When it comes to a restorative getaway, there is no escape lovelier or more romantic than to a beautifully run boutique hotel.

There are many ways to travel in style, whether you opt for large luxury stalwart hotels that are traditional and slick all at once, or you rent a villa with a view by the sea. We will always love the halfway house between the two: the boutique hotel. Unlike the latter, you won’t need to touch the laundry or washing up for the duration of your stay, and unlike the former, the best ones have a real home-from-home intimate atmosphere – not least because many of them are family run. To qualify as boutique in the world of hospitality, size is not all that matters. To do justice to the sobriquet, they must too be both homely and stylish (the best ones have you taking design notes to try and implement at home, inevitably to varying degrees of success).

Here we round up seven of the loveliest and most romantic boutique hotels in the UK.

The Rose


Deal, Kent


When Alex Bagner left her job at Wallpaper* to open a boutique hotel in Deal, it was always going to be a thing of beauty. And so it has proved. She and her husband took one dingy pub by the sea and systematically transformed into a rare beauty with a vintage vibe and artsy sensibilities (in fact all artwork is selected by the local gallery, Counter Editions). In 2021, Condé Nast Traveller named it amongst its ‘Top 20 stays to bookmark for a British weekender’ – and it’s no stretch to see why. Come for the sea air and interiors; stay for the food, which is sublime. Book it.


The Double Red Duke


Bampton, Oxfordshire


We cannot speak highly enough of The Double Red Duke, which is housed within a 17th-century coaching inn just down the road from William Morris’ Kelmscott. Cosy, comfortable and ravishingly stylish, it is the sort of place where one can order a procession of coffees and pore over the Sunday papers for hours – an idea that many hotels aspire to but fail to realise. The rooms are glorious, with Roberts Radios, roll-top baths, and sofas to sink into, while families are actively encouraged (there is even a room with bunkbeds in a hidden nook). The food, too, is wonderful. Book it.


Gray’s Court


York


Gray’s Court is, hands-down, one of our favourite boutique hotels in the land – not least thanks to is extraordinary history combined with impeccably friendly and relaxed hospitality. They say, ‘Archaeologists believe the remains of a Roman gate - the Porta Decumana – lay buried just inside the grounds. The house has passed through the hands of many famous York residents including Lord Fairfax, John Aislabie (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and the Squire family. Eventually providing home and sanctuary to the illustrious Gray family for two hundred years.’ Its magical fairy-lit entrance is enthralling; the beautiful garden – all in the shadow of the Minster – is sublime; and the roaring fires make it a cosy dream. Don’t miss its wonderful restaurant, The Bow Room, which was recently awarded three AA rosettes. Book it.


The Bradley Hare


Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire


Interior designer James Thurstan Waterworth is the co-owner of this seductive country inn, which sits amidst the Duke of Somerset’s estate, thus accounting for its extreme beauty. There are twelve bedrooms spread across the main building and the coach house – all are decorated to total perfection, marrying antiques with modern artworks and arresting kilims for an eclectic and inviting look. Book it.


The Gunton Arms


Gunton, North Norfolk


Robert Kime interiors; an ex-Mark Hix chef; Tracey Emin artworks on the walls; a deer park setting: there is so much to love at The Gunton Arms. To us, it is the exemplar of the boutique hotel – and never more so than since it opened its nearby sister pub, The Suffield Arms, where guests can go to eat tapas and mix things up on a longer stay. Book it.


Hotel Endsleigh


Devon


Whatever Olga Polizzi’s secret is, we’re willing to bet that there are thousands of hoteliers who wish that she would spill it. Hotel Endsleigh, one of her trio of boutique beauties, is set in 100 acres of ‘fairy tale gardens, woodlands, follies and grottos created by Humphry Repton’. Come, unwind to the gentle sounds of the River Tamar and delight in the glorious setting, which is surely one of the most beautiful in all of England. Book it.


Thyme


Southrop, Gloucestershire


If you’re looking for a total escape, you cannot do better than Caryn Hibbert’s Cotswolds idyll, which began life as a cookery school. A ‘village within a village’, the hotel that emerged from the cookery school is scattered across honey stone properties – amongst them a rectory, a farmhouse and barns – unfolding organically into a peaceful haven. There is a spa, a swimming pool and tennis courts, in addition to an array of cookery classes to fill the day should you wish to do anything other than loll. Book it.


Killiehuntly Farmhouse And Cottages


Cairngorm National Park, Scotland


This lovingly restored farmhouse is situated in the exquisite Cairngorm National Park. The design is spectacular – think cool Scandi vibes – as is the hospitality and the landscape, whose forests and streams yield spectacular food in the dining room too. Book it.


By Nancy Alsop
June 2022

Nancy Alsop

Editor

Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.

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