By Rose Shepherd
With St Valentine’s Day almost upon us, our fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Whether you want to make a night of it on February 14, or are planning a special weekend à deux, here are our suggestions for some of the most romantic hotels listed in The Good Hotel Guide.
Thirty years ago, the late Imogen Skirving dreamt of transforming the family’s Georgian mansion in landscaped parkland into a place for entertaining friends with good food, wine and conversation. Approached by an avenue of lime trees, the extraordinary hotel that she created is now in the care of granddaughter Lila. Every room has immense character. No longer her signature pink, Cartland was once a favourite of ‘Queen of Romance’ Dame Barbara. Bohemia, unofficially the honeymoon suite, has a super-king canopy bed, and poetry on the walls. Afternoon tea, fine-dining and a magical ambience promise a memorable stay.
Two bow-fronted, white stucco Regency townhouses combine as one very cool, glamorous hotel, which counts Kylie Minogue and Kate Blanchett among past guests. All rooms are individually designed, with a sea or city view. The signature room has a free-standing bath beside floor-to-ceiling windows, a super-king bed, a Nobilis chaise longue and a monsoon shower wet room. You can order an in-room massage, chocolates, flowers, champagne – or, for the more adventurous – a ‘love hamper’. Cocktails are served in the sea-front bar, and, when it comes to dining out, you’re spoilt for choice.
Amid the glorious scenery of the Eden Valley, between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, this castellated, turreted Victorian-Gothic castle is both a lived-in family home and a characterful hotel. Castle bedrooms are quirky, with maybe a carved four-poster or half-tester bed, oak panelling, a wardrobe in a turret, an open fireplace. Two suites – in the Orangery and Gatehouse – have arched windows and a private garden. A dinner of local produce is served in the Music room from Wednesday to Saturday; on other nights there’s an informal choice of starters and puddings. Afternoon tea is exceptional, with savouries, cakes, mini desserts and, of course, fresh-baked scones with clotted cream.
Fragrant lavender lines the front path to Raymond Blanc’s beautiful manor house amid lawns, flower borders, a mushroom valley, water features, orchards and prolific organic kitchen garden. The bedrooms are superb. Snow Queen has walls of purple silk printed with silver snowflakes, a four-poster bed, mirrored furniture and white marble bathroom. Contemporary Kiki has a wood-burning fireplace as a centrepiece. A 15th-century dovecote has a modern bathroom with freestanding tub at ground level, a bedroom upstairs with LED-enhanced headboard. M. Blanc has held two Michelin stars for 38 years. His tasting menus – including those for vegans and vegetarians – promise an unforgettable if pricey gourmet experience.
It appears at first sight to be a Jacobean country squire’s mansion, but handsome Baslow Hall is a brilliant Edwardian pastiche, set in landscaped grounds in the Peak District national park. House bedrooms are furnished with antiques. Vernon has a half-tester bed, views through leaded windows, across the garden as far as Chatsworth’s Hunting Tower. Rutland, a junior suite, has an original art nouveau fireplace, views across the kitchen garden to Baslow Edge. Five annexe rooms have heir own private walled garden. Lunch and dinner are served in the fine-dining restaurant from Thursday to Sunday. On other nights they’ll whisk you to sister venture The Prince of Wales for very superior pub grub.
If novelty floats your boat, here is something entirely different: a £5 million refit of a former lighthouse supply ship, berthed in the port of Leith, two miles from the city centre. The luxury cabins have a headboard with map contours to trace, Davy lamps and heavy brass taps, a super-king bed, a rain shower, air-conditioning and underfloor heating. Duplex cabins have a carved, curving staircase to an upstairs lounge with portholes and outdoor deck access. You can have a Champagne afternoon tea, cocktails or dinner in the Lighthouse Bar and Restaurant, enjoying the city lights through floor-to-ceiling windows.
The views across the Menai Strait are a big attraction, but the singular and most romantic thing about this country house hotel is its associations with Princess Margaret and her erstwhile husband Lord Snowdon. The Armstrong-Jones family home from the 19th century, it was a romantic weekend bolthole for the royal couple and retains original furniture, portraits and memorabilia. The dual-aspect Princess Margaret junior suite has a super-king mahogany four-poster, as well as wedding mementos, a two-person bath and rain shower. Afternoon tea is served in various settings throughout the house, and you can dine on Welsh produce from a monthly-changing menu in The Gunroom Restaurant.
Overlooking the People’s Park, this Georgian terrace house has had a chic boutique makeover. Four period, main-house rooms look onto the park or a small kitchen garden and dining terrace through tall sash windows. Each has a deep roll-top copper bath and monsoon shower. Smart contemporary rooms in an extension are each named after an Irish poet. There is an atmospheric spa in the vaulted basement, and you can book a one-night Couples’ Romantic Spa and Escape break, which includes an aroma salts bathing ritual, a glass of fizz and a massage. In Sash restaurant, Alex Timms’s menus showcase the best local, seasonal ingredients.
See more of our favourite hotels for Valentine’s Day