Although it’s almost back-to-school time, it’s not too late to take advantage of the swathe of new hotels that have thrown open their doors this summer.
Treating yourself to a smart domestic overnight somewhere fresh is the ultimate indulgence, and there’s plenty of choice when it comes to swanky stays.
How about a 17th-century inn in Somerset, given a major facelift courtesy of a chef and gallerist team? Or a quirky new-kid-on-the-block in Northumberland with Alice in Wonderland-inspired interiors?
Elsewhere, there’s a new city break option in Liverpool, where former council offices have been transformed into swish digs, while the storied Grade II-listed Bromley Old Town Hall has unveiled its next iteration as a co-working space, restaurant and design-led hotel. And in the Lake District, a much-loved Cumbrian inn near Ullswater has been given the full VIP treatment after being gutted by a fire, reopening to much fanfare and featuring achingly stylish rooms.
Here’s our pick of the coolest new openings to inspire your next night away.
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The Tempus at Charlton Hall Estate, Northumberland
While visitors to Northumberland are spoilt for choice when it comes to smart self-catering digs, there aren’t heaps of boutique hotels to choose from. So, hurrah for more-is-more wedding venue Charlton Hall Estate which has added a 15-room boutique number, The Tempus, to the grounds. The mood is full-throttle exuberance, with light-hearted decor by Jeffreys Interiors that loosely riffs on Alice in Wonderland. In the bar a canopy of crimson leaves hangs above turquoise booth seating, lined by found-on-the-estate branches, bathed in glittery, disco ball light.
The adjoining restaurant, reached by passing under antique Indian arches, is all sorbet shades and rattan lampshades; it’s cool enough to attract a cocktail-quaffing crowd, and pretty enough to bring your granny for a Sunday roast. The menu spans classics – fish and chips, burgers and Shepherd’s pie – through moreish arancini with curry mayo, and girolle mushroom gnocchi.
Bedrooms each have talking-point design, with palettes ranging from sage and coral through crimson and ochre, wallpapers depicting cranes streaking through jungle scenes, and riotously fun furniture, from leopard-print scallop-backed to monochrome-hooded Porters chairs.
As for exploring, Alnwick Castle and gardens are 10 minutes’ drive, and Seahouses – for boat trips around the Farne Islands – is about a half an hour by car. Here, Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours, which scooped Gold in the 2023 Experience of the Year at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, provide fascinating commentary to accompany jaw-dropping wildlife, including chunky grey seals and puffin colonies.
Rooms from £232, B&B; Charltonhall.co.uk
The Three Horseshoes, Batcombe, Somerset
In recent years, the opening of Hauser & Wirth and country house charmer The Newt – and its glorious gardens – have led south Somerset to gain a reputation as the Notting Hill of the West Country. Now, acclaimed chef Margot Henderson (of Rochelle Canteen fame) and gallerist Max Wigram have breathed new life into an 17th-century inn in Batcombe – 15 minutes from Bruton – adding further magnetism. It’s easy to see why Henderson (who has friends living nearby) fell in love with the area. Batcombe is all vintage chocolate box scenery, with a gargoyle-adorned 15th-century church, sweeps of stone cottages by riverside paths where wildflowers grow, and light that dances like a golden sprite across the surrounding hills. Just next to the church, kids scramble barefoot along salvia and rose-lined paths in The Three Horseshoes’ revamped garden, as punters sip smooth Psychopomp WÅden Gin on its parasol-lined sun terrace.
Inside, the pared-back dining space has newly exposed flagstone flooring, wooden Georgian furniture, an inglenook fireplace and art from Wigram’s collection. Food – whipped up by head chef Nye Smith (Henderson is in the kitchen two to three days a week) – is earthy and unpretentious; think Porthilly Rock oysters, globe artichokes with tangy vinaigrette, homely aubergine parmigiana finished with made-down-the-road Westcombe Cheddar and rabbit pie served by staff who brim with enthusiasm. Breakfasts are a pleasing spread featuring poached eggs, roasted tomatoes, yoghurt with apricots and local apple juice.
Five bedrooms upstairs, designed by Frances Penn, feature comfy beds topped with Tile linens and cream Piglet in Bed throws, bamboo-framed hummingbird prints, stout antique furnishings – sourced from the likes of Somerset-based Ralfes Yard – traditional armchairs and tree trunk slice tables. Contemporary-feel white terracotta-tiled bathrooms – with walk-in showers or deep bathtubs – are stocked with Wildsmith toiletries.
Rooms from £220, B&B; Threehorseshoes.co.uk
George and Dragon, Lake District
Also set to make a comeback, this time over in the Lake District, is the George and Dragon near Penrith – not far from picturesque Ullswater. Owned by the Lowther family, and part of the Askham Collection, which includes swish Askham Hall, this much-loved Cumbrian inn has been closed for a year after a fire gutted the property. Now completely refurbished, it’s back and looking better than ever. Ten stylish bedrooms, designed by Totty Lowther – who has a background in textile design – feature the likes of paisley-patterned wallpaper and tulip prints alongside antique furniture and artwork from the family’s collection.
Bramley toiletries and coffee and tea from Farrers in Kendal ramp up the luxe level, and – handily for those travelling with a pooch in tow – all rooms are dog-friendly, and staff go above and beyond to make them welcome (they even get their own welcome pack with treats and a suggested list of local rambles).
Another highlight is the back-in-swing kitchen restaurant, where the wine list champions bottles sourced from small, family-run vineyards and a field-to-fork approach sees foraged and locally grown produce take centrestage in head chef Gareth Webster’s ricotta and wild garlic agnolotti, market fish with samphire, Lowther Estate “deer in blankets” with fermented rhubarb ketchup, and fruity crumbles.
Rooms from £150, B&B; Georgeanddragon.co.uk
The Barnsdale, Rutland
For their third act, hitmakers The Signet Collection – behind The Mitre and The Retreat at Elcot Park – have turned their attention to the Midlands, making over Oakham’s Barnsdale Lodge. With a new name, The Barnsdale, interior design delivers the playful, classy elegance Signet have become known for, but feels a little more restrained and grown up than in previous properties, perhaps to ensure appeal to the regulars – walking groups, fishing enthusiasts and birders – who’ve been coming here for donkey’s years.
In The Rod Room, vintage fishing rods and reels decorate the walls – in homage to nearby Rutland Water’s brown trout – and diners settle in to orange banquettes and gentle fern-toned chairs to enjoy the likes of Ronnie Kimbugwe’s cult cauliflower with sticky teriyaki, and stuffed chocolate bombolini. A flagstone-floored Orangery looks out to a rambling rose-draped courtyard, with Whispering Angel cabin. Smart-as-a-pin staff are on hand to give the welly-and-walks crowd route tips, and offer menu recommendations in the celebratory-feel 1760 restaurant – where bursting-with-flavour tomato gazpacho, lamb rump with harissa yoghurt, beetroot carpaccio and pesto tagliatelle are served.
Bedrooms are reassuringly stylish, bringing together appealing colour-pop palettes, frill-edged headboards, bespoke Bramley toiletries and complimentary decanters of King’s Ginger. Stripey-walled family rooms have cute bunk beds for little ones, while the Fort Henry Suite has a copper bathtub, robin-run-the-hedge adorned wallpaper, and canopied bed.
Days can be spent playing leisurely rounds of croquet on the lawn, or whizzing around Rutland Water by ebike (the hotel will soon have a fleet), stopping off at Rutland Nature Reserve for a rare bird fix at the renowned Rutland Osprey Project. Plus, later this year, the property will open a spa, with indoor-outdoor swimming pool.
The Municipal Hotel Liverpool - MGallery, Liverpool
Cast eyes to Liverpool, and there’s another hotel crossing heritage good looks with a fresh identity to discover. The former council offices on Dale Street have been reimagined to the tune of £60m into a 179-room hotel by big-hitting brand MGallery. Retaining its sandstone bones and iconic clock tower – a skyline stalwart which is as recognisable as Radio City Tower and the Liver Birds – the property’s light-filled Palm Court Bar is already proving popular. With gleaming pillars, palm trees, jewel-hued chairs and mixologists shaking up tea-infused cocktails, it’s added a touch of Gatsby to the city centre.
For a more genteel afternoon tea experience there’s the Botanical Tea Room, while meat-and-seafood-heavy Seaforth restaurant has dishes which riff on the city’s historic trading connections with land and sea: roasted wild salmon with mussel broth and surf’n’turf, alongside cauliflower beignets and truffle chips.
Parquetry-panelled corridors and original staircases lead to 179 bedrooms (nine of which are accessible) with padded William Morris & Co floral headboards, retro phones and midnight blue-tiled bathrooms with rainforest showers. Guests can access a restful 16m pool, salt sauna, steam room, laconium, experience shower and petite gym for a £30 fee, and book relaxing therapies by Elemis and Grown Alchemist.
Grade II-listed Bromley Old Town Hall has had quite the history – playing host to David Bowie’s nuptials in days gone by – and its latest incarnation has seen it transformed into a mixed-use co-working space, restaurant and design-led 23 bedroom hotel. Brama has the feel of a convenient aparthotel and will appeal to business travellers after a fuss-free and comfortable stay. Although there are staff on site, contactless check in via a key code is possible for guests who want to keep themselves to themselves.
Art Deco-inspired bedrooms are a thing of beauty, with geometric mirrors, ultra comfy Hypnos beds dressed with snuggly coral throws, and apple-coloured flared panel headboards, which match the bold green tiling in Bramley-stocked shower rooms. For those working late, in-room caffeine hits come courtesy of carbon-negative roasters Kiss the Hippo. Breakfasts can be taken downstairs in Dorothy & Marshall restaurant (other than on Mondays when there’s a grab and go option), where Brit fare is served in the grand surrounds of the former courthouse, which has picture gallery walls, arched windows and wood-panelling aplenty. Come lunch and supper time, a concise Brit-fare menu includes the likes of roasted cauliflower steak, artichoke puff pastry tart, fish’n’chips and burgers followed by trad favourites jam roll poly or treacle tart.
Location-wise, Bromley’s High Street is on the doorstep, and its train stations are an easy walk. The hotel is a quick bus ride to Beckenham Place Park for leafy strolls, stone baked pizza and halloumi wraps from the Homestead Cafe, and bookable dips in the park’s swimming pond.
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