Escape to the countryside for those all important three Rs: rest, relaxation and a reminder that there is much about the UK to love.
We turn to Annabelle Thorpe, Editor of 101 Short Breaks for advice on where to book.
Luxe it Up
If you’re in need of some serious pampering (and frankly, at the moment who isn’t), it’s hard to beat a weekend away at a gorgeous country house hotel. They don’t come much more luxe than the opulent Lucknam Park, which makes an ideal base for exploring the glorious Wiltshire countryside on foot or horseback (the hotel has its own stables), or visiting Westonbirt Arboretum and Stourhead, one of the National Trust’s most stunning gardens.
For a real feeling of escape, head to Gilpin Hotel in the Lake District, where you can hole up in one of the new spa lodges, complete with their own spa suite, or be absorbed into the luxury of the main house. Or cosy up in the stylish Maison Talbooth in Essex, and spend a couple of days exploring the pastoral landscapes made famous by painter John Constable and visiting the iconic Beth Chatto Gardens – the plant nursery is the perfect place to stock up for your own garden.
Spring is a fantastic time to visit some of the UK’s beautiful gardens, when fruit trees are in blossom, and azaleas and rhododendrons blaze with colour. The lovely Pen y Dyffryn hotel in Shropshire has special garden breaks in spring, with four major National Trust properties – Erdigg, Powis and Chirk Castle and Attingham Hall – all within an easy drive. A bit further afield, the sun-kissed island of Jersey – known as the ‘Floral Isle’ because of its horticulture – is home to the tranquil Greenhills Hotel.
It’s ideally located for clifftop walks and garden visits and don’t miss Samares Manor, the most extensive botanical garden in the Channel Islands. For insights into the history and intricate planning that goes into some of our most impressive gardens, join a tour of the Houses and Gardens of the South Downs, which includes time at Uppark, Petworth and exploring the natural landscapes of West Sussex. And for a glimpse of the English countryside at its chocolate-box, thatched cottage best, book a few days in the Cotswolds and mix chintzy afternoon teas with sunlit strolls across the hills, or around gardens such as Hidcote Manor and Highgrove, home of the Prince of Wales (pre-booking essential).
Walk it Off
A walking weekend can be hugely companionable, and has the added bonus that you can eat all the cake you want. The Castle Hotel in Bishops Castle, Shropshire welcomes walkers of all levels, with maps, recommended routes up onto the Long Mynd, and packed lunches available. Or head up to the Scottish Highlands, for a stay at the Torridon, where the hotel’s resident guides will take guests on hikes through the spectacular glens and along the shimmering lochs.
And what could be more spring-like than walking through a sea of bluebells? Hole up in a luxurious lodge, deep in Sherwood Forest and luxuriate in the feeling of being properly off-grid. If you want to really up the ‘companionable’ factor, where better than a vineyard? Three Choirs in Gloucestershire offers tastings and tours, and – a chilled glass or two of white for a post-walk tipple. Solo travellers and keen walkers should head to Hassness House in the Lake District for guided walking and warm hospitality in like-minded company.
Beside the Seaside
Forget summer, when the UK’s coast seethes with trippers – April and May are the perfect months for a beach-side break to blow the winter cobwebs away. If budget is a consideration, take the tent or stay in a caravan at Trevella, perfectly situated for blustery walks on beautiful Crantock Beach, or a day-trip to the Eden Project. Cornwall is as rich in wildlife as it is in gardens; if you’re craving a bit of back-to-nature simplicity, book a luxury lodge at Gwel an Mor, where you can spot owls on night-walks, go badger-spotting and meet the animals that live in the conservation centre.
Alternatively, if what you really crave is a sense of space, there’s nowhere better than Norfolk; stride across the vast expanse of sand at Holkham, and revel in the rose-hued spring sunsets. And don’t forget, we humans are not the only ones who feel the siren call of spring; give the dog a change of scene too, by booking a dog-friendly cottage.
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