England's best country house hotels
Have you ever imagined yourself as a house guest in a Jane Austen novel or on the set of a BBC costume drama? Make it a reality with a stay in one of England’s historic country houses, your weekend escape from the city.
Here’s where we’d choose this summer:
The idea of a country house stay is closely linked with certain kinds of activities. Staying at The Manor House, the croquet lawn is right outside your window, you can play on the private tennis court, and the estate’s own golf course is only a few minutes’ walk away.
The building was built in the 14th century, and it’s now one of the finest hotels in England. Executive Chef Robert Potter has won a Michelin star for The Bybrook, and the breadth of the sommelier’s knowledge is unmatched.
Each of the guest rooms is unique, thanks to the historic quirks of the building. There are suites in the main house and in cottages throughout the grounds, all with sumptuous interiors.
The rugged beauty of the West Country is beguiling, especially along the South Devon coast. Cary Arms is the ‘Inn on the Beach’, and you’ll wake each morning overlooking the sea.
Guests at Cary Arms have a choice of where to stay. The pretty thatched cottages have tremendous charm, but for the ultimate seaside escape, you must book one of the painted beach huts.
Cary Arm’s luxurious beach huts mix the New England styling with that of the traditional English seaside. The huts’ private sun decks open straight out onto the beach, and you are still within easy reach of the main hotel’s award winning restaurant and spa.
Soulton Hall, Soulton
For grandeur, it has to be Shropshire’s Soulton Hall. 16 generations of the same family have lived here, and the latest members will still welcome you to their 500 acre country estate as friends.
Rooms in Soulton Hall are decorated in a period style, and many of them have wood panelling and four poster beds. Guests can also make use of the buttery, dining room, hall, and manor house bar, which dates from the 14th century.
In the evenings, you’ll want to dress up for a four course dinner. It’s a rare opportunity to dress to impress, and the backdrop for portraits is stunning.
If your dream is of a country house just for you and your friends, Gilpin Lake House is as good as it gets. 12 guests can roam 100 acres of private grounds, complete with their own lake and boathouse, hot tubs, saunas, and a spa.
When you’ve had your fill of the great outdoors, a private chauffeur will drive you the short distance to the Gilpin Lake House’s sister property, Gilpin Hotel. Here you’ll find the Michelin starred HRiSHi restaurant and also the more casual Gilpin Spice.
Cotswold House Hotel, Chipping Camden
Right on the square in the idyllic market town of Chipping Campden, the hotel and spa backs on to its own extensive gardens. Guest rooms are split between the main house and beautifully converted stone outbuildings with a great deal of character.
Even the most demanding gin lover will be impressed with the selection behind the bar at The Bistro.
For more formal dining, the elegant Fig Restaurant already has two AA Rosettes, and the talented chef clearly has his eye on a Michelin star.
Think Regency glamour, think Cheltenham. Just imagine the elegant soirees which must have happened in this popular spa town.
You’ll experience more than a hint of the past when you step through the stone facade of The Bradley. The designers have kept the feel of a private home, with gorgeous textiles, fine artworks, and an attractive collection of antique furniture.
Request a room with a four poster bed, and perhaps a freestanding bath. A decanter of port on the bedside table will guarantee you a deep night’s sleep, whatever time you finally leave the lively conversations in the drawing room to retreat to bed.
In the heart of the New Forest National Park, Burley Manor is a glorious red brick mansion overlooking a well stocked deer park. Anticipation builds as you come through the gates and along the long drive, and the hotel’s impressive facade certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The recorded history of the manor dates back to 1212, but the current Grade II listed manor house is proudly Victorian. Inside you’ll find large open fireplaces, leather armchairs, attractive artworks, plenty of books, and an extensive drinks menu -- everything a country gentleman could want after a day spent tromping through the forest.
The restaurant menu has an unexpected Mediterranean flair, and the chefs create bold, delicious flavours with seasonal, mostly local ingredients.
- By Sophie Ibbotson
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