The United Kingdom offers some stunning vistas, from the mountains of the Scottish Highlands to the Cornish coast and the Welsh valleys. Exploring these places is great, but it’s even better if you stay somewhere which lets you see them every time you look out of the window. A view with wow-factor can be the difference between an adequate stay and an amazing one.
You wouldn’t necessarily think of a hotel located next to a train station as offering great scenery, but this Victorian conversion boasts splendid views of York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe and the centrepiece of the city. The spacious rooms have York history embedded into them – there’s a detailed map of the city on the wall in every room – and include velvet-covered furniture and big beds. There’s a garden to relax in (although it doesn’t share the same views the rooms have) and a restaurant with a good wine list.
Perched over the mouth of Devon’s Salcombe Harbour and flanked by thick woodland, the Salcombe Harbour Hotel is ideally located for anyone who likes to relax by watching yachts go by on their way to the sea. The white walls, bright furniture and general vibe (rooftop DJ sets are a summer feature) make the coastal hotel feel like it’s been airlifted over from Croatia. With the beach just a short walk away it serves as a great base for a sandy getaway, but for a more sedentary experience the spa is on hand with a pool, sauna and hot tub, and you can even watch a movie in the 16-seat cinema. You could also watch the world go by over some River Yealm oysters at the restaurant, or pour yourself a gin and sit on your room’s balcony.
Many hotels claim that their features are “unrivalled”, with varying levels of authenticity, but Shangri-La’s unrivalled views can be easily verified – the hotel is in the tallest building in the UK. Spanning from the 34th to the 52nd floor of The Shard, this hotel elevates itself in high life chic. Despite the building getting narrower the higher you get, the rooms are large and accommodating and offer ludicrous views over the British capital, as does the restaurant. The star of the show, however, is the 52nd floor infinity pool. It occupies the entire top floor of the hotel, and offers you the highest swim in London.
Bude sits just on the Cornish border with Devon and acts as a gateway to the entire region, as well as being a popular haunt for surfers, sailors and divers. The aptly named Beach at Bude hotel overlooks Summerleaze Beach, which itself draws a golden path to Bude’s other beaches, including Bude Sea Pool. The Victorian-style hotel takes a modern, upmarket approach seemingly inspired by the East Coast of the USA. The heated terrace offers an ideal spot to sink a few cocktails in the orange glow of the sunset, while the restaurant offers similarly expansive views for a high-quality West Country dinner. The rooms seamlessly blend the modern with the rustic (think Lloyd Loom chairs next to V-spring mattresses), ensuring maximum comfort without ever straying from the beachfront atmosphere.
Many holidaymakers in the UK search for something that makes them feel like characters in a classic British novel, and few establishments can rival Burgh Island for this – at high tide, you can only reach the hotel by boarding a special “sea tractor”. The massive hotel has a very distinct Roaring Twenties character, and the pedigree to warrant it. Agatha Christie was a repeat visitor, and she wrote two of her books there, a wonderful thing to keep in mind as you gaze over the water. Murder mystery-themed parties are run by the hotel, and you can also learn to ballroom dance or enjoy tennis in the outer grounds, just to complete the image.
Another British haven for surfers, Saunton Sands and nearby Broughton Burrows in north Devon are prime beach spots for frolicking and wildlife-watching alike. Like some grand old manor, Saunton Sands Hotel sits atop a cliff overlooking the beach, with its outdoor amenities descending step-by-step towards the shore. The nearest of these is the heated outdoor pool which has a terrace where guests can sunbathe while watching the tiny ant-like antics of the beachgoers far beneath. There’s a palatial dining room and the rooms and lounge areas are filled with art deco furniture.
The Lake District stretches for miles across the north of England, offering visitors seemingly endless walking trails punctuated by sweeping views over the lakes. Windermere is the largest and most celebrated, and a stay at Linthwaite House ensures that you can appreciate it without having to hike to a high vantage point. Even facing away from the lake the imagery is sublime, and the converted Edwardian manor has an appealing “African lodge” appeal, with white walls, modern furnishings and a restaurant with a world-class wine list.
Misleadingly, The Hoxton is one of the three hotels dotted around London, and this iteration resides in Southwark on Blackfriars Road – nowhere near the trendy Hoxton neighbourhood itself. The Tate Modern, Southbank Centre, Flat Iron Square, Millennium Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre are all nearby. It’s an especially green area which can be appreciated from the rooms, but the real magic happens in the rooftop restaurant. From there, guests can see across the London skyline, encompassing St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, Big Ben, The London Eye and more. The food served is a selection of Iberian-style fish, so order a platter of oysters and enjoy a Waterloo sunset.
The Scottish capital has many historic hotels to pick from, but opt for the more modern Market Street Hotel and your outside-the-box thinking will be rewarded. It sits opposite the main station, Waverley Edinburgh, it’s close to the Old Town, and while its sleek exterior looks at odds with the classical frontage of its neighbours, you start to understand the appeal once you step inside. Marbled services, upcycled industrial fixtures and faucets, locally sourced coffee and the odd cheeky vein of tartan on the upholstery, just so you don’t forget you’re in Scotland. Of course that’s difficult when you look at the window and see the spire of the Scott Monument, or ascend to the 7th floor Nor’loft bar, grab your complimentary glass of bubbly and gaze out to the sea at the city’s northern edge.
If you’re looking for a great view in the Bristol area, it’s likely that you want something facing the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge. Sadly, a great location doesn’t always guarantee quality, and for a long time the site of the hotel was widely regarded as a wasted opportunity. That’s until Hotel Du Vin got their hands on the 122-year-old building. It was originally a spa, and care has been taken to restore that feel, with tiling and marbling as far as the eye can see, and big airy windows gaping out towards the gorge and bridge. Once again, the best views can be found on the terraced roof bar and adjoining restaurant, but even on the lower floors you can see out for miles.
The draws of England’s Jurassic Coast range from the bustling little beach towns to the paleontological intrigue to the coastline itself, and all can be easily accessed from the Alexandra. Casting a long shadow over the South West Coastal Path, as well as the neighbouring Langmoor and Lister Gardens, this Dorset hotel has a distinct Riviera character with its cream walls, grandfather chairs, silver mirrors and a long dining hall which also has a 7m-long glass wall looking out to sea. For a bit more privacy, there’s also the Lookout Tower at the very tip of the building (only 2-4 can dine here at any one time), and the seaside view rooms allow you to wake up and watch the sun work its way up past the blue waters without even getting out of bed.
Devon offers some of the most Instagram-worthy vistas anywhere in the UK, and it almost doesn’t matter where you stay, but the Endsleigh is a particularly special place because gazing over the grounds themselves is enough to deserve a chunk of precious memory space. The Grade-I listed gardens span 100 acres (40ha) around the main house, which itself used to be a royal hunting lodge. You can tour the gardens, fish on the lakes and play croquet on the lawn (or giant Jenga if you’re more 2020 than 1812). As if that weren’t enough, the rolling hills, woodlands and rocky cliffs of Dartmoor sit right on the hotel’s doorstep.
Another area of the UK with a JRR Tolkien vibe, the Brecon Beacons in Wales are coated with verdant forest, punctuated by quaint little towns and the odd grand hotel, such as Gliffaes Country House. The Italian-style building feels every bit like a European renaissance piece – the walls are adorned in floral designs, a healthy number of the doors are French and many of the rooms come equipped with ornamental fireplaces. All of the rooms have views overlooking the grounds, and the higher floors can enjoy the sight of the Beacons themselves unfurling into the distance.
Another hotel which enjoys views over the Lake District is Holbeck Ghyll, whose name was amusingly riffed on by comics Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip. It was once the hunting lodge of Lord Lonsdale, who at that time (1888) was one of the richest men in England. It remains privately owned to this day, and the ivy-coated walls and William Morris-style wallpaper within certainly do their bit to preserve the historical context of the building. The lake’s shore is a 15-minute walk away, and it’s possible to embark on a number of country paths from there. Around half the rooms look out onto the lake; the rest still provide a pleasing view of the area’s foothills.