By Rose Shepherd
We’re all feeling the pinch right now, and spiralling costs drive up prices in the hospitality industry. Yet – despite all the recent challenges – many Guide hotels remain astonishingly good value for money. Here are just a few of our favourites for a spring break on a budget. Note that a two-night minimum stay and other conditions may apply.
You could almost imagine you’re in Provence when a forest drive brings you to this creeper-swathed stone dining pub-with-rooms, with tables set out among pollarded limes. It is stylish but relaxed and unpretentious, with simple, stripped-back-chic décor. Short menus mix pub classics with more adventurous dishes. Rooms start at £120 for a small double, as they do at sister venture The Talbot, Mells. You would pay even less at the Beckford Arms, Tisbury, and Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George, but the Bath Arms is on the Longleat estate. That great Elizabethan prodigy house reopens this month [April 1] after two years’ closure, and a gate from the village leads onto Capability Brown’s Pleasure Walk.
A Grade II* listed Georgian mansion built around a Jacobean core, in landscaped gardens, with pool, golf, tennis and a spa, offers the country house experience for the price of a mid-range hotel. Yes, it feels like a hotel, with no pretence to be an ancestral home, and the four-poster Lord Gainford Suite would set you back £245, but smart contemporary Cpach House doubles are just £145 (£115 if you’re solo), while dog-friendly mews rooms are £185/£155. Menus are sourced from the kitchen garden and working farm, and you can dine in the lovely orangery, alfresco, or with your dog by your side in the library bar. A typical dish: roast venison loin, mini venison cobbler, game sausage roll, red cabbage, carrot and truffle mash.
By contrast, there is a homely ambience at this 17th-cum-18th-century manor house in wooded grounds with views to Cartmel village. The Varley family have welcomed guests here for 40-odd years, and some of the bedrooms are rather dated in style, but a double can cost as little as £99 (£169 on bank holidays and race weekends). Public rooms have blazing log fires, comfy sofas, fine antiques and paintings. In the panelled dining room, overlooking countryside, you dine by candlelight from a table d’hôte menu (from 24 for two courses to £20 for five). Think roast sirloin of Cumbrian beef, creamed potato, red onion marmalade, Burgundy wine jus.
Between the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean, Hari and Colin Fell have made over a farmhouse, cider house and barn in boutique style without any sacrifice of the Tudor character. It is much liked among trusted Guide readers for a restorative getaway. All rooms have a minibar fridge, espresso machine, Bramley toiletries and monsoon shower, and the cheapest start at just £129. The more expensive rooms have a roll-top bath. There is an afternoon tea and grazing menu, while, at dinner, you can eat very well from the imaginative, three-course, 20-mile menu – maybe potato herb gnocchi, celeriac, cavolo nero, truffle.
In a picture-perfect estate village on the lower slopes of Cranborne Chase, a dower house of great eccentric charm is run as a small hotel by Niki and Jez Barfoot. The interiors challenge you to date the building. Two Victorian drawing room extensions contain, respectively, a wealth of Jacobean carved oak and Regency plasterwork. Bedrooms blend fashionable paint finishes with antiques – one has a sleigh bed, another a four-poster. Standard/cosy doubles start at £125/£140. The menu is inspired by produce from the kitchen garden and includes such dishes as halibut, roasted cauliflower purée, truffle-roasted cauliflower, sprouting broccoli, chive sauce.
A former Edwardian hunting lodge, John and Jane Bradley’s small hotel has sweeping views to the highest point on Exmoor, the eponymous beacon. Bedrooms are very smart and well appointed, with pastel paint finishes and/or designer wallpaper and good fabrics. A standard double with a shower over a sunken bath is priced from £120; single occupancy of a small double from £95. Both have fresh milk, cafetière coffee and luxury toiletries. Sommelier Jane will suggest wines to accompany John’s short, imaginative nightly menus of such dishes as herb-crusted rump of lamb, ratatouille, orzo, thyme jus; pea and mint tortelloni; seabass with a prawn and udon noodle broth.
By the cathedral, in the heart of the historic city, this Georgian house-turned-inn has large and luxurious bedrooms named and styled after designers, with doubles starting at a modest £140 (single occupancy from £130). Zoffany, for instance, mixes Georgian and contemporary style, with contemporary fabrics, a king-size mahogany sleigh bed. Osborne & Little, overlooking the cathedral green, has Georgian plaster panelling and a pencil-point mahogany four-poster. In the bar and restaurant, a menu of sandwiches and light bites, pub classics and more imaginative dishes appeals to all tastes.
If you really want to blow the cobwebs away, here’s the place! Rachel and Graham Bucknall’s friendly gastropub with rooms, overlooking a sandy bay on the Firth of Forth, is the only property in the Guide with its own beach cricket team. Dine by the fire or in the sunshine on the terrace, on fish and chips, locally caught seafood, burgers, aubergine baba ganoush… Top-floor Admiral room, priced from £140, has a sea view from white-shuttered windows, a roll-top bath and walk-in shower. Sea Dog rooms are as little as £100.
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