Here are the best hotels in the UK to stay in this year from St Moritz Hotel and Cliveden House to The Rosewood and The Pig On The Beach. A weekend away is always a good idea. You work hard, so why not treat yourself to some downtime in a luxury hotel? A swish city escape or few days in a country lodge can do wonders for your mind, which is why we've scoured the country on the hunt for the UK's best hotels for your next mini break.
From the coastal retreats that will make you feel like you're in LA (weather permitting) to spas hidden away in the countryside's forests, we've found a hotel to satisfy every facet of your wanderlust. Sure, a trip to Bali might be at the top of your holiday wish list, but the UK has a wealth of beautiful locations that won't take you a full day to get to.
It's time to start packing your suitcase, because your next holiday might be closer than you think... So here we go, listed in no particular order.
Retreat East isn’t your average hotel. It acts like a country getaway; in reality it’s a private members' country club in the Suffolk countryside that has opened its doors to nonmembers for a limited time. As the name suggests, the grounds are incredibly peaceful and completely secluded. The retreat has a small spa for treatments and a fitness area with plans to expand. When it comes to accommodation, think plush country barns with freestanding baths and Architectural Digest-style kitchens – a big feature for the properties are that they are mainly self-catered. Eggs are delivered from the farm, along with other breakfast staples from the nearby towns. For dinner, there’s the option of in-barn dining where they deliver fresh, seasonal ingredients – usually from their allotment – to cook in the facilities (cooking is used loosely, as it’s mainly just heating up food, rather than preparing). Alternatively, you can dine in the Great Barn on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The food is so delicious, the only criticism is that there should be more options for round-the-clock dining – because the positives, having your own country house without any of the maintenance, is just bliss. Brick Kiln Farm, Sandy Lane, Hemingstone, Suffolk IP6 9QE. 01449 760480. suffolk.farm
Fun fact: Gleneagles has its very own mainline station, less than two miles from its imposing drive. But then it was once a British Rail hotel, so you win some, you lose some. Fortunately, since 2015 it’s been in the portfolio of Ennismore (hospitality entrepreneurs behind The Hoxton series), which means this legendary stop on the global golf tour is far more than mock-baronial bedrooms and wall-to-wall tartan. Instead, it’s the perfect expression of the modern, full-service destination resort: still focused on its greens, naturally, but busy amplifying myriad other attractions that should appeal to anyone who wants a few activities sprinkled throughout their stay.
Beyond golf there’s – deep breath – shooting, canoeing, riding, climbing, falconry, cycling, tennis, off-roading, archery and fishing. And for the merely indolent there’s an Espa spa and health club that, judging by the continuing investment, will doubtless shortly become the best wellness centre in the country. Until then, gaze and graze at one of the great dining rooms in the land (the recently restored Strathearn offers fine Franco-Scottish dining in seriously opulent surroundings) or choose between the three other restaurants, including the late Andrew Fairlie’s two-Michelin-starred kitchen, and four bars. But on no account miss out on the breakfast buffet – a term that signally fails to do justice to the most enticing array of locally sourced and superbly presented dishes GQ has ever encountered. Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland PH3 1NF. 01764 662231. gleneagles.com
There are hotels, there are old-school hotels and then there is The Nare. The country house in an unrivalled spot on Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula is fast approaching its 100th birthday and, when that anniversary arrives, it would be no surprise if Her Majesty decides to hand-deliver the centenary card and make a long weekend out of the visit. Elegant and as quintessentially English as a Bertie Wooster appreciation society garden party, Nare’s guests are guaranteed a uniquely traditional stay. From the afternoon cream tea to the old-fashioned hors d’oeuvres trolley, if you like your hospitality romantically retro you may become one of the many loyal Nare-ficionados who return year after year. A throwback to a bygone era of charm, chintz and cucumber sandwiches, it won’t be to everyone’s taste and no one could ever accuse this hotel of being too trendy, but like good manners, impeccable service and meticulous attention to detail, some things never go out of fashion. Rooms from £299. Carne Beach, Veryan-In-Roseland, Cornwall TR2 5PF. 01872 501111. narehotel.co.uk
Trust us, come Friday night (or Monday morning, for that matter) you’ll wish you hadn’t booked your weekend retreat four hours from home. Which means, if you’re a Londoner (or merely dwelling in or near the southeast) the former seat of Lord Beaverbrook – newspaper proprietor, friend of Winston’s and fastidious entertainer (Ian Fleming, Elizabeth Taylor) – represents the ideal 72-hour getaway. Following a £90 million renovation, the house and grounds have been transformed into a heady brew of period-perfect luxuriousness teamed with contemporary hospitality centred around the ornate yet inviting Parrot Bar. And that’s before you begin to explore the 470 rolling acres of Surrey countryside (newly aligned with every form of diversion imaginable) or hit its freshly completed gym. It’s upscale country living, only not as you know it: rather than the conventional “modern British with a twist” fine-dining offer, the owners have wisely instructed head chef Taiji Maruyama to deploy his considerable skills behind the pass on one of the best Japanese-inspired menus in the country. Formerly of Nobu, Maruyama’s black cod is unsurprisingly sensational, but leave room for locally sourced lamb straight from the robata grill. And for those who find stately home living, well, just too stately, there are eleven rooms in the nearby Garden House, which features its own gastropub-style all-day dining restaurant. Rooms from £225. Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8QX. 01372 571300. beaverbrook.co.uk
The Swan Southwold
The Swan hotel, situated in the picture book town of Southwold, is charming. Located in a brewing site, charming (owned and run by Adnams). Picnics on the beach, charming (they organise this for you if you ask).
It’s a homely bolthole, breakfast in bed kind of place, where aside from being two minutes away from the beach, its food, particularly the fish, is stand-out.
There are two options: The Tap Room, which acts as a local pub offering upmarket gastro food, and The Still Room which is their more formal, but still relaxed dining area specialising in finessed food, which isn’t overly showy. Their sous-vide haddock was beautifully tender with a meaty crispness - accompanied with pickled cucumbers, chargrilled fennel and grapefruit it felt smugly healthy and balanced.
With its laid back service, sea air and proximity to London (just over two hours on the train), The Swan makes for a restorative weekend break. Market Place, Southwold IP18 6EG. theswansouthwold.co.uk
Lime Wood hotel
Lime Wood sits within the New Forest National Park. The five-star hotel is a country manor type, like a Tuscan retreat in the UK, with an outside terrace, cooking classes, manicured sprawling lawns and calming herbs at every corner, just in case the walk to the main entrance is too stressful.
A lot of love is in the food. Chefs Angela Hartnett (yes, River Cafe legend, Angela Hartnett) and Luke Holder form the restaurant Hartnett Holder & Co which has embraced being more low-key in recent years. It’s great dining, without the stuffiness, full of Italian elevated home cooked classics. A word of advice: get the pasta, it’s all handmade.
We recommend the forest suites to stay. A homely, luxury cabin just a few minutes away from the main hotel. Plush bedding, merch (branded reusable water bottles, rather than plastic) are all completed by one of the biggest bathrooms you’ll ever witness, which you can remember with fond memories when returning to your shoebox London rental. Lime Wood hotel. Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst SO43 7FZ. 023 8028 7167. limewoodhotel.co.uk
© Amy Murrell
It’s not where you’re going; it’s how you get there. But for visitors to Kinloch Lodge on the Isle Of Skye, it’s both. The drive from Inverness Airport has two routes that are both among the best in Britain. GQ took a Jaguar F-Pace on the A82, which tracks the breadth of Loch Ness before cutting through the Northwest Highlands. The second option your satnav points you to is the A832. It’s more remote, ergo fewer slow-moving campers to convoy behind, and the ridges and ranges you wind through even wilder. Skye, too, benefits from a car that likes to play parabolas, as the island’s single-track roads curve over, through and around its ululating landscapes.
So much for the journey – what about the destination? Until the Seventies the home of the current high chief of Clan Donald, Kinloch Lodge was repurposed by Lord Macdonald and his wife, cookery writer Claire Macdonald, as a luxury hotel, and it is still owned and run by the family. Years on, the arrival of chef Marcello Tully in 2007 and of a Michelin star – the island’s first – in 2010, put Kinloch on the culinary map. Chef Tully’s daily-changing five-course dinner menu (£80) and seasonal tasting menu (£90) have become as much of a draw as the rousing countryside in which the hotel sits (ask for table 20 for views across Loch Na-Dal and the Highlands beyond).
For foodies who like to get closer to the source of their meals than a chef’s table – itself an option for diners here – Kinloch’s ghillie, Mitchell Partridge, will take visitors on foraging trips on the grounds, out to the island’s best fishing spots and leads deer stalks too. Partridge brings 20 years’ experience to his expeditions and his understanding of the island runs deep, so pack a pair of Red Wings and waterproofs (you are in the Hebrides, after all).
The stirring Highlands drive makes coming to Kinloch a pleasure. Being ready to leave is a harder prospect. A851, Sleat, Isle Of Skye IV43 8QY. kinloch-lodge.co.uk
When is a hotel not a hotel? When it is a restaurant with rooms, obviously. It is a small but important distinction for chef-patron Mark Birchall because, despite the stunning countryside setting, multimillion-pound renovation of a 16th-century manor house and an impeccable refurbishment by interior designer Martin Nealon, Moor Hall is first and foremost about the food.
Having honed his skills as the executive chef at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume for the best part of nine years, Birchall is a modern master of taste, texture, presentation and flavour. So much so that before Moor Hall’s first birthday he had already been gifted four AA rosettes and a Michelin star for his five- (£70) and eight-course (£105) tasting menus. Highlights include an outrageous amuse-bouche of homemade black pudding in a crispy shell; a clever cold and crunchy baked carrot; the stunning Holstein Friesian steak tartare, which borrows from and actually betters L’Enclume’s venison in coal oil; and a sweet and delicate Isle Of Mull scallop with risotto-like grains that together tastes both of the sea and the land.
It is a menu as immaculate as the precisely groomed grounds and walled gardens that surround the light and airy oak-framed dining room and certainly somewhere worth lingering. And, given that Moor Hall is a restaurant with a magnificent seven luxury rooms, you’d be a fool not to spend the night as well. Just don’t call it a hotel. Paul Henderson Prescot Road, Aughton, Ormskirk L39 6RT. moorhall.com
On the sands of Seaham’s epic bay, beachcombers search each morning for coloured sea glass discarded from an old factory, while above all this activity sits another gem of the North East, the recently renovated Georgian mansion of Seaham Hall. Revelling in its storied history (visited by Lord Byron, birthplace of his mathematical genius daughter, Ada Lovelace, a military hospital then a sanatorium, abandoned by aristocratic owners in the Twenties, then passed from one custodian to another until 2012) the hotel and spa is now offering magnificent suites and a fine, intimate restaurant.
GQ was already approaching mindfulness in the Executive Suite (just your regulation luxury – the Ada Lovelace Suite and Penthouse are even more striking), before a trip to the Serenity Spa. In order to protect guests from the wrath of the North Sea, you get there via an underground passageway, flanked by babbling brooks and a giant ornamental elephant, an experience which is part Asian New Age, part Bond villain’s lair, but all serious fun. After the pool and a range of relaxing treatments, GQ was ready just in time for dinner.
Byron’s Restaurant is much more than merely an adjunct to the hotel and the tasting menu has the best of their best, starting with Whitby Bay crab, lamb with anchovies, monkfish with a chicken wing (it works) and beef with salsify and bone marrow sauce. The service was disarmingly warm and attentive, as a Londoner would see it, or “normal” as the locals would. By the time GQ had finished we looked like a fat Buddha as well as feeling like one. Happily, the hotel grounds are suitably pleasing and, weather permitting, reward a postprandial stroll, which is the perfect way to reflect on a near-perfect stay. George Chesterton Lord Byron’s Walk, Seaham, County Durham SR7 7AG. Seaham-hall.co.uk
When the hotel has an address that reads “On The Beach”, it tells you all you need to know about where you are staying. On the edge of one of Cornwall’s best surf spots, Watergate Bay is a two-mile stretch of very occasionally sun-drenched sand between Newquay and Padstow, and this well-known hotel is as chilled and contemporary as anywhere from here to Formentera.
With interior design provided by the team behind Soho House, you’ll find open-plan living that suggests a Nordic ski resort-on-sea. The best rooms are in the Ocean Wing, which have jaw-dropping sea views. If you can’t get one of those, you can do your North Atlantic sightseeing from the two restaurants (Zacry’s and The Living Space) or the even-closer-to-the-ocean Beach Hut café bar. All three offer visitors a viable alternative to the neighbourhood branch of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen.
If you are inspired by the setting, the hotel runs an Extreme Academy for surf lessons and equipment hire, but for more gentle appreciation of the Bay there is a stunning infinity pool and a Canadian-style hot tub. Either way, life’s a beach. Paul Henderson Double rooms from £185. Watergate Bay Hotel, On The Beach, Watergate Bay, Cornwall TR8 4AA. Watergatebay.co.uk
After the glitzy debuts of The Ned, Curtain and Nobu Shoreditch, the arrival of The Mandrake last autumn was as welcome as a No. 13 bus on a winter’s night. Carved from a RIBA Award-winning building in Fitzrovia, The Mandrake – named for the plant’s medicinal properties – promises a degree of hedonism with a touch of the surreal. Its art-heavy interior plays host to a vibey bar, Waeska, overlooked by Fable, a model of bio-morphing taxidermy by the artist Enrique Gomez De Molina, and a restaurant by Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Serge Et Le Phoque. Besides a lift shaft decorated in tattoo-like stencils by Thomas Hooper, the public spaces contain work by Francesco Clemente and Jonas Burgert, as well as a 30-candle chandelier by Lara Bohinc. Meanwhile, its 33 rooms and suites, arranged around a courtyard, come with non-sheepish interiors and Venetian-style masks. With a rooftop super-suite with its own terrace and a basement screening room-cum-supper club with murals by Berlin street-art duo Herakut and the artist Philippe De Villiers, expect the hotel to revive the parts other, less individualistic spots fail to reach. “I try to create a mythical, magical place where people can have a good time,” says owner Rami Fustok, “and I’ve created it by touching and stimulating the senses.” Rooms from £290. 20-21 Newman Street, London W1. 020 3146 7770. themandrake.com
Ye Olde Bell Hotel
During a lifespan that has crossed five centuries, Ye Olde Bell Hotel in the village of Barnby Moor in Nottinghamshire has moved with the times. It started in business as a coaching inn in the heart of Civil War England, a natural halfway house for stagecoaches travelling between London and Scotland (including, later on, one carrying a young Queen Victoria). But by the 20th century, when four wheels replaced four legs as the quickest way to travel on the Great North Road, the Bell had reinvented itself as a checkpoint for car enthusiasts.
No longer situated directly on the modern A1, Ye Olde Bell is enjoying a very 21st-century reincarnation - as an easy-to-find watering hole complete with spa resort. This multimillion-pound addition, which opened in June, is the latest stage in an ambitious refurbishment campaign undertaken by owners Paul and Hilary Levack since 2002.
Don't worry that "spa" means the menu is all courgetti and clean-eating smoothies. This is more of a luxury pampering experience, with couples ordering bubbles from spa butlers in between sampling the Stonebath sauna and something called a "snowstorm" - literally an indoor shower of hailstones to reinvigorate you as you emerge from the steam baths.
Not only is the spa's Herb Garden Brasserie generous with the portions and the chocolate tiramisu, but there is also a range of dining options in Ye Olde Bell Hotel itself. The main event, for residents and locals alike, is 1650, the restaurant where the characteristic blend of classic and contemporary is again in evidence: the name is a nod to the Bell's year of origin, while the AA Rosette-winning cuisine is decidedly on the nouvelle side.
After a palate-whetting seafood amuse bouche, there's a flavour-packed combo of crab rillette and peppered squid served in lobster bisque gel and drizzled with fennel purée, followed by delicious lamb cannon and heritage potatoes. "Artisan" wines are a feature of the menu, but the house white recommendation - a Finca Valero Macabeo - was a great complement to our food choices. And you'll still have room for the excellent local cheese board.
Back in the spa, GQ submitted to the Men's Ritual. After two hours of deep body massage and facial, the last thing we wanted to do was hit the road. Ye Olde Bell is a staging post that's hard to say goodbye to. Neil O'Sullivan Rooms from £115 per night. Barnby Moor, Retford DN22 8QS. 01777 705121. yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk