We give our Cesar Awards to the ten best hotels of the year. Named after Cesar Ritz, the most celebrated of hoteliers, these are the Oscars of hotel keeping.
Cesar Winners 2020
The Angel Hotel - Winter Wonderland Special Offer
William Griffiths’s Georgian former coaching inn is the very model of a town hotel; family run, with friendly staff, a relaxed locals bar, eclectic menus, modern artworks. Afternoon tea is a particular treat, with cakes from the hotel’s own bakery.
Southernhay House - 'Free Welcome Glass of Fizz' Special Offer
Silk, Spice… the bedrooms at Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard’s boutique hotel recall the original owner. A Georgian Orientalist and diplomat, he’d have enjoyed drinks on the pretty veranda, dinner alfresco, a free- standing bath in a glamorous bedroom.
Old Downton Lodge - 30% Discount Special Offer
Deep in the countryside, Willem and Pippa Vlok have created superb accommodation in historic farm buildings around parterre gardens. From dinner in a room resembling a medieval great hall, to a perfect breakfast, everything delighted our inspectors.
The Airds Hotel
From cream teas by the fire to drinks on the loch shore, Shaun and Jenny McKivragan’s former ferry inn is a place for indulgence. Bedrooms have designer fabrics, Bulgari toiletries; dinner brings superb West Coast produce. Breakfast is exceptional.
The Quay House
Generosity of spirit abounds at Julia and Paddy Foyle’s fun B&B, filled with entertaining auction finds. Bedrooms have immense character, a terrace or balcony, perhaps a harbour view. Breakfast in the conservatory is all you could ask – and more.
Perfect hosts Vivienne and Philip Taylor set high standards at their Peak District longhouse home. Three of four well- equipped guest bedrooms are suites. A log burner warms the cosy lounge. Breakfast brings an array of fresh and very local produce.
The Old Coastguard
Readers feel thoroughly spoilt at the Inkin brothers’ informal dining pub in a pretty fishing village. Most bedrooms have a sea view. In sunny weather, you can eat local seafood on the terrace in the palm-filled garden. Simple things done with style.
Our inspectors loved everything at David and Rona Pitchford’s Georgian manor house, but it’s Mr Pitchford’s cooking that really sets it apart. A typical dish: roast Kentish lamb, smoked potato puree, haggis and lovage tart, roasted onion, lamb sauce.
The Pipe and Glass Inn
With a cosy, beamed bar and Michelin-starred cooking in the child-friendly, veggie-friendly restaurant, James and Kate Mackenzie’s former coaching inn is a winner. Smart bedrooms have a terrific bathroom, and everything in the garden is edible.
Just minutes from the yacht-filled Solent lies Luke Staples and Lewis Green’s chic, immaculately run boutique hotel, with top-notch, locally sourced food, a pretty garden for alfresco dining, hands-on owners and thoroughly charming young staff.
Cesar Winners 2019
The Nare - 'Coastal Walking' Special Offer
With its spa, its pools, balconies and sub-tropical gardens overlooking sandy Carne Beach, Toby Ashworth’s hotel is the perfect mix of family-friendliness and luxury. Top marks for Cornish cream teas, local seafood, a talented new chef, smiling staff and traditional values.
Tudor Farmhouse - Christmas 2019 Special Offer
Hari and Colin Fell have created luxurious contemporary accommodation within historic, rustic farm buildings. Eggs from the ducks and hens in the paddock, vegetables from the kitchen garden, wild garlic foraged from the Forest of Dean supply chef Rob Cox’s 20-mile menus.
Stoberry House - Autumn and Winter Four for Three Night Special Offer
The bedrooms are luxurious, breakfast is exceptional at Tim and Frances Meeres Young’s 18th-century coach house overlooking the cathedral city. From the hosts’ attention to the smallest detail, to the beautifully landscaped gardens, this is a labour of love.
Gregans Castle Hotel
A generosity of spirit infuses Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray’s Georgian country house, with magical views across the Burren to Galway Bay. Elegant interiors are filled with antiques, modern art, fresh garden flowers. The cooking is unpretentious but imaginative.
Isle of Skye
There are glorious loch views from bedrooms filled with antiques, at Lord and Lady Macdonald’s former hunting lodge on Skye. Ancestral portraits abound. A ghillie organises fishing and stalking, while chef Marcello Tully cooks delicious fare. Speed, bonny boat!
The Star Inn at Harome
This chocolate-box-pretty-thatched village inn is infused with wit – the bar filled with odds and ends; a billiard table at the foot of a bed – but chef/patron Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred cooking is seriously good. One room has both spa bath and piano.
Struan and Louise Lothian spare no effort to please guests at their friendly hotel. Fires burn in comfy lounges. There’s a cabinet of whiskies; rooms with balcony, with books, a four-poster, binoculars, loch views; a daily-changing menu of superb cooking.
An exciting gourmet destination within sight of the Scottish border. Each smart bedroom is named after an infamous clan of Border Reivers – a daring departure.
There is a pleasurable away-from-it-all feeling at this Queen Anne-style Lutyens house with ‘secret garden’, on the edge of a jewel of a medieval town. New owners John and Dorothy Fothergill have refurbished with great style. Food and service win high praise.
From £90 per night
Restaurant James Sommerin
Superb sea views, contemporary design and acclaimed Michelin-starred cooking prove to be winning ingredients at Louise and James Sommerin’s family-run enterprise on the Severn estuary.
Cesar Winners 2018
Hambleton Hall - Autumn and Winter Breaks in Rutland
‘I find it difficult to make any original comments,’ writes a Guide regular after this year’s visit to Tim and Stefa Hart’s much-loved hotel (Relais & Châteaux) with celebrated grounds reaching down to Rutland Water. ‘All the superlatives have been used by other guests.’
Soar Mill Cove Hotel - 3 Nights for the Price of 2 Special Offer
‘We rate this very highly in almost every respect.’ Praise from a reader for Keith Makepeace’s much-loved, family-run, family-friendly, dog-friendly hotel in a ‘gorgeous’ coastal setting.
Judges - Autumn and Winter Special Offer from £125 B&B
‘Everything about Judges smacked of class and excellence.’ Readers this year loved this smart hotel on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors.
In a beautiful location overlooking the Sound of Vaila, on Shetland’s remote west coast, this 18th-century laird’s house, altered and extended, offers a home-from-home experience.
In ‘beautifully maintained’ grounds, from orchards to a Japanese garden, Beryl and James Kearney’s early 17th-century mansion is ‘memorable for all the right reasons’, reports a Guide stalwart in 2019.
‘You sense that hospitality comes naturally to the owners and their team.’ A Guide insider was impressed by Edward and Louise Sykes’s ‘personable’, family-run restaurant-with-rooms inside the Pembrokeshire Coast national park.
St Cuthbert’s House
On the edge of this seaside town, a ‘lovingly converted’ Presbyterian chapel dedicated to Northumberland’s patron saint is run as a 'superb' B&B and occasional music venue by enthusiastic owners and 'great hosts' Jeff and Jill Sutheran.
The Red Lion Freehouse
On the banks of the River Avon, in a ‘charming’ village, stands ‘a pub-with-rooms that has real character and is clearly popular with the locals’.
The Mash Inn
Nick Mash has taken a step back to the future in reinventing the 18th-century red brick Three Horseshoes pub as a restaurant-with-rooms.
‘Simply awesome,' writes a reader this year, about this 'fabulous' hotel on wooded slopes overlooking Grasmere.
2017 Cesar Winners
The Blakeney Hotel
Widescreen vistas of salt marshes and big skies rush to this family-friendly, quayside hotel. Helmed by Emma Stannard, with 'universally friendly and efficient staff', the north Norfolk grand dame is approaching its centenary.
Hell Bay Hotel
Isles of Scilly
‘Hell by name, quite the opposite by nature,’ declares a reader after visiting Robert Dorrien-Smith’s ‘gloriously located’ hotel on the smallest of the inhabited islands of Scilly. ‘Our stay was heavenly.’
‘Whenever a special date crops up, we make a beeline for Gravetye and have never been disappointed.’
The Nobody Inn
Buried deep in the countryside, Sue Burdge’s inn is so much the model of an olde worlde Devon pub that it ‘could have been created by a set designer’.
The Cross at Kingussie
'Derek and Celia are skilled and charming hosts. We cannot speak too highly of them.’ Warm approval this year from a Guide reader, for the Kitchingmans' restaurant-with-rooms in a converted Victorian tweed mill.
Formed from an 18th-century farmstead, Dee and Richard Slade’s hybrid of pub and hotel in the empty reaches of Northumberland is liked for its unique blend of sustainable hospitality, ‘beautiful grounds’ and ‘amazing dark sky observatory’.
Ael y Bryn
‘From the moment we arrived, we knew this was special’; ‘the hospitality is outstanding’; ‘Robert and Arwel are perfect hosts’. Another year, another trove of praise for Robert Smith and Arwel Hughes's ‘delightful B&B’.
Brocco on the Park
‘A beacon of how to do things properly: metropolitan style with Yorkshire substance.’ Generous praise from a regular reader this year for this ‘smart, sophisticated' hotel on the edge of Sheffield’s student quarter.
The Royal Oak
The whitewashed, ivy-hung exterior of this former tannery-turned-ale house does little to betray its ‘stunning, modern’ interiors, nor the ‘warmth and charm’ that welcome visitors and locals.
In an ‘attractive rural setting’ outside the town, chef/patron Stephen Terry has transformed a former roadside pub into a destination restaurant-with-rooms.
Hotels chosen in 2016
The Grove - Three for Two Special Offer
In a grove, indeed, surrounded by flower gardens, kitchen garden and meadows, with views to the Preseli hills, Neil and Zoë Kedward’s hotel is ‘a real haven’.
‘Great hotel, great food,' enthuse American readers in 2019, rating Gary and Donna MacRae’s ‘Lakeland gem’ as the ‘best hotel of our five-week European trip – and we stayed in some superb places’.
The Lord Crewe Arms
You can drink champagne in the vaulted bar, as W H Auden did, dine among the ancient stone walls like Philip Larkin, or sleep in a tranquil room once used by Benjamin Britten, at this hotel in the monastic buildings of a dissolved abbey.
'A very special place.’ ‘Utterly charming.’ 'It’s not the Ritz, but you will feel like a lord.’ Lavish and frequent praise in 2019 for Wendy and Simon Bennett’s Victorian fantasy castle in the Eden valley.
Et in Arcadia we go – to Olga Polizzi’s Regency cottage-orné, in gardens and pleasure grounds with woodland walks and waterfalls, arboretum, fount and follies.
The Coach House at Middleton Lodge
More tasteful developments this year among the potpourri of Georgian estate buildings that create James Allison’s hotel 'in beautiful countryside a few miles from Scotch Corner’.
Zanzibar International Hotel
Brimming with an ‘interesting collection’ of curios from far-flung lands, Max O’Rourke’s characterful seafront hotel is both ‘splendidly quirky’ and ‘utterly relaxed’.
Kilmichael Country House
Be prepared for shrieks of greeting as you turn in to the wooded drive of this ‘very special’ small mansion, the oldest house on Arran – and that’s just from the peacocks! Inside the house, owners Geoffrey Botterill and Antony Butterworth extend a ‘personable’ but less vociferous welcome, with offers of tea and home-made shortbread.