Here at The Handbook we spend most of our time focusing on all the best hotels London has to offer (that’s pretty much a full time job in itself) but what if you want to escape London for a weekend? We have rounded up 15 stylish/historical/grand (delete as applicable) hotels all within about 2.5 hours of London, so dig out your car keys, pack your overnight bag and get ready to fill your lungs with fresh air…
What: Hampshire's Boutique Inn
Why: In the time it takes to get from some parts of London to another you could be at The Huntsman of Brockenhurst, tucked away in the depths of the New Forest. The boutique inn which has been open just over a year, is home to 13 bedrooms, each one named after at traditional game animal – a nod to the past when the forest was a royal hunting ground. With soft earthy tones, fine cotton bed linen, botanical details, luxurious wool rugs and patterned fabrics the rooms are quintessentially British. In the restaurant you’ll find mismatched wooden furniture, copper furnishings, hexagonal tiling and a menu full of seasonal dishes. If you’re particularly hungry then go for the 35oz Bull’s Head – a double bone-in rib-eye steak to share that has been butterflied to mimic a bull’s head. As well as a terrace and pretty cottage a garden the boutique also has its own skittle alley for rainier days when you can’t walk in the woods.
1 hour 36 minutes from London
Where: New Forest National Park, Lyndhurst Road, Brockenhurst. Hampshire, SO42 7RH
What: Unapologetic Seaside Luxury
Why: The House of Hastings is a home-from-home just five minutes from the beach in Hastings. Unapologetically luxurious, the five storey regency town house has just five rooms, so there’ll only be a maximum of ten guests, so it’s perfect when you want to escape city life, hunker down and switch off. Mixing vibrant contemporary touches with vintage furniture, the hotel is the work of renowned interior designer and co-owner Shaun Clarkson. Whilst it may be small that doesn’t mean they aren’t mighty. Whether you want a helicopter ride, a picnic on the beach, a private chef or fancy going riding they can organise it for you. There’s also a cinema room and a fernery garden and terrace for soaking up the sun with a cocktail. Stay in the Admiral Suite which takes up the entire second floor and with its huge bay window you can watch the sun rise over the horizon.
1 hour 38 minutes from London
Where: 57 Croft Road, Hastings Old Town, East Sussex TN34 3HJ
What: Recently Refurbished Boutique Exeter Escape
Why: Escape further afield and head down to Exeter – their newest boutique hotel to be precise. City Gate hotel has undergone an extensive refurbishment and now boasts 14 luxurious rooms with interiors inspired by the city’s rich history of the docks and the extensive textile past. Lavish bathrooms add hotel standard luxury and unique, quirky touches in each room makes the space feel your own. The hotel’s dining room and conservatory showcase seasonal cooking from breakfast right through to dinner, with a mean Sunday roast. Make time to visit The Cellar Bar – a secret bar downstairs – for a cocktail or craft beer.
3 hours 30 minutes from London
Get 30% off food, drink and accommodation when you quote ‘The Handbook’ when booking via the website: www.citygatehotel.com or by calling 01392 495 811. Offer valid until Tuesday 2nd May.
Where: Iron Bridge, Lower North Street, Exeter, EX4 3RB
What: 5 Star New Forest Retreat
Why: A quick scroll on Instagram has probably revealed a photo of Lime Wood Hotel at some point or another. The immaculate Regency era building, reached via sweeping driveway, is a favourite spot for a weekend getaway in the heart of the New Forest. De-stress in the spa’s mud house, your room’s huge bathtub or curl up with a book by a roaring log fire. Want to get outside? Borrow bikes or go on a long walk. You’ll be needing wellies for that; good news then that the hotel’s welly room is packed with Hunter wellies in every colour.
2 hours 29 from London
Where: Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7FZ
What: Georgian Grandeur in the Heart of Cheltenham
Why: The beautiful Georgian townhouse, situated at the edge of Cheltenham’s Imperial Gardens is perfect for a respite from hectic London. Each bedroom is individually designed, so no stay will be the same, though that is not to say your experience will be diminished in any way! You can choose a room overlooking the gardens, or perhaps you’d prefer a room tucked away in the quietest corners of the hotel. In the morning, we would strongly advise a visit to the restaurant – it’s had rave reviews and we’re not surprised. Enjoy the Cornflake & cinnamon French toast with Neal’s Yard crème frâiche or the grilled Severn & Wye kipper with grilled tomatoes & anchovy butter whilst sat in your tourquiose leather seat, admiring the chandeliers and artwork.
Where: 131 The Promenade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1NW
What: English Countryside Estate Escape
Why: Situated on a 5,000 acre private estate, Wilderness Reserve is not a single hotel, rather, it’s a collection of cottages, farmhouses and manors. So, for example, you could choose to stay in the Moat Cottage which sits atop a hill 15 minutes away from the main estate, or maybe you’d choose to stay in The Clockhouse, which formerly were the estate’s stables, complete with a private gated courtyard. The estate offers 50 bedrooms in total. Fill your day with a swim in the pool, a round of golf or simply a cycle around the grounds. This is English country estate at its finest.
2 hours 17 from London
Where: Yoxford Road, Sibton, Suffolk, IP17 2LZ
What: Traditional Country Club
Why: Stoke Park became UK’s first ever country club and hotel in 1908 and has won all sorts of awards ever since. It’s located in the middle of gardens, lakes and monuments while the inside has been furnished with art, antiques and handmade furniture. The bedrooms are nothing short of luxurious but you won’t be spending much time in your bedroom as there’s a golf course, tennis courts, a spa, and award winning restaurants. As a bonus, it’s also served as a location for lots of films, like Layer Cake, Bridget Jones’s Diary and James Bond’s Goldfinger and Tomorrow Never Dies.
54 minutes from London
Where: Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4PG
What: A Sussex Spa Break
Why: When it comes to luxury spa breaks, Alexander House is where you want to be. Their Utopia Spa has won awards and is reminiscent of a Graeco-Roman bath house, with a wide range of treatments on offer. Other than that, the hotel has trekking trails, tennis courts and a state of the art gym. The rooms themselves are individually designed but all offer beautiful views over Sussex’s countryside.
And you can arrange for chocolate dipped strawberries and chilled Champagne to be waiting in your room – who can say no to that?!
55 minutes from London
Where: East Street, Turners Hill, Crawley, RH10 4QD
What: A Royal Stay
Why: Firstly, who wouldn’t want to stay in a castle?! Besides that, Thornbury Castle is set in the middle of acres of landscaped grounds while the hotel itself brings together modern excellence and historic, traditional decor. Think four-poster beds, open fireplaces, a grand hall and a dungeon dining room. Guests can step back in time and learn the basics of falconry or archery and if not there’s always the spa. It’s surely a majestic place to stay, plus it was once the home of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, and that’s pretty cool if you ask us.
Where: Thornbury Castle, Castle Street, Thornbury, Gloucesteshire, BS35 1HH
What: Wiltshire Wonderfulness
Why: The hotel was maintained as a family home until 1987 when it opened it’s doors to the public. Take advantage of the 500 acres of land it possesses with horseback rides – the hotel has an equestrian centre and 35 horses. Or perhaps take a trip to Bath, or Stonehenge, or Castle Combe. The hotel’s restaurant has a Michelin star, but if you’d prefer a relaxed meal, there’s the Brasserie. Treat yourself to a spa treatment or take a course at the cookery school. You’ll need more than just a weekend for this one.
2 hours 24 minutes from London
Where: Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 8AZ
What: Historic Grandeur
Why: Cliveden House is like something from Downton Abbey. Built in 1666 for the Duke of Buckingham, Cliveden is today a National Trust property which doubles up as a hotel so don’t be surprised when you spot non-guests wandering round the oak panelled Great Hall and historic French Dining Room. Woodlands and gardens sprawl for miles, as does the house itself, so you’ll be wanting a four poster bed to rest in at the end of the day…
40 minutes from London
Where: Taplow, Berkshire, SL6 0JF
What: Converted Cotswold Barns
Why: Think of The Cotswolds and you think chocolate-box villages and postcard-perfect stone-washed houses. Boutique hotel Thyme ticks all the boxes on that front – throw in the 15 stylish bedrooms, purpose-built cookery school and 150-acres of farmland and you have the full package. Head across to The Swan over the road for a bite to eat or perch on a bar stool in ‘The Baa’ before retiring to your beamed bedroom or private cottage for an uninterrupted sleep.
2 hours from London
Where: Thyme Southrop Manor Estate, Southrop, Gloucestershire, GL7 3NX
What: Tree House Luxury
Why: Tree house living has got to be up there on your bucket list. Whilst the first venue that may spring to mind is probably a luxury lodge in Zimbabwe, Hampshire’s Chewton Glen shouldn’t be far off. Indulge in room service 30 feet above the ground in one of the hotel’s tree house studio suites or if you’d rather be back down to earth, bag a coach house suite or croquet lawn room and get involved in the 9 hole par 3 golf course, tennis courts, outdoor pool, croquet lawn or mountain bikes.
2 hours 40 from London
Where: Christchurch Road, New Milton, Hampshire, BH25 6QS
What: Grand But Cosy
Why: Hampshire has no shortage of boutique hotels. There’s just something about a few days away that has you returning ready for a new chapter, reaching for the paint charts. Cosy and chic, The Pig is a 30-bedroom country house that prides itself on being homely and inviting – being on your best behaviour isn’t all that fun so don’t worry about muddy boots here. We love the spa rooms, built into converted potting shed and shepherds hut, and Berts Box lodge; a self-contained lodge for serious privacy.
2 hours from London
Where: Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL
What: 45,000 sq.ft. of Spa Facilities
Why: 5 star Pennyhill Park is just a 45 minutes from central London, just off the A3 in leafy Surrey. Home to a Michelin-starred restaurant (Matt Worswick at The Latymer), book in for a tasting menu during your stay. More relaxed dining takes place in the hotel’s brasserie and relaxation really is the order of the day here; the spa sprawls over 45,000 sq.ft. with a whopping 8 pools and expansive selection of beauty treatments. Sound tempting? You can visit for a spa day and save the overnight stay till another time.
45 minutes from London
Where: London Road, Bagshot, Surrey, GU19 5EU
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