We all want somewhere gorgeous to stay – and these places are all certainly that – but they also have a little extra to add to the holiday vibe.
1. Stay and do yoga
Unwind, quite literally, on a yoga break in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Dalesend Cottages are on a private estate in the grounds of a much larger house, also available for hire. Each of the four exquisite cottages (think: super king-size beds, woodburners and free standing baths) sleeps two people and guests can take advantage of one of the most enticing on-site yoga studios we have seen. Come as a couple or with friends, book yourselves in for some of the regular group classes, or private sessions with yoga teacher Emma. When you’re not salutating the sun, yomp around 25 acres of parkland or strike into the countryside of the Yorkshire Dales, dotted with interesting market towns and stately homes and gardens. Three-night breaks start from £487 per property. Yoga lessons cost extra.
2. Stay and see wildlife
Fancy falling asleep to the sound of lions roaring and waking up to a view of giraffes striding past the window? The good news is that you don’t have to travel to Africa to experience it – just Wiltshire! Longleat have opened three stylish new cottages within their grounds. Keeper’s Cottage (sleeps two) and Keeper’s House (sleeps four) are within the safari park itself, while East Lodge, the Longleat gatehouse, is at the top of the driveway. With each booking guests receive park tickets for each day of their stay, a welcome hamper and continental breakfast. At the Keeper’s properties, an exclusive 4×4 guided safari tour is also included – don’t forget the binoculars, as you’re likely to see lions, tigers, zebra, rhino, wolves and more. Longleat House itself is well worth a visit, with its high Elizabethan architecture, sumptuous state rooms and Capability-Brown-designed grounds. Events this autumn and winter include a hot air balloon ‘Sky Safari’ and the fantastical lanterns of the Festival of Light. Cottages from £375 per night.
3. Stay and cook
Book a break at Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage, in a bucolic setting on the Dorset–Devon border. Even better, sign up for a cookery course (what else?) while you are here. Bedrooms in the old farmhouse are whitewashed, comfortable and simply stylish. Breakfast is served in a room with flagstone floors and an old Esse stove. Courses running this autumn range from cider making to bread making and cooking over outdoor fires. There are lessons in fermenting and foraging, an ‘Eat Better Forever’ session with Hugh, a one-day cookery course and a more in-depth four day alternative (with Hugh on veg duty). The Axminster Kitchen is standing by to feed you when you’re not in the middle of a lesson. There are walks into a nature reserve near the house, and the incredible Jurassic Coast is just a 10-minute drive away for walks, fossil hunts and mackerel-fishing boat trips. Doubles from £160 per night, bed and breakfast.
4. Stay and go on a llama trek
|| Editors Highlight ||
Merry Harriers, a charming 16th-century pub set in the picturesque village of Hambledon in the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, must be one of the UK’s most charming country inns – with new luxurious accommodation and unforgettable guest experiences, including llama treks, electric bike hire and gin classes, there is so much more here than just a hearty pub lunch.
This wonderfully eccentric inn was refurbished a couple of years ago, following new ownership by the brilliant Peter de Savary (www.desavary.com) in 2017, to include four new beautifully designed ensuite bedrooms and three ensuite bedrooms in a converted barn in the gardens. It is run by husband-and-wife team, Sam and Danielle Montgomery-Page, and is the only inn in England to offer picnic llama treks with its own resident herd.
The inn is steeped in history, with the landlords’ names through the ages written on the pub walls. Sustainability conscious, the chefs take pride in using the freshest and best ingredients – foraged where possible (nettles, blackberries, wild garlic) and sourced within a 15-mile radius. The menu offers heart-warming freshly cooked traditional pub staples and chef’s specials, including exceptional Sunday roasts and lighter bites, such as sharing platters, smoked salmon, prawn and gazpacho platter, and a ham hock terrine. Seasonal specialities are a highlight, with wild mushroom and Hambledon nettle risotto a current favourite.
The emphasis on local suppliers continues at the bar, where at least two of the four real ales on offer are from Surrey Brewers, and the Merry Harriers Garden Cider is made using Hambledon apples donated by residents to the cider press. Local wines contribute to an impressive wine list and freshly mixed cocktails are on offer alongside spirits and superior soft drinks.
Full of character and life, the dog-friendly traditional inn is less than an hour from London (five minutes from Milford Station), in the picturesque village of Hambledon, just seven miles from the charming market town of Haslemere in a remarkable pocket of England on the edge of the South Downs National Park, a haven for walkers and cyclists. Stay and experience the landscape a little differently, with their fabulous llama treks and picnics on the Greensand Way, and cycle tours in the Hills.
The herd of lovely llamas now numbers nine, each with their own individual character and personality. They have an incredibly calming and therapeutic influence and make the ideal companion for trekking the outstanding natural beauty of the Surrey Hills, with its unique flora, fauna and history. The gentle and friendly llamas will carry your picnic as you lead them through the spectacular Surrey Hills; from the high points you can see as far as the South Downs. Llamas are affectionate, intelligent and alert and will draw your attention to things you would never normally notice.
Trips on offer include an English Picnic Trek, a Winter Morning Trek – to include lunch back at the Merry Harriers, or even a Luxury Champagne Picnic Trek.
Located deep in rural England, the Surrey Hills have long been a place to stay for exceptionally quiet and peaceful nights, but with the launch of their new deluxe Shepherd’s Huts, The Merry Harriers is now your perfect romantic getaway for a cosy autumn break. Beautifully positioned around a pond on a pretty manicured lawn in a field across the road from the inn, they feel snug, safe and secluded. They’re super cosy inside too, with a log burner, sheepskin rugs, super-cute llama cushions, chic and colourful interiors, and stylish kitchen and bathroom mod-cons. And of course no Shepherd’s Hut would be complete without its own firepit and blankets to snuggle down ready for some marshmallow toasting at sunset.
Jessica was a guest on The Merry Bikation experience. Prices start from £330 and include a two-night stay in your accommodation of choice, including Shepherd’s Hut, Garden Room or Inn Room, cooked breakfast on both mornings, a three-course dinner with preferred local ale on one night of your stay and a hearty packed lunch for your cycle day in the Hills. Llama Treks are priced from £89 per adult, £55 per child or £220 for a family. Cycle tours with Surrey Hills Cycle last up to four hours and there is also a non-guided tour option and e-bikes available to hire.
5. Stay and Adventure
There will be no twiddling of the thumbs on a break at the new Adventure Parc Snowdonia in Gwynedd. You’ll be too busy surfing, freefalling, zip wiring and cycling or skateboarding on a Pump Track. There’s indoor caving and assault courses if you’re feeling the cold. Off-site, even more activities beckon, including coasteering and mountain walking – the team can also give advice on lots of alternatives to the overtrodden Mount Snowdon. The Deli, Bar and Kitchen keep everyone fuelled in between all the fun. And, if you feel tired even reading about that little lot, there is always the opportunity to kick back in the spa with treatments. Accommodation is in woodland or lagoon-side glamping pods (open until end of October) that sleep up to four, or at the new Hilton Garden Inn. Adventure Parc Snowdonia Glamping Pods from £65 per night; Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia doubles from £86 per night, room only.
6. Stay and Swim
Anthology Farm, near Cheltenham, has been converted from two 18thcentury barns into a selfcatering sanctuary. This place is all soft natural and muted colours, warm Cotswold stone, textural fabrics, tasselled lights, freestanding baths. It’s a little bit Scandi, with a touch of boho… There’s plenty of room for 18 to relax. Of great appeal for autumn and winter guests is the serene, heated, indoor pool, where languorous laps can be totted up while the weather unfolds over the surrounding countryside through the huge glass windows. Then, wrap up and sit by the fire, or maybe watch a film on the big projector screen. There are 500 acres to roam from the door, so you can pretty much guarantee you won’t see another soul on your daily strolls. Anyone missing the outside world can delve into smart Cheltenham or explore the adorable villages of the Cotswolds. Short breaks from £5,495, one week stays from £6,850
7. Stay and enjoy the view
Pilot House looks, from afar, like a giant tin can touched down on the grassy shores of the Sound of Mull. The circular design, with a wraparound balcony, means guests can bask in 360-degree views of this dazzling Highland landscape and out over Ardnarmurchan and the Isle of Mull. Inside, Pilot House is a small but light-filled space for a couple, with the bedroom downstairs and the living space upstairs, a spiral staircase connecting the two. A wood burner keeps out the chill, and a tiny office offers a vista to inspire would-be novelists and painters. Days out could include a ferry trip to Tobermory (aka Ballamory) and a visit to a whisky distillery. Prices from £526 for a three-night minimum stay.
8. Stay and enjoy your own host chef
If you are looking for a gastronomic break away and love beams and vaulted ceilings, then the boutique converted barn, Shakepear’s Shoes, with uninterrupted views of the Warwickshire countryside, is certain not to disappoint.
It comes with exclusive access to a beautifully equipped outdoor-indoor alfresco living and dining space, with ceramic egg barbecue and pizza oven, and host Adam is an accomplished chef, available to prepare you anything from afternoon tea to a six-course fine dining experience. As night falls this is the perfect spot for toasting giant marshmallows around the fire pit, or to simply relax in the hammock with a good book.
You will also not be short for inspiration on days out, with the delights of Stratford-upon-Avon, the beautiful Cotswolds, Leamington Spa, Warwick and Cheltenham, to name but a few, all within easy reach. Prices from £582 for a three-night stay to include a welcome hamper. Adam offers guests the option of a partial or fully catered holiday, as well as bespoke cookery workshops, which can be booked as a full- or half-day experience on prior arrangement.
9. Stay and visit natural beauty spots
Set in the gorgeous village of Fontmell Magna in north Dorset, this beautiful chocolate-box cottage, Fiddlesticks, is on the edge of West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Nestled in the countryside, this wonderful, thatched retreat is the perfect home from home to restore and recharge. Sleeping eight, it has an impressive kitchen and lovely gardens, as well as a bubbling cedar wood hot tub. Explore this wonderful part of England, from the exquisite AONB of Cranborne Chase and the vibrant town of Dorchester to the famed coastline of Studland and Lulworth Cove through to Lyme Regis. Surrounded by so much to see and do, you’ll never lack for days out, whether it’s pottering in the independent shops of Shaftsbury, exploring natural beauty spots, such as Hambledon Hill, or heading towards the coast where the likes of Studland, Lulworth Cove and Lyme Regis await. There are fabulous places to eat and drink in the area too, and The Fontmell, an excellent pub and restaurant, is just 400 metres from the cottage. Prices from £1,732 for a long weekend or midweek break.
10. Stay and Explore the Gardens
Homewood is part of a boutique hotel collection on our ‘ones-to-watch’ list. The Bath-based Kaleidoscope Collection trio is a burgeoning artistic portfolio and also includes The Bird, just a few minutes’ mosey from the buzzing epicentre of Bath, and the recently acquired Bishopstrow Hotel & Spa, set within 27 acres of Wiltshire countryside.
When it comes to hotel design and interiors, owners Ian and Christa Taylor clearly know what they’re doing – they have been involved in many award-winning projects, transforming small properties into beautiful boutique hotels using their signature style of unusual eclectic decor to create spaces that Alex Polizzi would be proud of.
Homewood is an eccentric country house hotel that has just launched 10 rooms in its new Mallingford Mews, each with hot tub suites and balconies.
There’s an Instagram-perfect garden spa with indoor and outdoor pool, a new wellness offering from Olympian Amy Williams, as well as snazzy dining pods on the lawn – perfect for afternoon teas, or celebrations at Christmas, when only a dome will do.
Take a wonderful loop walk through ancient woodlands and quiet lanes, taking in the River Frome, with a convenient stop-off at Grade-I-listed Iford Manor Garden to explore their tranquil grounds, cloister, The Peto and Italianate gardens. Prices from £295 per night.
Words | Emma O’Reilly