It’s mini break season! The winter is the ideal time to bundle into a car, pack plenty of blankets and head out of London and into the great beyond. Ideally where the great beyond has five stars and a spa. The mini break getaway was never easier, with plenty of options to suit most budgets and most within a relatively short drive from London town.
What the Heckfield? The Georgian mansion 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 Megan 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.
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 London, LA, 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.
Hastings, long cited in the newspaper lists of ‘up-and-coming’ places to move, is popular for a reason, because it’s genuinely lovely. A seaside town bucking the trend of end-of-the-pier grimness that has consumed so many coastal getaways, Hastings is number one on our list, from the cultural (the Contemporary Art Museum and even more trendy St Leonards-on-Sea packed chocca with galleries) to the historical (there’s an impressive castle, funicular railways, museums and so on) to food and drink, with an array of excellent dining options, there’s no reason to delay.
The Old Rectory is the perfect b&b. Complete with spa treatment rooms and excellent dining, the rooms and location absolutely sell The Old Rectory. Moments walk from the picturesque old town (make sure to check out shops like A.G. Hendy), but of course you’d be forgiven for never wanting to leave the confines of the hotel itself. The rooms are stunningly decorated, even the soaps are carefully selected, and along with friendly owners you’ll want to stay up chatting to, you need to get to The Old Rectory.
Bath is officially the most perfect city in the world. Okay, maybe not officially, but anyone who’s been will surely agree. And given that the Royal Crescent is the most perfect street in the most perfect city, being in the centre of this iconic half circus is surely the ‘perfect-est’ spot to stay for a weekend getaway. 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 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 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.
Brighton has up-and-come to the point that it’s now basically an enclave of South London, with house prices to show for it. Which, along with the incredible transport links, explains the steady flow of DFLs (‘Down From London’ers – see, they even have an acronym for us!).
But it’s abundantly obvious why. Brighton is beautiful, has a plethora of great places to eat and drink (try Isaac At) and it’s liberal anything-goes attitude is refreshing and enticing. Despite hosting annual political conference seasons, this is a place that’s cool and easy in its own skin, it’s easy to see the attraction.
And it’s even easier to see the attraction of Artist Residence. The Brighton outpost of the collection (sister residences can be found in London, Penzance, Bristol and Oxfordshire), is arguably the perfect boutique hotel. Located on the stunning Regency Square the Georgian townhouse is endlessly quirky, artsy and classy simultaneously with a why-plaster-and-paper-a-brick-wall policy and enough unique art works to launch a Dalston gallery.
The in-house restaurant, The Set, is one of the best in Brighton a dining experience you’re certainly not going to want to miss during your stay.
The Cotswolds is difficult to beat for sheer 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, brown and and gold on the trees.
For some glamour and something a little different check into Cowley Manor. From the outside, a traditional stately home formerly owned by the Horlicks family (the hot drinks folks). But venture in 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.
Cambridge welcomed the Tambourlaine with open arms when it opened in 2017 and so will you. From the outside it looks like another corporate hotel, but step inside and the design and attention to detail make this a contemporary classic.
A little too twee, perhaps, the rooms are a classed from Fresher to Dean via Scholar, but the rooms themselves are great (dare I utter the word ‘Instagrammable’?) and, given the prices, thankfully unlikely to attract many actual students.
The restaurant’s Art Deco brasserie (make sure you’re up for breakfast) is a gem, but the library (replete with cosy fire) is our favourite room in the house.
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.
Dubbed ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’, Margate has is the place that trendy Londoners come when they want to be trendy Margate-rs. A tourist destination for well over a century, the seaside town fell into dilapidation after the war as tourists shunned the British Costa del Rain in favour of the Spanish Costa del Sol.
But things started to change, or at least improvement accelerated significantly 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 a work of art itself. Oh and their breakfast game is seriously strong. Throw in some old fashioned seaside fun and you’ve the perfect weekend getaway.
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Cotswold stone, one of the best boutique hotels in the Cotsolds and 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?).
A surprisingly short hop out of London on a plane and you’re on Jersey, a world away from fast-paced London and the stuff that mini breaks are made of! A rural idyl, the Channel Isle is densely packed with beauty, curiosity and… oysters.
Set in the centre of capital St Hellier, The Club Hotel and Spa lies within walking distance of some of the best restaurants on Jersey, though you’ll want to dine in, believe me. The hotel itself is singularly ugly, set next to a multistorey carpark that’s arguably more attractive. But inside it’s another story. The rooms are good and luxurious, albeit slightly more businessy than I’d like, but the facilities are great (the spa is arguably the best on Jersey) and the restaurant, Bohemia, is Michelin starred and an absolute delight.
The Malibu of England, Newquay is the place to come to surf, to enjoy the beach or just to get away from the city. Replete with its own airport, flying direct to Heathrow and ‘London’ Southend, the place to stay has to be the Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa.
Overlooking Newquay’s famous sands, the hotel includes its own spa with an impressive indoor pool, perfect for relaxing after a day out with Quiksilver Surf School Newquay, which is affiliated to the hotel.
The Dune Restaurant and Bay Bar are the ideal respites from city life and the well apportioned rooms are elegant and comfortable.
Where: Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa, Esplanade Road, Newquay, UK
Nearest station: Newquay (1.4 miles)
Straddling town and country, Boringdon Hall in Devon is a perfect place to stay. Don’t be put off by the industrial nautical metropolis that is nearby Plymouth, Boringdon Hall is tranquil and exquisite.
Thanks, in part, to the Gaia Spa, but also the luscious rooms and suites, replete with four-poster beds that could not be more in keeping with the setting in this ancient hall. Eating and drinking are, of course, centre stage thanks to Head Chef Scott Paton whose Gallery Restaurant showcases his creative dishes using only the finest locally sourced ingredients.
Don’t be fooled by the proximity to London, a weekend at Coworth Park is as relaxing and restorative as a week spent anywhere else. 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.
A notable mention, The George in Rye is currently closed after being gutted by a fire, but is in the process of being refurbished.
Rye: a sleepy fishing village on the South Coast with an 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.