Grey Gables, Lake Windermere
This lodge-style stone holiday house sits on the very edge of Lake Windermere. It’s big and beautiful, with plenty of windows to let the light from the lake bounce in to brighten the dullest of days. There’s a super-stylish kitchen, a cinema room and large games room to keep guests entertained. A glass and stainless steel staircase leads up to five bedrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows – two have free-standing baths overlooking the lake for the ultimate in soaking and scenery. There’s a terrace for entertaining, a big garden for games and a jetty for your boat.
Sleeps 10 in five bedrooms.
Crailing House, near Jedburgh
Until recently the home of impressionist Rory Bremner and his family, the smart but comfortable rosy-stone, Regency- style Crailing House is furnished with contemporary Designers Guild fabrics and artwork, carefully paired with beautiful antiques and centuries-old portraits. The striking interior is matched only by the views over the gardens from its many double-height windows and there’s no doubt this is a great ‘party’ house, with masses of space for entertaining or for the family to spread out in. A housekeeper comes in daily to help keep everything spick and span, and there’s the option of a cook and butler too.
Sleeps 12 in six bedrooms. Dog friendly.
Sheltered by large pines and overlooking the quaint cove of Polperro, Raffia’s cliff-top position means breathtaking views of this part of Cornwall’s coastline. Approached via a steep, zig-zagging path which cuts down the cliff (a quad-bike taxi is available to cart your luggage up to the house), this self-catering retreat is the epitome of escapism. Starting life as an army hut, years later the plot was cleared and on it, Raffia boasts beachy-style accommodation with floor-to-ceiling glass leading onto a wooden deck where guests can spend hours watching the water below. With no television (though there is a projector screen for family film nights), guests are encouraged to while away time reading, painting or snuggled on the sofa listening to the radio whilst the cosy woodburner takes care of the chillier nights. You can walk along the coastal path to explore the warren of alleyways that make up the fishing village of Polperro, and take a dip in the sparkling shallows of the harbour.
Sleeps six. One dog welcome.
The Fish Hotel, Cotswolds
Not your usual country house hotel, more a collection of quirky houses and huts all nestling in a 400-acre private estate, and a chalet-style Lodge where you’ll find Hook, the hotel’s seafood restaurant where the catch of the day is served alongside traditional British favourites. Kick off your evening with a drink in the buzzy bar, and whether you bag a sofa, a stool at the bar or cosy up beside the fire, you can enjoy a cocktail or local ale, and if peckish, some delicious sliders to tide you over to dinner. Possibly the hardest thing is to choose your room, from super-cool treehouses on stilts, to romantic shepherd’s huts, or the more conventional hotel rooms in the old stables and farmhouse, family- and dog- friendly – this is the place to kick back and relax. No need to bring your wellies – there’s a boot room full of them here – but do pull some on for a stomp across the field to post-card pretty Broadway.
The Boathouse, Isle of Arran
The perfect beach escape for water-mad couples looking to go off-grid, The Boathouse sits directly on the beach with uninterrupted views of Ailsa Craig and Pladda. Surprisingly spacious, it sleeps two in a handcrafted double sofa bed. There’s a gas cooker, a fridge, and a snug seating area with a woodburning stove (but no WiFi). The fully-plumbed bathroom and hot outdoor shower are a few metres from the house but are perfectly private. But it’s unlikely that you’ll want to spend much time indoors (as lovely as it is) when seals, dolphins and basking sharks are all hanging out on your doorstep. You will make full use of the outdoor barbecue area, with a fire pit to keep off the evening chill, as you marvel at the sensational sunset from your front row seat.
Juneberry, Holywell Bay
Tucked away between the trees on Cornwall’s north coast, this cottage is the place for couples looking to relax and unwind. Built with love using only the most natural and sustainable of materials this luxury hideaway is just under two miles – but a world away – from the busy sand and surf of Holywell Bay. There’s a suntrap decking, fire pit and not a soul to disturb you but birds overhead during the summer months, while in winter the moody glamour of Juneberry’s interiors offer a snug retreat to hide from blustery winds. Rough-luxe and oh-so feminine, dark, floor-length florals, deep teal walls and exposed wood create a cocoon of comfort, while the large bathroom is the perfect place to soak away coastal adventures, with a rainfall shower and bath tub for two. There are French doors opening straight out onto the garden and far- reaching views over the rolling patchwork of Perran common from the cabin’s yoga deck.
Sleeps two. Dog friendly.
Southview Penthouse, Alnmouth
This stunning and contemporary loft-style penthouse apartment has a balcony running the full length of the property, overlooking Almouth’s tidal estuary. Accessed by a lift which opens directly into the apartment, there are three ensuite bedrooms and an open-plan living area with floor length bi-fold windows, making the most of the south- facing view to Coquet Island. It’s all high-tech here, and even the shutters are remote controlled. Furnishings are fairly minimal but all you really need is a blanket to wrap up in as you sit outside and soak in the mesmerising view.
Sleeps six. Dog friendly.
The Shed, Isle of Skye
Accessed by a single-track road 10 miles from the ferry at Armadale, this is quite possibly the most perfect of rural retreats. Designed by local architect Mary Arnold-Foster, it is simple yet beautiful in a cool, contemporary, glass and polished concrete way. With a truly magical setting overlooking Loch Eishort and the Cuillin Mountain range on the southern end of Skye, the whole house has been designed to make the most of its water-side location. Cosy year-round thanks to underfloor heating, clever insulation and a huge woodburning stove, there’s a large kitchen diner overlooking the loch, and the upstairs sitting room has perhaps the most idyllic window seat imaginable.
Sleeps eight in three bedrooms.
The Cow Hollow Hotel, Manchester
This hip addition to Manchester’s edgy Northern Quarter lures its guests with promises of Netflix in every room and milk and cookies before bed. But it’s not just about the treats (free prosecco and nibbles, anyone?) this former textile warehouse is a cool as it comes. Many of the original features have been retained, including old beams and fireplaces, made more dramatic by the addition of fake palm tees, huge mirrors and oil paintings on the walls. The bedrooms are a characterful mix too – think exposed brick, bronze waterfall showers and gilt mirrors. Nice touches include the hair styling kits in each room and Hypnos beds. The busy Plantation Bar is where you go for cocktails (free coffee and prosecco if you are a guest) but there is no restaurant here as the hotel’s location means it is surrounded by a surfeit of excellent ones. Breakfast comes to your room in a bag.
The Alice Hawthorn, Nun Monkton
This foodie pub, in the heart of an historic Yorkshire village, has just opened 12 beautiful bedrooms. Choose between the design- led garden rooms or the classic charm of the rooms in the pub itself. With a nod to their agricultural heritage, the garden rooms are constructed in home-grown Douglas fir and finished inside and out with bleached timber. Big beds, walk-in showers and large bath tubs complete the rooms here, whilst in the Grade II-listed pub the four individually-designed rooms boast exposed beams, sleek furniture and views across the village green. The rooms are gorgeous, but the food is even better. The hugely popular, cosy pub dining room is where you are treated to dishes such as popcorn prawns, carpaccio of Yorkshire beef fillet, Holme Farm venison and house-special sticky toffee pudding. You’ll need at least a few nights here to work your way through the menu.
Moor Hall, Aughton
The restaurant at Moor Hall holds two Michelin stars and five AA Rosettes, so if it’s food you love, you need to get yourself here. Set in the hotel’s five acres, the Scandi-style, glass-fronted restaurant, run by the talented Chef Patron Mark Birchall, enjoys views out over the lake. It’s not just the setting which makes this a must-visit, Mark’s delicate menus make Moor Hall one for the tick list. There’s even a dedicated Cheese Room, where the very best of artisan-produced cheese is kept. There are seven bedrooms at the hall and various packages and foodie experiences are on offer – as if you need any more tempting.
Cartford Inn, Preston
This multi-award winning pub, restaurant and boutique hotel was originally a 17th century coaching inn at the crossing of the River Wyre. Locals love to come for the food and gossip, guests come for the same thing, and make the most of the quirky, comfortable rooms, the stylish interiors, and, outside, the views which stretch across to the Trough of Bowland. The perfect getaway for anyone who loves food and nature, there are two cabins on the property with their own landscaped grounds and amazing views of the river.
The Fife Arms, Braemar
Wildly romantic, a fairly recent addition to what can only be described as a traditional Scottish estate, The Fife Arms is as daring as it is decadent. In the shadow of the Cairngorms, Braemar is famous for its Highland games. Balmoral is just down the road and the village is full of old-fashioned appeal. Not so this hotel. Here, tradition meets the best of contemporary design: sumptuous tweeds and the expected stag’s head or two sit comfortably next to neon lights, modern murals and quirky object d’art. All the bedrooms are themed and are equally as characterful as the hotel’s public rooms, plus there are lovely old-fashioned touches such as tweed-covered hotties and proper china for your tea. The Flying Stag bar is a busy place for just-off-the- moor types as well as friendly locals. The glam cocktail bar is all pink and Art Deco, whilst the wood fire in the Clunie Dining Room makes for a suitably dramatic backdrop to the hand-painted mural. There’s a spa here, an onsite shop, and boot rooms and gun rooms below stairs.
The Witchery, Edinburgh
This restaurant with rooms has topped the list of romantic hideaways in Scotland’s capital city for as many years as we’ve been publishing, and it’s easy to see why, although the over-the-top decor may not be to everyone’s taste. Now an Edinburgh institution, there are nine thrillingly-theatrical suites here, all of which promise an unforgettable experience. Each has its own unique character, but all have oodles of glamour, and roll top baths for two. Our favourite? The Heriot, reached by a stone turret staircase, with its oak panelling, sumptuous four poster and hidden Gothic chapel bathroom. As well known for its food as its decor, the original Witchery dining room is in a 16th century merchant’s house and the decor reflects the decadence of the age. Oak panelling is hung with tapestry, heraldic painted ceilings are lit by many candles and fine linen is used on the tables. The ‘newer’ Secret Garden is hidden down an historic close, and as you descend the stone stairs you’ll find one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city, where French windows open onto a secluded, urn-filled terrace.
The Mayfair Townhouse, London
We sometimes forget the cultural appeal of our own capital city. The perfect mini-break destination, you can see the sights, indulge in a little shopping, a lot of history and take in a show or exhibition or two, all in a short space of time. And new to central London’s hospitality scene is this all-new, reimagined lifestyle hotel in the heart of Mayfair. Inspired by whimsical characters both past and present, this quirky hotel is from the people that brought you Cliveden House and Chewton Glen. The seven Georgian buildings, which stand shoulder- to-shoulder with Hyde Park Corner, are anything but traditional once you step over the threshold. Full of wit and whimsy, the aptly named, dimly-lit Dandy Bar is for those who want to see and be seen, while The Lower Ground is a vibrant eating place. Rooms here range from classic to several suites (some with up to four bedrooms) and not one, but three penthouses.
Buxton Crescent Hotel, Buxton
Regarded as the gateway to the Peak District, and home of the mineral water of the same name, this new hotel has opened in a carefully restored, 200-year-old architectural gem of a building (previously two grand hotels), with not one but three thermal pools. For centuries visitors came to Buxton to take the waters, seeking cures for everything from gout to rheumatism, and it seems that, after a 50-year gap, the trend is set to enjoy something of a resurgence. A reputed £70 million renovation of this graceful crescent includes the original thermal pool surrounded by Victorian cast iron pillars underneath a stained-glass dome, a relaxation pool beneath twinkling mood lights, and an indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy roof top pool. The spa also boasts a salt cave, two steam rooms and three saunas. We’re talking serious spa-ing here, where treatments include a therapeutic mud bath to ease joint pain. There is a choice of 81 spacious rooms and suites, including the characterful attic rooms tucked away in the eaves, and a contemporary restaurant serving British cuisine with an international twist. The hotel bar is bound to be popular with everyone, with its open fires in winter and extensive wine and cocktail menu.
Wood Cottage, Rothbury
Perched high above Thropton village, this wooden-clad cottage has breathtaking views over the Simonside Hills and Coquet Valley from every window. Recently renovated, it really is the ideal place for country-lovers keen on walking or biking, although you can just drink in the views from the floor to ceiling glass windows which face south making the property light and bright year-round. Whitewashed walls, soft muted colours and lots of bleached wood allow nature to play the principal role as the ever-changing landscape outside dominates. When you’re not cuddled up by the woodburner watching the clouds scud by, there are plenty of walks on your doorstep so it’s just as well the property is dog friendly, as it would be a shame for them to miss out on this idyllic retreat. There are two popular pubs within easy walking distance of the cottage, and Rothbury with its various small independent shops is just a short drive away.
Sleep six. Dog friendly.
Raithwaite Sandsend, Whitby
Tucked between the sea and the North York Moors, with plenty for everyone to do, this relaxed country house hotel is perfect for a family escape. There are several options for accommodation, all you need to do kick off your (beach) shoes and make yourself at home. The Brasserie serves simple and seasonal dishes, including fresh seafood from Whitby, the pet-friendly Poachers’ Bar is where you go for a post-walk pint or pre-dinner cocktail, or lunch beside the fire should the weather be less than friendly. After a day on the water, head to the hotel’s heated indoor pool to warm up, or try a circuit through the steam room and sauna to defrost. The hotel is happy to arrange surf lessons at their in-house surf school, beach yoga, boat and bike rides, and moorland hikes.
The Punch Bowl, Crossthwaite
This characterful inn is a cosy retreat from the rugged fells which surround it. All ancient oak beams, huge fireplaces and stone flagged floors, it’s a charming place to while away a weekend as a couple, or a group of willing walkers, or simply somewhere to switch off and enjoy traditional home comforts and fantastic food. Must-do walks include Gummer’s Howe and Scout’s Scar for the views, and High Dam for its wild swimming opportunities. For the less active there’s Blackwell Arts & Crafts House and Sizergh Castle and Gardens nearby. However you spend your days, you’ll be more than delighted to get back to the fireside here. The food is all about fresh and local and they proudly boast that they use more of their own ingredients than any other pub or hotel in Cumbria thanks to having their own farm in the village.
If you ever need a reason to detour to North Wales, Ynyshir is it, where chef Gareth Ward already has one Michelin star and is edging towards his second. This restaurant with rooms has had a Scandi-style makeover, turning it from typical country house to something far edgier, and although food is the big draw here, Gareth’s architect- trained partner Amelia has worked her magic on the interiors which are pared-back chic; it’s now all oak floors, chocolate sheepskins and a mixed, moody palette of earthy colours. Fearlessly experimental, Gareth extolls the virtues of meat and fat as he cooks what he loves. Lunch is 11 courses, but dinner is an astonishing 19-course, four- hour feast. Each dish is dainty and delicious, served in the restaurant which has just a handful of covers, and delivered to your table by the kitchen team who created it, along with a special, handcrafted tool roll each diner is given to use as they work their way through the menu. You’ll need to overnight here, and there’s a choice between more classic rooms in the house, the newer garden rooms, and a new glamping experience in Ynyshir’s grounds where three tipis are complete with super-kingsized beds, handmade Welsh oak furniture and log burners. Add a breakfast hamper delivered to your tipi for £20 per person, although the likelihood of waking up hungry is pretty remote.
The Pig on the Beach, Studland Bay
This mellow, yellow, laid-back 16th century manor house hotel overlooks the mirror-like expanse of Studland Bay. It’s a country house hotel beside the sea – the perfect combination to wallow in. Many of the rooms have views of Dorset’s sandy coastline, the rest look out over rolling countryside but each one is crammed with character and charm. The food, served in the sea view conservatory restaurant, is hyper-local, simple and delicious, much of it coming from the hotel’s own kitchen garden. The path to the beach takes you down to the sandy bay and the Pig’s own beach hut when you want to feel the sand between your toes. If you want a romantic hideaway, book one of the thatched hideaways near the kitchen garden for peace and privacy, whilst sea-lovers should plump for room 16 for its breathtaking sea view. Sadly, whilst it’s a great place for a family weekend, it will have to be without your four-legged friend – the Pig is not dog-friendly.