The British country house hotel really started in 1949 with the opening of the Sharrow Bay on Ullswater in the Lake District. Run by Francis Coulson and his partner Brian Sack, it became very famous for its delicious food. There were already leisure hotels in Britain but this was the first where you were really pampered.
Hundreds of country house hotels have since opened and today there is a huge selection from which to choose. While some offer no more than the pleasures of a beautiful old house, a roaring fire and a fine English afternoon tea, many now have spas, cookery courses and a large array of activities like falconry, clay pigeon shooting, fishing and other country pursuits. All these hotels share in common a high level of comfort, excellent locally sourced food and the joys of the English countryside.
A few examples we should mention include Lime Wood in the New Forest, which offers a very high level of service and attention to detail. The thick oak doors and stylised sitting rooms, each with an open fire offer guests a lovely country house experience, albeit in deep luxury. Angela Hartnett, works with the hotel’s chef, Luke Holder, to produce Italian inspired dishes that are truly inspiring. Gravetye in West Sussex is an Elizabethan home with mullioned windows and red-brick chimney stacks. Inside it is all 16th-century-style thrones carved from oak, huge fireplaces engraved with Tudor flowers and coats of arms. The restaurant has a Michelin star and is a lovely place to dine. The hotel also has wonderful gardens which are a pleasure to explore at any time of the year. Raymond Blanc’s famous Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire is a great mix of stately Oxfordshire and French flair. The honey coloured manor house has pretty gardens, vegetable patch and ponds. There is a fantastic two-Michelin starred restaurant, a 1930s-style bar serves comforting cocktails and the bedrooms are really comfortable and stylish. We particularly loved the bathrooms.
The famous Astor home, Clivedon, in Berkshire has to be one of the loveliest spots for a hotel, overlooking a spectacular 19th-century parterre and surrounded by acres of ancient woodland running down to the Thames. The hotel has some incredibly grand bedrooms and has recently been hugely restored offering once more a very high level of luxury in the most elegant of buildings. This is real Downton Abbey stuff. The house was the setting for the infamous Profumo affair and Clivedon still knows how to throw a good party. Chewton Glen Hotel also in the New Forest has lovely grounds and you can follow the stream through the woods and emerge at Naish Beach. The Facilities are excellent with a lavish spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis centre, nine-hole golf course and many activities, from archery to buggy riding. Bedrooms and suites are varied and sumptuous. A popular place for guests to stay when they come off a cruise at Southampton as this hotel is much frequented by the QE2 crowd. Hambleton Hall in Rutland was beautifully decorated by Stefa Hart, the owner since 1979, and the house has a feeling of comfort and calm. This elegance is matched by the surrounding gardens and a view of Rutland Water from the terrace.
The Cotswolds is another great area for English boutique hotels and favourites includes Calcot near Tetbury, a weathered stone manor house and farm buildings that offers 35 guest rooms, a gorgeous spa, a kid’s play area and two restaurants. The hotel has ‘country modern’ bedrooms that manage to be both cosy and elegant, soothing and spoiling, natural and sophisticated. Barnsley House near Cirencester with its golden stone, gables and mullion windows is a very romantic house. The 4 acres of gardens were designed by Rosemary Verey and are stunning. This hotel got a little shabby chic at one stage but has been refurbished and also has a super spa. This is a very pretty area with a great pub in the village, which we recommend. Lords of the Manor Hotel dates from around 1649, with gables, wings and bay windows added in later centuries. Traditional rather than trendy, the downstairs rooms are furnished with country house kit that you would find in a private home and there are 26 bedrooms spread around the various upper floors and barn conversions. Buckland Manor near Winchcombe is another favourite with great food and charming staff but the new superstar in the mix seems to be Dormy House near Chipping Camden, which is a clever mix of old and contemporary, with a fabulous spa and excellent cuisine. A few other LTR favourites include Gilpin lodge in the Lake District, Summer Lodge in Dorset which is a great base for exploring the Jurassic coast and Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, a perfect spot for Bath and the southwest.
Whatever you are looking for, we would love to find the perfect English boutique hotels for your vacation and we really can advise on the best places to go and stay in the UK. We also have boutique hotels in Ireland and Scotland. Please just call us or email us and let us know what you are looking for and we will be delighted to help.