Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 1 December 2015

The 50 best weekend retreats

Published 11/10/2011

<b>Lainston House Hotel</b><br/>
For a very English weekend away and a classy approach to the romantic break, David Else recommends Lainston House Hotel, which he calls 'a quintessential country house hotel, complete with manicured gardens, croquet lawn and fly-fishing on the chalky streams of the nearby rivers Itchen and Test.'<br/>
<b>Where</b> Lainston House Hotel, Sparsholt, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 2LT (01962 776088;<br/>
<b>How much</b> From £245 room only
Lainston House Hotel
For a very English weekend away and a classy approach to the romantic break, David Else recommends Lainston House Hotel, which he calls 'a quintessential country house hotel, complete with manicured gardens, croquet lawn and fly-fishing on the chalky streams of the nearby rivers Itchen and Test.'
Where Lainston House Hotel, Sparsholt, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 2LT (01962 776088;
How much From £245 room only
Bowood Hotel
Sarah Miller recommends this spacious hotel and spa for a convenient couples' retreat: 'A great romantic bolt-hole, deep in the Wiltshire countryside, but only a stone's throw from the M4. Stroll around the lake and gardens followed by some relaxation in their luxury spa.'
Where Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, Derry Hill, Calne, Wiltshire, SN11 9PQ (0845 2600 409;
How much From £94 room only
The Olde Bell
Sophie Lam is full of praise for this centuries-old coaching inn in the pretty village of Hurley, which she explains has been thoughtfully modernised by design doyenne Ilse Crawford. 'Crooked beams, crackling fires, roll-top baths and hearty food make for a perfect weekend à deux.'
Where The Olde Bell Inn, High Street, Hurley, Berkshire, SL6 5LX (01628 703 504;
How much From £125
Alt Na Craig House
Although it is listed as a B&B, David insists that in reality this is 'an excellent- value boutique hotel, in a Victorian country house with its own grounds and fantastic views across to the Isle of Mull and other islands of the Hebrides.'
Where Alt Na Craig House, Glenmore Road, Oban, Argyll, PA34 4PG (01631 564 524;
How much From £120 with breakfast
The Inn at Whitewell
'The inn itself may not be a secret hideaway but it's a delightful place to stay, and the nearby Trough of Bowland is a genuine undiscovered gem,' says David. The pretty inn itself dates all the way back to the 1300s, and is sure to prompt hand-holding and contented sighs.
Where The Inn at Whitewell, Near Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 3AT (01200 448222;
How much Doubles from £120 with breakfast
The Archangel
'This old coaching inn has been beautifully renovated into a stylish restaurant with rooms in the centre of Frome, an old Somerset market town - the food is a treat too,' says Sarah, and James Lohan also recommends it for a romantic bolthole. 'This six-room, budget-boutique stay may date back to Domesday, but its architectural overhaul is decidedly modern.'
Where The Archangel, 1 King Street, Frome, Somerset, BA11 1BH (01373 456111;
How much Double room from £120 with breakfast
The Royal Crescent Hotel
Set right in the middle of Bath's famous crescent, this Grade I listed building is an elegant retreat that parades its rich heritage in sumptuous style. The hotel makes a characterful base from which to explore this historic town, or if you stroll through their pretty gardens - also a recommended setting for afternoon tea - the steamy Bath House Spa awaits.
Where The Royal Crescent Hotel, 16 Royal Crescent, Bath, BA1 2LS (01225 823333;
How much Double rooms from £345 with breakfast
'Defining itself as a 'higgledy-piggledy world of pleasure' this place combines a luxurious B&B, fantastic bistro, and wonderful deli full of local produce and home-made cakes, at the heart of a beautiful Georgian north Norfolk market town,' says David. Get ready to get cosy.
Where Byfords, 1-3 Shirehall Plain, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 6BG (01263 711400;
How much From £150 with breakfast
This small and intimate boutique B&B in the foothills of Snowdonia promises a proper romantic escape. The decor is ornate Victoriana with funky modern touches, but remains elegant at all times. A perfect place for long windswept walks - enjoy champagne and strawberries in the outdoor hot tub on your return.
Where Ffynnon, Love Lane, Dolgellau, Gwynedd, LL40 1RR (01341 421 774;
How much Doubles from £135 with breakfast and afternoon tea on arrival
Lime Wood
'One of Britain's newer country-house retreats, Lime Wood was originally a medieval hunting lodge,' says James. 'This New Forest manor pays attention to detail, with manicured grounds, contemporary interior design, a super new spa and two restaurants. It's grown-up, but not at all stuffy.'
Where Lime Wood, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7FZ (023 8028 7177;
How much Doubles from £190 with breakfast
Nash Hall
'This 17th-century threshing barn in the Welsh Marches has been beautifully restored and is resplendent with such touches as a vintage juke box, games room and country-chic decor,' explains Sophie who suggests checking in and using it as a base to explore nearby Hay-on- Wye, Ludlow and the Offa's Dyke Path.
Where Hall, Nash, Presteigne, Powys, LD8 2LG (01544 267359;
How much From £150
The Hotel & Extreme Academy
'The perfect escape for the extreme sports enthusiasts among us,' says Sarah. 'It's perched above two-mile long Watergate Bay where you can enjoy bodyboarding and surfing as well as breath-taking cliff walks.' Its in-house 'extreme academy' offers surfing, kite surfing, waveski and traction kite.
Where The Hotel and Extreme Academy, Watergate Bay, Cornwall, TR8 4AA (01637 860543;
How much From £105 with breakfast
The Drunken Duck Inn
A great base for the active couple, suggests Sarah of this 300-year-old inn. 'Surrounded by walking country, the pub specialises in hearty British fodder, a certain requirement after a day's walking in the hills.'
Where The Drunken Duck Inn, Barngates, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0NG (015394 36347;
How much Double rooms from £95 with breakfast and afternoon tea
Stoke Place, Black Widow's Ball
Taking place on 28 October, the Black Widow's Ball at luxury hotel Stoke Place is lavishly reinventing the country house party, according to Sophie. 'The Hammer horror-themed event promises theatrical ghoulishness by way of fancy dress, a midnight feast, mummification room and transvestite tarot.'
Where Stoke Place, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4HT (01753 468 854;
How much From £100 plus £35 ticket
Alladale Wilderness Reserve
Stay in one of three lodges in a remote Highlands location. The range of activities available is impressive: go on a wildlife safari, Scots style, over the hills in a 4x4, or try pony trekking, fishing, clay-pigeon shooting or even deer stalking. The reserve offers whisky-tasting session and tours of local distilleries; or go the other direction and check in for an 'escape and rejuvenate health retreat'.
Where Alladale Lodge, Ardgay, Sutherland, Scotland, IV24 3BS (01863 755 338;
How much From £350 for four, full board
Ellenborough Park
Perfect for those with a passion for the races, this is 'an indulgent 15th-century manor in a knock-out location, just far enough outside Cheltenham to feel 'country living' but still less than 10 minutes from town,' says James.
Where Ellenborough Park, Southam Road, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucestershire, GL52 3NH (01242 807 587;
How much Double rooms from £210 with breakfast
The Scarlet
Sarah tips this as being the most gorgeous eco-friendly hotel on the Cornish coast - and there are plenty of outdoors activities to enjoy too. 'Take a refreshing swim in the reed pool overlooking the sea and get out walking on the coast path, it's all there for the taking,' she adds. James agrees that 'located by a gorgeous beach, the Scarlet manages that rare balance between eco and pampering, and makes the most of its setting: floor-to-ceiling glass brings the outside in and maximises sea-and-sand views.'
Where The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ (01637 861800;
How much From £165 with breakfast
The Swan Hotel & Spa
According to James, this is 'the perfect place to pitch up at after a ramble round the Lakes, the 17th-century Swan providing a warm and hearty welcome with local ales on tap, fires in the hearth and fine food on plates. Great for cosy rendezvous or family getaways, it's like a pub with benefits - including attractive rooms, a swimming pool and a spa.'
Where The Swan Hotel & Spa, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, LA12 8NB (015395 31681;
How much Double rooms from £119 with breakfast
Natural Perspectives
Fancy putting yourself through bootcamp, but with a side order of comfort and style? Sophie explains that at this retreat in the Yorkshire Dales, 'you spend the weekend working towards specific goals, whether it's fitness, toning or weight loss before retiring to the sleek glass and wood self-catering Natural Retreats residences overlooking the Swale Valley.'
Where Natural Perspectives, Swale Valley, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 (0161- 8323271;
How much Three-day all-inclusive retreat from £439
Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel
'A historic old coaching inn, full of nooks and crannies, with bedrooms upstairs, little has changed since Victorian days - but in a good way' insists David. 'A long-time favourite for walkers and climbers, the bar downstairs is full of mountaineering memorabilia. The British team that first conquered Everest trained nearby - you can still see their signatures on the ceiling.'
Where Pen-y-gwyrd Hotel, Nant Gwynant, Gwynedd, North Wales, LL55 4NT (01286 870211;
How much From £40 with breakfast
South Lodge Hotel
With the addition of the Pass restaurant, the South Lodge Hotel rather surpasses its traditional grand country house stylings - lovely and luxurious though they are. Developing the 'chef's table' concept, diners are seated in the kitchen to watch their creations being made by Matt Gillan and his team. Expect inventive, delicate, contemporary dishes from their choice of tasting menus. Vegetarians are imaginatively catered for too.
Where South Lodge Hotel, Brighton Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 6PS (01403 891 711;
How much Double rooms from £335 with six-course tasting menu and breakfast
Coworth Park
'Just outside Ascot, the 17th-century mansion and polo estate has been treated to an intelligent and eco-friendly modern makeover by the Dorchester group, creating three restaurants, a spectacular spa, and an air of quietly confident grandeur,' suggests James. Sarah is similarly enthused: 'Michelin-starred chef John Campbell heads up Coworth Park's restaurants where you can get everything from an extravagant tasting menu to a good steak and chips.'
Where Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7SE (01344 876 600;
How much Double rooms from £215
Felin Fach Griffin
Holiday-makers drawn to the Brecon Beacons would be well advised to book in at this charming country inn, especially if they're looking for good food too. A dining pub with seven simply decorated rooms attached, the Felin Fach Griffin serves high-quality, delicious grub in its cosy library, bar and tack rooms.
Where Felin Fach Griffin, Felin Fach, Brecon, LD3 0UB (01874 620 111;
How much Double rooms from £170 with dinner and breakfast
Langford Fivehead
'Recently opened by Peter Steggall and Orlando Murrin (also behind the Le Manoir des Raynaudes), this personality-packed medieval manor has been playfully renovated,' James explains, adding that 'it's a sociable, foodie place, perfect for country-house weekends spent sharing great food and good times.' Sarah deems it 'a real retreat for foodies'.
Where Langford Fivehead, Lower Swell, Somerset, TA3 6PH (01460 281159;
How much Double rooms from £220 with breakfast
The Swan at Southrop
'The food is the focus at this 17th-century pub and restaurant' says Sarah. She recommends staying in one of its beautiful cottages - and booking into its Thyme Food School for a cookery course, where you can learn artisan skills from breadmaking to charcuterie to handmade chocolates.
Where TheSwan, Southrop, Lechlade, Gloucestershire, GL7 3NU (01367 850072; www.
How much Cottage sleeping two from £170
The Hambrough
Sophie describes Ventnor on the Isle of Wight as 'a classic seaside town that transports you back to childhood' and suggests you take a hike across to Steephill Cove for a crab lunch before retiring to the Michelin-starred delights of Robert Thompson's top-quality restaurant, and the luxurious rooms at the Hambrough.
Where The Hambrough, Hambrough Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, PO38 1SQ (01983 856333;
How much Doubles from £170 with dinner, bed and breakfast
Tuddenham Mill
Tuddenham Mill's chocolate-box looks and tucked-away Suffolk location belie its newly earned inclusion on the foodie map. Head chef and rising star Paul Foster uses local ingredients and foraged produce from the surrounding fields and rivers to offer a truly innovative British menu. The simple rooms in the restored mill and outlying barns are homely - though the loft rooms have an unusual and rather intimate bathroom arrangement - and the complimentary sloe gin addictive.
Where Tuddenham Mill, High Street, Tuddenham, nr Newmarket, Suffolk, IP28 6SQ (01638 713552; www.tuddenhammill.
How much From £185 with breakfast
The Pig
Sophie is enthusiastic about this new retreat with a traditional country kitchen attached, where chef James Golding cooks up food grown in its own walled garden or foraged from the surrounding area. 'The baby sister to the acme of country house hotels, Lime Wood, opened recently in the New Forest, offering cosy rooms, suites in the stables and piggery, and affordable, indulgent food.'
Where The Pig, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, the New Forest, Hampshire, SO42 7QL (01590 622354;
How much From £125
Mr Underhill's
At the foot of Ludlow Castle, Mr Underhill's occupies a suitably regal position in this Marches town known for its top foodie credentials. It's the only Michelin-starred restaurant in town that also has rooms - so after enjoying its exceptional nine-course market menu, you can waddle back to the comfort of your bedroom.
Where Dinham Weir, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1EH (01584 874431;
How much Singles from £130 including breakfast
The Three Chimneys
A restaurant with rooms, there are six very cute bedrooms available in the adorably named House Over-by, just across the courtyard from one of Scotland's best restaurants. The location of this old crofter's cottage, in a far corner of the Isle of Skye, may be remote but the cooking makes the journey more than worthwhile. For the full experience, opt for the 'Seven Courses of Skye Showcase' menu.
Where The Three Chimneys and House Over-by, Colbost, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, IV55 8ZT (01470 511258;
How much From £295 with breakfast
Set in the Pembrokeshire National Park, Bluestone positions itself as a 'five-star short-break destination like no other'. Sophie likes how the 'no-nonsense design in the timber lodges and cottages provides a springboard for rope courses, a waterpark, a Lego room, zip wiring and more.' David adds approvingly that it 'combines boutique style with green credentials.'
Where Bluestone, The Grange, Canaston Wood, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, SA67 8DE (01834 888 160;
How much Short breaks from £249
The Gallivant
'A great beach hotel for all the family,' is Sarah's verdict on this Sussex seaside oasis. With plenty of walking and windsurfing opportunities, she continues that it's 'the perfect place to blow away the cobwebs and get the children out in the fresh air.'
Where The Gallivant, New Llyd Road, Camber, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7RB (01797 225 057; www.thegallivanthotel. com)
How much From £85 with breakfast
Canopy & Stars: Lochhouses
Try something a bit different - these giant tents are a treat for big kids and small, according to Sophie. 'The wild, dune-backed beach of Lochhouses is a prelude to these seven safari-style tents immediately behind, whose simple canvas exteriors belie luxury within.' Think family-friendly glamping on the Scottish coast.
Where Lochhouses Farm, Tyninghame, EastLothian, EH42 1XP (01275 395 447;
How much From £55 sleeping six to eight
Polurrian Bay Hotel
'This luxury peninsula address has plenty to recommend it,' starts Sophie. 'It's the first UK hotel from Nigel Chapman since he sold Luxury Family Hotels to Von Essen, plus it has a kids' club, spa, thoughtful design and children under 12 stay for free with their parents.'
Where Polurrian Bay Hotel, Mullion, Cornwall, TR12 7EN (01326 240421;
How much From £120 with breakfast
Choristers House
'Ideal for family gatherings or groups of friends, this is a former school in the grounds of Fountains Abbey, an Arts and Crafts fantasy with turrets and mock-medieval designs inside and out,' says David. Its dramatic location and acres of space should prove popular with all ages.
Where Fountains Abbey, Ripon, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY (01765 608888; www.fountains choristers-house)
How much From £478 for two nights sleeping up to 10
Preseli Venture
This small family-run adventure centre specialises in kayaking and coasteering - David explains that's 'like mountaineering, although instead of going up mountains, you go sideways along the cliffs on the coast', for those who don't know. He adds that the accommodation is in 'clean and comfortable bunk-rooms in a peaceful rural location.'
Where Preseli Venture, Parcynole Fach, Mathry, Haverfordwest, SA62 5HN (01348 837709;
How much From £39 with breakfast
The Dune House
Sleeping up to nine, Living Architecture's new venture 'democratises high-concept architecture, making daring design available to weekenders who want a stylish stay by the sea,' says Sophie. Children will be enchanted by the wonky-looking building, adults will appreciate its Nordic cool, and everyone will enjoy being right in among the sand dunes.
Where The Dune House, Thorpeness, Leiston, Suffolk, IP16 4NR (www.livingarchitecture.
How much From £760 for four nights
Littonfields Barn
'The Peak District is full of self-catering options but this one stands out: comfortable bedrooms, hotel standard ensuite bathrooms, large well-equipped kitchen, big comfy lounge and a separate games room,' maintains David. Ideal for families and large groups, there's plenty of space inside and out for the children to run about in at this luxury holiday barn - so no risk of cabin fever, even if it rains.
Where Littonfields Barn, The Farm, Litton, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 8QP (01298 871738;
How much From £1,120 for a weekend sleeping up to 12
Calcot Manor
A country house hotel that more than understands what families need for a relaxing stay away. Luxurious enough to let parents feel like they're having a proper break, while tots to teens are kept busy with everything from an Ofsted-registered crèche through to 'the Mez', a games zone replete with PlayStations, Wiis and Xboxes.
Where Calcot Manor, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8YJ (01666 890 391;
How much From £240 with breakfast
The Grove
'It's not just the wonderful Pembrokeshire countryside that the Grove has going for it: recently renovated, the hotel is a relaxing blend of contemporary luxe and country charm,' says James, pointing out it's good for families too, and flagging up the Italian-tinted menu, which uses locally sourced ingredients.
Where The Grove, Molleston, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, SA67 8BX (01834 860 915;
How much Double rooms from £150 with breakfast
The Halycon
'A lovely hotel from which to explore all the culture Bath has to offer,' suggests Sarah. Her top tips for a truly engaging weekend? 'Go and see a play at the wonderful Theatre Royal just round the corner and make sure you visit the fascinating American Museum.'
Where The Halycon, 2/3 South Parade, Bath, BA2 4AA (01225 444 100;
How much From £85
40 Winks Hotel
'This quirky bolthole in east London is a Queen Anne townhouse-turned-living museum with two rooms for guests,' explains Sophie. While Mile End might not sound like the most likely location, she recommends it as a great base from which to explore the area's cultural scene, including the Whitechapel Gallery and new Galerie8.
Where 40 Winks Hotel, 109 Mile End Road, Stepney Green, London, E1 4UJ (020-7790 0259;
How much Double room from £95
Reading Rooms
'The new Turner Contemporary gallery, combined with a stylish place to rest your head at the Reading Rooms and great restaurants such as Age & Sons in nearby Ramsgate, make for a quirky cultural getaway,' says Sophie. James agrees that it's 'a brilliant example of the Great British seaside revival: a smart Georgian townhouse B&B, with claw-foot tubs and Penguin Classics by the bed, in the bright-and-breezy coast town that's home to a renewed creative vigour.'
Where Reading Rooms, 31 Hawley Square, Margate, Kent CT9 1PH (01843 225166; www.thereadingroomsmargate.
How much Double room from £150 with breakfast
The W Hotel
If you're willing to brave the busy crowds and late-night revelry of Leicester Square, the W Hotel brings Manhattan-style studio living to the centre of the capital. The fashionable rooms - based on a studio concept where bathroom and bedroom co-habit and filled with shiny fabrics and mirrored panels - aren't huge but provide the perfect location to explore all that party London has to offer.
Where W London, Leicester Square, 10 Wardour Street, London, W1D 6QF (020-7758 1000;
How much From £289 room only
Rocpool Reserve
'No stag heads and tartan carpets here,' promises David, who deems it instead to be a 'stylish and contemporary boutique hotel in the gateway to the highlands.'
Where Rocpool Reserve, Culduthel Road, Inverness, IV2 4AG (01463 240089;
How much Single from £150
Dean Street Townhouse
'Once home to Hogarth, this Dickensian outpost of the Soho House group lures in a creative crowd with its updated take on period decor and popular brasserie,' says James. 'The art collection is fantastic: commissioned from artists including original YBAs and Turner Prize winners, every work reflects the 'Soho' theme.'
Where Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 3SE (020-7434 1775;
How much Doubles from £160 room only
Savoy Hotel
It's the small details that set the Savoy apart from its rivals. Whether it's ice cubes of perfect shape and clarity in the American Bar's cocktails or the soft linens and fine upholstery of the subtly styled Riverside rooms, the refurbished Savoy exudes luxury and near-perfect attention to detail. Its staff are among the most gracious and attentive around.
Where The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU (020-7836 4343;
How much Double rooms from £347 with breakfast
The Light
Billed as a boutique aparthotel, Conran & Partners-designed The Light does indeed combine the best of both: hotel-style attention to detail with the flexibility of a self-catering apartment. But best is its city-centre location, overlooking Piccadilly Gardens and next to the Arndale shopping centre yet on the edge of the cool Northern Quarter. A hip and handy place for city breaks, especially for groups.
Where The Light, 20 Church Street, M4 1PN (0161-839 4848;
How much Apartments from £99
Queensbury Hotel
David's top tip for those seeking Austen literary history, Roman baths or simply genteel strolls in Bath, but who don't want to stay in a twee chocolate-boxy affair. 'In a city full of tourist hotels, this place manages to stand out from the crowds; individual, quirky, and unashamedly luxurious.'
Where Queensbury Hotel, Russel Street, Bath, BA1 2QF (01225 447928;
How much Doubles from £125 room only
Hotel Missoni
A surprising burst of Italian glamour in the midst of Edinburgh's stately old town, this fashion-house excursion into accommodation makes for a chi-chi place to rest your head. A popular base for a girly weekend away, there's plenty of culture to soak up in the Scottish capital - as long as you can tear yourself away fromthe Missoni-print cocktail bar.
Where Hotel Missoni, 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 12AD (0131-220 6666;
How much Doubles from £125

Whether it’s fine dining at a luxury London hotel or a romantic break in Snowdonia, Holly Williams gets you away from it all

This week's panel:

David Else is the author of the ‘Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain’;

Sophie Lam is deputy travel editor of ‘The Independent’;

James Lohan is founder of the website Mr & Mrs Smith (;

Sarah Miller is editor of ‘Condé Nast Traveller’ magazine

>> Click 'More Pictures' to launch our guide.

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