by Dominic Price, 10 October 2014
UK's Best Country House Hotels
Without doubt, London is amazing. London is officially the place people want to live and work in. It is the greatest city in the world; when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.
But, every now and then, even the most avid townie has a thought, a niggling in their mind, calling for them to just pack it all in and get out. Move to somewhere with fields. And sheep. Tractors. And friendly pub owners with dogs. Call it the “CountryFile Crisis" if you will. Thankfully though when these little pangs of CountryFile Crisis hit there is a little solution for even the most avid townie. Courtesy of these stunning properties...
Coworth Park, Ascot
First stop, a little closer to home. Just 45 minutes from London, Coworth Park is a subtle, classy and chic hotel, nestled in Windsor Great Park. It’s almost the opposite of what you’d expect from a country retreat, with not a hint of overbearing stuffiness and faded red leather chairs. Coworth Park’s understated glamour is quintessentially English, giving a modern flair to your little country escape, with no pressure surrounding it. Whether it’s cracking out your walking boots and fleeces and heading 'out rambling'; popping to watch the polo; or even if you only make it as far as the restaurant, no one will judge.
Gidleigh Park, Devon
In the heart of Devon, this is the epitome of country house hotel. Sweeping drive, Tudor beams, stunning grounds and even a little river. Inside, the unique bedrooms add to the hotel’s charm, with stunningly (and thoughtfully) designed bathrooms, and a collection of antique curios which add to the character. Of course, the star of the show is the restaurant, run by Michael Caines MBE. It was again named one of the UK’s Top 10 Restaurants, so naturally, it is a must for any guest. And it always helps the Foodie-bragging rights when you’re back home…
Babington House, Somerset
This the hotel designed by committee. But in this case, the committee was right. This is London-cum-Somerset, with all aspects of life in London brought to the countryside. Definitely the best of both worlds. If you want a walk, feel free. Roaring fires? Naturally. Sublime cocktails? Served ice cold. 45 seater cinema? Of course. Babington Hall is more trendy than traditional, and so is perfect for all the Soho-Housers. With impressive 8ft beds, 24 hour room service, and Hunter wellies provided by the hotel, well...who says civilisation dies outside zone 4.
Chewton Glen, Hampshire
Situated in 130 acres of prime Hampshire countryside, Chewton Glen is one of the most luxurious country house hotels. Perfect for that much needed weekend break, it is only 2 hours from London. The 70 rooms are all impressively designed, but it is the 12 Treehouse Suites, secreted away from the main building that are the real star attraction. Here you can relax and gaze out on the treetops from your terrace (with hot tub), and let nature envelop you, without having to whip out your waterproofs. With a two-to-one staff ratio, your every need is catered for, and there is plenty to keep you entertained. A spa, tennis courts, swimming pool and croquet lawn are all available to use, but if you want to go all out Countryfile, you can always try your hand at archery, falconry and duck herding. Yes, that is a real thing.
Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, Oxford
Located in Oxford, the hotel has an almost ethereal air about it. It’s perhaps more better known for the Raymond Blanc restaurant, with organic vegetable and herb gardens surrounding it. But, the hotel’s own 32 rooms and suites, each with their own individual, typically English, design are the perfect setting for a luxurious stay. Instagram-able grounds, impressive bedrooms and of course, exceptional dining, there is no better place to bury yourself in for the weekend, and forget about your Oyster card, tube strikes and those ever increasing emails.
Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire
Hartwell House is one of the UK’s most charming country houses, now owned by the National Trust. It has 30 charming rooms, with three dining rooms, just in case you fancied a change of scenery in between breakfast and dinner. Here you can live like a king - at least for a weekend - and enjoy one of the most splendid houses in the country. It even has the royal approval, with Louis XVIII having once kept his chickens on the roof.