The boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith pick out their favourite easy escapes, bringing you 10 weekend breaks just two hours out of London.
Lime Wood, Hampshire
Just past Southampton, this regal New Forest manor was first a mediaeval hunting lodge back in the 13th century, and reclaimed for royalty by the Duke of Clarence in the 1740s. Since then, it has had another extravagant makeover, giving this stately pile a pristine air of perfection, with primly landscaped grounds, devotedly designed interiors and two tantalising restaurants to prove it.
There’s also the Herb House spa, spread across three floors, with assorted treatment rooms, a mud house, sauna, steam house, indoor pool, outdoor pool, sun deck with herb garden and a bar serving food and juices straight from the garden.
Rates: Double rooms from £295, including tax at 20 per cent, but not breakfast (around £10 for Continental; £15 for full English).
Coworth Park, Berkshire
Luxurious country manors within easy access of London don’t come more glamorous than Coworth Park near Ascot. This 17th-century mansion and polo estate has been treated to an eco-friendly modern makeover that’s given it three restaurants, a mood of quietly confident grandeur, and an architecturally wowsome eco-savvy spa: it’s a half-buried sweep of glass and timber with a herb-garden rooftop.
The wide-ranging therapies incorporate products from Aromatherapy Associates, Kerstin Florian, Dr Alkaitis and Carol Joy London. Be sure to book your weekend treatment in advance.
Rates: Double rooms from £215, excluding tax at 20 per cent and breakfast (£25 each).
Varsity Hotel & Spa, Cambridge
Be in the heart of Cambridge within an hour and a half’s drive out of London, and pick this academically gifted riverside retreat as your abode. The Varsity Hotel may have rooms named after colleges, artworks based on famous alumni and donnish decanters of brandy to hand, but there’s nothing studenty about it.
It has a spotless health club and Aveda spa attached (in a Conran-designed building next door), as well as the best views in the city from its seventh-floor rooftop. Restless gym bunnies can partake in the yoga, pilates and boxercise classes held in the beamed gym and, in summer, on the hotel’s roof.
Rates: Double rooms from £129, including tax at 20 per cent and full English breakfast.
Lucknam Park, Wiltshire
Sitting comfortably in rolling Wiltshire countryside, this is a hotel that has it all: award-winning spa, Michelin-starred restaurant, 500-acre estate and even an equestrian centre, home to 35 glossy-flanked horses. Lucky for the fillies and stallions (and guests) – their Chippenham stomping ground is peaceful and private, with gorgeous gardens.
Tennis courts, croquet lawn, football pitch and a home cinema are further feathers in this handsome hotel’s hat. Noticed some split ends and no time for a cut during the week? Sharpen up here with a trim in the spa’s hair salon. And, if you fancy a swim, there are four pools to pick from: an indoor heated one, indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pools and an outdoor saltwater plunge pool.
Rates: Double rooms from £195, including tax at 20 per cent, but not breakfast (from £20).
The Gallivant, East Sussex
A nautically dressed vision in blues, whites and wave-washed woods, The Gallivant is down by the dunes of classic and coastal Camber Sands, near Rye and its dainty tea rooms. This glorious golden stretch with knee-high grass and sandy bumps has been entertaining holidaymakers since they were forced to wear modesty-preserving, high-neck, low-ankle bathing costumes.
Rooms are small and simple, with extra touches making them special, such as the jars of treats, trays of teapots, cups and saucers, and top-dog beds. The bountiful bay’s daily catch of oysters, mussels and more can all be sampled straight from the net in the sea-inspired bistro, where there’s recycled driftwood for furniture and shells for artworks.
Rates: Double rooms from £65, including tax at 20 per cent. Rates include a two-course (Continental and English) breakfast.
The Royal Oak, West Sussex
The crackling fires, cosy cottages, chalkboard menus and scenic setting are our favourite bits of this gorgeous gastropub near Chichester. This is a very British take on comfort – exposed red brick walls, low wooden-beamed ceilings and beds topped with soft wool throws. Thanks to friendly staff, the hotel is warm in more ways than one – expect to relax, newspaper and glass in hand, ensconced in one of the nut-brown leather chairs. The only interruptions will be a gentle enquiry as to whether it’s top-up time, and the enticing aromas (corn-fed chicken, Sussex sirloin, pan-roasted partridge, apple, almond and toffee) wafting from the kitchen.
It’s easy to lose entire weekends here doing not very much at all, but if you want to get out and about, the little village of East Lavant is green and scenic, perfect for a post-roast ramble, and Sussex has enough historic houses, rambling estates and cake-crammed tea rooms to fill a guidebook.
Rates: Double rooms from £85, including tax at 20 per cent. Rates include breakfast (full English and seasonal specialities).
The Reading Rooms, Kent
Come over all Victorian and take a seaside break to Margate, swapping city for shore in less than two hours. 18th-century Margate was a fashionable place to be, and the Reading Rooms rekindles this romance with preserved Georgian features, antiques and its blustery, beachy setting.
Even the boutique B&B’s name is a nod to the town’s heyday, when visitors flocked to the spas, tearooms and libraries. Each of the bedrooms is regal, and so big they span an entire floor. The town is perfect for shopping too, since it’s packed with cute vintage shops full of fabulous finds.
Rates: Double rooms from £135, including tax at 20 per cent and breakfast.
Stoke Park, Berkshire
This imposing stately mansion was designed by ‘Mad’ King George III’s architect, and, if it weren’t for the Union Jack flying, it’d look like a mini White House. As well as a golf course where James Bond and Goldfinger enjoyed a round, no less, Stoke Park has its own incredible spa, separate from the mansion, with an inviting indoor pool looking over the gardens.
The Dining Room serves Modern British cuisine courtesy of chef Chris Wheeler, and the best Sunday lunch in the area. Look out for Dorset crab, local lamb and whole arrays of chocolatey, pudding-shaped treats. The Orangery serves breakfast all day, so there’s no need to book that wake-up call.
Rates: Double rooms from £245, including tax at 20 per cent. Rates exclude breakfast (£22).
Church Street Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon
This buzzy, bijou bolthole in Stratford’s historic heart puts a modern spin on the boutique inn. The lovingly restored grade II-listed townhouse features boudoir-chic bedrooms, all-day bistro dining, fantastic staff, a cosy bar and a loyal local clientele. It’s variously graced by ladies who lunch, early evening tipplers and post-performance actors, depending on the time of day.
Imagine an abridged Soho House for Stratford, complete with super king-size beds, pewter-topped bar and flatscreen TVs, of course, and that should set the scene. An antique-dealing family elder was even drafted in to source the coffee pots and modishly mismatched silver candlesticks dressing the dining room. While in town, be sure to catch a performance at the newly reopened Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in honour of Stratford’s most famous son.
Rates: Double rooms from £90, including tax at 20 per cent and breakfast.
The Montpellier Chapter, Cotswolds
Combine town and country with a trip to Cheltenham, snug in the golden and green Cotswolds, and a stay at this slick, contemporary take on the ‘bedrooms plus wine bar and bistro’ formula. All mod cons have been rolled into one smart heritage-renovation package, including a well-stocked lounge/library, spa, moody bar and Modern British restaurant.
The epic multimillion-pound renovation stripped down and spruced up this grade II-listed villa, involving more creative names than a Wallpaper* masthead. Elsewhere, Aromatherapy Associates’ spa treatments, gorgeous gastro-style grub and attentive touches from SmartCellar app wine lists to locally sourced spirits mean the Montpellier Chapter will most certainly live up to your expectations.
Rates Double rooms from £125, including tax at 20 per cent, but not breakfast (£9.50 for a full English).
For further information or to make a reservation, please contact your concierge.