These are all within driveable striking distance of major cities, with the hope that you can speed through check-in as quickly as possible.
BallyfinBallyfin, County Laois, Ireland | +3188.8.131.52.55866
A mere hour from Dublin, this lavish, lovingly-restored, Regency mansion has a pretty insane land-to-guest ratio. While there are only twenty bedrooms (beautifully appointed with four-poster beds, antique furniture, and open fireplaces), they sit on a lush, 600-acre estate replete with rolling fields, lakes, and plenty of Irish wildlife. This will matter to you if you ever opt to leave the house, which is inarguably epic—it boasts an incredible art collection, a well-stocked library, and billiards room, along with one of Ireland’s best organic farm-to-table restaurants with much of the food grown on the estate itself (guests are encouraged to collect their own breakfast eggs). Booze enthusiasts can avail of wine and rare Irish whiskey tastings (also known as “uisce beatha” or the water of life in Gaelic) hosted by the in-house sommelier in the cozy Cellar Bar. Should you want to stretch your legs, there are acres of immaculate gardens, rolling fields, lake fishing, clay pigeon shooting, tennis, archery, falconry, and easy access to golf, not to mention an indoor pool and spa (try the healing Irish seaweed bath, a centuries-old traditional skin remedy). The nearby Slieve Bloom mountains are covered in trails and slopes ideal for hiking, biking, or just soaking up the region's natural beauty.
Stoke ParkPark Rd., Stoke Poges | +44.1753.717171
There’s a reason why Stoke Park and its accompanying expanse of rich parkland look familiar: The Harry Colt-designed golf course (lessons are available upon request) had a starring role in two James Bond films, while one of the 14 suites (that’s in addition to 35 antique-clad guest rooms) stole the scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Established as the first British country club in 1908 under the watchful eye of King George III’s royal architect, this impressive mansion has been spiffed to boast all the creature comforts posh vacationers come to expect from a weekend in the country, with or without the kids. The world-class Stoke Park Spa is home to an indoor pool, marble steam rooms, and an awe-inducing tropical aquarium. Even if an overnight stay isn’t on the agenda, a celebratory meal at Humphry’s—Chef Chris Wheeler’s modern-British fine dining experience—is well worth the 45-minute drive from London. A three-course dinner may include such local delicacies as quail confit, artichoke tartlets, and English raspberry soufflé.
Lime WoodBeaulieu Rd., Lyndhurst | +44.23.8028.7177
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 fifteen bedrooms and seventeen suites are a stones 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 Angela 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 suggests, 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.
Cowley ManorCowley, Cheltenham | +44.1242.870.900
Don’t be fooled by Cowley Manor’s stately stone facade, 55 acres of manicured pastures and its resident swans, the hotel’s interior is as contemporary as it gets. In the Main House you’ll find a leather-walled billiards room, a technicolor sitting room, and The Bar—a modern, wood-paneled venue ideal for working your way through the mile-long cocktail menu. The hotel’s star eatery, The Restaurant at Cowley Manor, is situated in a grand ballroom-like space and in contrast, serves up locally-sourced, modern iterations of British cuisine, plus a separate kid-friendly menu. Split between the Main House and the Stable Block, the airy guest rooms (thirty all together), are labeled Good, Better, Great, Exceptional, and Best; each one staying true to the hotel’s light-hearted vibe with retro furniture and splashy color palettes. The massive C-Side Spa includes two pool areas (one indoor, one outdoor), a gym, sauna, and steam rooms, in addition to a dedicated mani/pedi area. And though children are welcome at both pools and throughout the property, babysitting services are also available.
Belmond Villa San MicheleVia Doccia 4, Fiesole | +39.055.5678.200
This is one of those hotels that manages to make itself the destination, rather than Florence ( check out our winter guide to the city here)—while the city is within striking distance (15-minutes away by car), you won’t really want to leave the hotel’s gorgeous terraced gardens, stunning city views, and chic suites. The villa—which dates back to the 15th century—used to be a monastery, and it is said that Michelangelo carved its façade. There's also a fantastic cookery school on site where guests can partake in immersive cooking lessons taught by Executive Chef Attilio Di Fabrizio. For littles, the Young Chefs Academy is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Locanda San VigilioPunta San Vigilio, Lake Garda | +39.045.725.6688
This isn’t the fanciest hotel on the list, but we hear that it’s incredibly special and cool: It sits on the stunning Lake Garda, the restaurant focuses on seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients, and its close to Verona, one of the cultural hearts of Italy.
Babington HouseBabington, Somerset | +44.1373.812.266
Spread out over 18 acres of lush English countryside, Babington House, the thirty-two 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 (think crispy oysters and buffalo mozzarella salad). For an extended stay, consider The Lodge, a stand-alone cottage with a full kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a living room.
Ballymaloe HouseMidleton, County Cork | +353.21.465.2531
Spread across 400 bright green, undulating acres of farmland, this country house in rural East Cork looks straight out of central casting. Owned and run by the Allens–the reigning first family of the Irish food scene—Ballymaloe House itself is matriarch Myrtle Allen's former family-residence-turned-hotel. Staying here feels like coming home, the accommodations are supremely comfortable with Irish linen sheets, vintage wallpaper, and fresh vases of wildflowers delivered daily. The on-site restaurant features a menu inspired by the nearby world-renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, and showcases the best of Irish produce, most of it sourced within a few miles of the house itself. The full Irish breakfast, including warm scones fresh from the oven and traditional delicacies like black pudding and kippers, washed down with several cups of strong tea, is a quintessential Irish experience not to be missed. We recommend booking in during the annual summer Litfest, a week-long food and drinks literary festival with industry speakers that have included Madhur Jaffrey, Alice Waters, and Francis Mallmann among others. Cooking enthusiasts will relish booking into the cookery school for workshops on everything from bread-baking to Asian cuisine, with all the ingredients foraged by the students themselves from the immaculate walled gardens and fields that surround the school and house.
Soho Farmhouse1 Tracey Farm Cottages, Great Tew, Oxfordshire | 44 1608 691000
Here in the countryside outside London is yet another example of how Nick Jones and his team can literally do no wrong. Tucked in the rolling fields of Oxfordshire, Soho Farmhouse is a compound that includes a, well…farmhouse, several luxury cabins, stables, and a velvet-laden screening room. The décor mirrors the other branches–so members will feel instantly at home–with plenty of country-chic details thrown in (note: green hunter Wellies at guests’ disposal). There’s a ton to do here, from swimming in the heated outdoor pools or lake (the latter is stocked with row-boats for day use), to indulging in the spa. For total privacy, book one of the cottages, equipped with bicycles, rainforest showers, and wood burning stoves, all of which make it pretty hard to leave.