Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is around the corner, and you don't have to go full roses-and-chocolate – a nice mini-break somewhere in the UK will do. Even if you don't want to embrace Hallmark's favourite holiday, a staycation is never a bad idea – and we've rounded up some of the most romantic spots in the country to lighten the still-long slog we have to go before spring.
Whether you want to hide away in a treehouse at the edge of the Peak District, check in to Oxfordshire's most exclusive new stay, dine at the table in London that sees two proposals a week, or enjoy one of the loveliest coastal views in Dorset, here are the most romantic hotels in the UK, perfect for a cosy break this winter…
Wildhive Callow Hall, Derbyshire
At the southern reaches of the Peak District, near the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne, Wildhive Callow Hall is one of the North of England’s most romantic hotels, mostly because of its secluded treehouse suites. The Victorian Gothic manor, made from imposing dark stone and slate, was once the rather grand home of a magistrate, but it has been eased into the 21st century – a glass-walled extension now houses the light-filled restaurant, where you can feast on hyper-local British breakfasts and delicious dinners. There are lots of cosy corners for a cocktail, too.
There are rooms in the main house, but for romance (and novelty) value, it’s hard to beat the treehouses and ‘hives’ set on stilts up a short path in the estate’s woods. These are supremely cosy, with curving wooden walls, kitchens and terraces, so you won’t have to leave if you don’t want to. But on hand for day trips nearby are Chatsworth, Bakewell and, of course, the Peak District national park.
Estelle Manor, Oxfordshire
One of the most buzzed-about hotel openings last year was Estelle Manor, the countryside edition of the Mayfair members’ club Maison Estelle, both of which were created by Sharan Pasricha, the founder of Ennismore (most famous for turning Shoreditch’s Hoxton hotel into a global brand). The listed manor is set on a 60-acre estate at the end of an oak-lined driveway, with thousands more acres of pristine parkland in every direction.
The countryside version is as discreet as its counterpart in the capital. There’s a billiards room, a clubhouse for members, a terrace importing the French Riviera to the British countryside, and a brasserie with an orangery. Guests will also be able to make use of a 25-metre pool (heated for those winter dips), padel courts, and a studio with 37 classes a week. The romantic Glasshouse restaurant, with lots of blooms, fabric lanterns and an open fire, is where to book in for date night. A Roman-style spa in the woods is due to arrive this February, too.
The Nici, Bournemouth
It may be a little too chilly to enjoy the Nici’s much-photographed outdoor pool in February, but you’ll be able to admire it nonetheless. The hotel is at the edge of Bournemouth’s seven-mile stretch of golden coastline and guests can access it through a gate at the end of the gardens. The pastel-coloured spa has a couples’ treatment room, for glow-giving Oskia facials (with LED-light add-ons available for a little extra radiance) or relaxing massages. Afterwards, there might be a sound bath taking place in the relaxation room, or you can head to the serene indoor pool for a swim.
There’s a smart brasserie (aptly named South Beach, in a nod to the hotel’s homage to Miami), with a view of the sea in the distance – here, you can dine on dishes such as house-cured salmon, beef carpaccio, and lobster and crayfish linguine.
Shangri-La the Shard, London
For a heady experience (literally) this Valentine’s Day, head up to the 52nd floor of the Shard in Southwark for a stay at London’s highest hotel, which turns 10 this year. It’s so romantic, there’s a table at Gong that sees more than two proposals a week (it must be that unforgettable view of the capital’s skyline).
Shangri-La the Shard has also partnered with London chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker (founded in 1875), to ensure boxes of chocolate are on hand, and special Valentine’s menus will be served at the restaurant – or you can take tea with a view at Ting on level 35. There are jaw-dropping views in every direction, but for the ultimate experience, head up to the pool for one of the most surreal swims you’ll ever have.
Stanwell House, Hampshire
Stanwell House is a cosy boutique hotel on the high street in the Hampshire harbour town of Lymington, and perfect for the kind of staycation that reminds you how lovely Britain really is. There are lots of cute boutiques to explore, both on the high street and on the cobblestoned lane that leads down to the quay, from where you’ll be able to board a ferry over the Solent to the Isle of Wight. The New Forest is also nearby.
Back at the Colefax & Fowler-papered hotel, take afternoon tea either in the orangery or at Samphire, or a warming drink by the fire at Salt Bar, with snacks such as padrón peppers and beer-battered samphire to accompany it. For dinner, settle in to a snug green velvet banquette for scallops with corn and chorizo, and guinea fowl with blackberry, or Asian-inspired plates such as salt and pepper squid, or supersize chicken satay sticks.
Boys Hall, Kent
Boys Hall is a grade II-listed manor named for the aristocrats Thomas and Margaret Boys, who built it in 1616. The Jacobean house is near Ashbourne and a little over half an hour away from St Pancras by train. The head chef (formerly of reimagined London chophouse Blacklock) makes good use of the Garden of England’s bounty on his doorstep, and the wine cellar stocks some of Kent’s finest output, too. In addition to the restaurant, there’s a snug pub for cosy pre-dinner drinks.
The house has an illustrious past – mediaeval gold coins were discovered beneath the floorboards in 1972 and soon installed at the British Museum; the tunnels in the cellar are said to have been used by smugglers; and notable former guests include Samuel Pepys and King Charles I.
No 42 by GuestHouse, Margate
It may not quite be beach weather, but you’ll be able to enjoy the Great British seaside with a wintry trip to Margate nonetheless. The GuestHouse group of boutique hotels expanded its collection to the Kent coast last summer, with the arrival of No 42, a 21-bedroom grand Victorian property on the seafront. The best views of the water await up on the rooftop bar, where you’ll be able to survey Margate and Thanet. Some rooms have a balcony, too, and more sea views can be soaked up at the restaurant.
Each room has a Crosley record player and a small selection of records – or you can craft the soundtrack to your stay with a trip to the vinyl library.
For Italian romance in rural Surrey, look no further than Beaverbrook, once the home of the namesame press baron, who bought it in 1910. The Italianate mansion has a majestic setting, overlooking the Surrey Hills from its terrace and landscaped gardens. The grounds also feature indoor and outdoor pools, and a spa in the old coach house.
Alongside the estate’s Japanese restaurant and Garden House brasserie, the manor is now home to a Wild Kitchen, designed by Guy Ritchie as a solution to dining outdoors in Britain year-round. Tent doesn’t quite do it justice (though it is made of canvas) – guests dine around an open fire, with a blanket for their knees handily heated by the ovens, and a flame-cooking show put on for lunch and dinner on Wednesdays to Sundays.
Another romantic hotel in London is NoMad in Covent Garden, with a bright restaurant in an atrium as the centrepoint and lots of dark corners for decadence. One such setting is Common Decency, a bar down a few steps at the side of the building, formerly a police station where Oscar Wilde was held – the grand hotel is set in what was once the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court. Also aiding and abetting mischief is Side Hustle, where you can enjoy masterful mixology and some of the best Mexican food in the capital.
It’s an especially handy location if you’re hoping to see a show at the Royal Opera House, which is just over the road.
Updown Farmhouse, Kent
If food is your primary focus when booking a hotel, Updown Farmhouse in Kent should move swiftly to the top of your list. The 17th-century farmhouse sits on seven acres of grounds, which span woodlands, lots of serene spots and a kitchen garden.
At the heart of the estate is the Grace Dent-approved conservatory restaurant, where guests can watch the chefs at work, cooking on the wood-fired grill or baking in the original bread oven. The romantic space is twined with vines and fairy lights, and is both heated and fully enclosed for starry-eyed suppers even in winter.
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