The best hotels in South East England

    Gravetye Manor, Sussex

    From vast estates to manor houses and pretty English garden cottages, here are some of the best hotels in South East England

    England’s South East has long been a place of refuge for those seeking to escape the bustle of life in London, with many esteemed Englishmen and women having a ‘place in the country’ in proximity to the capital in which to weekend when the working week is done.

    Churchill had Chartwell and a long succession of Prime Ministers –from Churchill to Sunak – have had Chequers.

    Thankfully, today, many of our most beautiful country homes are open to paying guests, so you needn’t secure an invite into the highest echelons of society to be welcomed in through the doors.

    Whether you’re looking for perfectly preened gardens that would make Gertrude Jekyll swoon, a taste of the high life, or something a touch more restrained, here are some of the best hotels in South East England for a taste of the good life.

    Our favourite hotels in South East England

    Beaverbrook, Surrey

    Beaverbrook House. Credit: laryssaerratt

    Churchill may have had his own country pad, but nevertheless, he was often found here, on the estate of his good friend Lord Beaverbrook in the Surrey Hills. 

    Beaverbrook was a well-connected media mogul and his list of weekend guests reads like a who’s who of 20th-century high society – he’s thought to have first seen the house while passing by with his friend Rudyard Kipling. 

    During his time in the house Lord Beaverbrook transformed it into one of the most expensive homes in England – adding a swimming pool, electricity and what was possibly the first private cinema in England. 

    Today, guests on the enormous English country house estate can still watch films in the cinema, hidden away in a room in the main house, while the outdoor pool has since been joined by an indoor sibling and treatment rooms. There’s a traditional lounge with roaring fire, while the gorgeous bar with framed botanical photos opens onto a grand terrace offering glorious views. It’s not hard to see why we think this is one of the best hotels in South East England.

    Sir Franks Bar at Beaverbrook. Credit: laryssaerratt

    But Beaverbrook is so much more than just the house; golf buggies help guests travel around the large estate, which includes tennis and pickleball courts, walking trails – even a self-contained family-friendly area known as The Village, where accommodation is in old workers’ cottages that have been given a colourful literary twist. Den-building workshops give parents the afternoon off.

    And everywhere you look – from the pins on the uniforms of liveried staff to the woollen blankets draped over chairs on the terrace – is the hotel’s emblem: The Spitfire. For chief among Beaverbrook’s achievements was his role in trebling the production of Spitfires as Minister of Aircraft Production in the Battle of Britain. A proud achievement indeed.

    Mount Ephraim Country House & Gardens, Kent

    Mount Ephraim. Credit: Liz Gregg

    With some seriously impressive English country gardens to explore, this grand house is located halfway between Kent’s cathedral city of Canterbury and the town of Faversham.

    Perched on a hilltop ridge, it boasts magnificent views to the distant mouth of the Thames and out to sea.

    Run on a charmingly casual bed-and-breakfast basis, the garden wing of the house is set aside for overnight guests, who can enjoy the gardens after hours – you might even find you have the grounds to yourself. 

    The rather luxurious rooms have antique furniture and wonderfully large bathrooms in which to unwind. The full English breakfasts are served downstairs in the old kitchen: a lovely light room that still has its original kitchen range. 

    Mount Ephraim Gardens. Credit: Liz Gregg

    Set amid an 800-acre estate, the gardens include a stunning Japanese rock garden, complete with stone lanterns, seats, terraces, water cascades and a bridge. In early spring, it is smothered in primroses and primula.

     There’s also an ornamental lake and water garden to explore, an Arboretum, and a modern ornament maze. There is even a village cricket pitch across the ha-ha from the front lawn.

     In the summer, it’s the setting for classical concerts, rock and jazz festivals, plant and fruit fairs, even outdoor Shakespeare.

    Mount Ephraim is still run by the Dawes family, who have owned the property for over 300 years, and luckily they seem only too happy to share it all.

    Cliveden, Berkshire

    best hotels in south east england
    Afternoon tea at Cliveden

    The wealthy Astors famously made this mansion their home in the late Victorian era, but it was during the time of Waldorf Astor (son of William Waldorf of Hever – read more about Hever in our behind the scenes feature here) and his wife Nancy in the early 20th century, that it became the place for high society to shake off the shackles of the working week. Members of the Royal Family were often seen mingling with other guests; on one occasion, staff recall Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Margaret being in attendance when a great carpet was laid across the terrace to allow guests to dance through the night.

    Even before the Astors’ time, Cliveden was known to have hosted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as back then it was owned by the Duchess of Sutherland, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria.

    Read more about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert here.


    Today, Cliveden is one of the best hotels in South East England. It is still a place where guests can escape the reality of the world for a few days. Now owned by the National Trust, it is a five-star luxury hotel offering unparalleled levels of luxury. The Lady Astor Suite, for instance, is considered one of the grandest hotel suites in the UK, with a huge handmade bed, incredible views, and complimentary access to the butler’s pantry.

    Afternoon tea is a real event at Cliveden, as it should be, remembering a famous exchange between Nancy Astor and Churchill in which Astor said: “Sir, if you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.” To which a quick-witted Churchill retorted: “Madame, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!” 

    With sensational spa facilities, heavenly treatments, and access to that pool, there really is little reason to leave the hotel grounds for the weekend.

    Gravetye Manor, Sussex

    Gravetye Manor

    With vibrant gardens, a Michelin-star restaurant and 17 beautiful and individually designed bedrooms, Gravetye is an idyllic English countryside hideaway that makes it one of the top hotels in South East England.

    The late 16th-century building was built in 1598 in the Jacobean style
    for Sussex local Richard Infield, an ironmaster, and his wife Katharine Compton. Unlike some countryside interlopers, it is thought Gravetye was the couple’s main home – their initials ‘R’ and ‘K’ can still be seen above the main doorway as you enter the house from the formal garden.

    Later, it became the home of one of England’s most pioneering gardeners, William Robinson.

    Today, following 60 years or more as a hotel, Gravetye Manor still has exquisite gardens, views of which can be enjoyed from the hotel’s outstanding restaurant.

    hotels in south east england
    Views of the garden from Gravetye’s restaurant

    As you might expect, much of the produce served to diners comes from the hotel’s kitchen garden, while everything else has been sourced locally from small-scale suppliers.

    An elegant atmosphere pervades in the bedrooms, with antique furnishings, classic décor and in some cases wood-panelled walls, four-poster beds, and hand-painted wallpaper.

    Great Fosters, Surrey

    hotels in south east england
    Great Fosters, Surrey

    This hugely appealing Tudor estate, just outside Windsor,
    has long attracted a high-calibre of guests – a crest for Queen Elizabeth I above the main porch dating from 1598 references the house’s past life as a royal hunting lodge. In more modern times, the house in its guise as a hotel was given a royal seal of approval in 1931 when Queen Mary visited, with Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles among some of the more eclectic of its famous contemporary guests.

    Today, the five-star hotel is an elegant historic hotel, with many of the luxurious rooms, such as the Tapestry Suite (pictured) still retaining lots of period charm. Guests are free to roam the expansive grounds, which include listed parterres, a Saxon moat, a fountain and sundial – which may or may not have been gifted to a past owner by Sir Francis Drake. In summer, bring your togs and you can have a swim in the Art Deco outdoor pool or take a dip in the hot tub.

    Great Fosters Outdoor swimming pool

    Meanwhile, the Tudor Pass is the hotel’s newly awarded Michelin-starred restaurant (2023) and includes just seven tables in a quiet, candlelit room with mullioned windows and tapestries helping to build the historic atmosphere. Executive head chef Alex Payne’s seven-course tasting menu, combining classic flavours with modern techniques, however, is very much of the moment.

    Read more about beautiful South East England here:


    Leave a Reply