11 Great English Countryside Getaways
Whether you’re in search of a century’s-old village, sleepy seaside town, or historic house, the English countryside is overrun with idyllic options. And most are just a few hours drive or train ride from London.
At The Chapel, Somerset
The town of Bruton in Somerset is populated by a good number of ex-Londoners who came down for the weekend and then never left. Among them is Catherine Bruton, a restaurateur who bought a run-down chapel on impulse in the early 2000’s, and inadvertently transformed it into the town’s hub, with a wonderful bakery, pizzeria, and restaurant. There are also a few hotel rooms upstairs, all totally lovely thanks to a collaboration with her designer husband, Ahmed Sidki. The rooms are spare, but decorated in beautifully hand-crafted, modern furniture (and incredibly comfy beds), and feature art on loan from Hauser & Wirth—gallerists Iwan and Manuela are good friends of Catherine’s and commissioned her to run the restaurant at their new Somerset space. Plus, oven-fresh croissants are delivered to the rooms each morning.
What to do: The main attraction nearby is the new Hauser & Wirth gallery complex which opened last year, though those looking for a real taste of Somerset can head over to Westcombe Dairy to tour the cheese factory and local brewery.
Babington House, Somerset
While we await the opening of The Farmhouse, the Soho House’s second country getaway—allegedly opening later this summer—we’re always happy to take refuge here. Spread out over 18 acres of lush English countryside, Babington House, the 32-room Somerset outpost of London’s Soho House, is a two-hour drive from the city but feels worlds away. The Main House—a sprawling Georgian structure complete with a well-stocked library, cinema, and lounge—is home to 11 guest rooms, each boasting traditional décor, thoughtful modern tweaks, and freestanding claw-foot tubs. The Cowshed Spa offers signature treatments (the all-natural mud-soaks and massages are favorites), waxing services as well as access to both indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, and saunas. Though several on-site eateries (The Log Room is ideal for leisurely fireside dinners), a lengthy cocktail menu, and winding gardens have all the makings of a romantic getaway, kids are welcome. Teeny House (catering to the one-and-up crowd) and The Loft (outfitted with books, TVs, and gaming consoles for older kids) keep little ones busy while R&R-starved parents enjoy adults-only amenities stress-free. City-dwellers craving close-to-total seclusion are encouraged to hunker down in one of three split-level Walled Garden Rooms and indulge in a room-service menu that’s a far cry from standard hotel fare (crispy oysters, buffalo mozzarella salads). For an extended stay, consider The Lodge, a stand-alone cottage with a full kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a living room.
What to do: Don’t leave: There’s an outdoor infinity pool, a movie theater, and the mother of all Cowshed spas.
Chewton Glen, Hampshire
The price tag is up there for the English countryside, but when you walk into the spa’s pool, which is flanked by colonnades, it starts making sense. The main highlight here is definitely the spa, with Linda Meredith facials, Ila treatments, and, apparently, the largest hydrotherapy pool in the UK. And then there are the Treehouses: A recent addition to the hotel, these contemporary suites are literally built into the trees on the property. Secluded and peaceful, with stunning views out into the trees and the property beyond, this is pretty much the definition of a luxurious countryside retreat. The rooms down on land aren’t bad either, with more traditional, cozy English décor—they’re all pretty big, too. Another plus is that the food here is great, with plenty of light options.
What to do: Balance your spa downtime with tennis, golf, clay pigeon shooting, or even falconry lessons. There are also great options for walks on the property and on nearby trails into the New Forest. It’s also really close to the ocean.
Cliveden House, Berkshire
This majestic, centuries-old estate—once owned by William Waldorf Astor—has just undergone a major two-year revamp and is now, more than ever, totally transporting and perfect for an overnight splurge (it’s really close to London). Everything from the long gravel driveway into the property, to the dark wood paneled interiors hung with distinguished guests’ portraits, feels cinematic and grand, though the easygoing service makes guests feel right at home. In keeping with the rest of the hotel, rooms are tastefully turned out in period furnishings, with all the amenities you’d expect of a Relais & Chateaux property. Weather permitting, don’t miss drinks on the terrace overlooking the manicured English gardens below and the woodlands that stretch all the way to the Thames.
What to do: You don’t need to stray far: The hotel has a great day spa with indoor and outdoor pools, healthy food, and excellent treatments. Otherwise, get lost on the property, which is owned and operated by English Heritage.
The Gilpin Lake House, The Lake District
The Lake District is one of the most scenic parts of the English countryside, and it’s crawling in hotels, though few even approximate what this lodge and lake-side hotel offers. This family owned hotel is split into two parts—one an ultra-secluded 6-bedroom lakeside retreat, and the other a revamped Georgian country house in Windermere. For those looking for total peace and quiet, the Lake House, which opened in 2010, is that way to go. Situated right on a private lake, it features its own spa, breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea served wherever guests choose, outdoor hot tubs and Okura baths with breathtaking views, and plush, contemporary rooms each named after one of the family’s six daughters.
What to do: Other than walk the nearby trails, swim or fish in the lake, or spend the day in the lake-side spa, there’s little to do here, except enjoy the seclusion.
Gravetye Manor, Sussex
The English Garden as we know it was first designed here by Gravetye Manor’s one-time proprietor William Robinson, the famed 19th-century garden designer. He lived at the house until the early 20th-century, and his legacy is still the main highlight at this intimate, 17-bedroom hotel. The walled garden supplies the hotel with cut flowers and all of its seasonal fruits and veggies, while the rest of the property—dotted with orchards and Azalea, Rhododendron, and Wildflower gardens—stuns visitors. Inside, the rooms are classically and elegantly turned out in Country chintzes to match the foliage outdoors. It’s an incredible escape during warmer months when the flowers are blooming, though the property is still beautiful (and cozy) in the winter.
What to do: Garden walks, croquet games, or you can head to Glyndenbourne for outdoor operas in the summer. There are other famed gardens nearby, including Kew’s sisters property, Wakehurst Place.
The Hand & Flowers, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is where foodies head for the weekend, and this gastropub is one of the local highlights. Husband and wife team, Tom and Beth Kerridge, have earned two Michelin stars for their pub fare, yet the feel at the dark, woodsy restaurant is refreshingly informal. Next door and dotted throughout town, the hotel’s 8 guest cottages are sparsely decorated, but boast big, luxurious tubs and in some cases, jacuzzis.
What to do: Located in the ridiculously quaint and charming town of Marlow, walks through town and down the Thames are stunning. Plus, there are plenty of other pubs to check out including The Coach (a new offering from the Kerridge’s), and a couple of Heston Blumenthal destinations in nearby Bray.
Hotel Tresanton, Cornwall
Cornwall is known for its guest houses and small beachside B&B’s but when it comes to hotels, the Tresanton is a standout. For starters, the ex-yacht club has its own 8 meter yacht, the Pinuccia, which guests use to tour Falmouth bay from spring to early fall (pack a picnic). Back on land, there are 31 rooms, individually decorated in the Cornish coast’s trademark pastel palette, with local art on the walls, antiques, and plenty of bright pops of color. It has a small spa for wonderful massages, facials, and holistic treatments, a long terrace with plenty of deck chairs for enjoying the sea views, and a restaurant that serves up simple and light seasonal fare. But the real draw here is the outdoors. Perfect for families, there are a few suites available for rent, plus two guest cottages for larger groups. While it might not offer the creature comforts that some of the other hotels on this list boast, it makes up for it with a totally disarming vibe, plus a reasonable price tag for a weekend’s stay on the water.
What to do: There’s plenty to see in Cornwall. St. Mawes itself is a cute town to explore, and its beaches are breathtaking. The Tate St. Ives is also nearby for a morning daytrip.
Lime Wood, Hampshire
With roots that date all the way back to the 13th-century, this country manor-turned-luxury hotel is still fresh from a top-to-bottom renovation. A short drive from London, Lime Wood’s 15 bedrooms and 17 suites are a stone’s throw from the rural beauty of the New Forest, which in addition to providing guests (both kids and pets are welcome) with nature eye candy and ample roaming space (ask the staff to loan you a pair of Wellies), supplies the hotel’s eateries with freshly foraged fare. With chefs Luke Holder and Hartnett at the helm, Hartnett Holder & Co serves up traditional English dishes letting locally-sourced ingredients shine while the health-focused Raw & Cured—as the name suggest, everything on the menu is either raw or cured—is ideal for wholesome refueling after a visit to the Herb House Spa. Spanning three floors and overlooking the ground, this wellness mecca is hailed as one of the best in the country thanks to rooftop yoga classes, a slew of stress-melting treatments, and the on-site caldarium. What’s a caldarium? A piping-hot plunge-pool inspired by ancient Roman baths.
What to do: As of next month, guests can attend the hotel’s new cooking school, HH&Co Backstage, where star chefs Ian Longhorn, Luke Holder, and Angela Hartnett of Murano fame, coach guests on making their home cooking all the more impressive.
The Pig on the Beach, Dorset
This is the latest Pig hotel, a growing chain of laid-back country hotels whose first focus is local food. The franchise is owned by husband-and-wife team, Robin and Judy Hutson—he runs the hotels, while she decorates them in her inimitably quirky, lived-in aesthetic. Guests reach this particular Pig via ferry to the gorgeous beaches of Studland, where the hotel perches on top of a hill overlooking the beach cliffs. The hotel boasts a large vegetable patch and greenhouse where much for the restaurant’s food is grown—the rest comes from 25 miles away at most—and the menu changes daily according to the day’s harvest. From the English seaside décor, to the freestanding tubs in many of the bedrooms, to the Converse clad staff, the feel at all the Pig hotels is comfortably casual, and ideal for young couples looking for a weekend getaway.
What to do: Rent a beach hut on Studland Bay and spend the days exploring the coastline, with views of the Isle of Wight beyond.
Wilderness Reserve, Suffolk
The thinking and years of dedication behind this group of vacation rental properties is pretty impressive: For over twenty years, owner Jon Hunt—known for founding and selling the real estate firm Foxtons—has worked with landscape designer Kim Wilkie to restore a 4,500 acre property of farmland back to the wild. Along with creating a conservation area for hundreds of species, they’ve also restored and built a scattering of period homes as vacation rentals all across the property. Whether it’s the 12-room restored Georgian manor house, the 3-bedroom Suffolk-style barn, or the tiny electricity-free “Hex” Cottage for two, top-notch hotel-style catering, activities, and housekeeping are all available according to the group’s needs.
What to do: The surrounding coastal areas are stunning for a country drive, though there’s plenty to do in and around the reserve, too: Bird-watching, clay pigeon shooting, fishing, sailing, waterskiing and more can all be arranged.