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 draw thanks to head chef Nathan Eades, perhaps Jerusalem artichoke garden salad or honey glazed duck with Szechuan pepper, followed by orange soufflé and dark chocolate ice cream. There’s a gastro pub if you want something simpler: local fish pie, ham and chips with poached eggs. A kitchen garden provides much for the table, too. Beautiful walks start from the front door.