By Rose Shepherd
Expired passports, cancelled flights, queues at immigration, lost luggage… Travelling overseas these days can be terribly stressful, with many holiday plans ruined. Why put yourself through it when the UK has so many terrific hotels and such varied, glorious scenery? Here are some destinations where you’ll even feel that you’re abroad.
The resemblance to Cape Cod is entirely intentional. Mary-Lou Sturridge and Tony Mackintosh drew inspiration from the art of Edward Hopper in creating this cool hotel above Chesil Beach. The New England style is stripped back, the ambience hip but welcoming. All bedrooms have full sight – or a glimpse – of the sea. Short, intelligent menus might include Portland oysters, Dexter beef and vegan options. Sip a Negroni on the terrace and watch the sun go down over Lyme Bay.
Would-be Grand Tourists, thwarted by the Napoleonic Wars, headed instead for ‘the English Switzerland’ in the scenic countryside on the edge of Exmoor national park. This former Edwardian gentleman’s retreat with steps down to the beach is a perfect base from which to explore Watersmeet, the Valley of Rocks, the Heddon Valley, the villages of Lynton and Lynmouth. Alfresco, restaurant and brasserie dining affords plenty of choice – no fondue, but moules frites and West Country steaks.
You can almost hear the clack of pétanque balls as you approach this creeper-swathed stone inn on the Longleat estate, with tables under pollarded limes. It is part of the small Beckford group, characterful, friendly, affordable, casually stylish. Short menus include such dishes as 28-day-aged fillet steak, shallot puree, port and mustard butter, crispy onions, fries and salad. Try the organic Bath soft cheese, Somerset’s answer to brie, with a glass of Pinot Noir – or a bottle.
They say Norfolk is ‘the new Netherlands’, with its big skies, its canals, its vast tulip fields near King’s Lynn. And what could be more emotive of Holland than a windmill, a staple motif of Delftware? This 19th-century tower mill beside the River Glaven is home to a delightfully quirky B&B, with rooms in the tower itself, the old storehouse and boathouse. For dinner there are plenty of pubs, or Michelin-starred dining at Morston Hall. When the time comes to pay you can always go Dutch.
An Italian palazzo just 100 miles from London, this country house hotel was remodelled in the style of Rome’s Villa Borghese for malted-milk tycoon Sir James Horlick. It stands in stunning parkland with lakes, cascade, woodland walks and sculptures. The interior design is modern and playful. On sunny days, parasols spring up on the terrace for alfresco dining from short, eclectic menus, or you can hire a bell tent, order a picnic, and lose yourself in the tranquil grounds.
In 70 acres of parkland, this Victorian mansion was transformed in the 1940s to resemble a Loire château. The best feature suites, with period furniture, really look the part. There is a choice of dining options, from bar food to tasting menus. French-accented dishes might include braised blade of beef, Roscoff onions, Chantenay carrots and port jus. Live out the Loire fantasy and take a drive to Astley organic vineyard (book ahead to take a tour).
With its epic, otherworldly landscape, Skye presents vistas that remind some of Iceland, some of New Zealand, but which has a drama all of its own. Legends of fairies and giants abound, in the Fairy Glen, the Fairy Pool, the Old Man of Storr. This highly regarded restaurant, in a former crofter’s house on Loch Dunvegan, serves local produce with an exotic twist, in such dishes as Sconser scallops, salad of alder, smoked salmon, roe parfait, dashi. Sleep well under star-filled heavens in the House over By.