Head off for a cheeky weekend a deux at one of these small but beautifully formed English boutique hotels
No.15 Great Pulteney, Bath
Best for… vintage lovers
Packed with elegantly arranged curios, ranging from vintage cameras to framed evening bags, the whole hotel has the feel of a gallery. Each room contains unique contemporary art works or murals, and even the tables set for afternoon tea (delicious!) are laden with vintage jewellery, thimbles and other curiosities. Twinkling down on guests in the sitting room is the unique lost earrings chandelier, adding to the glamour and drama of this stylishly quirky boutique hotel, designed by Martin Hulbert and Jay Grierson, the duo behind Coworth Park and The Grove. The Dispensary restaurant continues the theme with apothecary chests and wall-to-wall glass bottles. The menu is classic meets contemporary, with a twist. The scallops with roasted cauliflower and crispy kale, and the pressed belly of pig with suckling pig croquette were two highlights of our stay.
Stella loves: The spa, housed in the original cellars – it has four treatment rooms. The balancing back massage is an absolute must. (Check it is open before travelling to avoid disappointment.)
Out and about: The hotel is centrally located for all of Bath’s highlights, from the Circus and Royal Crescent to the Jane Austen Centre (janeausten.co.uk). Just at the end of Great Pulteney Street is the Holburne Museum, which often has classic fine art and contemporary exhibitions such as Grayson Perry’s Pre-Therapy Years, which runs until 3 January (prebook a ticket (holburne.org). The area is famous for its gin bars too (The Canary on Queen St is great), although you don’t need to step out of the hotel really as Bar 15 has one of the best gin collections in Bath.
Rooms from £149 a night, b&b; all 01225 807015 or visit no15greatpulteney.co.uk
Read the full expert review: No.15 Great Pulteney
The Eastbury, Sherborne, Dorset
Slap bang in Thomas Hardy land, this beautifully decorated townhouse hotel, a short stroll from the town’s 1,000-year-old abbey, is straight from a Georgian style guide. Inside there’s a billiards room and excellent two-rosette restaurant which overlooks the pretty walled garden – the whipped goat’s cheese and chilled beetroot soup shouldn’t be missed. Weather permitting, take breakfast outdoors – there are honeysuckle, bluebells and lavender – and while away the day with a game of croquet on the lawn. The rooms in the main house are exquisite (we particularly loved the four poster garden view suite), and for larger families there’s a neighbouring cottage, which opened this summer (it sleeps up to six), though we chose one of the Victorian Garden Potting Sheds, spacious suites with mini terraces found in the grounds with an outdoorsy air and chic Soho Farmhouse-esque decor. They’re doggy friendly to boot – just don’t forget to pack some skewers and marshmallows (see below).
Stella loves: Toasting marshmallows over the fire pit in the garden of our Garden Potting Shed – a perfect autumn evening.
Out and about: There’s plenty to see in the historic town of Sherborne, including the impressive abbey and a cute ice cream shop, Ecco Gelato (ecco-gelato.co.uk). It’s an excellent base to visit Durdle Door in Lulworth (less than an hour’s drive), a natural limestone arch on the staggeringly picturesque Jurassic Coast – ideal for bracing wintry walks. (Tip: prebook parking before you travel to avoid queuing.) Return for a massage at the hotel’s spa found in a cute little lodge in the grounds (that looks like a Lord of the Rings hobbit house) – followed by dinner at the hotel. (Tables must be prebooked. Check Covid openings and restrictions before travelling.)
Read the full expert review: The Eastbury
The Grange, York
Best for… country house vibes
Formerly a private residence, this elegant Georgian townhouse feels like a home-from-home… (if you’re an aristocrat). Soaring ceilings, original fireplaces and a sweeping spiral staircase in the lobby lend a stately feeling, while rooms are cosy and furnished with a modern take on period grandeur. Patterned wallpapers and swagged curtains are complemented by velvet armchairs and modern bathrooms so the overall effect is more contemporary than chintzy. The beautifully furnished bar is ideal for a nightcap, while curled up by the fire. Downstairs, the vaulted brasserie serves British fare in an atmospheric cocoon of candlelight and exposed brick.
Stella loves: After-dinner cocktails by the fire in the midnight-blue ‘tapestry bar’.
Out and about: It’s less than a 10 minute-walk to the ‘Bootham Bar’, the gateway to the city centre, and its plethora of shops, bars and restaurants. Stop for a slice of cake at Bettys Cafe and Tea Room, which was still open when this issue went to press (bettys.co.uk), or a glass of wine at Pairings wine bar – though be sure to prebook (pairings.co.uk). For gorgeous blankets, throws and homeware, pop into interiors shop Upside Down Design (upsidedowndesign.co.uk).
Rooms from £139 a night, b&b; call 01904 644744 or visit grangehotel.co.uk
Read the full expert review: The Grange
Tudor Farmhouse, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Best for… glorious views
Housed in a collection of 16th century stone buildings in the tiny, bucolic village of Clearwell, this hotel is a sumptuous escape from urban life. There are winding staircases and ancient beams, and 20 immaculate rooms – ours came with duck down pillows and rolltop bath. From the back gate, you can strike out and discover stunning views of the Wye Valley, though return in time for one of the workshops – jewellery making, foraging and embroidery have all been on offer (check Covid restrictions). But the highlight was sitting in the hillside garden with a glass of red, looking out across the village and to Clearwell Castle beyond.
Stella loves: Dinner! It’s a relaxed, cosy affair with an accomplished menu of locally sourced ingredients. The cheeseboard is worth ordering, and Sunday guests shouldn’t miss the pig’s cheek starter.
Out and about: Just a three minute drive away is enchanting ancient woodland Puzzlewood, which has featured in films including Star Wars and Harry Potter (puzzlewood.net, adult entry £7). Younger kids will love Perrygrove Railway, a small steam train which is just across the road. Drive ten minutes deeper into the Forest of Dean to Beechenhurst, where kids can enjoy a treetop adventure at Go Ape (goape.co.uk, £19) while you bathe in the serenity of one of the UK’s oldest woodlands. Check Covid-19 restrictions before visiting.
Rooms from £139 a night, b&b; tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk
Read the full expert review: Tudor Farmhouse
Covid-19 rules change fast: Check local lockdown rules and hotel websites for the latest policies (including spa and restaurant restrictions) before travelling
Edited by: Laura Powell. Reviews by: Jane Bruton, Sarah Royce-Greensill and Fiona Cowood.