Who can’t wait to stay in a great British hotel once the current restrictions are lifted? (Me, for one!) And while we don’t know exactly what the ‘new normal’ is going to be in life after lockdown, we can be fairly certain that hotel stays will look rather different in the next few months at least, from less interaction with staff and fellow guests to no hotel buffet, spa restrictions, you might have to carry your own bags and so on.
However as UK luxury hotels – especially country house hotels – typically come with large, well-ventilated rooms, spacious dining and bar areas, outdoor seating and most importantly, absolutely hundreds acres of land and beautiful gardens for that crucial social-distancing and epic post-lockdown walks, they are better placed than most to provide a safe staycation option. Of course, do check in advance when the hotel is expecting to open after lockdown, what type of restrictions will be in place and what kind of cancellation policy they have in case things change rapidly. But assuming that from July 4th onwards many hotels will be reopening, here are some of the best hotels I’ve reviewed so far which I think would be perfect for that post-lockdown luxury stay – I’ve stuck to England initially as there are still greater restrictions on movement in the rest of the UK.
With more than 1,000 acres of land on the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire border, its own fleet of London taxis and a palatial restaurant, bar, lounges and bedrooms, the five-star Luton Hoo luxury hotel is built on such a grand scale that social distancing will not be a problem. Grand enough to have hosted The Queen and Prince Philip for part of their honeymoon and glamorous enough for Hollywood – Eyes Wide Shut, Four Weddings and a Funeral and The World is Not Enough were all filmed here – Luton Hoo is one of the top luxury hotels in Southern England and is taking bookings from 4th July.
West Sussex foodie favourite Gravetye Manor has been welcoming a small number of day visitors since the start of June with its luxury hampers to be enjoyed in its stunning grounds and once the hotel has reopened it will be a firm favourite with its long-time fans and newcomers alike. With award-winning gardens surrounded by miles of open countryside and woodlands, Gravetye is a bubble of luxury, relaxation and fine-dining: no spa here but you won’t miss one as you sit in the sunshine soaking up great food to match the great views.
Leaving the picture-perfect Cotswolds village of Castle Combe won’t be a hardship as you drive into the grounds of The Manor House, a classic country house hotel. This five-star 14th century hotel, part of Exclusive Hotels, plans to reopen on 9th July and has a Championship golf course, Michelin-starred restaurant and all the open air you could want. G&Ts on the lawn anyone?
Its superb location right on the south coast by Torquay (Babbacombe Bay to be exact) will make Cary Arms hotel and spa a must-visit destination after lockdown with its private beach cottages the perfect luxury bolthole for relaxing in splendid isolation. After a bracing coastal walk with superb views you can replenish your energy with some great locally-sourced food and drink in its excellent restaurant (you’ll never tire of the views).
Reached via winding Devonshire country lanes, Bovey Castle hotel is built on an epic scale. With 60 bedrooms and suites, 22 self-contained cottages and set in 275 acres of rolling Dartmoor countryside Bovey Castle has all the space you could want and thanks to the welcoming staff and beautiful interiors, a stay here is gloriously friendly and relaxing.
Right on the shore of the lovely Rutland Water, Hambleton Hall has everything you could want from a post-lockdown hotel: great views, excellent service, a beautiful location with great walks through its gardens and around the lake, and best of all, some seriously good food as you’d expect from a long-time holder of a coveted Michelin star. One of the nicest and cosiest hotels I have ever stayed in.
Having breakfast in the sunshine on the terrace at Danesfield House remains one of my favourite hotel memories and after lockdown the terrace will be a great place to enjoy some great food and drinks at anytime, with stunning views over the nearby Thames. With large grounds, a huge spa and excellent hospitality, Danesfield is just 30 minutes from London but feels more like hundred (years and miles).
Cocktails on the terrace is always a winner with me and sitting outside Hartwell House surrounded by 90 acres of Aylesbury countryside is a real treat. The historic house (owned by the same group behind Bodysgallen in North Wales) is a real country house classic, where in days gone by they insisted on bringing coffee to your room and where pre-dinner cocktails would be served in its opulent lounges. With a luxury spa, palatial bedrooms and bags of charm, Hartwell is a taste of luxury from years gone by.
Perched at one end of the famous Fistral beach, the Headland Hotel is a local landmark and, assuming Cornwall is happy to receive visitors again, a great place to brush off the hibernation cobwebs. With stunning views of the beach and along the Cornish coast, the Headland is a luxurious hotel with a large lounge, restaurant and spa for indoor relaxation, but it also has its own surfing school so you can catch some waves just a few metres from a warming bath afterwards. The Headland – recognisable to many as the setting of the film The Witches – is hoping to reopen on 4th July.
Full review of the Headland Hotel to follow soon
From the moment the gates open to let you into the hotel’s charming courtyard, you know you’re going to be well looked after during your stay at Whatley Manor. Run by experienced GM Sue Williams (who used to manage top luxury hotel Cliveden), Whatley Manor’s charm is in being a traditional but luxurious hotel which appeals people keen on fine-dining and pre-dinner cocktails as much as those who want to indulge themselves in the luxury spa or to watch a film in Whatley Manor’s private cinema (this might not reopen immediately). With a two-Michelin star restaurant, an award-winning modern spa, 12 acres of gardens and large, opulent bedrooms, a stay at Whatley Manor will be a real post-lockdown treat (it’s already selling meals to take away from the restaurant – a posh picnic if ever there was one.) It’s not cheap but it will be indulgent, relaxing and memorable.
Set within 500 acres of parkland just a few miles away from pork pie capital Melton Mowbray, arrival at the Grade 1-listed hotel is a via pretty winding drive through the woods, past a little chapel and through an old stone arch before sweeping round to the hotel itself. Some of the bedrooms – such as Zoffany – are so vast you’ll never want to leave, but if you fancy heading outside there’s a golf course, luxury spa, opulent lounge and fine-dining restaurant to occupy you. Staff are happy to guide you round this historic hotel which dates back to the 14th century or leave you to enjoy a good book over a cocktail, and a fleet of buggies will help you get the most out of your stay if you’re here to relax rather than explore.
This 19th-century house is a really charming place to stay, with friendly staff, opulent rooms and country walks in its landscaped grounds. In pre-Covid times the outdoor theatre set in its vast grounds was a great way to spend the evening but until that restarts you’ll have to make do with classic country house luxuries such as afternoon tea, country walks and excellent food in its pretty Orangery restaurant.
A stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel and country club certainly scores highly on the luxury front. The main hotel building is a Grade 1-listed Palladian mansion, completed in 1795 and originally the private home of the Penn family, who gave their name to the US state of Pennsylvania. There are 21 traditional bedrooms here, many with four-poster beds and vast balconies, and if you want to replicate Bridget Jones’s night with Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary then ask for the Pennsylvania suite, one of the hotel’s top bedrooms with sweeping views over the grounds at the back to the hotel. There’s also an enormous luxury spa, Humphrey’s fine-dining restaurant and 300 acres of Capability Brown-designed gardens, so a great place for pretending you never have to return to the real world.
Set in 500 acres of Wiltshire countryside a mile-long driveway, it’s easy to see why Lucknam Park claims to have been social distancing for 300 years. This gorgeous 17th-century Palladian luxury five-star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant and luxury spa has been a fixture on Britain’s hotel scene for years but still feels like a well-kept secret, with its own cookery school, arboretum and luxurious rooms in a classic country house style.
Do let me know what your experience of any of these hotels is like (pre- or post-lockdown) and I’d love to hear your recommendations of other hotels which would be perfect in which to celebrate lifting of the lockdown. And stay safe everyone!