While it might not hold the amorous reputation of France or Italy, the UK is a great destination for those in search of a romantic retreat. Whether you want to watch the sun go down over the London skyline, walk the Cornish coast or take a boat out in the Lake District, we’ve found the most romantic places to stay in the UK.
L’Oscar works ‘70s disco and vaudeville into a mix that shouldn’t work but does. It’s located in the vibrant central London district of Holborn, an easy walk away from the theatre district and a string of excellent restaurants. Of course, if you decide to spend most of your time in the imaginatively decorated hotel, you’ll be well rewarded for it, with a restaurant run by a Michelin Star chef, and rooms filled with the kind of 1930s flair you’d expect to see in a Frank Capra movie. The building was originally a Baptist church and much of the furniture was salvaged from that era and converted – all of which helps couples enjoy a “religious experience” during their stay.
Few hotels can claim to be both surrounded by countryside and located right next to a city centre – but Prestonfield House fulfils the boast. It takes just 10 minutes to drive from the hotel to Princes Street, and the grounds sit on the edge of the enormous Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s dormant volcano. You couldn’t ask for a better slice of gothic romanticism. The exterior is austere, but inside you’ll find leopard print rugs, velvet upholstery, poster beds and ubiquitous wood-grained surfaces. The staff do everything to ensure you never need to leave (including going clothes shopping for you) but if you do, croquet and golf sit right on the doorstep. You can have a tipple in either the Tapestry Room or the Leather Room (no, really), and the Rhubarb restaurant provides a varied menu of Scottish dishes and an 800-bottle wine list.
When a hotel is named after a plant which is referred to in the Bible as an aphrodisiac, you know you’re in for an intimate experience. In fact, this hotel, hidden in the upmarket Fitzrovia district, is something of a surprise. Walk past the front door and you’ll be greeted with a secret garden which looks as if it would be just as at home in Bali or Costa Rica as it is in London. Wooden terraces surrounded by tropical plants intersect the network of 30 marbled rooms. The best of them have free-standing baths and four poster beds, and the penthouse even has its own hot tub. The common areas have high ceilings, stone walls and velvet chairs, a theatre and a Parisian-style restaurant.
If you want to mix some history into your getaway, Amberley Castle can meet that need in spades. The castle’s history dates back to the 12th century, and Henry VIII visited in 1526 seeking divorce advice (best not to read too much into that). Now owned and run by the Relais & Chateaux group, the halls are lined with artefacts like suits of armour and pikes. The remains of the great hall have been converted into a courtyard, and the restaurant has a barrel-vaulted ceiling akin to some ancient monastery, although you’d never find such a decadent menu in a real one. The rooms take full advantage of the history, with big granite fireplaces and thick curtains protecting the lattice windows.
The sleepy village of Cranborne, Dorset, is every bit the stereotypical English hideaway you’ve seen in countless romcoms, and 10 Castle Street is where the American protagonist would stay. Built as Queen Anne House in 1703, it has since been transformed into an endlessly welcoming space with several large lounge areas, a billiards room, two bars and even a play area for children which is exclusive to guests (and members). There are just nine bedrooms, all spacious and adorned with carved wood and embroidery, and the high class atmosphere flows out in the expertly designed garden and the restaurant with its Italian-style menu.
Undoubtedly the most well-known Roman spa town in the UK, Bath is uniquely beautiful and practically begging for couples to come and explore its ancient streets. It would seem almost criminal to travel there and stay in a cookie-cutter modern hotel, so why not stay somewhere which completely embodies the town’s history and architecture? Being the only hotel in Bath with access to the city’s thermal waters, the Gainsborough has its own Roman spa right there in the building. That alone should be enough to beckon guests into its 98 neo-Georgian bedrooms, but there’s more: bathrooms with underfloor heating, a modern restaurant with a creative menu and a range of therapies to compliment the time spent in the thermal pools.
Looking out towards Danesfield House you could be forgiven for hearing the Downton Abbey theme music playing in your head. The white battlemented walls, tree-lined entrance and lines of flowers all scream period drama, and the feeling doesn’t let up any when you get inside. The house has been a beacon in the Chilterns for 200 years, and care has been taken to preserve this, with the oak-panelled Great Hall, antiquated sconces lining the hallways and a fresco-lined swimming pool. The rooms keep things a bit more modern, without sacrificing one iota of luxury, and return customers can expect special gifts in their rooms when they arrive.
Views of the Avon Gorge are prized in the Bristolian hotel scene, and Number 38 offers one of the best. The seafaring history of the city looms large in the rooms, with bulkhead lighting upcycled as lamps, and trunks and chests repurposed as coffee tables and end tables. Breakfast in bed is offered if you want to take some extra time to drink in the views, and you can enjoy the locally sourced bathroom products for a DIY spa treatment session.
Few places in Scotland can rival Fort William for sheer majesty, and that really is saying something. Inverlochy sits on the edge of the town, just past Glencoe and right on the foot of the UK’s highest peak – Ben Nevis. The miles of embroidery and soft furnishing in the rooms mean that you can while away hours in seclusion as the highlights unroll themselves out of the window, and many of the rooms have balconies or terraces to compound this effect. If you do feel the urge to go outside, you can arrange a guided nature hike at the front desk or, if you’re really minded towards privacy, just ask for the best routes with low tourist foot traffic. After all that, you can sit together and dig into a good book in the drawing room, a five course meal in the restaurant or an evening game of billiards.
Cornwall is unrivalled for great beaches in the UK, so if your idea of quality time with the other half is long walks on the sand, this is where you should go. The Old Quay House sits on the harbour in the town of Fowey, named for the river that spills out into the English Channel. You can be on the beach in 10 minutes, from which you can pick up the coastal path, explore the nearby St Catherine’s Castle or just watch the world go by. When you get back, you’ll be met with an elegantly designed former seamen’s mission, with oceanic-themed rooms sporting Egyptian cotton sheets and roll top baths. An on-site seafood restaurant offers seasonal West Country dishes, and the lounge area has a big fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows so you can sit back with a drink and watch the sunset.
Of all the hotels on this list, The Balmoral is probably the one you’ve heard of. This behemoth has been an Edinburgh institution for over 100 years, changing ownership several times but never losing its charm. The massive entrance hall looks like it was plucked from the top of Olympus, with huge white pillars and big murals adorning the walls. Between the 168 bedrooms and 20 suites, there’s plenty of variety depending on how much money you’re willing to part with, but in any case you’ll be met with warm earth-tones, big beds and if you’re lucky, a fireplace. The Number One restaurant has cultivated a healthy reputation for fine dining, or you can visit the Brasserie or take afternoon tea in the astonishing Palm Court room. Finally you and your significant other can head to the spa to enjoy an ESPA treatment or relaxing steam in the sauna.
Bearing no relation to Batman’s fictional home, Hotel Gotham is an artfully modern hotel built out of an old bank HQ in central Manchester. The King Street location helps to ensure that you’re never far from the sights, and two prevailing themes form the focus of the decor – money and romance. Fittingly for a former bank, there’s gold everywhere, and the rooms are adorned with leather and faux fur to an almost pornographic extent, as well as crystal glasses and antiquated metal binoculars to help take in the surrounding sights. The best views are arguably found from the arched windows in Honey, the hotel’s restaurant, which serves a mix of international dishes and has a wine list that should have its own glossary.