As the mercury drops, we round up the best hideaway hotels in which to hole up by the fire this winter…
In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle sits a hotel that can claim almost equal fame to the great fortress itself. Its interior is an antidote to the minimal good taste that abounds in so many hotels; its Gothic style is enriched by the jewel-coloured velvets that adorn almost every surface and the eclectic details recall nothing so much as a very wealthy Catholic church. Romantic and dramatic, you’d be not only forgiven, but encouraged, to forgo stepping outside to spend time in this fascinating repository of theatrical interiors.
Robin Hutson is the man behind The Pig, a burgeoning series of hotels that has garnered such a following insiders talk of stays here in almost reverent tones. Relaxed to its core, there are log fires inside and out; food comes from within 25 miles of the Georgian house; communal areas are designed to invite you to curl up on the abundant sofas; and dining takes place in the most beautiful conservatory you ever saw. We still love the original Pig in Hampshire. Where better to hole up and munch on its famous “Piggy Bites”?
The Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons form the beautiful backdrop for this humble and homely pub with rooms. This is the kind of place where dogs are actively encouraged, wellies and Barbours constitute acceptable dinner attire and a toasty Aga provides the warm welcome to chilly ramblers. Winter is the perfect time to take a pew at the pub and dig into the sustainably sourced food, which comes courtesy of gardener Joe Hand, who supplies almost all the exquisite food from the hotel’s own garden.
Just down the road from Runnymede, where Magna Carta was sealed some 800 years ago, sits a highly luxurious 465-year-old upstart in the form of Great Fosters. Now a 43-room hotel, royals including Queen Elizabeth I and King George III are purported to have visited during their reigns, while the ancient moat pre-dates even Magna Carta, hailing from 500 AD. These days it is all cosy comfort, with roaring fires, four-poster beds, fine dining, afternoon teas and oak panelling. It is also the ideal place from which to take a day trip to nearby Windsor.
Hurley, where this charming hotel is located, is a quintessential English village on the Thames, just a short amble from Marlow. Until 2008, it boasted one inn of little note. Since then, its position has been elevated by a fantastic renovation courtesy of Ilse Crawford, who brought understated Danish design chic to the 900-year-old building. Cosy throws, Roberts Radios and roll-top baths adorn the lovely rooms, while no stay here would be truly complete without taking a fireside pint in the ancient inn.
Once the fishing and hunting lodge of the Duke of Bedford, Grade I-listed Hotel Endsleigh has these days been repurposed as a retreat for grateful urbanites in search of total relaxation. It combines historical design details – the gardens, woodland, follies and grottos are all courtesy of the great 18th century landscape designer, Humphry Repton – with modern luxury, thanks to contemporary designer, Olga Polizzi. There are 16 cosy yet capacious bedrooms, a wood-panelled dining room – and views that go on and on into neighbouring Cornwall.
This breathtaking Elizabethan manor was once home to the Governor of the Bank of England. And well he might have chosen to retreat here, given its exquisite gardens, its ancient moat and its atmospherically dusky interiors, with their mullioned windows and 16th-century features. The Mulberry restaurant represents a perfect example of English fine dining with wholesome ingredients and seasonal fare. Fires roar throughout the hotel, while the cosy bedrooms are either named after King Henry VIII and his six wives, or local castles.
Set between the artists’ Mecca of St Ives and the beautiful St Just, the Gurnard’s Head is a pub with rooms in the hamlet of Treen which boasts a serious view. The rugged coastline makes it a dramatic and enticing spot for walkers – which, in turn, ensures that the tongue-and-groove dark interiors and roaring fires are even more inviting for those wishing to curl up in its warm embrace. While there, be sure to sample the exemplary local ales and hearty Cornish fare via its short, but exquisite, menu of simple food.
For one of the major cities of the south, Bristol long languished without any serious contenders on the boutique hotel scene. When Number 38 opened, that all changed. The double-fronted Georgian townhouse, teetering on the edge of Clifton Village, the most sought-after area of town, offers just ten bedrooms, all of which are individually styled. We love the West Loft Suite which, with its dark Farrow and Ball-painted hues and freestanding bath, is as broodingly stylish as it is womb-like; the perfect place to curl up in comfort for days.
A 17th-century country house set amid 63 acres of parkland, Lainston House, near Winchester, is the ultimate spot for stepping not only away from the bustle, but also back in time. It is easy to imagine the days of bonnets and bustles amid the manicured gardens, the 12th-century chapel ruins and the dovecote. But every modern comfort is also catered to, from the sumptuous rooms to the luxury bathrooms. Winter is the perfect time to eat in the wood-panelled dining room – or simply to read by the fire.