Do you really need an excuse to escape the city? I certainly didn’t.

The mere mention of food was enough for me. But when drink was added to the equation I had my bags packed.

When I found out both were on offer in one of my favourite parts of the world, The New Forest, I didn’t need asking twice, I just climbed into the car and set off.

An invitation to enjoy afternoon tea at the iconic Montagu Arms Hotel in Beaulieu and dinner at Careys Manor Hotel were the icing on the cake and I was on the M27 in a flash.

It is hard to believe this will be The New Forest’s first Food & Drink Festival. With the abundance of great dining experiences available and some of the best local produce you’ll find anywhere in the country, it’s high time The New Forest showed off what is has to offer.

Our first experience was the incredibly beautiful Montagu Arms Hotel. We walked through the delightful gardens before being welcomed to take afternoon tea.

Now, with half a century on the clock I don’t know quite how I’ve managed to miss out on this very English pleasure but as first experiences go this one was fantastic.

Steeped in tradition of course everything about it was genteel, tasteful and done with great style. The sandwiches, crusts cut off of course – (excluding childhood) another first for me, were followed by a spectacular array of the most beautiful home-made cakes. The fine loose leaf tea itself was chosen from a menu as extensive and varied as you could possibly hope for.

However, our charming host, Paul, says the hotel plans to make the whole experience even more special by encouraging guests to make their selection by actually touching and smelling samples of the tea.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by this type of attention to detail when I learned the quite exquisite tea, including the freshly baked scones, had been made for us by the hotels’ own Michelin-starred chef Matthew Tomkinson.

The visit was made complete by meeting Matthew and being taken on a full tour of the kitchen he is rightly so proud of. He was only too pleased to show us the quite incredible improvements he’s made and to talk about the quality of the team he’s developed at the Montagu Arms. An inspiring half an hour with a truly inspiring chef and all-round great bloke was the perfect end to a great afternoon.

From here we travelled just half a dozen more miles through The New Forest to our evening destination Careys Manor Hotel.

After briefly settling into our sumptuous room we were escorted to the hotel’s Cambium restaurant. Here, we were not only in the hands of another great chef, Alistair Craig, but we were even treated, as all guests are, to the services of hotel’s wine expert. His sole mission was to talk us through and advise us in our wine selection – something he did expertly, and he’s quite right, German wine is remarkably good.

I couldn’t possibly do justice to the quite incredible meal we were treated to that evening. If you want to sample food of the highest possible quality in the most fantastic setting then you really will have to visit Careys Manor and try it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

However, a great dining experience, is by no means all this excellent hotel has to offer. The following day we were introduced to SenSpa.

Described as the best place to leave your every day cares at the door, this sensory space will leave your body glowing, your mind renewed and your soul soothed.

It certainly is the most incredible place to immerse yourself – spend one day here and you will feel as if you’ve been away on a week’s holiday.

Again, I couldn’t describe all the amazing range of experiences on offer in details or the quality of the facilities but suffice it to say SenSpa is so impressive and extensive guests are supplied with a map to get around.

We couldn’t possibly experience everything, but just some of the things on offer are: A hydrotherapy pool; relaxation room; Thai temple studio; an ice room; crystal steam room; rhassoul mud room; more than dozen treatment rooms; hamman rooms, health showers; tepidarium; a herbal sauna; quiet rooms; laconicum.

There is, of course, a fantastic swimming pool, gymnasium and a whole host of treatments available which will all leave you feeling so much better than when you arrived.

The New Forest is just 89 minutes by train from London Waterloo and less than two minutes from the end of the M27.

So, the Food and Drink Festival, October 31 to November 6, is the ideal excuse to grab an away day and overnighter or a weekend – the chance to savour not only the finest food and drink from one of the UK’s best-kept foodie destination secrets.

There are more than 30 events taking place to celebrate the New Forest’s culinary heritage – it goes right back to before King William the Conqueror, so escape the city and go discover it right now.