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Stunning winter escapes at English country hotels

Michael Edwards picks his top 5 English country hotels for a winter getaway.

Totworth - English Country Hotels

We often neglect the beauty of English country hotels in favour of city breaks in other countries, however the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic as well as the new post Brexit queuing bonus, means we’re starting to warm again to what is on our doorstep.

This week, I thought I’d round up where I’ve been over the course of the past six or seven months and prove that English country hotels can be anything from high-end stately to fantastic foodie, from family gettogethers to a base for yourself and you pets to go walking. There is so much variety waiting to be rediscovered.

Crathorne lounge - English Country Hotels
Crathorne Hall Hotel.

Crathorne Hall Hotel

On the fringes of the North Yorkshire moors, Crathorne Hall was almost the last hurrah of the great English house. Built in the 1900s, reaching out for 20th century modernity with its blaze of electric lights, the 115 room house was a grand sporting estate. Think fishing, grouse shoots, hip flasks and country tweeds.

Now, Crathorne Hall Hotel’s original features and 37 guest rooms are cosseted and cared for by Handpicked Hotels. Sat in 15 rural acres it is not far from the A19 that runs between Middlesbrough and Thirsk.

As well as walking on the North York moors and a spot of shopping in Yarm’s plethora of independent shops, a 45 minute drive takes visitors to coastal towns such as Whitby and Stithies.

The two AA rosette restaurant, with serene views over expansive lawns, focuses on locally sourced produce. It’s a Mecca for black-pudding aficionados, some look to squeeze it into every meal.

de vere totworth - English Country Hotels
De Vere Totworth Court.

De Vere Tortworth Court

White beehives dotted along the drive, Union Jack flattering above the neo-Gothic crenelations and a racing green 1950s half-timbered Morris Minor make this country estate as quintessentially English as afternoon tea.

Somewhere south of Birmingham and north of Bristol, this Gloucestershire country escape has touches of Downton Abbey nostalgia for simpler times. The 1874 orangery has been gloriously restored and the 1853 restaurant celebrates the year the house was completed.

Rooms and suites have plenty of contemporary greys, hints of tweed and tartan plus the plush tan leather sofas you usually find in a plush gentleman’s club. Though clusters of pictures of 19th century poultry, livestock and landscapes firmly make this a country estate.

Back in those Victorian days, the third Earl hot into an arboretum duel with a neighbour, both vying to outdo the other with the planting of ever more exotic trees. The legacy is a 30 acre arboretum of rare beauty.

Hampton - English Country Hotels
Hampton Manor.

Hampton Manor

Lockdown had its advantages. The Hill family looked at its neo-Gothic mansion and surrounding swathe of 45 acres. Then reinvented the country house weekend. Hampton Manor, The Foodie Estate, became a foodie haven.

There are house rules. Relaxed rules. Ditch the stiff upper lip. Don’t act your age. There is a dress code too: wear what makes you happy.

Big on sustainability, the Wasted house gin is distilled from recycled coffee bean husks. And every room has its own hand-grinder, so guests slow down and invest time in every cup of coffee.

To achieve social distancing the Hills looked to the estate. A greenhouse became a restaurant, Smoke. Though, Peel’s the Michelin-starred main restaurant sits in the main house: named after Frederick Peel, son of Robert Peel founder of “bobbies”.

Two-night breaks can include whisky-tasting, bread-making and wine tasting as well as gourmet dining and woodland walks.

Hartwell - English Country Hotels
Hartwell House and Spa.

Hartwell House and Spa

Dripping history, there has been a house on this bucolic Buckinghamshire parkland since before 1086’s Domesday Book.

Today this regal Historic House Hotel looks out over 90 acres. In the early 19th century, as revolutions overthrow monarchs, it was the temporary home of two European kings. The exiled Louis XVlll of France, who signed the papers for his restoration in the house’s library, and the deposed Gustavus of Sweden.

A room at Hartwell House is palatial on an epic high-ceilinged scale.  The perfect location for a Georgian aristocratic period drama: vast tapestries, landscapes in the style of Gainsborough and comfy wing-back chairs. Even en-suite bathrooms are mini art galleries hung with Hogarth like political satires.

This is a National Trust property, where you can stay in luxury and is one of the finest English country hotels. Dine like a king in the restaurant on a Bill of Fare that features beef, brill, chicken, duck, quail and venison.

home dogs rothay - English Country Hotels
Rothay Manor positively welcomes pets.

Rothay Manor

Shortlisted for the Conde Nast Johansen best dining experience, Rothay Manor, Ambleside draws foodies to the Lake District.

The hotel’s chef, Dan McGeorge is something of a pud specialist.  His Give a Dog a Bone dessert, a tribute to the first four guide dogs and their handlers, was selected for the BBC’s Great British Menu.

But his speciality, a spherical caramelised sugar bomb of a peach melba, is a work of art. A shiny creation beyond the time limitations of a television programme. It is worth visiting this 3 AA rosette restaurant for this pud alone. “Crack the top like a boiled egg”, the waitress advises.

Within a ten-minute stroll of Lake Windermere, this elegant Regency styled country house – with a mature garden of bluebells, magnolia, rhododendron and towering trees – is perfectly located for exploring the Lake District.

Fact file – English Country Hotels

For more information about the English country hotels featured in this piece:

Crathorne Hall Hotel

De Vere Tortworth Court Hotel

Hampton Manor

Hartwell House

Rothay Manor Country House HotelRothay Manor

If you enjoyed Michael’s round up of English country hotels, see our travel channel for boutique hotel breaks and short stays.

Tags: , Last modified: November 8, 2021

Written by 11:14 am Around The UK