotchpotch of 17th-century timber-framed houses that totter by the tidal estuary drinking in the view. The hotel dates to 1742, but was re-modelled in 1925, giving interiors an Arts & Crafts country-house feel. You’ll find roaring fires and deep sofas, then a library bar and a courtyard garden where you can eat in summer. Chic bedrooms come with period furniture, smart fabrics, fresh flowers and robes in spotless bathrooms. Downstairs, ambrosial food is the big surprise, perhaps truffle risotto with wild mushrooms, saddle of roe deer with parsnip purée, Seville orange soufflé with pepper ice-cream. There’s a gastro pub if you want something lighter: local fish pie, ham and chips with poached eggs from resident hens. A kitchen garden provides much for the table, too. Beautiful walks start from the front door.