From stately country houses to refined urban mansions, accommodation in the UK exudes class. It’s s hardly surprising in a country with one of the world’s oldest surviving monarchies. Up and down the country there are hotels which provide maximum opulence to help ensure that visitors can enjoy all of Britain’s charms in blissful comfort. Here are the best of the bunch.
Located in Mayfair, famously the most expensive district in the board game Monopoly, even mentioning the name Claridge’s conjures up visions of champagne, harpists and visiting heads of state. Since construction was completed in 1812, Claridge’s has welcomed all corners of high society from actors to royals – and it doesn’t cost a penny to understand why. Huge palatial rooms overlook the upmarket bustle of Brook Street, and those willing to spend more on a suite will even be provided with their own butler, as well as champagne and a Burberry coat (to borrow, not keep). Really splash out and you can stay in a penthouse with its own grand piano. The upper part of the hotel also houses a health club and the restaurant is a few floors below, offering dishes such as venison wellington or a butternut squash “bowl” of caviar.
When the words “luxury” and “hotel” are mentioned, it would be fair to say that many people would instantly add the word “Ritz” in their heads. It was founded just seven years after the original Ritz was opened in Paris by legendary hotelier César Ritz, and was followed by a third in Madrid. The London iteration holds a special significance with its huge gallery, iconic palm court and the fact that it’s had the same porter for the best part of 50 years. There’s a cigar shop, casino and a Rolls-Royce ready to be rented out. There are 136 rooms, many of which overlook Green Park, and all of which offer upscale furnishings and neat little archaic touches like an umbrella in the wardrobe. As you’d expect there’s a Michelin-Star restaurant with a six-course tasting menu and a sommelier on hand to recommend a wine pairing.
Having loomed over Edinburgh’s central Princes Street for a century, the Balmoral is in every sense a monument, and entering feels like walking into a royal palace, as marble pillars rise up to meet the domed ceiling and charcoal frescoes adorn the walls. Throughout the hotel the transcendent spirit of Scotland abounds, but that certainly doesn’t undercut the sense of luxury, as the rooms feature huge beds, fireplaces and cavernous bathrooms. The Balmoral boasts a spa which offers ESPA treatments, as well as a sauna, and there are three different dining options: the upscale Number One, the more relaxed Brasserie or afternoon tea in the frankly astonishing Palm Court room.
Bath is arguably the prettiest city in all of the UK owing to its Roman roots and still-functioning thermal spas. So how does a hotel guarantee tip-top luxury in that kind of locale? Simple really: reserve one of said thermal spas for guests only. The Gainsborough is the only hotel in Bath which offers this, alongside a broader range of pampering spa treatments, a quirky modern restaurant and a charming Georgian design which sneaks modern amenities into the rooms while still paying homage to the deeper roots of Bath (all the bathrooms have underfloor heating; an innovation you can thank the Romans for).
Country manor hotels are strewn across Great Britain, and it can be difficult to ascertain which of them are worth the price of admission, but Cliveden House is in a class of its own. Standing proudly in the midst of a 376-acre (152ha) grounds on the banks of the River Thames, this 17th-century pile plays double duty as a hotel and a historical National Trust site. Invitingly it’s within an hour of London, and once there you can expect suits of armour, tapestries, big spooky portraits and a sprawling dining hall. Not that you’d ever feel haunted, the space is far too lively to accommodate ghosts, although the hotel was the site of the infamous Profumo Affair scandal of 1961. The outdoor pool, hot tub and hedge maze all contribute to the grandness, as do the hotel’s vintage boats and huge marbled rooms full of antique furniture.
While its old name – the Palace Hotel – might have packed a more luxurious punch, this central Manchester hotel lost none of its appeal in the rebranding. The entrance hall and other areas gleam with tiling, stained glass windows, bronze statues and glazed brick. With 271 rooms, the Kimpton is gargantuan, and all of its rooms can sleep up to four adults. Many have separate living rooms with big sound systems and record players. The Refuge restaurant is an offshoot of the Volta on the city’s outskirts, and offers small plates that explore the planet through taste, and the Public Bar has a delightfully early 20th-century vibe, serving cocktails which can be taken over to the Winter Garden conservatory, with its green furniture, greener trees and geometric tiling.
Braemar is carved into the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands, presenting about as authentic a Scottish experience as it’s possible to find. The Fife Arms feels every bit the part it needs to play in such a place: tartan wall patterns, dark wood fireplaces, taxidermised animals and a lifetime’s supply of candles sit comfortably alongside more modern touches like neon light fixtures and abstract feature ceilings. Every room has its own distinct theme, be it nature, royalty or a more quaint cabin-style approach. The aforementioned painted ceiling was created by Chinese artist Zhang Enli and adorns the drawing room, where you can take afternoon tea. There’s a spa, a library and a hotel shop stocked with artisanal soaps and limited-run whisky malts. You can enjoy a lively dining experience in the Flying Stag, pop next door to Elsa’s Bar for a cocktail or enter the Clunnie Dining Room for the grandest culinary experience the hotel has to offer.
Chewton sits a short drive away from Bournemouth and Southampton, making it ideal for holidaymakers arriving via London. Its position right on the rim of the New Forest means that views in one direction enjoy the handsome green, whilst in the other you can take in the sight of seemingly endless treetops. Naish beach is close by, from which you can see across the Solent to the Needles rock formations off the Isle of Wight. Inside, the hotel curates mutually beneficial combinations of classical architecture and furnishings (there’s a grand piano in the lounge) with modern amenities in the rooms, such as tablets and Bang & Olufsen sound systems. It also houses the biggest hydro-therapy pool in Europe, alongside both indoor and outdoor pools, golf, tennis, aromatherapy, archery and duck herding (yes, that’s an actual thing). For a bit of extra money you can stay in a treehouse suite, perched above the forest canopy, availed of wooden decking and wood-burning stoves, peacefully separated from the main building (the staff drive you there in buggies).
Within easy reach of Bath and the pretty walking trails of the Cotswolds, Lucknam Park is well connected, whilst also feeling secluded once you penetrate the perimeter of tall trees around this huge mansion. The grounds are home to some beautifully kept gardens, a modern spa with a Japanese salt room, a heated pool overlooking the trees and various horse riding routes. The rooms all feel like miniature country houses, complete with white marble bathrooms with walk-in showers and free-standing baths. There is one full cottage and several rooms feature outdoor patios. Depending on your tastes, you can dine at the more cost-effective (and vegan-friendly) Brasserie or the Hywel Jones with its award-winning tasting menu.
Set in the backdrop of a tiny Cotswolds village, Barnsley House sits in the middle of a garden designed by the late Rosemary Verey, and whilst tourists come from far and wide just for that, guests can enjoy a higher level of access to this romantic green space. Inside the gardening theme continues with neat little flourishes like watering can flower pots. Happily there are also high-end Bose speakers for the TVs and Nespresso machines, and the hotel also offers Elemis spa treatments and hydrotherapy. The Potager restaurant deals in produce harvested mere yards away, as does the cocktail bar next door.
Despite being within 10 minutes of the centre of Newcastle, Jesmond Dene House has all the appeal of a secluded countryside manor. Its namesake is a patch of woodland discreetly hidden within the city’s borders, so if you squint you can pretend you’re in the middle of nowhere. The house was once owned by a major player in the Industrial Revolution, and the velvet furniture facing grand fireplaces certainly evokes that. The wire sculptures and other modern art pieces do not, but it’s a welcome dash of modernity in what might otherwise become a stuffy environment. Alongside the two indoor lounges there’s a terrace, conservatory and a garden which encroaches on the Dene itself. The rooms are softly decorated with wood panelling, bronze fixtures and subtle statement wallpaper, most rooms also have plants in them for an added touch of nature. The cocktail bar offers afternoon tea, and you can have a simple lunch and a three-course dinner in the main restaurant.
Named for its location – Birmingham’s handsome academic district – The Edgbaston is more well-known as a cocktail bar, but also serves as a small, charming hotel. Each of the six rooms offer high-end furniture, big free-standing baths, Elemis toiletries, big beds and warm lighting. The main draw however is the cocktail bar itself, which is split into three lounges: the Main Bar, the Cellar and the Library. Each one has its own selection, focusing on different spirits, with the cultural heritage woven into the recipes (yes, there is a Peaky Blinders cocktail, fret not). While there’s no dinner menu, there are lots of interesting bar snacks on offer, as well as afternoon tea and a continental breakfast. Given the hotel’s size, few other facilities are offered, but the bar experience alone is worth the price of admission, and attractions like Birmingham Botanical Gardens are just a short walk away.