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A scene straight from the Hound of the Baskervilles at Gidleigh Park

Period drama and seasonal delight England’s best hotel stays

Tudor mansion, Georgian townhouse, or country castle – when it comes to refined places to stay, it would appear that England boasts the most.

Where to stay: white-gloved escapes in castles, manors and cottages when in the English countryside

Tudor mansion, Georgian townhouse, or country castle – when it comes to refined places to stay, it would appear that England boasts the most. For centuries, the rain-dashed island renowned the world over for its afternoon teas, silver service, and stiff upper lip has been enchanting the world with its promise of pretty weekend breaks. Whether you choose to indulge in five-star finery in the capital or to escape to the wild moors and manicured lawns of the countryside, you can rest assured that the English charm and white-gloved service awaits. For all those smitten by the thought of roaring fires, four-poster beds, and sublime seasonal fayre, here are our top picks for perfect places to stay in England.

500 acres of listed parkland surrounds Buckland Manor
500 acres of listed parkland surrounds Buckland Manor

Buckland Manor, Worcestershire

Resplendent in 13th-century style, Buckland Manor is the type of spot you expect to see lords and ladies strolling across the well-clipped lawns. Yawning fireplaces crackle to life on chilly nights, afternoon tea is served with a dollop of clotted cream on the terrace, and Hunter wellies wait lovingly by the door. Buckland itself is dressed in the best of the Cotswold’s scenic grsace; surrounded by the serendipity of seasonal gardens, castles, and the famed villages, active explorers are sure to find their fill. Back at the manor, the tennis courts and croquet lawn will keep you moving in-between Sunday morning lazing. With only 15 rooms, Buckland offers a certain intimacy. Couples will be enchanted by the four-poster room with garden views, homemade biscuits and L’Occitane bathroom products. The kitchen blends country vibes with contemporary cool at William Guthrie’s award-winning restaurant where roast quail, Cornish cod, and basil and strawberry souffle bring out the best of British flavours. bucklandmanor.co.uk

Stone sophistication at the wonder of Whatley Manor
Stone sophistication at the wonder of Whatley Manor

Whatley Manor, Wiltshire

Set among the tapestry of hills that makes up the Cotswold’s, Whatley Manor is one of those gorgeously grown-up places to play. A certain gentry vibe exudes from the country house hotel set in a decadent 26 acres of bright and bountiful space. The décor pays homage to former farmhouse moods, with some rooms soft and white and others equal measure sumptuous and sleek in muted shades. Handmade Yorkshire beds, Molten Brown toiletries, and locally produced elderflower cordial boost the boutique feel. Spa days should be high on the menu at Whatley, with extensive adult-only facilities including the whirl of a hydrotherapy pool, thermal cabins, and polish and pamper treatments. Beyond the spa, guests can cosy up at the cinema, stroll through one of the six different thematic gardens, or hit the hills with their four-legged friend (dogs are more than welcome at Whatley). For dinner, choose from the ten-course tasting menu from Niall Keating or go chic and casual at Grey’s Brasserie. whatleymanor.com

Lazy lunches on the green at the Royal Crescent
Lazy lunches on the green at the Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent, Bath

Georgian grace awaits at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa – occupying a prime piece of real estate in the spa city of Bath. Perched overlooking the Royal Victoria Park, The Royal Crescent sets a certain tone with its Taittinger Champagne gardens, curved staircases, cream shades and five-star concierge team ready to attend to your every whim. With forty-five ornate bedrooms, you can expect everything from cosy townhouse stays to grandiose suites with soaring ceilings. All encompass the period style features marble bathrooms, gentle colours, handmade treats and notes to keep you feeling welcome throughout. It wouldn’t be Bath without a spa and The Royal Crescent ensures their spa – The Spa & Bath House is beautifully dressed in stone, steamy bubbling waters and punctuated with Elemental Herbology treatments to sooth city fried senses. Epic afternoon teas are famed at The Royal Crescent and especially lovely when taken in the summer garden; bringing out the best in this rich tradition with fizzy glasses of pink, dainty finger sandwiches and a plethora of perfectly baked sweet treats. royalcrescent.co.uk

Literary lore at the Lucknam Park library
Literary lore at the Lucknam Park library

Lucknam Park, Wiltshire

An 18th-century Palladian mansion, 500 acres of listed parkland, and Michelin starred dining makes Lucknam Park la crème de la crème of places to stay in the English countryside. As soon as you catch sight of the spring meadows, equestrian ripe trails, and fragrant woodlands surrounding the hotel, you automatically release a sigh of delight. Stepping inside, Lucknam is an example of regality at its best. Panelled libraries, antique furnishings, four-poster beds, fine fireplaces, and an endless array of lamps, armchairs and mirrors make for plump comfort. Spa dreams invite you to delight, either in the long lap length pool, the sauna and steam rooms, or with yoga at the Wellbeing House. A cookery school, horse riding, and trips to nearby Bath ensure ample opportunity for staying active. At the Restaurant Hywel Jones, guests are enticed with a white linen and chandelier setting. Take part in the tasting experience where diver scallops, roast duck liver, Breton lamb, and vanilla crème brulee with Agen prunes make for a sensory sojourn into the art of taste. lucknampark.co.uk

Lovingly curated spaces at The Wild Rabbit
Lovingly curated spaces at The Wild Rabbit

The Wild Rabbit, Oxfordshire

Inspired eco-elegance will make you swoon at this heavenly home away home nestled into the nook of the Cotswold’s poster child village of Kingham. Designed to be utterly soothing, each of the five cottages that make up The Wild Rabbit collection has been lovingly curated with honey coloured exposed stone, exposed wood, and elements of linen, wicker, and farmhouse features. During the summer months the light streams in, and on new spring eves – the flickering fire delivers a fine reading nook. Cottages may boast their own stunning kitchens, but The Wild Rabbit is foodie paradise. With an emphasis on artisanal partnerships – the committed culinary team are all about savvy seasonal fayre. Market garden magic weaves together spellbinding suppers of local estate venison, butter poached cod, and pumpkin pie soufflés’. Breakfast is a gentle indulgence with avocado smashed toasts and dreamy vegan lattes. In-between reading, resting, and classy comfort eating you can book treatments at the nearby spa, borrow an electric bike, or merely stomp around the countryside. thewildrabbit.co.uk

Smith’s Brasserie with amazing views across Dartmoor National Park at Bovey Castle
Smith’s Brasserie with amazing views across Dartmoor National Park at Bovey Castle

Bovey Castle, Devon

Wild Dartmoor is like the Heathcliff of the national park world – alive, moody and devastatingly dashing all at once. Fortunately, Bovey Castle has managed to tame a staggering 275 acres of this space to call their own. An 18-hole championship golf course, collection of country lodges, and lavish country house hotel now sits among the space populated by woodlands, wild ponies, and ancient stones. Bovey Castle has remained faithful to its breathtaking period features – with every turn you find sweeping staircases, old stone fireplaces, floral feature wallpaper, and sumptuous fabrics to fall in love with. Bovey doesn’t deliver on appearance only; every inch of this stately space has been streamlined to deliver epic experiences for all. Start your day with a sunrise balloon ride, end your morning with a steam bath and massage at the Elan Spa, let the kids go roving with the rangers, and try your hand at archery or tennis. The onsite gin distillery is a dream for those wanting an afternoon tipple, or instead you could take an off-road drive. Suppers are all about the silver service restaurant where chandeliers, estate reared venison and excellent wine pairings set you in good stead for a roll-top bath and luscious linen sleep. boveycastle.com

Michelin starred seasonal suppers Gidleigh Park
Michelin starred seasonal suppers Gidleigh Park

Gidleigh Park, Devon

Black and white Tudor style peeking out from behind the trees, a babbling brook, and views onto the very spot said to have inspired The Hound of the Baskervilles – you don’t get any more quintessentially British than this. Set in acres of Dartmoor’s pristine private woodlands, Gidleigh Park is a vision of polished antique furnishings, frothy flowers, wood panelling, and fat floral sofas that invite a snort of whiskey beside the fire. The rooms follow suit with their roll-top baths, locally sourced spring water, and panoramic views of the estate. Some even go as far as to offer rooftop hot tubs or in-room saunas and steam for well-trodden and weary travellers. If you don’t come to Gidleigh for the old school grandeur, then come for the restaurant. The well-earned Michelin star dazzles at Gidleigh and the menu prefers to err on the side of seasonal splendour rather than take risks. The tasting menu is a melody of sweetbreads, scallops, squabs and sweets that will knock you out of your seat especially when paired with sommelier picks. When not bursting through your buttons with endless eating, the tennis court, bowling green, and endless array of springtime walks will ensure you don’t get restless. gidleigh.co.uk

Majestic history meets modern cool at the Limewood terrace at Lime Wood Hotel by Amy Murrell
Majestic history meets modern cool at the Limewood terrace at Lime Wood Hotel by Amy Murrell

Lime Wood Hotel, Hampshire

The ancient playground of the New Forest was once a royal hunting preserve and is now an archetypical vision of English bliss. Rambling along the trails and you will stumble upon the welcome retreat of The Lime Wood Hotel carving out its own space in lovely Lyndhurst. Georgian in style and nature, guests can kick off their wellies in the boot room, cosy up with a book by the tiled fire, and dine in a welcoming, informal style at the hearty Hartnett Holder & Co Restaurant. As its eclectic name would suggest, Lime Wood mashes its majestic history with modern cool to create functional spaces. Rooms are cool and spacious or soft and cosy – and for those who genuinely want to embrace New Forest style, the Lake Cabin is a wow treat with its wraparound over-water balcony, its secluded outdoor bathtub, and its simple five-star sophisticated. The delight is in the details -with bamboo toothbrushes against marble bathrooms, sommelier inspired wines, and walking guides. An outdoor hot tub is an epic place to star watch and for those who are feeling active – aerial yoga, lush spa treatments, and sipping sommelier delights in the courtyard are a must.  limewoodhotel.co.uk ◼

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© This article was first published in Apr-May 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.

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