Book It: Four five-star retreats for a great escape to the countryside
Pull on your hiking boots and get back to nature… in five-star fashion, of course
Northcote, Blackburn, Lancashire
Best for… discerning foodies
On the edge of Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, this place is the perfect crash pad for walkers – the hotel can recommend routes (from a gentle 1.6km stroll to Clitheroe Castle to more challenging 11km hikes to Lancashire’s most famous hill). There are also bicycles and e-bikes available to borrow (try the 63km Hodder Valley route). Back at the hotel, it’s all about the food. Executive chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen (a MasterChef judge and current keeper of the restaurant’s Michelin star, held now for 20 years) uses ingredients gathered from local and artisan producers. The delicious six-course tasting menu included a quirkily titled ‘Flavour of Eccles Cake’ pudding when we visited. You can’t get more Lancashire than that.
Stella loves: The perfect boiled eggs and soldiers served at breakfast.
Out and about: With the Forest of Bowland, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, within striking distance, there’s no excuse not to walk off the great food. In the nearby market town of Clitheroe you’ll find the Holmes Mills Bowland Food Hall, featuring local products from Burnley’s Batch gin to pies from Accrington and cheese from Butler’s of Inglewhite, pioneering maker of Blacksticks Blue, among many others (holmesmill.co.uk).
Rooms £215 a night, b&b; northcote.com
Read the full expert review: Northcote
The Lodges, New House Farm, Sussex
Best for… a romantic bolthole
Set amid beautiful rolling Sussex countryside, these cosy self-catering lodges come with boutique-hotel levels of refinement – high-end toiletries, locally sourced edibles and fluffy dressing gowns. The decor is pared back, adding to the understated charm – think whitewashed walls and hardwood floors. The local farm has chickens, llamas and a miniature pony. After a day exploring, curl up by the woodburning stove – or better still, go for a moonlit soak in the hot tub, which overlooks a meadow.
Stella loves: The sense of peace and quiet – and the glorious country views.
Out and about: Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest is a 15-minute drive away. It has some quiet picnic spots and more adventurous trails. And The Bell at Ticehurst is a pub sent straight from heaven (thebellinticehurst.com).
From £95 a night for a one-bedroom Pool Lodge, or from £145 a night for a two-bedroom Garden and Stable Lodge. The farm is also available for exclusive hire – sleeps up to 45 people. To book call 07544 489698 or visit nhfcountryretreat.com.
The Samling, Lake Windermere, Lake District
Best for… a room with a view
Perched on the hillside overlooking Lake Windermere, The Samling is a blend of traditional and strikingly modern architecture, from spacious but cottage-like suites to the dining room with its floor-to-ceiling windows offering a stunning lunch or dinner spot. Try the tasting menu with the wine pairing and enjoy a tour of the wine cellar or a cocktail-making class. The beautifully tended gardens create a feeling that you’re in a tranquil idyll, while the rooms offer classic sumptuous luxury. There are lots of unusual touches, but art lovers will especially appreciate the Matisse and Picasso sketches hung around the bar and restaurant.
Stella loves: The hot tub, which has incredible views across the lake – book in for a private session.
Out and about: With the lake on your doorstep and fells stretching into the distance behind the hotel, there are lots of opportunities to hike, sail or kayak. Beatrix Potter’s home Hill Top and the Arts and Crafts house Blackwell are both a short drive away.
Rooms from £230 a night, b&b, based on two people sharing. Visit thesamlinghotel.co.uk or call 015394 31922
Read the full expert review: The Samling
Lough Erne Resort, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Best for… escaping the real world
Tucked away on a 600-acre peninsula with views of the Fermanagh Lakelands, you could be a million miles from the hustle and bustle of daily life here. But the tranquility is easy to get used to and there’s plenty to keep you busy, not least the two championship golf courses. Stop by the incredible Thai spa, which overlooks the waters and woodland. And afterwards head for a fabulously grand ‘G and Tea’ afternoon tea – delicate sandwiches, scones with Irish whipped cream and cakes, followed by a gin cocktail.
Stella loves: The luxury lodges facing out over a corner of Northern Ireland that’s sometimes been undeservedly overlooked.
Out and about: A guided boat trip on Lough Erne can be booked from the hotel – it’s worth it for the slice of local history. The waterside town of Enniskillen is close enough for an afternoon jaunt, while slightly further afield are the Marble Arch Caves, a subterranean network full of rivers, waterfalls and rock formations.
Rooms from £115 a night, b&b; lougherneresort.com
Read the full expert review: Lough Erne Resort
Edited by Laura Powell. Reviews by Bethan Holt, Stacey Thomson, Peter Naughton and Rosa Silverman.