Escape from the big city’s buzz to find peace and comfort in one of these new country house hotels around the UK
The UK countryside attracts thousands of visitors not only because of its hills and valleys but also because of its unchanging nature: timeless thatched-roofed hamlets, woodlands, rocky coastlines and shingle beaches, among other bucolic landscapes. But that doesn’t mean simple hotels and lack of luxury. Right now, rural Britain is blooming with innovation and creativity, led by millionaire renovations, fancy kitchens with Michelin stars and design that competes with the capital in cosmopolitan style. Here’s our list with the latest openings or re-openings.
THE FIFE ARMS
After an enormous transformation, the Fife Arms in Scotland has gone from a simple Victorian inn to one of the UK’s hottest hotels. Led by designer Russell Sage, the renovation features a combination of tartan, brocade and William Morris wallpaper alongside art by Picasso, Bourgeois and Freud. The hotel is owned by Swiss art dealers Manuela and Iwan Wirth.
In the Southwest, a pair of properties that aren’t quite ambitious but bring a welcome bit of contemporary chic: Gara Rock. Originally a cluster of Admiralty cottages situated on the clifftop of a hidden peninsula, the hotel now features loft rooms, suites, apartments and cottages, all with a stylish, artful vibe. It also offers guests an Elemis spa, cinema and surf school.
A delightfully different atmosphere awaits at Beaverbrook – once the home of press baron Lord Beaverbrook – and guests are immediately taken to an era of country cottages. Set in 162 hectares off Surrey Hills, the echoes of the past are everywhere: Victoriana lampshades, vast drapes of chintz, four-poster beds… even the staff seem to be straight from the 1920s, in their waistcoats and braces. There’s a spa in the Coach House, a Japanese restaurant by Nobu’s Taiji Maruyama and a complete kids’ club with a treehouse and slides.
The worn exterior of South Lodge, a 19th-century neo-Jacobean stack in West Sussex is definitely not very attractive. However, when crossing the historic entrance, you’ll be taken into what may be one of Britain’s best country house spa. The huge space features three pools, waterbed-style massage tables and a mud room to go along with styled rooms and a cozy restaurant controlled by Tom Kemble.
In Yorkshire there is the Grantley Hall, a beauty gem with 47 suites and pleasant Japanese garden that has just had an expensive renovation and now features a wellness space with a cryotherapy chamber, underwater treadmill and altitude-enabled trainings.
Heading North, on the Isle of Islay – famous for its whisky production – Scottish hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray adds mystique with his first property, The Machrie. The hotel upholds the Scottish tradition with a world-class links golf course and the Aromatherapy Associates spa, the ideal place to relax.
THE FLOATING SPA
FAMOUS CHEFS ARE INTO THE TREND
Gastronomes are increasingly spoilt for choice now that many of Britain’s famous chefs are working in country kitchens. In Hempshire, at Heckfield Place, culinary star Skye Gyngell serves seasonal delights, such as chickpea pancake, baby leeks and almond yogurt; in Scotland, Michelin-starred Tom Kitchin and his designer wife Michaela, have transformed the 14-bedroom pub Bonnie Badger into a fancy destination. Meanwhile, in PerthShire Gleneagles has relaunched its famous restaurant, the Strathearn, under the control of chef Jason Hardcastle. Expect great cuisine and remarkable experiences. Over in the Costwolds, the talented Sam and Georgie Pearman are the new owners of the eight-bedroom Swan at Ascott and show their signature stamp of cool country with their special favorites, such as cheese soufflé. Finally, in Kent, the Pig-at Bridge Place is the epitome of comfortably casual. The 17th- century house has 25 bedrooms and a beautiful greenhouse restaurant where local produce is prepped and served from an open kitchen.
PRIVACY IS PARAMOUNT
If the intention is something more private and exclusive, no matter if it’s a big celebration or a quiet getaway, the option of private uses is the best one and for that, we recommend the Templeton House in Roehampton, a 30-minute drive from London’s West End. This Georgian mansion features 8 bedrooms, bucolic landscapes and the largest private pool in and around the capital.
Equally impressive, but a little bit more rustic, is August House on the wild Norfolk coast. Once owned by the Queen’s uncle, this amazing seaside manor, built in the shape of a butterfly, sleeps up to 20 guests. For something more intimate, the options are The Riddle, a cottage for four or Squire’s Cottage at Lucknam Park, a dreamy four-bedroom escape opening in August. We must take into consideration that all these places offer a quiet and rural experience while indulging guests in spa treatments, excellent restaurants and some other remarkable experiences.