With wilderness aplenty and blue vistas to rival any paradise hotspot, a summer staycation in England offers the optimal balance between disconnection and rediscovery.
There is no better time than now to explore England’s innumerable landscapes – from stunning beaches to bucolic woodlands with babbling brooks. With so much to discover and so many hotels to choose from, it can be hard to navigate, which is why Culture Trip has done the heavy lifting for you – rounding up the country’s best hotels to escape to.
More than half of the 30 nautical-themed rooms in this handsome 19th-century galleried building in residential Tankerton look out over the sea, their big windows filling coolly neutral rooms with light and constantly drawing your eye to the horizon. Many have balconies too, and some have period telescopes, which make it easy to while away the hours gazing at the view. But then you’d miss out on the hotel’s modern, bright spaces, including the light-filled Orangery for casual dining and an extensive seafront terrace that’s made for afternoon tea or a pre-dinner aperitif.
Seventeen rooms with contemporary styling, neutral colours, wooden floors and, in many cases, views over the treetops and lawns of Southsea Common and the Solent beyond all make the Q8 a great choice for a south coast break – especially as the wide expanse of Southsea beach lies a short walk away. There’s a marble-floored lounge area where you can get hot and cold drinks. A full breakfast, served at the nearby Farm Kitchen, is included in most tariffs.
If Richard Curtis were to make another film featuring a posh country wedding, this is where he’d have the London guests stay – a honey-coloured Cotswold stone house in a walled garden, smack in the heart of picture-postcard Bourton-on-the-Water. The 1698 building is as stately inside as it is outside: deep stone walls, huge fireplaces and manly upholstery dominate public areas, while neutral-toned, handsomely furnished bedrooms with antique pieces come with Elemis toiletries, claw-foot baths and pretty views, some of the River Windrush. Nibble on Mediterranean-inspired small plates (at lunchtime) or take a languorous tea on the terrace, and you really will feel as if you’re in a romcom.
For a getaway with man’s best friend, this 18th-century dog-friendly hotel in the New Forest village of Buckler’s Hard gets the paws up for its canine room service menu. Humans are more likely to appreciate the imaginative referencing of the village’s shipbuilding heritage – among them fittings repurposed from boats built here. Rooms are filled with rich fabrics and furnishings, with colourful rugs underfoot or pared-back, bright, chic spaces with bare boards. The nautical-themed restaurant and terrace are equally vibrant, with a menu focussing on seasonal produce, while the rustic Yachtsman’s Bar & Garden is a great spot to relax with your pooch over a pint or two.
If you’re looking for a rejuvenating getaway that’s more massage than muddy walk, Lifehouse Spa and Hotel should keep you happy. Good news for London-dwellers – you can immerse yourself in this woodland oasis in just 80 minutes on the train, making it the perfect spot for a short break. Whether you’re sneaking off for a romantic retreat or heading away on a girls’ weekend, this is a spa-heavy spot that offers everything from acupuncture to three-day juice detoxes. The latter, however, would spoil your chances of dining at the Restaurant at Lifehouse, where chef Ugo Simonelli serves up a seasonal and locally sourced menu of dishes, including the seafood-packed fisherman’s stew, and duck breast served with polenta and stilton.
Set in the pretty Yorkshire village of Goathland (the fictional village of Aidensfield in the TV series Heartbeat), this 19th-century country house has a real Agatha Christie vibe, and you half expect a moustache-twirling baddie to be sitting next to you over breakfast. It’s a great base for easy walks – including to the nearby 21m (70ft) waterfall the hotel is named after. Inside, it’s all roaring fires, cosy bars, sofas squishy enough to disappear into and 20 individually designed rooms that mix period details with modern amenities to create spaces that are comfortable and inviting. Some have beamed ceilings, others four-poster beds, and many have far-reaching views over the Esk Valley.
If you can arrive at the Ship Inn via the miniature Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch steam train, you’ll be perfectly set up for a sweet seaside break in this equally sweet B&B. It has five rooms, all individually furnished, and each with bags of appeal – from the dove-grey fur throws and soft furnishings of the Church View Room and the sea view roll-top bath of the Four Poster Room to the gloriously over-the-top silver bed of the Royal Room. A breezy bar-restaurant with exposed brick and bare boards serves real ales and what many diners rate as the best fish and chips in the area.
A sprawling estate just outside St Austell, the Cornwall Hotel and Spa is a rural getaway in an unspoilt area of the country. With traditional hotel rooms and self-catering options that range from one to three bedrooms, it has something to suit families or couples looking for a romantic getaway. There is much to keep you busy in-house, with a spa, two tennis courts and an infinity pool. But go a little further afield and you’ll find surfing lessons at the nearby beaches and rambling cliffside jaunts along dramatic coastal paths.
Specifically aimed at the adventurous traveller, Bike and Boot is a hotel with an outdoorsy twist. Rooms are vibrant and pop-arty, with printed cushions and surf-inspired artwork; the larger ones provide ocean views. Wadobi is the real draw here – a multipurpose space that acts as bike and surfboard storage, a service station and wash area, boot wash and dog grooming. Yes, your furry friends are welcome on this out-of-town adventure, too. With staff eager to point out the area’s best activities, this hotel is ideal for those wanting to blow off the cobwebs and bike, hike or surf their way through a holiday.
Perched on the shores of Lake Windermere – England’s largest lake, no less – Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa is ideal for water sport aficionados. The hotel’s Watersports Centre offers a variety of activities, including wakeboarding, waterskiing, sailing and paddleboarding – enough to satisfy even the bravest of daredevils. If you’re after a more laid-back stay, the spa has you covered, with indoor and outdoor thermal spaces, tailor-made massages and personalised facials. No matter how you spend your day, the rooms are the perfect place to retreat to – opt for a lake view room to wake up to sweeping views.
Housed in a coaching inn dating back to 1820, Warkworth House is a hotel for history fans. The dive back in time doesn’t stop within the four walls of the hotel, however: there are several castles in the area worth visiting, including Warkworth Castle, which sits above the town, and Alnwick Castle, a short drive away, which was made famous as the setting of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films (calling all Potterheads). For those wanting to tour the great outdoors, the hotel recommends a number of cycle routes, and Warkworth Beach is a 20-minute walk away.
Dubbed the funkiest hotel in Brighton, Snooze hasn’t earned that title lightly. Definitely not for the faint of heart, or the proud minimalist, it’s an assault on the senses in the best possible way. No room is the same – Room 5 is a ’60s wonderland plucked from The Endless Summer (1966), while Room 4 comes complete with a chintz vibe, filled with eclectic vintage furnishings. It’s perfectly in keeping with its location in Kemptown, so you’ll be seeing strong parallels between your temporary home and the beach city’s many vintage stores.
Sitting above one of Cornwall’s best surf beaches, in the county’s leading surf hub, the Pentire Hotel serves up a classic activity-led beach holiday. It’s on one of the many coastal paths in this area, so the options for exploring the outdoors are rife. You can’t come here and not have a go at surfing, though. So, stroll down to the beach and let a local talk you through the basics before trying out the waves yourself. You’ll be a pro in no time.
Located in a distinctive sky-blue Victorian building that’s been renovated over the years, the Carlton Hotel is a 10-minute walk from Ilfracombe Harbour and a short drive from the beaches of North Devon. Not far from the hotel are clay-pigeon shooting and golf, while if you’re looking to go the full Kelly Slater, nearby Croyde beach has some of the best swell in the country. Also, food pop-up Biffen’s Kitchen has street-food-inspired meals to keep you fuelled.
Set on nearly 1ha (two acres) of land believed to have been set up by famed British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll, Northfield Hotel sits on the slopes of Northhill, just above Minehead Harbour. With views over the Quantocks and the coast, the hotel almost feels like a garden of Eden, floating above the ocean. You could while away several hours exploring the landscaped gardens or go kayaking or even tree climbing – the hotel is passionate about sharing the incredible natural environment in the area with guests, so they can advise you on all these excursions.
Netherwood Hotel is a sprawling Grade II-listed Victorian mansion with 6ha (15 acres) of grounds and views over Morecambe Bay. Retaining much of its historical feel – think dark-mahogany wood panelling and begging-you-to-sink-in velvet couches – a stay here has the effect of feeling like you’re slipping away to your own secret little corner of the world. In comparison, the spa is as hi-tech as it gets, with a thermal experience that looks like a spaceship and involves jumping into a hot tub first, then a cold tub, to regulate your metabolism and encourage healthy blood flow, among other health benefits.
Bordering the New Forest National Park, the Cloud is the quintessential English countryside hotel. There are views over the park from most parts of the hotel, so you might see New Forest wild ponies grazing on the fields over breakfast or wake up to birds singing. The hotel is the perfect base from which to explore the forest itself, with 567sqkm (219sqmi) outside your front door, including rambling walks, rolling paths to cycle along and paddleboarding on the river. Don’t worry about going hungry – the hotel will pack a hearty lunch you can take with you.
Just up the road from the golden sands of Whitley Bay, York House Boutique Hotel sits in the centre of a number of outdoor must-sees. If you want to pack your beach bag and spend time soaking up the sun on the sand, no one will blame you. But venture further afield, and there’s much else to see and do, such as taking a walk to St Mary’s Lighthouse or hopping in the car and exploring what remains of Tynemouth Castle and Priory. Complimentary breakfast includes the full English or buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup.
While sipping a freshly poured beer in the bar, it would be easy to resign yourself to staying put and eating and drinking your way through a weekend at the Lawns. With an AA Rosette restaurant and a lengthy wine list and beer selection, you’d have certainly made a good decision. However, surrounded as you are by North Norfolk’s craggy coastline, deep forests and numerous National Trust properties, it would be a shame to miss out on walks along the beach, the salty wind whipping through your hair or rambles through the canopied trees.