Few places in the world have quite the same reputation for idyllic countryside that the UK does. The land that gave both a home and inspiration to authors like Tolkien, Dickens and the Brontë sisters – no trip to Blighty is complete without exploring the verdant hills and valleys. From Tetbury to Tavistock, you can find plenty of hotels that not only offer easy access to the British countryside, but embody its spirit as well.
There are a few wide-reaching areas in England that are famed for outstanding beauty – the Cotswolds is most certainly one of them. There are plenty of handsome villages in the region with quality hotels, but The Royal Oak sets itself apart with a contemporary, sustainability conscious approach that manages to feel innovative without relinquishing that coveted country inn atmosphere. Tetbury itself is an ideal gateway with plenty of rambling country walks, which make the area so popular – as well as Highgrove Gardens. The pub itself is the village’s cultural epicentre, with weekly live music. A terrace separates the rooms from the main pub, which helps prevent the noise from bleeding through and leaves space to fill with artsy decor and big bathrooms. Bottled spring water and vegan chocolate await guests on arrival, and the pub has a hearty seasonal menu.
Crossing into the Brecon Beacons is a transformative experience regardless of how you get there, as an impossibly green stretch of thickly forested hilltops stretches out as far as the eye can see. The very fact that Gliffaes Country House offers you the chance to see that view every time you look out the window is enticing enough, but there’s more. It was built in 1883, with Italian design standards in mind and a wide-reaching grounds, and much has been done to preserve that classical bent insight, with ornamental fireplaces, French doors, floral curtains and more. Similarly the restaurant exudes luxury at both dinner and breakfast, with 95 percent of what arrives on your plate locally sourced, and much of it grown and picked right there in the hotel gardens.
This small 21 room hotel on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales prides itself on two things – being dog friendly and offering nature-lovers a top quality stay. Cliffs and waterfalls mark the surrounding countryside, and the 18th century hotel feels almost like it was carved from the very limestone itself. Inside, the whole place is lined with attractive oak panelling and the lounge area has a big open fireplace. In the rooms, four-poster beds and hand carved wardrobes are twinned with walk-in showers and contemporary tiling. Once again most of the food offered in the restaurant is local and guests are allowed to keep up to three dogs in the room free of charge.
Much like the Dales, the Lake District covers miles upon miles of land and hotel companies jostle for the best spot to set up shop. Linthwaite is owned and run by the Leeu Collection, who also run hotels in similarly eye catching parts of South Africa and Italy. In Linthwaite’s case, this means a biscuit tin worthy Edwardian manor house, with 360 degrees of incredible views, and walls adorned with fascinating art. Both the conservatory and the terrace act as great lounge areas, and the Henrock restaurant is all fed by one nearby kitchen garden. Being that it’s a South African hotel company, the wine list is nothing to baulk at either. The rooms are simple, but all the creature comforts are present and correct, with high quality linens on the beds and lots of natural light, especially in the chalet-style suites.
Set in the midst of a huge stretch of Grade I-listed gardens, the Endsleigh could be the centrepiece of an illustrated book cover. The Tamar river runs right past the hotel grounds and the gothic landscape of Dartmoor is right on the doorstep. The house itself was built in 1812 as a hunting and fishing lodge for the then Duchess of Bedford. Stepping into the entrance hall you’d almost have thought it had been left completely unchanged since then. Further inspection will reveal that there are modern amenities, but they’ve been well blended into what was already there – antique baths next to waterfall showers, a front lawn with croquet and giant Jenga side-by-side. You can tour the gardens via front desk bookings, and hunt and fish during the high season. The restaurant is characterised by an upmarket Italian style menu.
Cleverly placed just on the outskirts of Chester proper, this handsome hotel feels every bit like it’s out in the wilds of the Cheshire countryside without the need to drive miles from civilisation. Its roots as an 18th-century establishment are well retained – expect lots of wooden panelling. The rooms vary between the more traditional fare and others which have taken on contemporary, global design influences, with the one constant being the views out into the hotel’s impressive grounds. The gym is flanked by a sauna and pool. Outside there’s a greenhouse, jasmine garden and a tennis court, ensuring that guests remain occupied year round. The restaurant has a d’hôte menu for the evening, and traditional roasts on Sundays, as well as hearty cooked breakfasts.
Another contender for the Lake District best-seats-in-the-house award, Lodore Falls sits right on the edge of Derwentwater Lake, making it just as striking to look at as it is to look out from. The rising tower and gables make it look like it’s only a few decades of disuse away from being the location of a horror movie, but with the location, champagne bar, library lounge, terraced gardens and dual British and Asian restaurants, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. You have to fork out a bit of extra cash to get a view of the lake, but even without that the rooms have an inviting style with wooden veneer furniture and plush super-king beds.
Another entry on the surprisingly long list of UK hotels built out of castles, Augill has the distinction of looking every bit like the castles you imagined living in when you were six years old, with turrets, battlements and climbing plants hanging over the windows. The terraced gardens seem to stretch eternal, and once you hit the border you have the Cumbrian hills to get lost in. Rooms feature a mishmash of styles which shouldn’t work together but somehow do – think four-poster beds next to upcycled lampshades and you’re on the right track. Sizes vary, but as is befitting of a castle, some of the rooms feel big enough to play tennis in, depending on how much cash you’re willing to part ways with. In the common area there’s a game room, cinema, bar and a restaurant that serves two- and three-course meals. You could easily spend an entire weekend here and never feel bored or confined.
Norfolk has the benefit of being a bit of a self-contained paradise, with a huge band of coastline, wide-ranging stretches of country and thick forest all ready to be explored. The Norfolk Mead is well calibrated to this, within easy driving distance of the Broads, the coastline, Norwich and Thetford Forest. Boat hire and picnic hampers are offered at the front desk and most of the staff are seasoned locals with plenty more handy advice. The rooms are split between the main house and freestanding units, and in either case there’s an abundance of space and light, and you’ll likely also catch more than a few glimpses of the shaggy cows which graze the grounds.
Cragwood is every bit what you’d expect from an Edwardian mansion-turned Lake District haunt. Easily accessible via A-road, but private enough to avoid the bustle of tourism even during high season, it doesn’t blind you with ostentation, but retains enough to still feel immersive, like an agreeable halfway point between a period drama and reality. Lawns and formal gardens mark the border, and there’s a private shoreline where you can hop on a boat, and a few different sitting rooms with the obligatory fireplaces to choose from. Formal dinners and casual menus are offered, and the rooms are big, open-plan affairs which, on the ground floor, all have private terraces.
For something extra special, discover our guide to castles in England you can actually stay in and book now on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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