With European travel looking increasingly dicey as travellers seek to dodge stringent quarantine measures, there’s one type of holiday that’s not going out of fashion any time soon: the British country house hotel mini break.
During lockdown the very words ‘mini break’ almost lost their meaning. After three months dreaming of the opportunity to jet off to the tropical luxury of the nearest Homebase, the concept of being able to finally head out of the house and spend a weekend being waited on hand-and-foot felt impossible. But now they’re open again and here are the hotels and of dream destinations that make for the perfect staycation.
What the Heckfield? The Georgian country house hotel is a favourite with the likes of Cara Delevingne and Liv Tyler, royals and Insta-famouses alike. The restaurant’s also a strong advocate of sustainability, with the food for Skye Gyngell’s restaurant coming straight from the traditional walled garden, the 400 acre farm and bio-dynamic market garden..
As befits a hotel that’s hosted Beckhams and Meghan and Harry, the interiors are utterly divine, with a simple aesthetic that comes from great design, with Heckfield succeeding in being both grand and intimate simultaneously.
The backdrop to iconic scenes in Bond film Goldfinger or drugs film Layer Cake, depending on your preference, Stoke Park is the nation’s most iconic golf clubhouse (sorry St Andrews!) and instantly recognisable.
Rooms are spilt between the mansion and the pavilion, with more traditional designs in the mansion (oil paintings, antiques, four posters and suchlike), while The Pavilion is a little more contemporary. Excitingly you can actually stay in the room where Bridget Jones shacks up with Daniel Cleaver in mini break heaven.
The Buckinghamshire club and 5* hotel is gorgeous, lavish and redefines the term ‘lap of luxury’. And post-lockdown the hotel appears to have benefitted from a huge boom in business, as socially distanced deals are done on the pristine golf course and couples flock to one of Britain’s most romantic destination hotels.
Don’t be fooled by the proximity to London, a weekend at Coworth Park is as relaxing and restorative as a week spent anywhere exotic. The perfect mini-break location, the Ascot hotel and Michelin Star restaurant wow from the moment you arrive.
The facilities are second-to-none, with eminently comfortable rooms and suites overlooking manicured lawns and a polo field beyond. But what sets Coworth Park apart is its staff, who always go above-and-beyond. Oh, and get the tasting menu, it’s impossible to begrudge.
The Newt In Somerset
It’s the perfect country house hotel. Set in rural Somerset, The Newt is simply fabulous. Beautiful simplicity at every turn.
Set within a working estate, the house has been meticulously designed by Karen Roos, former editor of Elle Decoration South Africa, and her attention to detail along with rustic styling give the house a unique and special feel.
Perfectly formed, with just 23 rooms, dine in the Botanical Rooms ideally after a stroll round the breathtaking gardens.
Where: Boringdon Hall Hotel, Boringdon Hill, Colebrook, Plympton, Devon, PL7 4DP
Straddling town and country, Boringdon Hall in Devon is ideal as a destination or a stop-off toward Cornwall. Don’t be put off by the industrial nautical metropolis that is nearby Plymouth, Boringdon Hall is tranquil and exquisite.
Relaxation comes easily here, either in the Gaia Spa or the luscious rooms and suites, each replete with four-poster beds that could not be more in keeping with the ancient.
Eating and drinking are, of course, centre stage thanks to Head Chef Scott Paton whose Àclèaf Restaurant showcases his creative dishes using only the finest locally sourced ingredients.
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Cotswold stone, one of the best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds (and far beyond) is Thyme.
The 31-bedroom hotel feels more like the home of a friend, albeit a friend so lucky that you kinda hate them for having the most perfect house in the whole wide world.
The boutique hotel is the perfect ‘chocolate box’ stereotype with its postcard-perfect stone-washed houses, but the interiors are carefully created to be modern and stylish.
Take a stroll round the 150-acre estate before taking dinner at The Ox Barn (quite literally, a former oxen house) followed by a cocktail in the sheep-themed ‘Baa’ (geddit?).
Where: Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7FZ
Is there anywhere that Martin Brudnizki hasn’t designed? The restaurant and bar at Lime Wood Hotel have had the same treatment as London’s Annabel’s, Brasserie of Light and 45 Jermyn Street, but it’s not just Brudnizki whose waved his interior decorating wand over Lime Wood. Step forward The Handbook’s designer Ben Pentreath who styled many of the rooms at this Hampshire home-from-home.
A big brother to the much loved Pig Hotel, the regency house in the heart of the New Forest is reached via a sweeping driveway amid beautiful grounds. Inside the rooms are cosy, with deep copper bathtubs perfect for relaxing in after a muddy country walk (all the rooms come with multi-coloured Hunter wellies, natch).
Dining at Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett’s colab with Luke Holder in the form of Hartnett Holder & Co is the delight you’d expect from two leading chefs, after which you can curl up by the log fire and read a book while sipping a postprandial cocktail.
Set in the New Forest, Chewton Glen offers guests a lavish spa, glorious rooms and a bespoke experience that will be as memorable as it is sumptuous.
If the perfectly appointed rooms aren’t to your taste, then a number of luxury treehouse rooms are also available, 30 feet above ground level.
Chewton Glen is exactly what springs to mind when someone says ‘country house hotel’. And it’s idyllic at that.
The Pig has spawned a litter of piglets, with half a dozen versions of the hotel across the south and more on the way. It’s easy to see why, The Pig takes all the ingredients of the country house weekend, and somehow combines them to create something entirely unexpected and even better and expected.
Set in a country mansion with just 30 rooms the intimate hotel has a rustic, mismatched, charm and a sense of bespoke luxury that makes it the epitome of country house experiences. Add in remarkable dining and stunning surroundings and you’ve the perfect minibreak.
Grab your wellies and climb aboard the Chelsea tractor, we’re going to the farmhouse. Specifically Soho Farmhouse, the home of the Soho House set when they’re not in Soho (or LA, Istanbul, Bombay or wherever else the perpetually expanding fashionable members’ club opens next).
Officially members’ only, Soho Farmhouse cleverly opened to plenty of hype as a Cotswolds celeb hotspot at that time when Chipping Norton, home of Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron and the hairy one from The Sun, seemed the most fashionable place on earth.
Brexit, sandwichgate and Leveson later, Chipping Norton has lost some of its buzz, which means that a Soho Farmhouse booking is a lot more possible if you’re willing to be flexible, simply enquire within.
And it’s no less glamorous or luxurious, with various restaurants, cool rooms, a boathouse swimming pool and various cabins to make a stay infinitely memorable.
Not all country house hotels are in, y’know, the country… In the centre of historic Bath lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site The Royal Crescent, a masterpiece of architecture and home to one of Britain’s most remarkable hotels.
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa occupies a section of the famous crescent, a 45 room hotel that ensures the stunning property remains very much in the present, while taking guests back to past ages past with it’s state rooms and interiors.
The Spa and Bath House is ideal for relaxation, with a 12 metre relaxation pool, vitality pool, sauna and steam room. If you could possibly tire of the hotel, then the unspoilt Georgian city is magical, with the ghosts of the likes of Beau Brummell and Jane Austen on very corner and history hanging over each stroll and exploration.
The Cotswolds is difficult to beat for sheer breathtaking beauty. It’s like every American’s perception of what Britain looks like, all in one place. And amidst all the butter coloured stone and rolling hills likes Cowley Manor.
Glamourous and quirky, the traditional stately home, formerly owned by the Horlicks family (the hot drinks people), is imposing and traditional. But venture inside and you’re immersed in contemporary design, art and, if that’s your cup of tea/Horlicks as much as it is mine, beauty.
A design ethos that fuses old and new with a sense of humour (look out for the papier-mâché heads scattered throughout), and bright and bold commissions from young designers sit alongside traditional English country house furnishings. The restaurant, under chef David Kelman, offers fine dining, should you not want to venture into nearby Cheltenham.
The clue’s in the name, it’s Great! This Elizabethan pile is packed with luxury, including a Michelin Starred restaurant, inside and ornate gardens and parkland out.
With 43 rooms, more wood panelling than you could shake a suit of armour at, Great Fosters combines archetypal country house shizz with modern luxury.
The result, all within a stone’s throw of London, is impressive.
There are few country houses that sit prominently in the public imagination; Blenheim Palace, perhaps, Chequers and Highgrove probably but up there is Cliveden. Having played a colourful role in 20th century politics, it’s now one of Britain’s most impressive luxury hotels.
Vast in scale and set within 376 acres, every aspect of a stay at Cliveden is seeped in history and extravagance (to put that in context, it has a helipad…)
Worth every second of a visit.
We’ll raise a glass to Lympstone Manor, and with its own on-site vineyard that should be pretty easy to arrange.
The Devon hotel offers stunning natural beauty and sea views as well as a fabulous hotel and restaurant. The latter brings the exceptional Michael Caines to the table, literally, with unbeatable European cuisine.
21 bedrooms, each gorgeously styled, await guests, not to mention all that one of Britain’s best counties has to offer.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
We’d expect no less from Belmond, the people who bring us the actual Orient Express, than Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, one of the best destination restaurants in Britain and with it an exquisite hotel.
The Raymond Blanc restaurant takes centre stage, using produce from the hotel’s gardens to create a menu that’s mind-blowingly brilliant. But the country house hotel, set in a picturesque Oxfordshire village, is equally special.