Embrace long walks, local pubs, fresh air and a spoiling selection of country comforts at one of England's finest luxury hotels
11 September 2020
The Rectory, Crudwell
Set on the edge of the Cotswolds and owned by former music industry executive Alex Payne, The Rectory hotel's homely interiors are embellished with eccentric curios and a subtle hint of revelry, as well as an impressive contemporary art collection that includes Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers. Embracing the building's historic irregularities, each room is individually designed, with roll-top baths and countryside views. There’s an honesty bar on the second floor, where you can enjoy the adult version of a midnight feast or collect fresh milk for a morning brew in bed.
The Glasshouse conservatory restaurant serves a mix of Italian and English comfort food, while The Potting Shed, the hotel’s sister pub, is a few minutes away. Float away the afternoon in the heated outdoor pool, hidden in the picturesque gardens.
Location: Crudwell, Malmesbury SN16 9EP
How to get there: a 10-minute transfer from Kemble station
Go for: Relaxed, informal luxury and quintessentially English gardens
Amenities: Restaurant, The Potting Shed pub, heated outdoor pool
Price: from £150 per night
Cliveden House, Berkshire
Once home to the Astor dynasty and scene of the infamous John Profumo scandal during the 1960s, Cliveden House is now one of Britain’s most luxurious hotels, set on 365 rural acres of National Trust-owned parkland. Meghan Markle stayed here the night before her Royal Wedding and it typically attracts a well-heeled and international set, seeking a slice of Downton Abbey drama in the English countryside.
History and drama flavour the corridors, peppered with suits of armour and ornate marble busts. The relaxed, rustic Astor Grill warmly buzzes with families and weekending couples in tweed and shearling, while the occasion-worthy André Garrett restaurant serves contemporary French cuisine, beneath gilded cornaces and crystal chandeliers. There the sybaritic spa has an indoor and outdoor pool, with Sarah Chapman facials on the treatment menu.
Location: Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead SL6 0JF
How to get there: a 10-minute transfer from Burnham station
Go for: historic, Downton Abbey-style grandeur
Amenities: André Garrett restaurant, Astor Grill brasserie, spa, two swimming pools
Price: from £445 per night
Coworth Park, Ascot
You don’t need to go to the races to enjoy horse riding at Ascot. Coworth Park’s onsite equestrian centre offers lessons on its 240-acre estate, with the ivory country house providing a picturesque backdrop. The theme continues indoors, with equine artwork on the walls and horseshoe motifs embroidered into the bedlinen. Part of The Dorchester Collection, Coworth Park is a former Georgian manor house turned luxurious, five-star retreat, nestled in leafy Berkshire. Outside, designer wellies are unpacked from 4x4s on the gravelled entrance, while cashmere-clad guests return from long, lakeside walks.
There are 70 rooms and suites, with copper roll-top baths, butterscotch furnishings and far-reaching views of the hotel's manicured parklands. For dinner, choose from three restaurants, including Restaurant Coworth Park, where Michelin-starred chef Adam Smith serves his indulgent caviar tart. For a more relaxed dining experience, jump on a golf buggy to the Barn, which serves charcuterie boards, juicy lamb cutlets and crispy game chips by a roaring open fire. In the eco-friendly spa, the 18m pool plays music underwater and is lined with amethyst geodes, semi-precious stones often used for their stress-relieving properties.
Location: Blacknest Road, Sunningdale, Ascot SL5 7SE
How to get there: a 15-minute transfer from Chichester Station
Go for: Countryside glamour and complete luxury
Amenities: eco-friendly spa with 18m pool, three restaurants, equestrian centre
Price: from £415 per night
The Gainsborough Bath & Spa, Bath
“Take the waters” in splendour at the grand Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel. The five-star residence, converted from two Grade II listed buildings in the centre of the city, is the only hotel to offer private direct access to Bath’s natural thermal waters, which bubble up from below the building into the Spa Village. Under the ownership of YTL Hotels group, Gainsborough Spa was renovated in 2017 with painstaking precision, in order to not disturb the UNESCO-listed complex. The result is a grand temple of wellness within a colonnaded atrium, which echoes the building's Roman history and is flooded with natural light.
Back on ground level, the hotel is elegantly classic and has been dressed by American interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud (also responsible for The Dorchester). The restaurant makes for a perfect pre or post splash lunch, helmed by Dan Moon. The Devon-born chef combines local produce with international flavours for a colourful and technically brilliant menu, presented with flair.
Location: Beau Street, Bath BA1 1QY
How to get there: within walking distance of Bath train station
Go for: Classically sumptuous interiors, access to Bath's natural thermal waters
Amenities: Dan Moon restaurant, bath and spa
Price: from £325 per night
Monkey Island Estate, Bray, Berkshire
Taking its name from the mischievous primates that settled here during the 12th century, Monkey Island Estate was once a home for monks before the 3rd Duke of Marlborough acquired the land and commissioned the Palladian Grade I listed Temple and Pavilion. It later became a louche playground for aristocrats and artists during the 1960s, as well as tearaways from nearby Eton College.
The YTL Hotel group bought the estate in 2015 and has spent millions transforming this sleeping giant into a five-star riverside retreat, which reopened in 2019. Monkey-strewn frescoes, originally commissioned by Marlborough, have been painstakingly restored and now envelope the Monkey Bar, adjoined to a new brasserie restaurant. Tropical House of Hackney textiles pepper the property, while bedrooms are classic and cosy in contrast. The wood-pannelled Wedgewood suite is spectacularly ornate, crowned by swirling plasterwork.
Gourmands flock to Bray for its two three-Michelin starred restaurants – Heston Blumenthal Fat Duck and the Roux family’s Waterside Inn – as well as its charming Tudor-style pubs. The Monkey Island Estate meets the standard, serving refined British dishes within a relaxed brasserie setting.
Location: Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2EE
How to get there: a 15-minute transfer from Maindenhead train station
Go for: A luxurious, riverside base from which to explore Bray's culinary haunts
Amenities: restaurant, floating spa set inside a barge on the water
Price: from £350 per night
Hound Lodge, Chichester
Originally christened The Kennels by the first Duke of Richmond, who gave his pampered pooches the run of the place, Hound Lodge has been recently restored for the enjoyment of both man and his best friend. Set on Goodwood's 12,000-acre estate, each of the 10 bedrooms in this country retreat is named after a dog from the Glorious Twenty-Three hunting pack of 1738 and is decorated with pictures, ornaments and antiques that reflect the founding family’s sporting heritage. A private butler and chef are on hand to cater for Lodge guests, who also have access to Goodwood Estate for the duration of their stay. Petrolheads can enjoy an exclusive spin on the world-famous Goodwood motor circuit or an aviation experience from the Goodwood Aerodrome.
Location: Hound Lodge, Pook Lane, Goodwood, Chichester PO18 0PP
How to get there: a 15-minute transfer from Chichester Station
Go for: Dog-friendly, cosy rooms and exclusive access to the Goodwood Estate
Amenities: private butler and chef, two championship golf courses, motor circuit, aerodrome
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath
Set in Bath’s famous Georgian Royal Crescent, this boutique hotel is carved out of two 251-year-old honey-coloured townhouses. The ornate decor is evocative of a bygone era, with elaborate chandeliers, curvaceous staircases, a roaring fireplace in the drawing room and an impressive curation of historic artwork and tapestries.
Choose from 45 suites and rooms, each of which has been individually designed to complement the neoclassical architecture. The beautifully landscaped, secluded garden gently hums with holidaying couples, and is also home to three rescue hedgehogs.
With its vaulted windows and serene atmosphere, the 12-metre swimming pool has a monastic feel, complemented by a hot tub, sauna and six spa treatment rooms. Tattinger Champagne is the order of the day, while the all-day restaurant menu is a smart edit of British fare, which champions local Somerset produce.
Location: 16 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LS
How to get there: a five-minute transfer from Bath Spa station
Go for: relaxation, historic splendour and a base from which to explore the cobblestone streets of Bath
Amenities: private garden, restaurant, swimming pool and spa
Price: from £330 per night
Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire
A multi-million-pound renovation has turned this 18th-century manor in the heart of Dogmersfield Park into a contemporary Four Seasons-worthy bolthole, complete with 133 luxurious guestrooms, a spa (located in the house’s converted stable) and a restaurant, Wild Carrot. The latter is located in a glossy Martin Brudnizki-designed dining room with chef Adam Fargin serving up modern British dishes. Not just for relaxation, the family-friendly hotel offers a series of activities, including clay shooting, yoga and croquet, as well as a Highwire Adventure obstacle course complete with zip wires, tree-canopy bungee jumps and high ropes.
Location: Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield, Hook RG27 8TD
How to get there: a 15-minute transfer from Winchfield train station
Go for: Country rambling and family-friendly activities
Amenities: Wild Carrot restaurant, spa, gym, Highwire Adventure obstacle course, croquet lawn, clay pigeon shooting
Price: from £325 per night
Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire
Raymond Blanc’s Oxfordshire retreat received two Michelin stars in 1984, the year it opened, and has held onto them ever since. Nestled in the picturesque village of Great Milton, Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons is housed in a honey-hued 15th-century manor overlooking verdant lavender strewn lawns and orchards. Organic vegetable and herb gardens supply the kitchen, where head chef Gary Jones has had the run of the place since 1999. French-inspired dishes created using some 90 different herbs and vegetables are served as five-, six- or seven-course tasting menus, with complementing wines sourced from the extensive cellar.
Bellies full, guests can retire to one of the 32 individually-designed rooms, each of which is reminiscent of Blanc’s extensive travels, from the Far-East to the Mediterranean. Book a Garden Suite for your own private slice of the sprawling outdoor space. Those with green thumbs can get their hands dirty at the adjoining Gardening School, or, should they feel inspired to get behind the stove, don an apron at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, where the seasoned chef imparts his tricks of the trade.
Location: Church Road, Oxford, OX44 7PD
How to get there: Located just off the A329 road and 11 miles from Oxford city centre, this is best reached by car
Go for: One of Britain’s best gastronomic experiences
Amenities: Restaurant, cookery school, gardening school, helipad
Price: From £990 per night for a deluxe room, including breakfast
Burley Manor, New Forest
The New Forest Hotels group snapped up this charming 18th-century manor in 2015 and spent £1.8m transforming it into an adults-only restaurant with rooms. Perched on the edge of a local red deer sanctuary, the hotel has an almost safari-like feel to the place – albeit one with roaming ruminants rather than the Big Five. Inside, two roaring fires and a 164-year-old staircase decorate the grand entrance hall. Rooms ranging from Snug to Suite are individually embellished with antique furniture, plush armchairs and floral headboards. Nab a Burley Suite for a balcony with views over the New Forest’s picturesque heath land.
Naturally, the hotel’s food offering draws the crowds. The menu has an unusually Mediterranean inflection, having been inspired by one of the house’s former owners, Mrs Lister-Kay, who is believed to have had an impressive Italian herb garden. The Mediterranean theme continues in the spa, and there is also an outdoor swimming pool from June to September.
Children under 13 aren’t allowed in this adults-only retreat, but guests are welcome to bring along their dogs at a cost of £30 per night. Canine visitors will be treated to their own dog mat, a welcome bag of treats and special bowls to eat and drink from.
Location: 1 Ringwood Road, Burley, Ringwood BH24 4BS
How to get there: a 15-minute transfer from New Milton or Brockenhurst Station
Go for: Mediterranean-inspired dining
Amenities: restaurant, spa, outdoor swimming pool
Price: from £129 per night; dogs welcome for an additional £30 per night
Heckfield Place, Hampshire
Billionaire Gerald Chan’s eco-friendly passion project may have taken more than a decade to complete, but it was certainly worth the wait. Beautifully designed by Ben Thompson, the 38 rooms and six signature suites are tastefully contemporary, with calming sage walls, Persian rugs and impressive artwork, while bespoke minibars and firepits adding a homely touch. From the hotel, guests can enjoy serene, meadow-filled views of the 400-acre estate.
There are two spectacular restaurants, which is no surprise given that Skye Gyngell oversees the kitchen as culinary director, while former Lime Wood sommelier Louise Gordon is in charge of the wine list. The oak-panelled Little Bothy spa offers all-natural Wildsmith treatments, alongside a chic Bodyism gym.
Location: Heckfield, Hook RG27 0LD
How to get there: a 15-minute transfer from Winchfield Station
Go for: Beautifully understated, eco-friendly luxury, Skye Gyngell's cooking
Amenities: Bodyism gym, spa, restaurant, activities including horseriding
Price: from £415 per night
University Arms, Cambridge
The oldest hotel in Cambridge reopened its doors in 2018 following an £80m renovation and redesign by classical architect John Simpson and interior designer du jour Martin Brudnizki, who brought a strong sense of nostalgia for halcyon days spent at school and plenty of references to the university after which it’s named. Rebranded as the University Arms, it boasts 192 rooms, each named after a Cambridge-associated figure, such as Stephen Hawking, Virginia Woolf or Charles Darwin. Miniature libraries inspired by the rooms’ namesakes have been curated by London bookshop Heywood Hill, which also had a hand in the books that line the walls of the impressive Library.
The restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, is headed up by Gordon Ramsay protégé Tristan Welch and serves modern renditions of classic English dishes, from well-stuffed sandwiches to comforting casseroles and suckling pig. Guests can make use of complimentary bicycles to explore the parks and punts of Cambridge.
Location: University Arms Hotel, Regent Street, Cambridge CB2 1AD
How to get there: within walking distance of Cambridge station
Go for: a reader’s retreat among Cambridge’s literary legends
Amenities: restaurant, library, complimentary bike use
Price: from £225 per night
Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire
The grandeur of Lucknam Park begins with the driveway, a mile-long stretch lined with lime and beech trees, which sits under the watchful eye of the Palladium mansion at the end. Set in 500 acres of sprawling parkland, this Wiltshire-based country manor dates back to the 1720s and was maintained as a family home until 1987, when it opened its doors to the public.
Inside, 43 bedrooms are individually-styled with antique four poster beds, sink-in armchairs and marble bathrooms — 13 of which are ensuite. Dinner is served in the palatial former ballroom, where ornate chandeliers and wall sconces recall its resplendent history. In the kitchen, head chef Hywel Jones cooks up the seasonal British dishes that earned him a Michelin star in 2006, an accolade he has held onto ever since. For those seeking relaxation, the resident spa is award-winning and for good reason — the EPSA treatment list is extensive, and the amenities even more so. Two swimming pools, five thermal cabins, a salt water plunge pool, experience showers and a skincare mixology bar are at your disposal.
Location: Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14
How to get there: Best by car; the hotel has valet parking for guests and there are three electric charging points in the main car park
Go for: A palatial retreat that ticks all the luxury boxes
Amenities: Restaurant, spa, horse riding, business facilities
Price: From £375 per night for two people
Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Lake District
The main house at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House in Windermere boasts a wing of junior suites and master bedrooms, as well as six separate garden rooms. If relaxation is on the cards though, opt for a Spa Lodge. These five detached cedar-clad cabins sit on stilts, surveying the landscape. Inside, the calming, neutral décor provides an uncluttered backdrop to the floor-to-ceiling windows, which frame panoramic views of the rolling, russet-toned moors. Soak up the scenery in your en-suite spa, complete with steam room and an oversized stone bath, as well as an outdoor sauna and hydrotherapy hot tub in the private garden.
There are two excellent restaurants on site: Michelin-starred Hrishi celebrates Cumbria’s historic associations with the spice trade – home-smoked Loch Duart salmon belly is flecked with piccalilli and cubes of luminous green cucumber jelly; and spiced quail sits on a bed of sweet and sour sultanas – while over at Gilpin Spice, the white tablecloths and tasting menus are replaced with striped orange banquettes and pan-Asian tapas.
Location: Crook Road, Windermere LA23 3NE
How to get there: 15-minute transfer from Windermere station
Go for: a glamorous spa experience, surrounded by nature
Amenities: Michelin-starred Hrishi, Gilpin Spice restaurant, en-suite spa
Price: Spa lodge is priced from £625 per night and sleeps six
The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent
The litter of The Pig hotels is ever growing, and the British holidaymaker is all the better for it. The brand’s Kent outpost opened in 2019, bringing its signature country chic and food-first philosophy to the quaint village of Bridge (so anticipated was its launch that some 4,000 people booked in before it had even opened). The Grade II listed red-bricked house was the former home of Peter Malkin, who during his residency turned the basement into one of Kent’s hottest nightclubs, which hosted musical royalty such as Led Zeppelin and The Kinks.
The building’s rock and roll past is woven into The Pig at Bridge Place, where period features are offset with sumptuous deep velvet upholstery, low-lighting and burgundy panelled walls. There are seven bedrooms in the main house, 12 more in the adjoining Coach House and a romantic two-storey hideaway for two in The Barn, each as characterful and cosy as the next. As famed for its food as it is its beautiful interiors, The Pig’s Kent kitchen doesn't disappoint — the chefs take their cues from the garden, and a revolving menu of homegrown dishes and accompanying Kentish wines is delicious and suitably piggy.
Location: Bourne Park Road, Canterbury, CT4 5LF
How to get there: Get the fast train from St Pancras International to Canterbury, and hop in a taxi for the final 15 minutes of the journey.
Go for: Pigging out at the restaurant
Amenities: Restaurant, spa, bar
Price: From £109 per night
The Idle Rocks, Cornwall
The Idle Rocks has been a part of the community of St. Mawes since 1913 when it was built on the site of an old local bakery. Establishing itself as a luxury coastal hotel in the 1930s, the hotel was bought by its current owners in 2010, who, after refurbishing the entire property, reopened it in 2013. Perched on rocks in the heart of St Mawes, on the Roseland Peninsula, The Idle Rocks is a Relais & Châteaux hotel and offers just 19 bedrooms. Each room takes inspiration from its coastal location and is individually designed. The understated bolthole offers guests south-facing views across the sea and boasts its own award-winning restaurant led by head chef Dorian Janmaat, previously of the prestigious Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire.
Location: Harbourside, Tredenham Road, St Mawes, Truro TR2 5AN
How to get there: best by car. When using Sat Navs, choose ‘avoid ferries’ to ensure the most direct route
Go for: relaxation, to kick off your shoes and re-engage with the simpler pleasures in life
Amenities: award-winning restaurant, terrace, hidden cinema
Price: contact [email protected]
Pennyhill Park, Surrey
Located in 123 acres of Surrey countryside, this handsome 19th-century house has scooped up gongs for both its spa and restaurants, and it’s for these amenities that visitors flock.
Michelin-starred Matt Worswick heads up the main restaurant, The Latymer, and he’s used his experience on Masterchef: The Professionals to curate a series of tasting menus themed around seasonal ingredients. A second, more casual restaurant, The Brasserie, serves tasty beef carpaccio, roasted lamb rump and ribeye steaks, as well as a comprehensive kids’ menu. In the spa, swimmers are spoiled for choice with eight indoor and outdoor pools, including the ethereal Ballroom Pool, which has underwater music for a submarine show. Take advantage of the seemingly endless list of Jacuzzis, herbal saunas, steam rooms and a bohemian-sounding sensory room complete with “stars in the sky” lighting. There is even a series of “experience showers” ranging from highland mist to tropical rain. To ensure optimum relaxation, the spa is adults only; this does mean that mini swimmers are sadly confined to the pool outside.
The rest of the hotel is charmingly quaint, with individually-designed rooms and suites with decadent four-poster beds and a pillow menu complete with pregnancy poufs. Each room has a different name and complementing theme: the Snowdrop Room is decorated with a kitsch green and purple floral print, sink-in armchairs and plush velvet upholstery. The highlight is the ensuite YinYan bathroom, which has its own giant Jacuzzi tub – just in case the mega spa hasn’t provided you with enough opportunity to relax. It’s not all about winding down, however, and there’s the chance to try your hand at a plethora of activities. Sign yourself up for pistol shooting, archery, tennis, golf and croquet, or explore the neighbouring Swinley Forest by bike.
Location: London Road, Bagshot GU19 5EU
How to get there: a 20-minute transfer from Woking Station
Go for: The award-winning spa, with no less than 23 treatment rooms
Amenities: two restaurants, eight indoor and outdoor pools, spa, state-of-the-art fitness suite, outdoor activities including archery, croquet and clay pigeon shooting.
Price: from £296 per night
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