While everyone’s idea of a romantic hotel break is different, I think it’s fair to assume there are some things which you have to expect: sumptuous, immaculate bedrooms, a top restaurant serving great food, gorgeous grounds for a romantic pre-dinner stroll and a cosy bar for that evening nightcap. On your own personal top ten romantic hotels list you might also want to add a luxury spa, roaring fires in every room, a bathtub in the bedroom – see my own thoughts on that here – and added treats such as live music, jacuzzis, and even – if things go really well – a wedding chapel. Not all hotel can supply everything but here is my own list of top ten romantic hotels for Valentine’s Day – to be enjoyed for the rest of the year as well! Let me know your suggestions for a romantic break in the comments below.
What could be more romantic than spending the night in a castle? Reached via winding Devonshire country lanes, the vast Bovey Castle hotel – it has 60 bedrooms and suites, 22 self-contained cottages and is set in 275 acres of rolling Dartmoor countryside – Bovey Castle could be intimidating but thanks to the welcoming staff and beautiful interiors, a stay here is gloriously friendly and relaxing. The rooms are vast – we stayed in Room 50, a corner suite with a huge lounge, large bedroom and bathroom with a freestanding tub. With plush furnishings, epic views, a decanter of sloe gin and an ice bucket of Champagne, we could have happily spent the whole stay in our room but would have missed out on two excellent restaurants, the spa and lots of activities including archery, shooting and falconry.
For a romantic hotel break it’s almost impossible to choose between Bailiffscourt and its sister hotel, Ockenden Manor just a few miles away in Cuckfield – where I spent Christmas (review here) – but I’ve gone for Bailiffscourt as I think it just has the edge for romance. It’s 100 years old but feels 500, with low ceilings, tapestries, winding staircases and and a whole rabbit warren of rooms which make you feel as if you have gone back in time. It’s just a few minutes to the beach for those romantic blustery walks, and it also has the very grand Baylies Suite which has a vast four-poster bed, a massive timber vaulted ceiling, plus a wood-burning stove, cosy furniture and a huge bathroom with, rather unusually, two baths placed side by side. Add its modern luxury spa and excellent restaurant and you’ve ticked most if not all the romantic boxes.
Book yourself and your partner into one of Cary Arms’s romantic Beach Suites cottages and you’ll want to move in permanently. With a private terrace suspended over the beach, sweeping views across Babbacombe Bay, a lounge with flickering virtual fire and cosy sofa, an immaculate bathroom and bedroom decked out in a classic New England-style, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more romantic hotel room in Britain. There are lovely touches, such as a coffee table handmade from stones and driftwood from the east coast of Scotland, a decanter of Plymouth sloe gin to tuck into, a bite-sized portion of seaside rock on your pillow instead of the usual chocolate and thick rugs for you to wrap yourself up in on the loungers outside for when the weather isn’t quite as clement as you’d hoped. The hotel itself has a rooftop spa with indoor hydrotherapy pool, a cosy pub with excellent locally-sourced food so with the waves on your doorstep you just won’t want to leave.
A long-time favourite of mine, Gravetye Manor consistently appears on lists of Best Hotels in Britain and it’s easy to see why. Reached by a winding drive through the West Sussex countryside (but surprisingly close to Gatwick airport) Gravetye feels like a hotel that time has left alone – but in a good way. There’s no spa or modern gimmicks (iPods in rooms etc) but what there is is great customer service, large, well-appointed bedrooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant and Gravetye’s USP – an award-winning garden. Managed by Tom Coward, Gravetye’s stunning display is a fixture on the garden circuit and his kitchen garden supplies the restaurant daily. Staying here in the summertime you would definitely get the most from the garden – you can dine outside in the sunshine and go for a lovely country walk afterwards – but if you’re here around Valentine’s Day then find a cosy spot, set yourself up with a board game or book, stay warm by the fire and prepare for a memorable dinner in its newly-created dining room.
If you’re really splashing the cash with a stay in the heart of London then head to the opulent St James’s hotel and club. As befits a luxury five-star hotel in the heart of London, one of the closest hotels to Buckingham Palace, then rooms are certainly not on the inexpensive side but tucked away at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac off St James’s Street, the 60-room hotel does have cheaper rooms, with prices starting at £300 a night. While the bedrooms are as luxurious as you’d expect, the highlight of a stay here is the hotel’s excellent Michelin-starred restaurant Seven Park Place. Chef William Drabble’s Menu Gourmand tasting menu is £95 – wine pairings are £75 or £130 – and you will be in for a memorable evening at this tiny but unique restaurant. Best of all, you can then take the vintage lift up to your luxurious suite and enjoy waking up surrounded by the best London has to offer.
It’s where Bridget Jones ditched singleton life for a weekend away with boss Daniel Cleaver and where Teri Hatcher and Pierce Brosnan (as another Bond) danced the night away in Tomorrow Never Dies, so a stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel and country club certainly scores highly on the romantic front. (It’s also where James Bond beat Goldfinger in possibly the most famous golf match in cinema history but I’m not sure that counts as romance). 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 a simply enormous luxury spa, Humphrey’s fine-dining restaurant and 300 acres of Capability Brown-designed gardens, so turn the romantic dial up to 11 and pretend you never have to return to the real world.
Staying in a treehouse might not sound the most romantic of treats but these are Chewton Glen’s famous luxury treehouses, perched high in the New Forest but with everything you could desire in the way of modern comforts. Each has a private balcony and hot tub, plus all the attributes of a luxury suite:a massive flatscreen TV, log-burning stove, an impressive sound system, two bedrooms and a beautiful bathroom with free-standing bath, separate walk-in shower and more fluffy towels than you’d know what to do with. If you can tear yourself away then there’s a world-class spa, fine-dining restaurant and croquet, tennis, country walks and all – however I reckon you’ll be staying put in your very own room in the treetops.
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. With a two-Michelin star restaurant, an award-winning modern spa, 12 acres of gardens and large, opulent bedrooms, a stay at Whatley Manor is perfect for Valentine’s Day – or any other day. It’s not cheap but it will be indulgent, relaxing and memorable.
The Adnams-brewery-owned Swan at Southwold is more of a very posh pub hotel rather than a country house hotel but it’s no less romantic for that. When I stayed here recently I loved our room which was beautifully designed (the complimentary bottle of Adnams vodka helped) and the excellent attention to detail was continued throughout the hotel, from the smart lounges to the gleaming restaurant downstairs to the cosy pub at the back of the hotel. The Swan is built on the site of the 150-year old Adnams brewery and right in the heart of the charming seaside town of Southwold, so walks on the beach are a must. You can also go on one of the fascinating tours round the brewery itself or the modern distillery next door (Adnams makes fantastic gins and whiskies as well as vodka and beer) and even fit in a cocktail-making class if you have time before dinner.
If your idea of a romantic break is really getting away from it all then foodie favourite Ynyshir in West Wales is a remote romantic bolthole. Now billed as a restaurant with rooms rather than a hotel with a restaurant, Ynyshir is surrounded by stunning Welsh scenery – Snowdonia and the seaside are just minutes away – and the hotel itself is set in beautiful grounds with plenty of walking opportunities nearby. However it’s the restaurant which is the big draw here and the reason Ynyshir is always on the list of top hotel restaurants in Wales and the UK – chef Nathan Ward has held a Michelin star here for several years now and his epic tasting menu lasts all night. The rooms are either in the main house or the separate cottage buildings – many are dog-friendly – and with no spa or other distractions you can tuck yourself away for the duration of the stay. What could be more romantic than that?
I tried to limit this piece to ten of the most romantic hotels but in all honesty almost all of the excellent hotels featured on ALadyofLeisure.com would qualify. Here are some of my Best of the Rest when it comes to the most romantic hotels in the UK and which I would also heartily recommend. Pun intended!
Hambleton Hall, Rutland. Cosy, traditional, Michelin star, stunning location on Rutland Water.
Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. Setting of Eyes Wide Shut and Four Weddings, huge grounds, ornate interiors.
Maison Talbooth, Essex. Small but perfectly formed country house with heated outdoor pool and top restaurant Le Talbooth nearby
Dormy House, Cotswolds. Shabby chic, luxury spa, gorgeous rooms just outside Broadway.
Barnsley House, Cotswolds. Award-winning gardens, beautiful rooms, private cinema, spa and excellent food.
The Pig near Bath. Part of the excellent Pig Hotels chain. Great locally-sourced food, cool bar and relaxed vibes, like staying at a friend’s country house for the weekend.
What are your recommendation for romantic hotel breaks? Let me know in the comments!