Lucknam Park, Wiltshire – For Jane Austen Lovers
Lucknam Park is the perfect country house hotel: neither stuffily chintzy nor brought incongruously up to date with over-designed styling, it’s a mix of old world good looks, modern comforts, friendly service and fabulous food.
Once you’ve driven up the mile long, tree-flanked avenue to the splendid Palladian house, indulge in a traditional afternoon tea (scones with clotted cream and homemade jam) in the beautiful drawing room with views over the parkland. Then set off on the hour-long walk along he estate’s perimeter wall, or horsey types can head for the hotel’s impressive equestrian centre – just enough fresh air and exercise to have you hungry again for dinner
The Michelin-starred Park restaurant, headed up by chef Hywel Jones, is pure Jane Austen, all chandeliers, swagged curtains and bow windows. The food here is on the elaborate side but it’s never a case of style over substance.
Then there’s the spa. Ah – the spa, a super slick surprise behind the main house. Swim in the indoor pool complete with roaring fireplace (yes, you read that correctly), loll about in the hot rooms and outdoor hydro pool and try a treatment using herbs from the hotel’s vegetable garden. Bath, Austen’s stomping ground, is only six miles away but with so much to occupy you at Lucknam who knows if you’ll make it there.
The Old Swan, Minster Lovell – For Log Fire Lovers
Imagine the ideal country inn and you’ll picture The Old Swan. Exposed beams and brick, flagstone floors, log fires, cosy nooks, inviting bar… this is a wonderful weekend retreat in the Cotswolds countryside.
When it comes to eating, choose between the more formal restaurant with vaulted ceiling and rich wool tapestries or the pub like but equally appealing dining room.
Settle down by the fire for a nightcap (the snug is for residents only) before climbing the wooden stairs to one of the most comfortable beds you’ve ever slept in.
Bring your hiking boots as there are walks aplenty almost from the front door.
Gilpin Lake House, Cumbria – For Water Lovers
Staying at the lake House feels like steoppping into your own home – albeit with a number of staff at hand. With just six bedrooms and overlooking a private tarn, the house is intimate and relaxed. Part of that comes from the comfortable interiors but also from the personable service.
Tea is laid out every afternoon in the conservatory, where the very decent breakfast is served too. Dinner is over at Gilpin Lodge, the renowned hotel and restaurant owned by the same family. Its a few minute away but a driver is provided.
Walks in the rugged countryside are de rigour. Afterwards there’s the Lake House’s indoor pool, sauna and outdoor hot tub to enjoy as well as a massage room overlooking the lake.
Ynyshir Hall, Powys – For Royalty Lovers
Queen Victoria’s former country residence in Wales has been revamped into a luxurious small hotel by convivial couple Rob and Joan Reen.
Artist Rob’s striking paintings adorn the cosy bedrooms and chic dining room. A wealth of local produce is showcased in the Michelin starred restaurant including meat from the excellent village butcher, fish from nearby Borth and herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden. But the menu is anything but provincial.
Outside of the comfortable cocoon of the hotel with its sumptuous fabrics and lush colours, there are some stunning walks in this pretty corner of Wales. Either around the Dovey estuary where Ynyshir Hall nestles or a more strenuous hill climb – you may even spot local resident Robert Plant of Stairway to Heaven fame.
[UPDATE: Ynyshir Hall is now Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, open Tuesday to Sunday morning.]