Enjoy the luscious English countryside at these top ten quaint historic cottages and hotels.
The English landscape is dotted with grand old houses in picturesque settings. Few can afford them as homes nowadays, so many have become hotels. English country cottages and hotels range from small and family-run to resort-scale. Some are quite pricey, but many offer discount packages. All are rich with history.
Staying in one of these country house hotels on your England vacation puts you right in the glorious green countryside. (Rates are given per room, per night, double occupancy, including breakfast, unless noted.)
Palatial Cliveden House, near London, has a scandalous past. Built for a duke who was a notorious rake, it was also a scene in the 1960s Profumo Affair involving espionage, adultery and men in high office. Play tennis or squash, cruise the Thames in a vintage launch or luxuriate in the spa. Rates start at ₤240 ($348) and last-minute bookings are sometimes available starting at ₤195 ($282). www.clivedenhouse.co.uk
Farlam Hall is in the remote north of England, a few miles from the Scottish border. This 12-room establishment is intimate—the family that runs it offers an informal welcome. The dining room’s unabashedly English menu matches the traditional decor. Rates start at ₤145 ($210) per person, double occupancy, including dinner and breakfast, with a ₤30 ($43) daily reduction on rates for longer stays. www.farlamhall.co.uk
The gentle Cotswold Hills and its golden stone villages are emblematic of rural England. Lower Slaughter Manor, a grand house dating back to the 17th century, has updated interiors and an elegant, highly regarded restaurant. Diversions include croquet, tennis and country pursuits like walking—a public footpath, for example, leads to the pretty Bourton-on-the-Water and other charmingly named villages. Room rates start at ₤230 ($333). www.lowerslaughter.co.uk
Sharrow Bay has an impossibly beautiful position at the head of a lake formed by the fault between two long ridges, in the romantic Lake District. It claims to have been the “original country house” hotel, converted in 1948. The place seems suspended in time—floral patterns, ruffles, endless glass and china trinkets, and a staff straight from central casting. Rates start at ₤200 ($290). www.sharrowbay.co.uk
Chewton Glen, on the south coast adjacent to the ancient New Forest, also claims to have been the first country house hotel. It’s certainly one of the most lavish. There are 58 rooms, tennis, spa, golf and walking trails through the 130-acre property. The restaurant is a consistent award-winner. Room rates start ₤313 ($454), with a late-availability deal of ₤250 ($362); breakfast not included. www.chewtonglen.com
Not first, but very French, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons near Oxford began as a restaurant in 1984, on an estate dating back to 1225. There now are 14 suites and 18 rooms, each with its own theme, look and even coordinated toiletries. The surprisingly relaxed restaurant has two Michelin stars. Enjoy the sculpture-filled gardens that provide the hotel with produce and flowers nearly year-round. Rates start at ₤410 ($594) from Sun. to Thu.; rates including dinner, from ₤690 ($1,001). www.manoir.com
Field sports are the staple at Stapleford Park in Leicestershire. Falconry, shooting, fishing, riding, archery and off-road driving are all practiced on its 500 park-like acres. Other activities include tennis, golf, swimming and a spa. The stately house, parts of which date from the 14th century, has 55 guest rooms. Room rates start at ₤288 ($417); 2-night packages with breakfast and dinner from ₤600 ($870). www.staplefordpark.com
Fishing and canoeing the nearby rivers, as well as exploring the garden moors of bucolic Devon are attractions at The Horn of Plenty Country House Hotel. So is its restaurant, which has been named one of the United Kingdom’s top 20, and overlooks the Tamar Valley, a World Heritage Site. Rates for rooms start at ₤120 ($174) from Sun. to Thu. in summer; dinner is an extra ₤60 ($87). www.thehornofplenty.co.uk
A hilltop setting gives Linthwaite Country House Hotel a panoramic view of Lake Windermere. Though the furnishings are traditional, the decor has a contemporary sensibility. Relax near the crackling log fire in the lounge. Four of the 32 guest rooms, new last year, have sybaritic bathrooms. Rates start at ₤190 ($275), but many discounted packages are offered. www.linthwaite.com
Just outside London, The Grove hotel is a country house hotel on steroids, with 300 gorgeous acres, a golf course and an underground spa. It is claimed that the English tradition of the weekend house party was invented here when it was the home of the Earls of Clarendon. Now it’s pervaded by an atmosphere of loose—not to say decadent—contemporary luxury. A new wing opened in 2003 brings the count of guest rooms to 227, but from many views is hardly visible. Room rates start at ₤270 ($391) room only; a “Leisure Break” package, including breakfast, starts at ₤274 ($397). www.thegrove.co.uk