UK boutique hotels that offer beautiful countryside, chic interiors and a mean cream tea...
England in spring… is there anything better? Only one thing, we think – escaping the city to enjoy some much-needed fresh air first hand. These idyllic bolt holes are perfectly suited for a sojourn in the country. If an upmarket coastal vibe floats your boat, check out The Swan in Southwold. The former inn has undergone a revamp, giving it a members’ club-on-sea feel. The Artist Residence in Oxfordshire has also just had a makeover. Teaming flagstone floors with neon artwork, the look is rustic-luxe with a twist. For a stately setting, visit Beaverbrook in Surrey, set within a 400-acre estate. If wetsuits are more your thing, head north to Cumbria to stay at Another Place, The Lake on Ullswater and enjoy kayaking, sailing and paddleboarding. Finally, Cambridge’s Tamburlaine is a hip new hangout that combines boutique-hotel style with an on-point location. It’s well worth the punt…
The lowdown A chic country pile with views of the North Downs.
Best for Lovers of luxe interiors, fine dining and country walks.
The sense of anticipation starts as you glimpse woodland that lines the mile-long drive leading to Beaverbrook. The suspense continues to build when you pull up outside the renovated Victorian mansion. Impeccably dressed staff wait to valet-park your car, whisk away your bags and lead you through to the marble-columned lobby.
Styled by Susie Atkinson (she of Soho House fame), the public areas ooze class and refinement. Whether it’s the cinema room, where former owner Lord Beaverbrook once watched newsreels with Winston Churchill, or the terrace, a spot used by Rudyard Kipling to write poetry while staying, each space has been reimagined in a classic-contemporary style that still nods to the sense of history.
The decor in the 18 bedrooms takes its cue from Beaverbrook’s previous visitors – the Elizabeth Taylor suite is swathed in pastels, while the Ian Fleming room sports a masculine monochrome palette. Dining is sublime, with chef Taiji Maruyama serving up Japanese cuisine ranging from innovative sushi to robata grills such as Koji halibut. With tennis courts and a spa, one thing you won’t be is bored.
Book it Rooms from £330
SOUTH LEIGH, OXFORDSHIRE
The lowdown A thatched-roof country pub off the beaten track.
Best for Intimate escapes with home-grown food and warm hospitality.
With only five bedrooms tucked beneath the eaves of this 16th-century inn, this is not the place to meet up with your party-animal pals. In fact, we’d much prefer to keep this secluded spot a secret so we can enjoy it all to ourselves. Located in the sleepy hamlet of South Leigh, the Artist Residence is the latest venture from Justin and Charlotte Salisbury, who opened their first boutique hotel bearing the same name in Brighton in 2008.
This pub, however, makes a radical departure from the formula employed down on the south coast. No buzzy cocktail bars and ping-pong tables here. Instead, the couple have taken its credentials as a gastropub (it was formerly the Mason Arms) and elevated them to a new level. As well as producing fresh fruit and veg in the garden, head chef Leon Smith enjoys foraging, so wild mushrooms and herbs are served alongside seasonal fare from neighbouring farms.
With a local beer or glass of wine, hunkering down by the inglenook after dinner is an exquisite pleasure, enhanced by the pub’s offbeat decor – a mix of William Morris and House of Hackney wallpapers paired with neon artwork and prints by the likes of Harland Miller and Dan Hillier. Plus, some outbuildings are being converted into suites, so your friends can pop down too. Just don’t shout about it, okay?
Book it Rooms from £130 for B&B
The lowdown A listed coastal hotel reworked for the 21st century.
Best for Families and fashionistas in search of sea, sand and chic shops.
Fully justifying its status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this gorgeous stretch of the Suffolk coast has long been a bolt hole for city types and celebrities colonising some of the prettiest enclaves as weekend retreats (not for nothing is the village of Walberswick known as Notting Hill-on-Sea). Still, The Swan in Southwold has seen many a fashion come and go during its illustrious history, which dates from 1660.
To keep up with the times, the hotel has recently undergone a £6-million refit, courtesy of architecture and interiors studio Project Orange. The 35 bedrooms showcase stylish fittings such as pink-hued four-poster beds and squishy sofas, with many offering views of the coast. Two new restaurants have been created – The Still Room and The Tap Room – both overseen by head chef Ross Bott, who worked alongside Michelin-starred Atul Kochha before moving here.
Seafood is a speciality (we were particularly taken by the sloe gin salmon with forage salad) and with The Swan being owned by local brewers Adnams, 12 cask beers are available, as well as its own-distilled gin and vodka. Located on the high street, the hotel is within strolling distance of the myriad fashion boutiques, artisan craft stores and art galleries that have set up in the town, so take the time to drink it all up.
Book it Rooms from £270 for B&B
The lowdown A new destination-hotel with old-school charm.
Best for Out-of-towners who like culture with their rustic pursuits.
Named after the lead character in Christopher Marlowe’s play about an Asian emperor who conquers the world, the Tamburlaine hotel has an equally vaunting ambition – to play the starring role in the ongoing rejuvenation of an increasingly vibrant part of the collegiate city.
Just a minute’s walk from the station, the 155-room Tamburlaine lies at the heart of the architect-designed CB1 regeneration project, a hip complex of retail and foodie outlets alongside housing and commercial spaces.
Inside the hotel, the double-height lobby lined with Moorish-style floor tiling and charcoal-hued walls leads up via a spiral staircase to The Library, where shelves bulge with leather-bound tomes.
Vibrantly striped seating and gold ottomans keep the look fresh and funky, a style echoed in the bedrooms, where mahogany-panelled headboards work alongside stitched-leather armchairs and designer lighting for a modern-classic vibe.
There are four dining areas, ranging from an all-day deli to full-on brasserie fare in the restaurant. The gym is also well kitted-out and just the place to limber up before heading out for a Cam-side picnic or a cheeky punt.
Book it Rooms from £200 for B&B
ANOTHER PLACE, THE LAKE
The lowdown A revamped Georgian hotel on the shores of Ullswater.
Best for Ramblers, dog walkers, cyclists and swimmers.
Created by the team behind the chic surfer’s paradise of the Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall, Another Place also has water sports as its USP, but this time exchanging the Atlantic rollers for the beauty of the Lakes. Set in 18 acres of National Park, the hotel comprises 40 bedrooms housed within the original Georgian building and two new wings, plus a pair of dog-friendly cottages.
With a 20 metre indoor pool, sauna, cardio and treatment rooms, there are plenty of wellness options inside, but it’s the Cumbrian landscape that best caters for the adventurer. Kayaking, sailing, wild swimming and paddleboarding all take place out on Ullswater (and training can be booked for any of these activities), while the cycle and walking tracks that spread out across the fells are ideal for everything from a healthy hike to a languid stroll.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, the hotel’s two restaurants serve up locally sourced delicacies such as Cumbrian steak and spatchcock chicken, while vegetarians are well-catered for too, with fresh salads given an Asian or African spin.
During the evening, you can play board games in front of the library’s fire or do like we did and head out to gaze in wonder at the darkening sky, spotting constellations obscured from view back in our neck of the woods. Another Place, Another Planet, you might say…
Book it Rooms from £160 for B&B