We give our Cesar Awards to the twelve best hotels of the year. Inpsired by Cesar Ritz, the most celebrated of hoteliers, these have been called the Oscars of hotel keeping.
Cesar Winners 2024
The Retreat at Elcot Park - Three Nights for the Price of Two Special Offer
Best Country Hotel. The relaxed, fun air at this hotel starts with the complimentary glass of wine at check in and continues with pantries you can raid and family swim times in the pool. It’s a fraction of the price many traditional country-house hotels charge yet comes with a swish spa and a chilled courtyard area with coffee shop, wine cellar and hair salon. Bedrooms have a modern English feel and the pan-Asian restaurant is particularly good (or eat with your dog in the Orangery).
Knockinaam Lodge - Two Night Added Value Special Offer
Best hotel in Scotland. Where the road ends and the Irish Sea begins, Knockinaam enjoys a knock-out position on a private cove, with views over the water to Northern Ireland. Its unstuffy, relaxed air charms visitors. You can expect a wood-panelled bar, fires in the two lounges, patterned fabrics in the bedrooms and perhaps a bath by the window for a scenic soak. The daily changing menu of local specialities gets a special mention from happy guests.
Plumber Manor - Autumn/Winter Three Night Special Offer
Best hotel in South West. This is a country-house hotel with a real heart. When one visitor had a toothache, the Prideaux-Brunes, who treat their guests as family, arranged a dental appointment and drove him to it. Richard curates the reasonably priced wine list and acts as host along with his wife, Alison; his brother Brian cooks delicious dishes in the kitchen. Visiting pooches are welcomed by the family’s black Labradors. The manor’s traditional interiors are filled with antiques and artwork.
Best hotel in Wales. The striking blue exterior of this charming little hotel isn’t the only thing that makes it stand out. The former harbourmaster’s house also boasts sublime sea views from its martime-themed rooms, which are named after different historic sailing ships. The top-floor suite is particularly sought after. Tuck into complimentary coffee and cakes when you arrive, but be sure to save room for local specialities in the restaurant in the evening, including Welsh lamb and catch of the day.
The Beech House and Olive Branch
Best hotel in the Midlands. So much more than your traditional village inn, this pub in a trio of farm labourers’ cottages also has a shop and wine store along with rustic furniture and roaring fires. You can drink anything from the pub’s own beer to a vintage wine to accompany the delicious food. Over the road in Beech House, the bedrooms are all themed on food. Berry, with its own garden areas, comes in deep autumnal colours while Double Cream has an antique bed.
The Inn at Whitewell
Best pub with rooms. In a beautiful setting overlooking the River Hodder in the Forest of Bowland, this old manor house run by third-generation members of the Bowman family comes with flagged floors, open fires and a warm welcome. You can expect beams or a four-poster in the traditional bedrooms, along with views of the surrounding countryside. Chef Jamie Cadman has worked here for 20 years and his food continues to impress. There’s plenty of wine while you dine; the inn has an on-site wine shop.
Best hotel in Ireland. Foodies flock to this legendary hotel set on a 300-acre working farm, which not only produces delicious meals but also comes with a cookery school, café and shop. Opened 60 years ago by the late Myrtle Allen, it is still family-run today. Head chef Dervilla O’Flynn uses produce from the farm, the kitchen garden or from the surrounding area to create her delightful dishes. The bedrooms don’t disappoint, with their modern fabric headboards, floral wallpaper, and Voya toiletries.
Best hotel in the North of England. Hazel Bank ticks all the right boxes for a country-house hotel with its fantastic food, excellent wine selection, swish bedrooms and walks from the door. One guest felt so much at home at Gary and Donna MacRae’s Victorian house that they likened their six-day stay to a pleasant house party with friends. Donna’s evening meals are much appreciated. So too are thoughtful extras such as sherry and home-made biscuits in the bedrooms, which have idyllic views across the valleys and the fells.
Best City Hotel. You might find Bagheera the cat snoozing by the fire, rooms with mahogany panelling and stair treads that have an authentic creak in this beautiful homage to yesteryear. Tradition is at the characterful core of The Rookery, which is hidden down a narrow lane near Smithfield Market and is named after a once crime-filled area. The bedrooms mix the old – four-poster beds, vintage bathroom fittings, and a writing desk – and the new, with modern attributes including air conditioning, minibar, TV and 24-hour room service.
Best B&B. You can see why Lyn and Jason Martin describe their B&B as ‘breakfast with rooms’ when you look at what’s on offer in the mornings: home-made granola and bread, followed by perhaps honey-baked figs with rose-scented ricotta; peacomole, feta and mint with poached egg on sourdough; or slow-reared bacon and eggs. Smart, uncluttered bedrooms in the cream Georgian house have large sash windows, antique furniture and designer shower rooms. There’s an honesty bar on-site and the Martins run a pizza restaurant in town.
Best hotel in East Anglia. Where the furnace of Langham Glass once raged at 1350C, a smoking hot hotel now operates. In homage to that heritage, The Harper has a menagerie of glass animals in reception and modern stained-glass windows in the public rooms. Its artfully mismatched furniture lend it both a relaxed and refined air. Rustic-chic bedrooms come with complimentary cocktails, a heated oak floor and Irene Forte products. There is a good all-day menu downstairs as well as more formal dining in the upstairs restaurant, and a small on-site spa.
Best hotel in the South of England. With bedrooms better than you’ll find in many top hotels, Boys Hall is head and shoulders above your average restaurant-with-rooms. The location, just minutes from Ashford International, is perhaps not the most inspiring, but it feels like a secret garden oasis once you arrive at the historic 17th-century manor. Food is a highlight, with traditional dishes served in an interesting way – steak cooked over the firepit might have a bone-marrow peppercorn sauce while John Dory comes with kohlrabi, bisque and brown crab rouille.
Cesar Winners 2023
Best hotel in the South West. It’s worth booking into this seaside bolt-hole just for the spectacular views over the sands to Burgh Island (rooms come with binoculars). But guests also really appreciate the friendliness of owners Petra Lampe and Martyn Scarterfield, who make everyone feel at home. Take the path down to the beach, sit on the inviting decked terrace, and tuck into Martyn’s nightly-changing evening meals in the garden room, where the seascape provides a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
Best hotel in East Anglia. Birdwatchers and bon vivants alike beat a path to Tracy and Galton Blackiston’s Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms in a flint farmhouse with Blakeney nature reserve on the doorstep. Even though it has a Michelin star, it is still friendly and relaxed, with a contemporary country house look in the bedrooms. At night, feast on the seven-course tasting menu of locally sourced or home-grown produce, and awake to locally smoked fish or a full English with boudin noir and kidneys.
Best hotel in the North of England. Talk about reinventing the motorway service station. Formerly Tebay Services Hotel, this Lake District hotel on the M6 was created by the resourceful Dunning family after the M6 carved up their hill farm. It offers quiet rooms with fell views, tasty Cumbrian food, excellent value for money and what readers describe as a feeling of ‘peace and well-being’. Its delicious but unfussy food features fresh farm produce; there is also a farm shop on site. It’s a world away from the usual motorway chain hotels.
The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge
Best hotel in Ireland. Warm Irish hospitality and superb food are on offer at this Victorian country mansion, where the restaurant is a destination in its own right. Angel Pirev uses food from the kitchen garden and orchard to help create his well-received menus, served in the deep-blue restaurant with its wedding-cake plaster ceiling. Traditional-style bedrooms have fabrics and wallpaper by Zoffany, Jane Churchill, Cole & Son; everywhere there is carefully chosen artwork and furniture, plus vases brimming with flowers.
The Pig in the Forest
Best hotel in the South of England. A whole litter of pigs has entered the world since Robin Hutson opened the first of a new breed in 2011. While they’re all special, it’s the mother pig in the New Forest that reinvented the English country hotel, with food sourced from within a 25-mile radius and its kitchen garden. The ethos is hip not hooray, with nothing too hammed up about Judy Hutson’s shabby-chic interiors. The only fly in the pigpen is that Pigs aren’t for pups: dogs have to stay at home.
Best hotel in Wales. Owner Melanie Boissevain is an interior designer and it shows: together with her family she has created stylish, relaxing rooms in this Strawberry Hill Gothic house on the coast a five-minute drive from Tenby. Antiques rub shoulders with French market finds, blowsy wallpapers and Persian rugs. Enjoy Modern British cuisine in the romantic dining room, with Arcadian-print wallpaper and candlelight, as well as views over the bay to the Gower peninsula through romantic cusped windows.
Best Country Hotel. Michelin-starred cuisine, elegant bedrooms and red squirrels in the garden are the successful recipe for this 20-room hotel. Chef Paul Leonard sources 90 per cent of produce from a ten-mile radius of Forest Side, much from the vast kitchen garden, to create his inventive dishes. Light and airy bedrooms come with Zoffany fabrics, Herdwick wool carpets, beds by local company Harrison Spinks, and Bramley toiletries. The icing on the cake? There are walks from the door.
Best hotel in Scotland. A youth hostel in the 1950s, this magical place overlooking Badcall Bay is as far as you can imagine from a world of dormitories with lumpy beds and lumpier porridge. A cream tea is served in the conservatory, there’s a choice of 60 malt whiskies in the lounge bar, and readers report by the dozen that both the nightly-changing menu of food and the porridge are delicious. Bedrooms have had a swish make-over, and some have beautiful loch views.
No.15 by GuestHouse
Best City Hotel. Named after the three brothers Guest who own it, this boutique property occupies a trio of Grade I listed town houses in a Georgian terrace. Rooms are all different, with touches of whimsy that might include a coffee maker in a doll’s house or exotic bird wallpaper inspired by the pergola in Henrietta Park opposite. All have a record turntable, a Dyson hairdryer and access to the complimentary pantry. Return from exploring and wallow in a circular copper bath for two in the basement spa.
Best B&B. A warm welcome with cake isn’t the only thing guests get at Sheila and Robert Mitchell’s B&B. Rooms have sweeping views over Swaledale, exposed-stone walls, bathrobes and Noble Isle toiletries. Sheila and Robert can advise on the local area, including the best walks and good places for dinner. Particular praise is heaped on the breakfasts, with an extensive choice that includes pancakes, smoked haddock, local eggs, croissants from the village bakery and Sheila’s award-winning marmalade.
Best hotel in the Miclands. There’s a reason they call Lord Northampton the Mystic Marquess. He and his wife Tracy have placed well-being right at the core of their reinvented 16th-century coaching inn on the Castle Ashby estate. Take a yoga class or a gong bath, book a nature trail in the castle grounds and swim in the lake designed by Capability Brown. It’s not posh in the least, with a relaxed air throughout the beautiful interiors, in earthy, mossy tones to reflect the surrounding countryside.
The Double Red Duke
Best pub with rooms. As pubs with rooms become more and more stylish, the Duke stands head and shoulders above the crowd. Georgie and Sam Pearman’s 17th-century Cotswold stone inn comes with a country-chic air in its carefully designed rooms, with luxurious fabrics, hand-blocked wallpaper, wooden furniture and perhaps a red bathtub in a red and white tiled nook. For something a bit different from your average pub grub, they grill meat and fish over charcoal, cherry and apple wood.
Cesar Winners 2022
Askham Hall - Luxury Foodie Mid-Week Break Special Offer
It’s relaxed rather than grand at Charles Lowther’s comfortably cluttered ancestral pile, with its classic English country garden, a 17th-century pele tower, family heirlooms and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Dogs and children are welcome.
Helen Browning’s Royal Oak - Up to 15% Discount Special Offer
There’s character aplenty at this pub on an organic farm, with bedrooms named after different fields, a communal area called The Wallow with table football, and everything from milk to meat supplied from the surrounding fields.
Locanda on the Weir - March Three Nights for the Price of Two Special Offer
Italian foodie flair meets West Country charm at this uber-stylish restaurant with rooms on Exmoor’s coast, where chef Pio Catemario di Quadri cooks up a storm while Cindy Siu creates eclectic, appealing interiors worthy of the food.
Porth Tocyn Hotel
It’s the relaxed atmosphere together with everything from a games room and outdoor pool to cots and baby- listening devices that make this hotel a firm family favourite. There is no charge for children sharing their parents' room either.
The Bell at Skenfrith
A firm favourite with readers, The Bell faced a challenging time when the River Monnow flooded and flowed through its ground floor. Now the dog-friendly pub is better than ever, with a fresh look, great food and riverside walks.
Chef/patron Richard Hendey cooks as much as possible on the premises at his small hotel, from bread to ruffles. Readers rave over his nightly-changing menus, which feature local Devonshire produce and fresh food from the kitchen garden.
Guests receive a warm welcome plus a garden tour at Walter and Nuala Sweeney’s refined Georgian town house. Bedrooms are supplied with sherry, fresh milk and flowers, there’s a superb choice at breakfast, and everything is great value.
Cesar Winners 2021
The Scarlet - 'Advanced Purchase' Special Offer
Readers’ complimentary reports on this adults-only hotel flood our inbox. The seaside setting, spa and smiling service, alongside an effective environmental policy, win repeated praise. Over the past year we haven’t had a single negative comment.
The Peat Inn
Our inspectors were bowled over by the food created by Michelin-starred chef/patron Geoffrey Smeddle in his old coaching inn with modern interior. Dishes might include pastrami of sea trout, loin of deer.
Reached by horse-drawn carriage over a scenic isthmus, Elizabeth Perrée’s 400-year-old farmhouse on car-free Sark is as charming as its owner. There are cliffs and coves to explore before returning to tuck into local lobster and scallops.
The Angel Inn
Local ales are served as well as Michelin-starred food at this Dales pub with beams and luxury rooms. Chef/patron Michael Wignall uses local food but global inspiration to create such dishes as Yorkshire duck with soy, black bean and miso.
From £70 per night
With stucco ceilings, antique-filled rooms and ornate fireplaces, the Murray family’s manor house is clearly made to be shared with someone special. After dinner à deux in the wood-panelled dining room, you can retire to a sleigh bed or four-poster.
There’s a library in the double-height stables and a delicious dinner is served with a serenade from chef Paddy Flynn, who runs this 18th-century country house with his wife, Hannah. The Georgian interiors have a relaxed, homely atmosphere.
The Grasmere Hotel
Walks from the doorstep, views of Helm Crag, and fires to gather round for pre-dinner drinks make the Winsland family’s Victorian country house hotel a clear winner. As is the food, with imaginative menus, homemade bread, and kippers for breakfast.
Fantastic food, amazing value and a side serving of culture in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon are the hallmarks of this restaurant-with-rooms. The barn is as atmospheric as they come, with a flagstone floor and an impossibly high vaulted ceiling.
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.
The Old Coastguard - Winter Escape Special Offer
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.
Southernhay House - Complimentary Cocktail 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.
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.
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.
Old Downton Lodge
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 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 - '40 Winks Break' 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 - 'Autumn Leaves Package' 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.
Knockendarroch Hotel - Book 2 nights and get a 3rd half price Special Offer
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
Cesar Winners 2018
Hambleton Hall - Autumn Escape Special Offer
'Could a summer day get any better than sitting in a beautiful garden, gazing down over manicured hedges and a fountain, to Rutland Water gleaming in the sunshine?’
Soar Mill Cove Hotel - 45th Anniviersary Three Night Special Offer
This single-storey hotel enfolded in a gorse-clad valley with views of the sea has been in the Makepeace family for three generations.
Red Lion at East Chisenbury - Complimentary Glass of Bubbly Special Offer
A ‘laid-back, fire-in-the hearth, village pub atmosphere’ prevails at this charming thatched gastropub with riverside guesthouse on the edge of Salisbury Plain.
Ten minutes from Wordsworth’s Grasmere, a Victorian mansion has been completely made over to create this super-luxury hotel with Michelin-starred dining and superb accommodation.
2017 Cesar Winners
Battlesteads - Two and Three Night Taster Menu Special Offers
Dee and Richard Slade’s ‘well-run’ hotel, restaurant and village pub stands out for its ‘laudable’ approach to sustainable tourism.
The Cross at Kingussie
Take afternoon tea on the terrace at this former Victorian tweed mill and you hear nothing but birdsong and the plash of the Gynack Burn that once powered the looms.
The Blakeney Hotel
Readers again lavish praise on this quayside hotel – ‘one of the best run and best maintained in Britain' – in a ‘stunning setting looking over salt marsh’.
Deep in the Sussex countryside, a romantic Elizabethan manor house, built by an ironmaster for his bride, stands amid 1,000 acres of historically important gardens, pleasure grounds and woodland.
The Royal Oak
An 18th-century part-thatched former tannery turned village ale house has been renovated in a style of rustic simplicity, with unfussy bedrooms and a dining room serving pub classics and more complex dishes.
Hell Bay Hotel
Sitting above a secluded cove on Bryher’s rugged west-facing coast, with 'nothing in between to Canada', this pretty blue-and-white weatherboarded farmhouse-turned-hotel is a '10/10 experience’, say smitten guests.
Ael y Bryn
Readers can't stop raving about the 'impeccably furnished rooms, lovingly manicured garden and well-stocked library' at this adults-only B&B in countryside outside the village of ‘Egg-lis-oo-roo’, with views to the Preseli hills and Carningli mountain.
Brocco on the Park
Behind the solid exterior of an Edwardian park-side villa lies a Scandi-chic boutique hotel and popular drop-in restaurant.
Hotels chosen in 2016
‘An enchanting destination’ is how readers describe Olga Polizzi’s Regency hunting lodge, which stands by the River Tamar in an Elysian landscape designed by Humphry Repton.
With its towers and battlements this Victorian-folly castle, in 15 acres of grounds, looks imposing yet 'you actually feel like it is your castle'.
For many guests, Hazel Bank is the epitome of a small country-house hotel, offering 'fantastic food, a great wine selection, charming hosts' along with the a picturesque valley setting, captivating views and walks from the doorstep.
Grove of Narberth
In a hillside glade, this once-derelict country house has been beautifully made over, with attention to guests’ comfort, real fires, good textiles, fine dining restaurant and simpler artisan fare.
The Lord Crewe Arms
Bedrooms (most across the road at The Angel) blend contemporary chic and modern comfort with notes of rusticity at this historic hotel in a conservation village, with the barrel-vaulted Crypt bar, and simple, excellent food in dining areas.
The Middleton Lodge Estate
Leave the fuss and fret of the AI(M) at Scotch Corner to reconnect with the land at this idyllic hotel, centred on a Georgian coach house amid gardens, parkland and woodland.