By India Dowley
We might not be able to bank on good weather conditions, but the UK has some of the best hotels in the world. And if you’ve bagged a room at one of them, then really, weather becomes inconsequential.
When the sun graces your stay, embrace it with woodland strolls, alfresco picnics and outdoor swimming. In the face of gale-force winds and drenching rain, find solace in a sauna or beside a crackling fireplace, book in one hand, a glass of Nyetimber in the other.
We've curated a selection of the most gorgeous countryside hotels around, from avant-garde newcomers that act as playgrounds to bon vivants to grandiose classics steeped in history. These are the top country house hotels in the UK.
Gilpin is a modern country hotel on the eastern edge of the Lake District National Park featuring a whitewashed Edwardian main house, glass-and-wood lodges and a Scandi-style lake chalet. Amenities include spa facilities, rooftop gardens and three top-notch restaurants. Rooms are beautifully designed, some with cedarwood hot tubs saunas and stone baths, while the communal sitting room has a convivial atmosphere that attracts guests who arrive for an aperitif and return for post-dinner stiffeners. Rowing, woodland walking and freshwater swimming keep it a wholesome getaway.
This remarkable countryside retreat opened in 2019 under the discreet ownership of South African couple Koos Bekker and Karen Roos of Boschendal [LINK] fame. Located in a spectacular Palladian-fronted Hadspen House on a vast estate between Castle Cary and Bruton, the hotel is known for its refreshing take on English country house interiors (Roos is the former editor of Elle Decoration) that blend modern with trad. The facilities are pretty extraordinary, including a Romano-British Villa Ventorum, a cider press, botanical gardens, a history museum and multiple dining options with homegrown produce at their heart.
Tales of power, politics and grand parties are whispered against a serene English countryside backdrop at Beaverbrook. Once home to Lord Beaverbrook, a close confidante of Winston Churchill, it hosted high society figures like Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming, and today continues to attract modern bon vivants looking to escape the big smoke. Taking up residence on a sprawling 470-acre Surrey Hills estate, the grounds offer a sumptuous main hotel featuring zany contemporary art, an unexpected but excellent Japanese restaurant, a state-of-the-art spa and various comfortable outhouse accommodation options.
Heckfield Place is a standout in the UK weekend break scene. Originally the home of Charles Shaw-Lefevre, it was transformed into a hotel by billionaire Gerald Chan. The design merges classic with contemporary elements and rooms in the main house offer parkland views, while families can book The Corridors or Gardener's Cottage (children are not permitted in the main house). The mini-bar features Wildsmith toiletries while farm-to-fork dining is spearheaded by by ever-popular Skye Gyngell. Close to the characterful town of Hartney Wintney in Hampshire, it’s an excellent choice for those looking for somewhere a stone’s throw from London.
This neoclassical manor, initially built to house the Duke of Buckingham's mistress, has a chequered history of decadence and scandal, including being the location of the infamous Profumo affair. It’s a grandiose stay with extensive amenities including a riverside Pavilion spa, Technogym gym and tennis courts. Each room is named after a historical figure, with some of our favourites being the Henry James suite and the Sutherland room – expect four-poster beds, mammoth bathtubs and swishy curtains. The spa has both indoor and outdoor heated pools, treatment rooms and a restaurant, providing a lovely place to relax year-round.
This transformed riverside Highland hunting lodge is the brainchild of Hauser & Wirth art dealers who have successfully ventured into the hotel business after their previous triumph with Durslade Farm in Somerset. The Fife Arms underwent an extensive and meticulous restoration, now offering rooms that range from splendidly adorned Victoriana in the Duke of Fife Suite to various other off-the-wall options throughout. The hotel features a pub, the Flying Stag, with a taxidermy stag sporting swan's wings, a bar dedicated to Elsa Schiaparelli and the Clunie restaurant, serving exceptional Scottish comfort food in a design-led dining room.
Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is a stalwart on the British hotel stage and enjoys international acclaim, drawing a dedicated and loyal guest following. Under the guidance of Raymond Blanc, it has earned two Michelin stars for its exceptional cuisine, combining French and British influences with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from its extensive kitchen gardens. The hotel itself is a picturesque, blonde-stone country manor with individually designed rooms and suites, offering guests an idyllic retreat in the heart of the English countryside. With its exquisite dining, beautiful gardens and attentive service, it’s no wonder that it remains just as popular as when it opened in 1984.
The first UK venture outside London by the Experimental Group offers a youthful twist on Cotswolds hospitality and is aimed at cool, young things looking to kick back away from the city. Springing up in the Churn Valley, it's a peaceful escape featuring whimsical interiors inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The 15 unique bedrooms are adorned with playful elements like playing card symbols and rabbit-head knockers. Lush greenery, real plants and olive-green decor create a conservatory-like feel throughout. The restaurant, led by Jackson Boxer, focuses on local ingredients with French influences while the cocktail bar sends out dangerous drinks. It’s perfect for those seeking a Cotswolds escape that breaks the mould.
Perhaps Wales’ smartest country-house hotel, Grove of Narbeth is a romantic Georgian house set in 26 acres of grounds encompassing woodlands, meadows and a walled kitchen. Arty design points meet Welsh references (think love spoons and local rugs) here, resulting in an aesthetic which is homely yet fresh. The food offering here is brilliant, with two restaurants emphasising Welsh ingredients and vegetables from the hotel gardens. Head to The Fernery for a tasting menu and The Artisan Rooms for a more casual dining option with Pembrokeshire scenes of the Preseli Hills in the distance.
10. Thyme, Cotswolds
Initially a cookery school, this Cotswolds darling has since transformed into an idyllic hotel known for its food. Owner Caryn Hibbert has meticulously curated the cluster of honey-stone properties, including a former rectory, cottages and barns, into a harmonious retreat. Her attention to detail shines throughout, from pretty flower arrangements to hand-drawn maps, while the 31 individually designed rooms are named after flowers and plants. We love the springwater swimming pool while there are also tennis courts and a cookery school. Choose between two restaurants – no surprise both are exceptional.
Located in the mystical New Forest National Park, Lime Wood is a delightful setting for special occasions, spa getaways and romantic escapes. Surrounded by the ethereal woodland and wild ponies that roam the landscape, the hotel could have been plucked straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Effortlessly blending Georgian elegance with contemporary touches, the decor is tasteful, featuring modern fixtures and pops of colour. The atrium bar is a highlight and perfect for people-watching. Manicured grounds provide a serene backdrop, while additional rooms and suites are housed in separate pavilions and clapboard houses, offering a touch of New England charm.Like this? For more travel guides from our in-house experts, click here.