If you’re anything like me then you’re looking at your diary with increasing levels of anxiety as all the free time is being gobbled up by Christmas parties, work dos, catch ups with friends you don’t really want to see and family obligations you can’t think of a reason to bail on. So here’s a top tip, sack them all off for a weekend of ‘me time’. Coerce your partner, a friend, an open-minded Tinder date, in fact anyone, or just fly solo, and consider one of the following: a getaway within three hours of London. And the best thing is that you’ll get back to town refreshed and ready to face the Christmas madness.
A Pocket Full Of Rye
Rye is a sleepy fishing village on the South Coast with a historic past and an idyllic present. One of the ‘Cinque Ports’, it was historically relied upon to repel the Spanish or the French or whoever we were fighting at the time, should England come under threat. Still mainly sitting within the historic castle walls, Rye overlooks the sea from a commanding hilltop position and The George, sitting in the centre of the small town, is ideal for a getaway. Set in an historic townhouse, the boutique hotel with a vibrant bar and excellent restaurant is the perfect base for country or seaside walks or pottering round the decidedly picture-skew town. Eat in The George’s restaurant or, as we did, grab a cheeky fish and chips from the friendly chippy down the street and devour them in your room! Also, a short drive away by the harbour but well worth a look-in is the William the Conqueror, a pub toward the gastro end of pubbing but full of local characters.
Where: 98 High Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7JT
Get Your Jersey On
I was here exactly a week ago and I hope my editor isn’t reading this [I am… Ed.] because I would have happily stayed there forever! I’ll post a proper review in due course of both the hotel and Jersey on our travel pages, but this is the perfect place to flit and get away from the humdrum of London. It helps that as well as being utterly beaufiful there’s no end of gastronomic treats in store on Jersey. The Club Hotel & Spa itself is excellent, right in the heart of the island’s principle town of St Hellier and within walking distance of a selection of some of the best restaurants around, but you don’t need to go that far because the hotel itself boasts a Michelin Star restaurant in Bohemia, an absolute delight, and when added to the lovely accommodation and spa you can see why this hotel is worth the visit. And so too is Jersey, I can’t urge you to go here enough!
Where: Green Street, St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, JE2 4UH
Take A Bath
If Bath isn’t officially recognised as the UK’s most perfect city then Theresa May needs to step in; Bath is a picture of Georgian splendour, with call-backs to Jane Austen and Beau Brummell round each crescent and circus. Mr Tilney might well come striding in at any given moment. Though seeped in history (it’s named after the Roman Baths that give the city its name and still stand) it’s also thoroughly modern. Go visit the awesome rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa, shop or muse in the museums. Our firm favourite place to stay in Bath remains The Francis Hotel, quirky and luxurious and, for good measure, joined to Raymond Blanc’s restaurant Brasserie Blanc.
Where: Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HH
Everyone's Wittering About It
This luxury B&B boasts a sum-total of just three rooms, but when both the bed and the breakfast are this good you’ll fall in love immediately. And it’s not just the confines of this lovely little clapboard guesthouse that’s on offer, you’ve a weekend of bracing walks along the sands of West Wittering to look forward to. The stunning solent and channel views in the rugged wilderness of The Witterings contrast with the culture available a short drive in Chichester (many West End plays start out at the Chichester Festival Theatre). In summer there’s racing at Goodwood and vintage cars at the racing circuit, but the fresh sea air and walks on offer in winter frankly make this the best time to visit.
Where: Church Lane, Birdham, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20 7SP
The Cotswolds is difficult to beat for sheer English beauty. View-wise I’d see your Scottish glen, Peruvian junglescape or Indian Ocean white sandy beach and raise you a perfect Cotswolds village in butter coloured stone surrounded by rolling hills and, at this time of year, a patchwork of reds and golds on the trees. For some glamour and something a little different check into Cowley Park, a traditional stately home formerly owned by the Horlicks family, but inside made-over into a funky modern mash of colour and design. The spa is phenomenal and the restaurant more than half decent. And it’s surrounded by no end of stunning walks, a day at the races (Cheltenham racecourse is within striking distance) or just order a treatment and relax.
Where: Cowley, Near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL53 9NL
The Future's Brighton
It’s all about Brighton right now, the rocking hub on the South coast within easy reach of London but very much it’s own personality. Brighton’s had a revival over the last decade as more and more people have decamped from London, especially in the arts and media scene, so it makes sense to visit Artist Residence. The boutique hotel has a real artsy feel with a genuinely eclectic and arts driven style, but set in one of Brighton’s historic regency squares (this one is literally called Regency Square!) and overlooking the sea. The town itself has no shortage of nightlife, excellent food and, best of all, more sea than you can shake a codfish at.
Where: 33 Regency Square, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2GG
I’m not going to lie, you have to work to get to North Norfolk, there’s no motorway, the main roads are tantamount to B-roads, and the Friday night traffic is synonymous with a female dog. But it’s worth it. Waking up in sleepy Burnham Market is peace exemplified and offers all manner of options, from walks on the seemingly endless beach at Holkham, to pottering around nearby villages. Vine House is set in a Georgian house and offers all the expected creature comforts (not literally, it’s pet free) including a butler and access to an exclusive cinema, a fantastic restaurant and spa shared with its sister hotel over the road. And although it bills itself as the ‘One of North Norfolk’s prettiest villages’ there’s nothing Alan Partridge about the luxury or the enjoyment on offer.
Where: The Green, Burnham Market, King's Lynn, Norfolk, PE31 8HD
You can fly to Edinburgh in around an hour, but I wouldn’t. Save yourself a night’s hotel cost and get the sleeper train up. It mightn’t be up there with Orient Express but it’s a classy way to arrive in Scotland’s capital and a first class berth is still pretty comfortable. Once there you can enjoy the elegant architecture, the historic castle and no end of exciting restaurants and cultural delights. To stay, why not try The G&V Royal Mile Hotel? Right at the heart of the city it has a spa, a notable restaurant (Cucina, the decor alone is worth a look) and the modern rooms and surrounding contrast with the ancient vibe of the city. Hop on the overnight train back and make it back refreshed and on time for work on Monday morning.
Where: 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1AD
Cambridge’s latest hotel, the Tamburlaine is ideal if you’re looking for a mini break close to London and you want everyone to know about it. Why? Because the rooms are perfect for Instagram – think dusty pinks, trailing plants, Cambridge blues and marble bathrooms. There’s an excellent gym and a library which is ideal for cosying up in with a glass of wine and a good book. When it comes to eating they’ve got a restaurant, deli and garden room (possibly the one you’ll want to # the most), of course you’ll want to stop by the bar first though.
Where: 27-29 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2FB
One of the trends of the last few years that took me by suprise was the emergence of Margate as a fashionable hangout. Standing, as I am, corrected, I recommend you join everyone from Dalston and head there to see what the commotion’s about. A tourist destination for well over a century the town fell into dilapidation post-war but it all started to come back together when the Turner Contemporary Gallery landed in 2011 and since then it’s gone from strength-to-strength. And where better to stay than The Reading Rooms, a boutique B&B with only three rooms, each occupying a floor of this Georgian townhouse? Five minutes from the beach The Reading Rooms is truly stunning and their breakfast game is seriously strong. Throw in some old fashioned seaside fun and you’ve the perfect weekend getaway.
Where: 31 Hawley Square Margate, Kent, CT9 1PH
Boutique Hotel in Buckinghamshire Parkland
In the amount of time it takes you to get across London (especially if you’re on the District Line), you could leave the city behind you, leave the packed tubes, the pollution, the noise and find yourself in Stoke Place, a country house sat in 26 acres of Buckinghamshire parkland. The house was initially built in 1690 as a family home for the royal chef, Patrick Lamb. Chef fact fans, he cooked Kings James II’s legendary coronation feast at Westminster Hall. Until the 1900s it passed through generations of aristocrats and military families, until in 1962 it was sold to South Bucks District Council and it became a hotel. Luckily they didn’t give it a sixties make over and the hotel still has the high ceilings, sash windows, uneven walls and low doors. Ranging from the Standard Garden Room to the Junior Suites, there are 26 rooms all with individual character and period features as well as a gym and restaurant, The King & Lamb.
Where: Stoke Green, Slough, SL2 4HT
Hampshire's Boutique Inn
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
Unapologetic Seaside Luxury
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.
Where: 57 Croft Road, Hastings Old Town, East Sussex TN34 3HJ
5 Star New Forest Retreat
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.
Where: Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7FZ
Converted Cotswold Barns
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.
Where: Thyme Southrop Manor Estate, Southrop, Gloucestershire, GL7 3NX
Of course if you’ve accounted for every single day until New Year’s, then why not start planning a post-Christmas detox? Some bracing walks and a little pampering wouldn’t go amiss and all these options will be very much still on the table. Happy weekending!