The renowned British countryside draws discerning travellers from around the world, for a taste of its lush, idyllic rolling hills. But a stay in the countryside doesn’t necessarily mean camping in a muddy field, one needn’t sacrifice luxury. Indulgence, country-chic and the ‘real outdoors’ can be found in some of the best luxury hotels deep in the heart of the British countryside, and here are six of our favourites…
The Scottish castle: Inverlochy Castle, Fort William
Set deep within the sprawling foothills of Ben Nevis, lies the striking and majestic lakeside property, Inverlochy Castle. The exterior appearance is impressive for sure, but once inside, the intimate atmosphere, crackling fires and sweeping staircase makes it feel more like a large house than a grand castle. The breathtaking backdrop of glen, loch and mountain makes this setting is ideal for those looking to immerse themselves in outdoor activities, with white-water rafting, archery, hunting, fishing and golfing on offer. In the afternoon one can enjoy the most impressive afternoon tea, with stunning views overlooking the lush countryside and glistening lake. In the evening live harp performances echo around the double-height hallway. Once host to Queen Victoria, who declared never had there been a ‘lovelier or more romantic spot’, guests can only feel like royalty in this rural haven.
The culinary adventure: Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison, Oxford
Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison epitomises the quintessential charming country house retreat. The house itself is a wonderfully preserved 15th century Chiltern manor house, with beautifully assembled bedrooms, and effortlessly combines luxury and class for the contemporary traveller. Guests even get a pre-arrival courtesy call about their pillow preference. However the working kitchen gardens and the world class cuisine is what makes this exceptional hotel so unique. Amidst the lawns, flower borders and orchards, the gardens boast their own Mushroom Valley and Fugetsu Tea House, and have over 90 types of vegetables and 70 varieties of herbs. The gardens supply the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and the end result is a seasonal menu with a ‘twist of imaginative genius’. Owner and celebrated chef, Raymond Blanc, has created an exceptional experience with culinary adventure at its core.
The country-chic: Lime Wood, New Forest
Set in 145 acres of ancient heath and fallow woodland, Lime Wood, a beautifully converted Regency manor, is one of Britain’s finest country retreats. A place where laid-back country-chic meets unrivalled levels of luxury and glamour, the attention to detail is exquisite. The elegant four-poster bedrooms, with oak doors and free standing baths, are the best places to cocoon away for a perfect night’s sleep. Guests can revel in the indulgence of the heavenly Herb House Spa in the depths of the forest or partake in yoga on the roof. And dining is taken pretty seriously here too – world class chefs, Luke Holder and Angela Hartnett, have headed up the restaurant which serves stylish, yet unpretentious, Italian dishes. Luxury, comfort and indulgence sum up this hotel perfectly, it’s not hard to feel you could stay here forever.
The historical & romantic: Ballyfin, County Laois
Located in the centre of Ireland, at the foot of the dramatic Slieve Bloom Mountains, Ballyfin is a place of history, romance and great natural beauty. Surrounded by 600 acres of ancient parkland, woods and a huge lake, it has long been admired as the grandest Regency hotel in Ireland, steeped in Irish history. But Ballyfin also has the incredible ability to make each and every guest feel at home. It allows you to enjoy the simple things in life, away from the stresses of the modern world; enjoy a bowl of steaming, steel-cut Irish porridge oats topped with a drizzle of honey from the estate’s own hives or cosy up in front the log burning fire with a mug of hot tea after a long walk around the lake. As Richard E. Grant said, Ballyfin is ‘like stepping back in the past without the inconvenience of no electricity’. A true countryside retreat in the fullest sense of the meaning.
The glamourous boutique: The Gilpin, Lake District
Boutique is a term used all too often, but ‘boutique’ is exactly what The Gilpin is. Unpretentious, intimate and calming, this charming pile in the Lake District is all about kicking back in an environment that perfectly blends the old with the new. Each room has a different style, but all have been designed in a classic modern aesthetic, seamlessly combined with homely touches. There is a strong connection with the natural surroundings here, and guests can immerse themselves in total relaxation in the Swedish style spa therapy room, which is positioned three metres into the canopy of the trees, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a small, but perfectly formed private lake. A year-round peaceful haven, this family-run hotel is the perfect base to explore and enjoy the lakes.
The refined English retreat: Lucknam Park, Bath
The Rolls-Royce of quintessential country house hotels, Lucknam Park is refined British style at its finest. Each of the forty-two supremely lovely bedrooms are styled individually, containing antique furniture alongside contemporary detailing. The beautifully manicured gardens and estate have been meticulously designed and a summer visit will see the herbaceous borders overflowing with English blossoms. As guests roll up the long drive that stretches to the 18th-century property, there truly is a sense of lavish grandeur, and being treated like a lord or lady is a given at a hotel where hospitality and impeccable service is second nature. From exploring the estate on horseback to luxuriating in the aromatic steam room, a weekend getaway will timelessly slip past in a munificent hotel where treasures abound.
James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel.
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