For 51 weeks of the year, this section covers travel to all corners of the world.
But, while we love the far-flung and exotic, we also love taking breaks in Britain itself: and one of the greatest joys of a holiday at home is our wealth of brilliant hotels. Here are our favourites. This third edition of The Sunday Times Ultimate 100 British Hotels is completely freshly researched. Things rarely stand still in the hotel world — closures, new openings, new ownership, catastrophes in the kitchen — which is why our writers have visited hundreds of them to make sure our guide is up to date. The usual pillars of hotel excellence were under scrutiny — comfort, good service, value for money — but they were also looking for flair, warmth and a genuine welcome. We know when a hotel feels right. And these ones do. About a third of our entries have held their place from last year; the rest are a mix of the much-improved and the newly opened. We’ve loved compiling this guide. We hope you’ll enjoy using it just as much. Enjoy your stay.
See the full special edition below, or use these links to skip to your preferred section
- Hotel of the year: Foxhill Manor, Worcestershire
- Romantic: love nests
- Foodie: eat your heart out
- Seaside: making waves
- Spa: aye, there’s the rub
- Budget: cheap, not cheapskate
- Family: playing into your hands
- Country: where the grass is always greener
- B&B: stay in your comfort zone
- City: talk of the town
- Pubs: make it a lock in
- Cut a dash in the bar: how to dress to match your hotel
- Selling the sizzle: the perfect fry-up
- The stars check in at our Ultimate 100
Hotel of the year: Foxhill Manor, Worcestershire
What’s the price of love? It’s a tricky question — involved, nuanced, philosophical — yet there is a very simple answer. It’s £295.
Well, rather more if it’s a weekend. And up to £625 if your love is especially expansive and requires a suite. Those are the rates for Foxhill Manor, which is absolutely the most romantic hotel I’ve stayed in this decade. Yes, it’s pricy (the previous two winners of The Sunday Times Hotel of the Year have had starting rates around a third of that), but for a special occasion, it’s worth every penny: if you and your significant other get a room here and the sparks don’t fly, perhaps it’s time to call it a day. No pressure.
Foxhill is subtly, seductively different from any hotel I’ve stayed in before. The chef, Jon Ingram, put it well. “The idea is,” he told me as we chatted in Foxhill’s kitchen, “you’re just staying at a friend’s house. And he’s completely loaded.”
Your loaded friend is the owner of a grade II listed Arts and Crafts manor house in the Cotswolds. It was built in 1909 from big slabs of creamy Cotswold stone, and it’s gorgeous, sitting regally amid a 400-acre hillside estate that overlooks the textbook-twee village of Broadway, with vast views from the terrace across the Vale of Evesham to the Malvern Hills. It’s a building with a sense of occasion.
Inside, you find your friend has pretty good taste. The place was given a £2.5m makeover in 2014, and it’s relaxed, civilised and supremely comfortable. The furniture and fittings are high-spec — no designer names, but it all reeks of quality. There are touches of whimsical art (I liked the driftwood horse) and flashes of tech (tablets in every room, for room service and hotel info). The main common space is the living room, scattered with elegant sofas, with that view framed through its mullioned windows. Set into the thick walls, they have their own seats, naturally. What’s more romantic than a window seat?
Your room is. There are only eight of them, and they range from big to really huge. Ours, Oak, was almost comically vast, but we forgave it because it had two rather trendy baths set facing that view, through yet another mullioned window (with another window seat, naturally). We lay, and soaked, and gazed. It was nice.
So, the fabric of the place does what it needs to do, and quite a lot more, but it’s not what makes Foxhill so smoochily special. That’s a question of attitude and ambience. It starts when you arrive. There’s no reception desk and no check-in. “After all, you’re expected,” said our host, Matthew. Instead, they offer a drink. There’s a help-yourself bar, but better to let Matthew mix it himself — his Hendrick’s and tonic with cucumber is addictive.
Then, dinner. Jon will offer a couple of suggested menus, but basically it’s… whatever you want. “Last Sunday we had 16 guests in, and every one ordered something different,” he said wryly. “They all got it.” (It’s not magic. He has the larders of Foxhill’s two sister hotels on the estate, Dormy House and the Fish, to call on.) To be awkward, I demanded scallops. They came luscious, sweet and perfectly cooked. Jon has a tendency to the counterintuitive and Hestonish (the beetroot macaroon amuse-bouchewas a bit of a stretch), but the local lamb main and the cookie-dough pud were cracking, as were the plentiful cheeseboard and endless handmade sweets. Easy to overdo it.
Remember the romantic thing. Best to be able to get up from the table unaided.
For the rest, your rich friend invites you to treat the place as your own. Nip up to Dormy House’s spa or stroll or cycle around the estate (the Japanese garden is delightful — especially now, with the leaves turning); they’ll arrange clay shoots, quad bikes, Segway tours, what have you. Lady Gaga made full use of the facilities, apparently. U2 got the staff to build an enchanted forest for a party. Rock stars, eh?
But I’d say all that activity misses the point of Foxhill Manor. Instead, stay put and soak it up. The surroundings, the perfectly judged service (the host is always around, always friendly, but not in your face) and the small number of fellow guests all foster a mood that’s both intimate and discreetly hedonistic.
So pour yourself something lively from the lounge bar, laze in a window seat and whisper sweet nothings to each other. This is how the idle rich live. No wonder there are so many of them.
Doubles from £295, including breakfast, drinks and snacks; four-course dinner £65pp, other meals by arrangement; foxhillmanor.com
Romantic: love nests
Lewinnick Lodge, Cornwall
Few views can match the one from Lewinnick’s big north-facing windows — across a sheet of ocean to the cliffs of Watergate Bay and Bedruthan Steps. Book an Oceanside room and you’ll probably stay put until it’s time to check out, peering through the vintage binoculars from your kingsize bed, luxuriating in the freestanding bath, or popping downstairs to the foodie pub for a slab of local haddock.
Doubles from £135, B&B, lewinnicklodge.co.uk
Hotel Tresanton, Cornwall
The slow-paced harbour village of St Mawes worked its magic on the hotelier Olga Polizzi, who couldn’t resist taking over a down-at-heel hotel and turning it into one of the most sophisticated hideaways in Britain. The rooms showcase her trademark flair and she has gone back to her roots for her team, employing mainly Italians, all charming. Sit on the terrace with a glass of bubbly and take in the lush Roseland peninsula unfurling to the sea edge.
Doubles from £210, B&B, tresanton.com
Glazebrook House, Devon — NEW OPENING
Fran Hamman, one half of the jolly couple who own this Georgian manor outside Totnes, is an exec at the trendy American home store Restoration Hardware. And the hotel’s designer is the furniture-maker Timothy Oulton, so the eight bedrooms here were always going to be full of pretty stuff. The Alice in Wonderland theme is camp but fun: black walls, sparkling chandeliers and a wall of bowler hats. The minibar’s free, and full marks for wooing the MasterChef winner Anton Piotrowski as executive chef.
Doubles from £139, B&B, glazebrookhouse.com
The Seaside Boarding House, Dorset — NEW OPENING
The austere vintage vibe, in shades of cigar and moss, and the lack of newfangled things such as TVs in the eight bedrooms may deter some. But this is balanced by a seductive anything-goes attitude, encouraged by the owner, Mary-Lou Sturridge, who used to be the boss at London’s Groucho Club. Add a glorious location — a clifftop near Bridport, overlooking the stretch of the Jurassic Coast we fell for in Broadchurch — then parachute in Alastair Little as executive chef. He cooks there most weekends, and his bouillabaise is wickedly good. The bar has shedloads of charm for a grown-up weekend away.
Doubles from £180, B&B, theseasideboardinghouse.com
Blanch House, Brighton
Tucked away on a side street, this Georgian townhouse is all about discretion. Perrier-Jouët is the largest of the rooms, with an emperor bed, velvet drapes and a rolltop bath. Venture downstairs for an intimate bar serving great cocktails — the Blanch House Royale (rum, Cointreau, lime and champagne) is a must. It’s just a hop to the seafront and the Lanes from here, but load up first on local bangers, black pudding and homemade preserves.
Doubles from £105, B&B, blanchhouse.co.uk
The stately home with a scandalous past (this was the setting for the Profumo affair) and a dreamy Thames-side location is back to its best after a recent makeover, with 44 delicately restored rooms. Woo your beloved with cocktails in the bar before a fabulous blowout in the dining room, all silk swags, chandeliers and discreet service.
Doubles from £445; clivedenhouse.co.uk
Hotel Portmeirion, Gwynedd
A little bit of Italy on a wooded peninsula not far from Porthmadog, Portmeirion has a theatrical piazza, ornate gardens and this lovely waterfront Victorian hotel. There are 14 rooms in the mansion, but the 30 dotted through the hotchpotch of houses in the village feel more romantic. They are simply furnished — some floral, others with classic country patterns — and come with a decanter of sherry.
Doubles from £99, B&B, portmeirion-village.com
Feversham Arms, North Yorkshire
The focus at this boutique bolthole is the pool, which dominates the inner courtyard. Even in winter, couples can’t resist lingering here, warming their hands on cups of cappuccino. The suites beside it are the ones to nab, with woodburners to welcome you back after a walk on the North York Moors, which border the smart market town of Helmsley. The spa doesn’t go overboard on worthiness, so, post-massage, tuck into a lunch of burgers and bubbly.
Doubles from £120, B&B, fevershamarmshotel.com
Isle of Eriska Hotel, Argyll and Bute
Last year’s Romantic winner could have made the top 10 in several categories. Seaside? It’s marooned on a private island and offers golf, fishing and sailing. Spa? The old stables house an excellent Espa spa, a pool and treatment rooms. Foodie? Freshly landed local seafood gleams across a menu worth its Michelin star. But with a fireplace-to-guest ratio of 1:7, beach walks and two new hilltop lodges — each with sea views and a hot tub — Romantic it has to be.
Doubles from £330, half-board; eriska-hotel.co.uk
Foodie: eat your heart out
Our winner: Mr Underhill’s, Shropshire
A night at this all-suite restaurant with rooms in Ludlow is like staying with friends who love their food. The owners, Chris and Judy, are warm and relaxed, and run their Michelin-starred dining room in a slick, unpretentious manner. The tasting menu, which changes daily and showcases local, seasonal produce, is matched in brilliance by the riverside setting at Dinham Weir, where wild flowers in the garden tumble down to the River Teme. The four rooms have soothing pastels and hi-tech steam showers. Special touches include a white nectarine and vanilla yoghurt for breakfast — so creamy, it tastes like pud — petits fours fresh out of the oven at tea time, and crumbly shortbread showered in sugar, handed over for the drive home.
Doubles from £220, B&B, eight-course dinner £67.50pp; mr-underhills.co.uk
Gidleigh Park, Devon
Hurry, hurry. Michael Caines has been synonymous with this fairy-tale mock-Tudor manor on the edge of Dartmoor for more than 20 years, but the chef recently received planning permission for his own hotel near Exmouth. His departure date was last week confirmed as January 3, which means the magical combination of his classic French dishes and dreamy moors scenery won’t be available for much longer. Don’t miss this treat.
Doubles from £480, including breakfast and a three-course dinner; gidleigh.co.uk
Manor House, Wiltshire
Castle Combe is one of the prettiest villages in England — its honey-coloured cottages featured in War Horse— and this rambling, ivy-clad manor, with a river running through its gardens, is in the same mould. Once the sun’s over the yardarm, have a gin and tonic served in a glass as big as a goldfish bowl. Then enjoy a Michelin-starred feast of inventiveness, with dishes such as lamb with chocolate jelly and cauliflower couscous. Rooms blend original features, contemporary styling and Spielberg-worthy panoramas over wooded valleys.
Doubles from £215, B&B, seven-course dinner from £78pp; manorhouse.co.uk
131 Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
One grade II* listed villa, three fine places to eat. Get stuck into Welsh wagyu steak upstairs, where the mood evokes a candlelit bistro in Montmartre. Shuck oysters at the raucous Crazy Eights downstairs, which has the ambience of a posh private club in Soho. Then retire to the cheese-tasting room, which tempts foodies into late-night postprandial excess. Treats continue upstairs in the 11 dashing bedrooms, where turn-down includes a flask of hot milk with chocolate stirrers. The diet starts tomorrow.
Doubles from £150, B&B, three-course dinner from £30pp; no131.com
The Vineyard, west Berkshire
There’s no doubting that the noble grape is the raison d’être for this smart Newbury country house. The lobby is dominated by racks of wine and a section of glass floor hints at the 30,000 bottles in the cellar. Go for the Judgement Wines tasting and let the sommelier pair dishes such as rabbit terrine, or cod with peas and pancetta, with two glasses per course, one French, one Californian. The spa keeps the faith, offering red-grape body wraps and polishes.
Doubles from £205, B&B, four courses from £65pp, Judgement Wines £95pp; the-vineyard.co.uk
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxfordshire
This is for anniversaries and birthdays ending in a zero. But you won’t forget it: arrive early and stroll around the two-acre kitchen gardens of this lovely 15th-century manor house; take tea on the lawn; then to your room, one of 32, with decor drawn from the travels of your host, Raymond Blanc. And, of course, there’s the food: two-Michelin-starred and impeccably presented. Breakfast the next morning is just as good, with Raymond going table to table to check on the hangovers.
Doubles from £595, B&B, seven-course tasting menu £159pp; belmond.com
The Neptune, Norfolk
The red-brick 18th-century inn, in Old Hunstanton, is unpretentious, and its six bedrooms are simple (No 5 is the pick), but you’re here for the food. The owner-chef Kevin Mangeolles slaves away in the kitchen, creating exceptional dishes with local ingredients such as Norfolk quail and plaice so fresh, you can taste the sea. The restaurant seats only 20, and courses are presented at an unhurried pace, allowing diners to savour every delicious mouthful.
Doubles from £245, including breakfast and a three-course dinner; theneptune.co.uk
Hipping Hall, Cumbria
Walk your socks off around lovely Kirkby Lonsdale, between the Lakes and the Dales, then tuck into free tea and wicked lemon drizzle cake in the orangery. The 10 individually designed rooms have decadent touches such as a dinosaur-egg bath and a spiral staircase. Dinner is a grand affair, served in the 15th-century banqueting hall, with beautifully balanced dishes: hand-dived scallops with roast parsnip, Lakeland beef fillet with mushrooms. Why Oli Martin doesn’t have a Michelin star is a mystery, but it helps keep dinner a steal: £40 for five courses.
Doubles from £269, including breakfast and a five-course dinner; hippinghall.com
The Star Inn at Harome, North Yorkshire
Given that books by Andrew Pern, the chef-patron of this Helmsley institution, include Loose Birds & Game, it should be no surprise that the ethos is meaty and macho. The decor at the nine-room lodge is shooting-party chic, so a mounted buffalo head and assorted stuffed birds watch as you nibble on your dainty complimentary afternoon tea. Dinner begins with bread served in a cloth cap, and the dishes evoke the surrounding countryside, including a forager’s broth of wild mushroom and hedgerow herbs, and local deer cooked over charcoal with local bilberries. Breakfast is communal: we dare you to order “hippy” tea.
Doubles from £150, B&B, three-course dinner from £25pp; thestaratharome.co.uk
Kinloch Lodge, Skye
“Our home is your home,” say the Clan Macdonald, and you’ll settle in the second you feel the warmth of Kinloch Lodge’s roaring fires. The dining room, hung with family portraits, is the hotel’s heart — and one of the best restaurants in Scotland. Marcello Tully’s tasting menu is a Michelin-starred showcase of local produce, from scallops to quail. The rooms are pretty special, too, with plump tartan sofas facing out over Loch na Dal and vast bathrooms with inviting tubs.
Doubles from £238, including breakfast and a five-course dinner; kinloch-lodge.co.uk
Seaside: making waves
Our winner: Sands hotel, Kent
The newly reopened Dreamland theme park no dominates Margat’s old-fashioned prom, but the Sands hotel is also quietly drawing in the seaside-loving crowds. The Victorian facade has been given a sage-green spruce-up, but it’s the views from inside that’ll knock the knotted hanky off your head. A window seat in the restaurant serves up a sweeping sea with your Kentish venison, while the roof terrace brings a touch of Miami to Margate. The 20 rooms have white leather headboards and suede chairs. If you do manage to get out of bed, hit the gelato shop downstairs for a cone made with local cream. Doubles from £120, B&B, sandshotelmargate.co.uk
Polurrian Bay Hotel, Cornwall
Tall, white and teetering near the cliff’s edge, the hotel seems to be craning its neck to check out conditions in the little cove below. And that’s what you’ll be doing over breakfast in its vast, glass-fronted Vista Lounge, as you ponder your options. Surfing? Sea kayaking? A clifftop walk? This is the Lizard, so it’s all possible — with the promise of fresh fish in the restaurant, a movie in the private cinema, and lush white bed linen in your room when you return.
Doubles from £120, B&B, polurrianhotel.com
Watergate Bay, Cornwall
Cornish competitors, take note: if you had the energy and enthusiasm of this beachfront Victorian pile, you might be booked out well beyond summer, too. Granted, it has the advantage of having the creamy expanse of Watergate Bay outside its front door, but it also offers the Extreme Academy, where you can try everything from surfing to hand-planing (a type of bodysurfing); the Beach Hut, for hunkering down with a hot chocolate; and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, which continues to impress nine years on.
Doubles from £145, B&B, watergatebay.co.uk
St Mawes Hotel, Cornwall
While its big sister, the Idle Rocks, does the statement glamour, this place opts for beach-shack chic, with crab cages as ornaments and stacks of suitcases doubling as somewhere to rest your coffee. There are three rooms in the main hotel, but the four new ones round the corner are the best, with creamy tones, coils of coir rope and nautical jauntiness.
Doubles from £155, B&B, stmaweshotel.com
Salcombe Harbour Hotel, Devon
Put on your Kate Middleton stripes and turn up the collar on your polo shirt: Salcombe is sailor central, and the Harbour hotel fits right in. The lounge’s cosy sofas flow into the bistro and out to the terrace, for peachy views of the Kingsbridge estuary. The 50 fuss-free rooms further build the nautical ambience, and have decanters of free sherry. There’s a dinky spa and indoor pool, and a cinema with free popcorn.
Doubles from £195, B&B, salcombe-harbour-hotel.co.uk
The Pig on the Beach, Dorset
Our Hotel of the Year in 2014 is pretty much booked solid until January, and we’re not surprised. It’s still great. The rooms are scattered with an eclectic selection of books (beekeeping, anyone?), the shabby-chic public areas are stuffed full of mariners’ memorabilia, and breakfast can be taken on the lawn, looking onto the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks. The kick-off-your-shoes cosiness means a day here can feel like a week of relaxation elsewhere.
Doubles from £144, B&B, thepighotel.com
Albion House, Kent — NEW OPENING
Whitstable grabs the headlines, but Ramsgate, 30 minutes along the coast, is beginning its own quiet revolution. It’s slowly rebooting its Regency roots, starting with this 14-room townhouse. The location is special, on top of the town’s east cliff: the traffic on the twisting coast road may mean you’ll need the earplugs provided, but that’s a small price to pay for the view. Public areas have the original parquet floors, cornicing and fireplaces. Upstairs, you’ll find vintage binoculars in some of the homely rooms. Dinner is divine, but book ahead: you’ll be fighting locals for a table.
Doubles from £100, B&B, albionhouseramsgate.co.uk
Escape Boutique B&B, Conwy
Genteel Llandudno isn’t an obvious spot for one of Britain’s hippest seaside hotels. Ten minutes’ stroll from the esplanade, the Escape Boutique B&B is every inch the Victorian villa downstairs: the fireplace and stained glass are original. Upstairs, though, the nine bedrooms are a riot of funky touches, from Eames swivel chairs to a 1970s-style shag pile. With North Shore beach one way, West Shore Beach the other, and sash-and-case windows gazing across town, this is a find.
Doubles from £95, B&B, escapebandb.co.uk
The Victoria Inn, Norfolk
Holkham is regularly voted one of the best beaches in the country. Take the tree-lined avenue from this pub owned by the Earl of Leicester and you’ll instantly understand why. Its towering sand dunes and pine woodland are gorgeous. So is the inn: the laid-back bars have cosy-up fireplaces and muskets on the walls. There are 20 rooms, half in the renovated Ancient House, with huge beds, plush bathrooms and private gardens.
Doubles from £120, B&B, holkham.co.uk
Old Course Hotel, Fife
You can bet that many guests at this luxurious St Andrews address never even make it to the beach. It’s a sliced drive from the 17th tee — the Old Course’s Road Hole — and the hotel is mainly about the golf, and a little bit about the rooftop spa and the three-AA-rosette restaurant. Stride across the fairways, or take a bike fitted with sand tyres, and you’re straight onto West Sands, the beach that starred in Chariots of Fire.
Doubles from £195, B&B, oldcoursehotel.co.uk
Spa: aye, there’s the rub
Our winner: Mondrian, London SE1 — new opening
The Mondrian has set the South Bank alight. Its bold ocean-liner look (a nod to its former incarnation as the Sea Containers office block) imbues the public areas with bygone glamour, and that aura continues in the subterranean spa — its stylishness more than makes up for its tiny size. Snuggle up with a cashmere-covered hot-water bottle and sip herbal tea on virginal white, baby-soft leather banquettes. The therapists are excellent, the beauty brands they use lesser-known: try an organic facial by Alexandra Soveral or a cheeky Dr Jackson’s Boob Bar massage. This is true pampering.
Doubles from £234; mondrianlondon.com
Ockenden Manor, West Sussex
The cutesy village of Cuckfield and this creeper-clad Elizabethan manor are places to press the pause button. You would never expect the 19th-century walled garden to be home to an airy contemporary spa, but the juxtaposition of old and new works surprisingly well. Plan to devote the day to idling around the lounging areas, thermal suite and glass-fronted pool, which is filled with spring water and overlooks part of the manor’s nine acres of parkland — a scene worthy of a Constable canvas.
Doubles from £179, B&B, hshotels.co.uk
The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Somerset — NEW OPENING
At the only hotel in Britain where you can wallow in naturally heated mineral water, the spa takes its design inspiration from the Romans. A toga wouldn’t look out of place among its columns and mosaics, though the thermal suite’s chocolate fountain harks back to the sweet tooth of those other enthusiastic bathers, the Georgians. You’ll be given a posy of scented salts to take on your spa journey, which may include treatments such as watsu (shiatsu in a pool). The 99 rooms are decorated in restful blues and browns, and have soaring windows. Bag one of the three Bath Spa suites, where tubs have three taps: hot, cold and natural thermal water.
Doubles from £285; www.thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk
Kings Head Hotel, Gloucestershire
A £7.5m renovation has transformed a staid coaching inn into a proper little pleasure palace. Nearly all of the 45 rooms would pass for suites elsewhere; they mix listed beams and brickwork with retro furniture. The bar is packed with locals, and the maître d’, Alan Holmes, is a former UK sommelier of the year. For emergency repairs from the night before, make for the dinky but decadent spa, which squeezes in a hot tub, a steam room and a sauna. Its Lubatti treatments are based on the secret recipes of Madame Lubatti, a 1920s French facialist.
Doubles from £135, B&B, kingshead-hotel.co.uk
Dormy House, Worcestershire
Book well in advance for a massage at this glamorous 17th-century farmhouse outside Broadway. You’ll also need to get up early to nab a lounger by the mood-lit indoor infinity pool.Sashay between the lavender-infusion sauna, the hot-juniper Finnish cabin and the vast terrace with hydro pool. The best spot is in the Greenhouse lounge, where you can toast your toes in front of a woodburner. The 38 bedrooms are equally opulent.
Doubles from £250, B&B, dormyhouse.co.uk
Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy
A night at this grand grade I listed pile is a saunter through the centuries. The tower was built in the 13th century; the main hall, with wood panelling and stone-mullioned windows, dates from the 17th century and the wallpapers are based on 19th-century designs. The bedrooms are in both the main hall and restored farm cottages; the spa is in a stone farmhouse, with enough room for a lazy-day lounge, a cosy cafe and a sun-trap terrace: do treat yourself to a facial using the A-listers’ favourite skincare range, Environ.
Doubles from £179, B&B, bodysgallen.com
Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire
You’d never guess it to look at this red-brick Victorian mansion outside Melton Mowbray, but its fitness classes are so cutting-edge, they wouldn’t be out of place in a Los Angeles exercise studio. Ballet-barre classes or animal-moves sessions, anyone? Ragdale Hall has just introduced special treatments for cancer sufferers. We wish the decor had more wow factor, but
the Verandah Bar — yes, you can drink here — is having a makeover and the staff are friendly.
Doubles from £628 for two nights, full-board, including one 50-minute treatment each and use of the facilities; ragdalehall.co.uk
The Swan at Lavenham, Suffolk
Even the vertically challenged have to duck the beams in this maze of 15th-century buildings, which have been nipped, tucked and turned into a 45-room oasis in a cute medieval village. The new spa, though, is cool and modern, with Temple treatments devised by two former Body Shop chiefs. We liked the post-massage sorbets and the swanky terrace, where you can dunk yourself in the vitality pool.
Doubles from £185, B&B, theswanatlavenham.co.uk
Rockliffe Hall, Co Durham
An active local membership keeps this Darlington spa on its toes and constantly innovating. For example, it now offers Boogie Bounce, a dance workout on a mini trampoline. The 65ft pool, thermal suite and gym were already impressive, but now there’s a £1m spa garden room: an inner sanctum of serenity that’s well worth the extra £30pp charge for two hours. The recent arrival of Richard Allen, who held a Michelin star at the Grand, in Jersey, ensures that dinner will leave guests needing to hit the gym hard the next morning.
Doubles from £190, B&B, rockliffehall.com
Archerfield House, East Lothian
Those who like to spoil a good walk will want to know that Archerfield House sits on Scotland’s Golf Coast, not far from Muirfield, Dunbar and Gullane, and has two links courses of its own. An alternative way to take in the sea air might be from the salt infusion in the spa’s steam room. Treatments are ethical, but never worthy, and this is perhaps the most relaxing relaxation room in the country, with slatted walls, a freestanding woodburner, sofas and staff happy to serve you champagne. Golf widow(er)s might hope their other half wants to play another round.
Doubles from £235, B&B, archerfieldhouse.com
Budget: cheap, not cheapskate
Our winner: the Hoxton, Holborn, London WC1 — NEW OPENING
The vibe in the always-busy lobby is as hip as anywhere in Shoreditch, but this 174-room hotel feels more inclusive than its counterpart across town. Rooms are classed from “Shoebox” to “Roomy”, cleverly arranged to maximise thespace, while the art — which has been curated by a student from Central Saint Martins — and the sassy Mad Men stylingmake them feel far more luxurious than their price would suggest. Locals love the Brooklyn diner-style restaurant and the branch of the trendy Chicken Shopin the basement. The hotel doesn’t stop at free wi-fi: it throws in Pilates and arts events run by local entrepreneurs.
Doubles from £69, B&B, thehoxton.com
Tommy Jacks, Cornwall
“A cheap hotel in Cornwall” — what image do those five words conjure up? Probably not the fresh and vibrant Tommy Jacks, in Bude. Children love the skateboard and surfing memorabilia — it declares itself a “throwback to when surfers were kings and skaters ruled the world” — and the fish tanks designed by the National Marine Aquarium. Adults will go for the pocket-sprung beds, the high-quality linen and — if they book a front-of-house room — the freestanding baths overlooking the golf course. Put your wetsuits on before leaving your room: the nearest beach is a three-minute walk.
Doubles from £70, B&B, tommyjacks.co.uk
Broomhill Art Hotel, Devon
Winding your way up the tree-dappled woodland drive, you’ll spot pieces from the hotel’s sculpture park appearing like fantastical illusions. The brainchild of a pair of Dutch bakers turned gallery owners, Broomhill, near Barnstaple, mixes culture and comfort with great panache. The eight roomsoffer airy Victorian dimensions, sleigh beds, sleek leather furniture and great eyefuls of the art in the park beyond. Downstairs, the visual treats continuein the art gallery, and the award-winning restaurant offers dishes with a slow-food twist.
Doubles from £75, B&B, broomhillart.co.uk
The Beckford Arms, Wiltshire
This bijou boozer near trendy Tisbury delivers plenty of pizzazz at rock-bottom prices. Choose between the snug bar, where the locals hang out, or the elegant Georgian sitting room, where you can eat dinner off your lap — the food is excellent — while watching a movie. The eight bedrooms are decorated with good taste and good humour. You get full-size bottles in the bathroom, and there’s a DIY bloody mary kit at breakfast.
Doubles from £95, B&B, beckfordarms.com
Bel & the Dragon at the Swan, Hampshire — NEW OPENING
The Bel & the Dragon chain of gastropubs punches well aboveits weight, and its latest outpost, in Kingsclere, is particularly special for one of its founders, Ollie Vigors, who grew up in the village. The food is fantastic, putting modern twists on classic dishes. Try the English veal bolognese — you won’t regret it. The nine rooms are cute, with beams, Roberts radiosand decanters of Sipsmith gin and whisky for that nightcap you probably don’t really need.
Doubles from £95, B&B, belandthedragon-kingsclere.co.uk
Manor Town House, Pembrokeshire
On Main Street in Fishguard, just above the coastal path, Helen and Chris Sheldon’s powder-blue B&B is an assured mix of groovy lamps, abstract paintings and artfully jumbled antiques. Bill Bryson came to stay in March. “He’s very twinkly,” Chris says. Once you’ve been warmed by his and Helen’s charming conversation, and their freshly baked teacakes, you’ll be twinkling, too.
Doubles from £80, B&B, manortownhouse.com
The Porch House, Gloucestershire
This higgledy-piggledy mix of snugs and sitting rooms with worn flagstone floors, walls that slope and ceilings that sagsums up Stow-on-the-Wold’sclassic Cotswold charm.Slide in among the locals to orderpub favourites and frothy pints. The 13 roomshave retro radios, Bakelite phones, Nespresso machines and sumptuous mattresses. Tea and toast are delivered to your room before breakfast: that’s our kind of wake-up call.
Doubles from £89, B&B, porch-house.co.uk
The Gunton Arms, Norfolk
This gorgeous flint-stone pubnear Thorpe Market was doneup by the art dealer Ivor Braka so he’d have somewhere nice for a quiet pint. That explains the Magrittes, Tracey Emins and Damien Hirsts casually sprinkled around the place. Dinner is quirky, with chefs barbecuing steaks and lamb chops by the open fire. The eight bedrooms don’t try too hard, leaving the misty views of Braka’s herd of red deer on the 1,000-acre estate to cement the deeply satisfying feeling that pleasure comes before profit here.
Doubles from £95, B&B, theguntonarms.co.uk
Aloft, Liverpool — NEW OPENING
Aloft may be a chain, but the Merseyside modelhas character thanks to its former incarnation as the Royal Insurance building. Reminders of its grand mercantile past dominate the public spaces, from the Brazilian walnut panelling to the elaborate stained-glass windows. The smart contemporary rooms are calmer, and come with all the requisite bells and whistles. Crucially, they have the kind of comfy beds you need after a night out in one of Britain’s liveliest cities.
Doubles from £89, B&B, aloftliverpool.com
Citizen M, Glasgow
Great design delivered with a tongue-in-cheek attitude gets our seal of approval. “We sold our hotel clichés and used the money to make your stay cheaper,” this chain hotel’s tagline claims. The 198 compact rooms have kingsize beds with drawers to store clothes and a suitcase, ambient mood lighting, a white colour scheme offset by the odd retro red chair, and free movies. It’s perfect for global nomads. Like your towel swans? Stay elsewhere.
Doubles from £69; citizenm.com
Family: playing into your hands
Our winner: Bedruthan Hotel & Spa, Cornwall
The moment you walk into this well-oiled operation, you feel the weight lifting from your shoulders. It’s not just the platoon of beaming staff, ready to help at the slightest eye contact; it’s also the reassurance that comes with three pools, an assault course, a soft-play area and a packed programme of entertainment. There’ll be no child energy left unburnt here, whatever the age of your offspring. The Bedruthan would be lovely almost anywhere — but this is Mawgan Porth, so you have a beach on the doorstep and some of the most bewitching sunsets in England. It’s almost perfect.
Family rooms from £239, B&B, bedruthan.com
Deer Park, Devon
Families feel so relaxed at this easy-going Georgian mansion outside Honiton that we spotted some children having supper dressed in their PJs. In the summer, take dinner outdoors, with pizza straight from the wood-fired oven at the end of the lawn. Daytime is devoted to fresh-air pursuits in the hotel’s 80 acres, including a zip-wire course, clay-pigeon shooting, archery, cycling and fishing on the hotel’s three-mile stretch of the River Otter. Rooms range from the chintzy to the contemporary, and welcome all the family — so Rover can come too.
Family rooms from £140, B&B, deerparkcountryhotel.co.uk
Captain’s Club Hotel, Dorset
Sleek architecture, resembling an ocean liner, and a swanky spawill impress the parents; the location, on a stretch of the Stour, right beside a water park, will thrill the kids. The 17 “state” rooms are striking enough, but the 12 spacious two- and three-bedroom apartments, with high-spec kitchens, are probably best for families. All have river views. From the hotel’s sun-trap terrace, you can board the ferry for a 10-minute pootle to Mudeford, a classic time-warp beach. If you’d rather arrive in style, a 34ft luxury motor cruiser, Nauti Girl, is available for private hire (from £115pp).
Two-bedroom apartment from £329, B&B, captainsclubhotel.com
Woolley Grange, Wiltshire
The welcome to kids at this charming Jacobean manor house east of Bath is warm and sincere. For their part, your offspring will sense the freedom immediately, roaring around the grass maze, dipping for tadpoles in the ornamental pond and swimming themselves to exhaustion in the two pools. They’re even welcome in the Woolley Grange spa, where some of the treatments have been tailored to younger skin. When the grown-ups need some me-time, there’s free Ofsted-registered childcare.
Family rooms from £220, B&B, woolleygrangehotel.co.uk
Celtic Manor, Newport
Its location, just off the M4 near Newport, isn’t the most inspiring, but that didn’t stop Barack Obamabedding down here. There are 330 comfortable rooms, but extended families should treat themselves to one of the cool four-bedroom lodges, with saunas and stylish double-height living rooms, in the grounds.The resort is great for golfers (three courses, including one built for the 2010 Ryder Cup); it also has a spaand 2,000 of the Usk Valley’s finest acres.
Family rooms from £189, B&B, lodges from £672for two nights; celtic-manor.com
The Fish, Worcestershire — NEW OPENING
Fancy staying at a former conference centre? Thought not, but don’t panic: the 47 rooms on the 400-acre Farncombe Estate, outside Broadway, have been so successfully rebooted by Hannah Lohan (a stylist for Mr & Mrs Smith) that there isn’t a whiff of name tag left about the place. The Scandi-inspired interiors are as clean and wholesome as the activities, which range from archery to Segway safaris through the grounds. There are buffet meals, which means a decent three-course dinner for £25. You’d just about get a main for that at many Cotswold hotels.
Family rooms from £205, B&B, thefishhotel.co.uk
Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire
This 18th-century country-house estate is the minibreak destination in the first Bridget Jones film. But forget couples’ retreats: this place is made for kids. Stay in the modern pavilion wing and you’ll have indoor tennis courts, a pool, a family restaurant and a games room right on your doorstep. Other family-friendly touches include cartoon-themed bedsheets and a Little Stars afternoon tea;there are 300 acres of grounds, too. It’s certainly not cheap, but the kids will be talking about it for months.
Family rooms from £520, B&B, stokepark.com
The Ickworth, Suffolk
Occupying the east wing of a vast 18th-century stately home just outside Bury St Edmunds, the Ickworth is as close to heaven as most six- or seven-year-olds can get. It has an indoor pool, a fleet of bicycles, big lawns for footie and Frisbee, and 1,800 acres of deer-filled parkland to explore. The 27 rooms offer views of the Italianate gardens, the 100ft-high rotunda and the wider estate, while the Lodge — half a mile from the main hotel — offers larger rooms and flats.
Family rooms from £115, B&B, ickworthhotel.co.uk
Rudding Park, Yorkshire
This is a country-house hotel that manages to feel plush (mainly thanks to the eye-catching art)yet unbreakable (paintings being out of the reach of little fingers). Choose between the traditional Ribsden and the modern Follifoot wings, bearing in mind that the latter is closer to the 14-seat cinema — because even the strictest adults can’t stop the weather from misbehaving. If it does stay dry, seasoned golfers will love the Hawtree course, while novices can try the six-hole one. A round in an hour — how’s that for family-friendly?
Family rooms from £256, B&B, ruddingpark.co.uk
Augill Castle, Cumbria
It’s like nowhere your kids have ever seen, let alone stayed in: a gothic fantasy of crenellated towers and crackling log fires, set beneath the wild and empty Pennines, near Brough. The 15 rooms have evocative namessuch as Pendragon (Queen Victoria is said to have stayed here), and four-posters, claw-footed baths and fireplaces galore. The castle has a treehouse in its 20 acres of grounds, while beyond lies the Eden Valley, for bike rides; the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales are within easy reach.
Family suites from £250, B&B, stayinacastle.com
Country: where the grass is always greener
Soho Farmhouse, Oxfordshire — new opening
Cabin fever struck the village of Great Tew this summer when Soho House opened its hotly anticipated second country retreat. There are 40 cabins in total in the 100-acre complex, and they’re stuffed with Notting Hillbilly charm, from retro furniture and books tied up with string to decks overlooking the river. Inspired touches include a converted milk float kitted out so chef can cook breakfast at your door, and a car-cleaning service for all departing vehicles. There’s an enormous club room, a super-indulgent spa and a shop selling the nuts and bolts of those enviable interiors. Warning: your credit card might take a serious bashing.
Cabins from £330; sohofarmhouse.com
The Horn of Plenty, Devon
Location, location, location. From practically every one of the 16 rooms in this lovely 19th-century manor house, just outside Tavistock, you’ll have unbeatable views of the steeply wooded Tamar Valleyand the river slicing a path through it to the coast. The most glorious, though, are from the conservatory dining room, where the john dory on your plate will have been landed by local fishing boats only hours before. Room 3 in the main house has the most indulgent bathroom; some of the Coach House rooms have decks where you can watch the sun set, with nothing to disturb you except the sheep bleating in the fields below. Dartmoor National Park is on your doorstep.
Doubles from £110, B&B, thehornofplenty.co.uk
Summer Lodge, Dorset
This peaceful country house in the time-warp village of Evershot has an elegant drawing room designed by the architect turned novelist Thomas Hardy. There are trademark oversize sash windows leading onto the pretty terrace, and most of the rooms are decorated in delicate florals and pastels. The food is local — the grilled Lyme Bay mackerel and Portland crab are among the favourites — and postprandial perks include a choice of 250 whiskies. Immaculately maintained interiors and impeccable service keep traditionalists coming back time and again.
Doubles from £215, B&B, summerlodgehotel.com
Chewton Glen, Hampshire
Even the best country-house hotels can’t afford to rest on their laurels. This New Miltonfavourite could never be accused of that; having sexed up its 70 bedrooms and injected some fun into its fine dining, in 2012 it unveiled six ultra-luxurious treehouses that have been a runaway success. Two things remain constant, excellent service and a fabulous location — in the New Forest, yet just a short walk from a pretty beach.
Doubles from £325; chewtonglen.com
Lime Wood, Hampshire
This gorgeous New Forest bolthole has revamped its restaurant and inner courtyard, though there was no need to meddle with the 29 bedrooms. These remain gratifyingly glossy, contrasting with the forest cottages and cabin, which are hiply homespun. Angela Hartnett’s new cookery school has added another dimension to a stay, though the simple picket gate leading out to the surrounding ancient oak forests will always be the icing on the cake.
Doubles from £315; limewoodhotel.co.uk
Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire
This mellow-stoned manor doesn’t go in for fads or fashions. The team have the confidence just to keep doing what they do. Everything you need for a great weekend is here: blissful Cotswolds countryside, a pampering spa, a fancy conservatory restaurant if you want a dressy evening, and a friendly pub if you don’t. There’s even an Ofsted-registered creche for those looking to squeeze in a bit of child-free “us” time. The 35rooms offer quality and comfort in spades, and Tetbury’s antiques shops are nearby if you fancy a mooch.
Doubles from £199, B&B, calcotmanor.co.uk
Llangoed Hall, Powys
Whistler and Augustus John in the drawing room, double underlay under the stair carpets, specially commissioned china at tea: Llangoed Hall is a vision of old-school country-house living, funded by a new-money budget. The neo-Jacobean house, redesigned by Clough Williams-Ellis (the Welsh architect behind the Italianate village of Portmeirion), is magnificent. So, too, the kitchen garden, which supplies duck, quail, hen and bantam eggs for breakfast and 24 varieties of apple from trees rooted in the rich soil of the Wye Valley.
Doubles from £105, B&B, llangoedhall.com
Linthwaite House, Cumbria
This country-house hotel sets out its stall at the threshold, where there are croquet mallets and Hunter wellies to borrow. The huge, palm-filled conservatory and terrace have killer views over Windermere, while the bar is borderline camp, with crushed velvet seating and silk drapes. The food is proudly unstuffy modern British, and so good that you’ll retire to one of the 30 soothing, well-designed rooms perfectly content. They call a spade a spade in these parts — hence Cosy rooms, View rooms and Best rooms.
Doubles from £128, B&B, linthwaite.com
The Coach House, North Yorkshire — new opening
Quick, everyone up the A1 before word spreads and you can’t book a weekend at the Coach House until 2017. James and Rebecca Allison’s immaculate stable-block restoration,east of Scotch Corner, has a hip cocktail bar and an open-air cinema in summer. The chef, Gareth Rayner, serve meaty and seasonal dishes — grouse and blackberries was a recent treat — while the understated luxury of the bedrooms puts you in mind of a warm bath you never want to climb out of.
Doubles from £155, B&B, middletonlodge.co.uk/ coach-house
Fonab Castle, Perthshire
Scottish castle hotels can be a bit fusty, but not this baronial pile-meets-Grand Designs masterpiece on the banks of the Tummel, near Pitlochry. Built in 1892 for the Sandemansherry clan, it reopenedin 2013 after a spectacular glass and wood refurb. It has magnificent views over Loch Faskally, a spa, a pool,a three AA rosette restaurant and 26 roomswith White Company bedding, smart TVs and Nespresso machinesas standard. On the doorstep are fishing, golf and forest trails ablaze just now in reds and golds. Nab the castle penthouse, which has a 7ft bed with a polished-nickel frame, and it’s unlikely you’ll want to bother with those
Doubles from £260, half-board; fonabcastlehotel.com
B&B: stay in your comfort zone
City: talk of the town
Our winner: Zetter Townhouse Marylebone, London W1 — NEW OPENING
Londoners love the first Zetter Townhouse, which opened in Clerkenwell in 2011. Transport that winning formula to the capital’s coolest area, then notch up the quirkiness, and Mark II’s crepuscular, curio-filled bar becomes the perfect place to overindulge. The cocktails mirror the decadent decor, and the exuberant Italian mixologist Claudio Perinelli will probably convince you to try the entire list. When you’ve had your fill (and more), the 24 bedrooms are whimsical, with working gramophones and vintage maps.
Doubles from £198; thezettertownhouse.com
Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath
Stay in a classic piece of British architecture — the Georgian Royal Crescent. The public rooms in these two converted townhouses are as quietly captivating as a Jane Austen heroine. The grandeur continues in the 45 bedrooms, many of which have four-posters, ornate plasterwork and fine views over the city. Afternoon tea in the secret garden is a must, with cosy throws on hand if it turns chilly.
Doubles from £265, B&B, royalcrescent.co.uk
Artist Residence, Brighton
Artists were given permission to let their imaginations run wild when decorating this Regency townhouse. The result is 23 wildly creative dens, from quirky crash pads to swankier suites, all with art at their heart; expect arresting murals, vintage furniture and handpicked pieces. A drink in the beach-style Cocktail Shack is a fine prelude to dinner at the industrial-chic restaurant.
Doubles from £75; artistresidence.co.uk
Chiltern Firehouse, London W1
The media attention has died down a tad, but the Firehouse still seduces its glamorous guests. Let’s hope those supermodels actually eat Nuno Mendes’s sensational food. The horseshoe-shaped bar — reserved for hotel guests after 9pm — is hopping by 11pm. At some stage, you’ll get to bed in one of the 26retro rooms, with fireplaces and fringed velvet furniture.
Doubles from £395, B&B, chilternfirehouse.com
The Hospital Club, London WC2 — NEW OPENING
Join the party in Covent Garden, at one of the coolest private clubs in the capital. You don’t just get a room key, but access to an exclusive world of A-list bars and restaurants, art exhibitions and comedy and music performances. The 15 bedrooms cut quite a dash, too, many with striking stained glass and circular sofas, and there’s a complimentary turn-down cocktail trolley.
Doubles from £180; thehospitalclub.com
Z Shoreditch, London EC1 — NEW OPENING
How important is room service to you? It’s the only element missingat this 111-room bargain hotel, fashioned from a 19th-century office building. Rooms focus on quality where it counts, with handmade mattresses and triple-glazed windows. The suitably Shoreditchy cafe serves free cheese and wine to guests between 5pm and 8pm, as well as late-night ice creams. Hotels that charge five times as much could learn a thing or two about hospitality from this smart operation.
Doubles from £59; thezhotels.com
Batty Langley’s, London E1 — NEW OPENING
Sister to the quirky Hazlitt’s, in Soho, and the Rookery, in Clerkenwell, Batty Langley’s — named after the Georgians’ go-to house and garden designer — is a delightfully eccentric offering in Spitalfields. It took a decade of restoration to create interiors that hurtle you back to the 18th century in its pomp. Expect antiques, thrice-shined mahogany, four-posters, ruby-rich rugs and silk swagging in the 29 bedrooms.
Doubles from £330; battylangleys.com
Edgar House, Chester
Tim Mills and Mike Stephen have thrown heart and soul — and a fair amount of cash — into their Georgian houseon the city walls, above the River Dee. The statement wallpapers, silk cushions and giant bespoke beds are wrapped in a sense of calm. Arrive in time for tea, which comes with an endless spread of scones, cakes and sandwiches.
Doubles from £199, B&B, edgarhouse.co.uk
Abel Heywood, Manchester — NEW OPENING
Abel Heywood was a Mancunian mayor who stood up for the Victorian working class, and he’d feel at home with this Northern Quarter boozer’s 19th-century look — it has leather booths and a tobacco-stained Anaglypta-style ceiling. The bar buzzes with a fashion-conscious crowd and he rooms are quietly stylish: each has a super-comfy bed, decent soundproofing and a huge print of the Manchester skyline at midnight.
Doubles from £60, B&B, abelheywood.co.uk
Ardmor House, Edinburgh
Stylish, laid-back, fabulous, friendly — and that’s just the proprietor, Robin Jack, and his miniature schnoodle, Vera. A 15-minute walk north of Princes Street, this five-bedroom B&B is a cheap-chic steal — the kingsize beds, velvet headboards, funky Kartell Bourgie lighting and antique wardrobes lift it way above the usual B&B offerings. Breakfasts include homemade muffins, sausages from a posh butcher, Crombies, and Ardmor House’s very own blend of coffee.
Doubles from £95, B&B, ardmorhouse.com
Pubs: make it a lock in
Cut a dash in the bar: how to dress to match your hotel
If you spot… Hunter wellies and croquet sets in the hallway
You should wear… Tweed, preferably tatty enough to suggest it’s inherited, rather than bought
If you spot… Armour or mounted antlers in the lobby
You should wear… Bright red or mustard cords, brogues and one of those headscarves favoured by the Queen
If you spot… Single white orchids and bespoke scented sticks
You should wear… Something by Alice Temperley: cool, distinctive, but too discreet for ostentatious branding
If you spot… Furniture that looks like art installations
You should wear… Anything, as long as it’s black and accessorised by a bored expression
If you spot… Exposed bricks, upcycled furniture, battered leather
You should wear… Skinny jeans and a porkpie hat.
If you spot… Formica tables topped with bottles of salad cream
You should wear… Double denim and tattoos.
Selling the sizzle: the perfect fry up
There’s only one thing a weekend away absolutely has to include, and that’s a decent fry-up. So what should be in the perfect cooked breakfast? We asked Tom Aikens, who oversees the food at Soho Farmhouse — one of this year’s winning hotels — to step up to the plate…
Dry-cured, thick-cut and streaky. “Back bacon can become a little dry,” Aikens explains. “Streaky has more fat, therefore more flavour, and crisps up nicely.” He recommends three rashers per person. Soho Farmhouse uses Paddock Farm (paddock.fm).
Chipolatas are for kids’ parties; a fry-up demands a big fat banger. “For a hearty breakfast, you need a large sausage, so we’ve asked Paddock Farm to make its traditional sausage a little bigger for us,” Aikens says. Another favourite of his is the Organic Pork Cumberland-style from the Rhug Estate, in Denbighshire (rhug.co.uk). One large sausage per person.
They must be free-range and fried, insists Aikens, who likes a runny yolk and the white slightly crispy around the edge. One per person. Scrambled egg is only acceptable if cooked with butter and seasoning, definitely not with milk.
Aikens thinks the combination of pig’s blood, oats, fat and mixed spice is generally a good thing: “It adds another level of richness.” The chef recommends the Fruit Pig Company’s Fresh Blood Black Pudding (fruitpigcompany.com) and says two ½in-thick rounds per person is ideal.
Meaty and flavourful portobello, pan-fried in brown butter, Maldon salt and thyme, or baked with olive oil, seasoning, thyme and some balsamic vinegar. One per person.
Italian or French beef tomatoes, griddled or fried with olive oil, butter, coarse salt, milled black pepper, fresh thyme, brown sugar and chopped shallot. One half per person.
Ketchup works with fried egg, but brown is better with sausage and black pudding.
English breakfast tea. Orange juice afterwards.
So no place for baked beans, hash browns, fried bread or fried potatoes. Has Tom got it right? Tweet us at @ST_Travel
The stars check in at our Ultimate 100
Our hotel of the year, Foxhill Manor, encourages visits to the kitchen to discuss menus with the chef. Though in the case of one recent guest, Lady Gaga, infamous for that meat dress, she may have been looking for something to wear.
The laid-back ambience of this Cotswolds bolthole also struck the right note with U2.Kofi Annan,Jeremy Paxman and Kate Winsletprefer sea views to rural idylls so hunkered down at Hotel Tresanton, perfectly positioned to survey the picture-postcard Cornish harbour of St Mawes. For more dramatic panoramas, Harry Enfield, Angus Deaytonand Angela Hartnett all opted for Dorest’s Jurassic Coast and a night at the Seaside Boarding House.
Irvine Welsh may be best known for his gritty novel Trainspotting, but on holiday, it turns out he’s a bit of a softie, opting for the old-fashioned charms of Hotel Portmeirion, on the North Wales coast. Bear Gryllsis another who holidays against type, recently spending time at Bodysgallen Hall, near Llandudno — definitely less rattlesnakes, more rattling teacups.
The chef James Martin, on the other hand, likes a busman’s holiday, regularly checking out the specials at the Greyhound on the Test, a Hampshire pub with a reputation for excellent grub. Likewise, the quaint Swan at Lavenham, in Suffolk, Benjamin Britten’s home county, seems a harmonious choice for Julian Lloyd Webber; and Linthwaite House, in Windermere, a logical hideaway for the Lancashire-born Victoria Wood.
But for a killer celebrity count, Soho Farmhouse, in Oxfordshire, takes some beating. It’s only been open since August, and has already had a Hello! magazine’s worth of stars to stay, including Eddie Redmayne, Mark Ronson, Sam Mendes, Cressida Bonas, Princess Eugenie and Jemima Goldsmith.