11 of the Best English Staycations

Luxurious lodgings for an extraordinary staycation; introducing England’s best boltholes

27 December 2018

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, was voted the second best spa hotel in the UK at the 2018 Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Travel Awards and with good reason. It 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, redolent of its Roman history and flooded with natural light.

Back on ground level, the rest of the hotel is elegantly classic and has been dressed by American interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud (also responsible for The Dorchester). The hotel 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. 


Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire

A multi-million pound renovation has turned this 18th century manor in the heart of Dogmersfield Park into a Four Seasons-worthy bolthole, complete with 133 guestrooms, a spa (located in the house’s converted stable) and a recently renovated restaurant, Wild Carrot. The latter is located in a Martin Brudnizki-designed space with chef Adam Fargin serving up modern British dishes. Not just for relaxation, the 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.

From £325 per night, fourseasons.com

Burley Manor, New Forest

The New Forest Hotels group snapped up this charming 18th-century manor in 2015 and, following a £1.8m refurbishment, it relaunched as a 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. Today, the kitchen cooks up a series of tapas dishes – including mushroom arancini and salt fish croquettes – as well as sharing plates of Moroccan spiced lamb, roasted belly of pork and Cypriot-style guinea fowl.

The Mediterranean theme continues in the spa, where Temple Spa has taken over the two treatment rooms. Book yourself in for a Power Breakfast Facial, an oat, honey and fruit juice-based treatment designed to revitalise the skin. Outside, a swimming pool is open from June through to September.

Children under 13 aren’t allowed in this adults only retreat, but guests staying in the Classic and Deluxe rooms, or the Garden and Burley suites, 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.

From £129 per night, including breakfast, burleymanor.com

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 with crispy fish goujons and a crowd-pleasing macaroni and cheese. 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.

From £296 per night including breakfast, exclusive.co.uk

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. Each of the 10 bedrooms
in the 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.

POA, goodwood.com

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 horse shoe motifs embroidered into the bedlinen. Elsewhere, an eco-friendly spa boasts a rooftop herb garden and a ‘Spatisserie’ for healthy treats and afternoon tea. For dinner, there are three restaurants to choose from. Don’t miss Restaurant Coworth Park, where Michelin-starred chef Adam Smith serves his indulgent caviar tart.

From £415, dorchestercollection.com

Heckfield Place, Hampshire

Billionaire Gerald Chan’s passion project may have taken more than a decade to complete, but it was certainly worth the wait. Designed by Ben Thompson, the 38 rooms and six signature suites are designed in a rustic-meets-chic style with bespoke mini bars and firepits adding a homely touch. In the restaurant, Skye Gyngell oversees the kitchen as culinary director and former Lime Wood sommelier Louise Gordon is in charge of the wine list. The bijou spa – currently just three treatment rooms – is set to expand in 2019, with an infinity pool on the cards. Until then, guests can enjoy a Bodyism gym and wild swimming in the lake.

From £350 including breakfast, heckfieldplace.com

University Arms, Cambridge

The oldest hotel in Cambridge reopened its doors in August following an £80m renovation and redesign by classical architect John Simpson and interior designer du jour Martin Brudnizki. Rebranded as the University Arms, it boasts 192 rooms, each named after a Cambridge-associated figure, such as Stephen Hawking and 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 Library. The restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, is headed up by Gordon Ramsay protégé Tristan Welch.

From £205, universityarms.com

Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire

An architectural ode to Who’s Who, Brocket Hall has been the stomping ground of many a historical figure, including King George IV and prime ministers Lords Melbourne and Palmerston. Each of estate’s 46 bedrooms bears the name of a notable resident who either lived in or was associated with the house. Book yourself into the Prince Regent suite to ogle the chinoiserie-style hand-painted wallpaper commissioned by the royal himself, or dine in the 60ft ballroom, where Lady Caroline Lamb introduced the waltz to England. Outside, two championship golf courses are available for those who wish to practice their putt.

From £165 for a single room, including breakfast, brocket-hall.co.uk

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Lake District

The main house at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House in Windermere feels more like a country home than a hotel, charmingly cluttered with knick-knacks, mismatched armchairs and the type of squidgy, all-eveloping sofas that are impossible to sit on without being swallowed up. There’s a wing of junior suites and master bedrooms, as well as six separate garden rooms, but if relaxation is on the cards, 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.

After all that pampering you won’t want to venture far for dinner, so it’s just as well that 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. End the evening with a nightcap at Après Spice Dome, a transparent pop-up snug installed in the garden until February – and listen to the melodic pitter-patter of the rain with a chocolate grappa in hand.

Spa Lodge, from £625 per room including breakfast, thegilpin.co.uk

The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath

Set in Bath’s famous Georgian Royal crescent, this hotel is carved out of two 251-year-old townhouses, each with their own private gardens and original period details. As you’d expect, the hotel is evocative of a bygone era, with its roaring fire in the genteel drawing room to the elaborate chandeliers, oil paintings and curvaceous staircases. Choose from 45 suites and rooms, each of which has been individually designed to complement the Georgian architecture. Venture outside to peruse its quaint English garden.

From £330 per night in a double deluxe room, including breakfast, royalcrescent.co.uk