Soon England’s hotels will be opening their doors again to welcome guests desperate for a weekend break or a holiday to explore city, coast or country.
Here are five stars of England’s great hotel collection: from east to west and from north to south to help you start thinking where you will head once the law permits.
Congham Hall Hotel and Spa
With the Queen’s Sandringham retreat as a near neighbour and the seals of the North Norfolk coastline just a few miles away, Congham Hall, set within 30 acres, is well located for enjoying the sights and relaxation of one of Britain’s most restful counties. Nicholas and Ruth Dickinson, vastly experienced hoteliers, provide a supreme welcome.
Built in the 1780s, the white-washed mansion, with walled gardens, exhibits Georgian symmetry and elegance, but with a contemporary twist to the 26 rooms and particularly the spa. As well as offering a two hour Secret Garden Experience there is a 12 metre pool and hydrotherapy showers – the fragrant Caribbean rain shower, with eucalyptus and peppermint aromas, is far more sensual than getting caught in a heavy Barbados shower. Then it’s on to the sauna, steam room, foot spa and outside hot tub.
The AA two rosettes restaurant looks out over the croquet lawn and beyond to woodland. Menus, maybe three rock oysters as a starter and perhaps roast cod fillet, remind guests of the coast’s proximity. Gamey choices – guinea fowl, pigeon and venison – like so much of the menu are usually sourced from within 20 miles. Nicholas Dickinson has put together an eclectic wine-list. Anyone for a Lebanon rosé or a Romanian pinot noir?
From the age of Disraeli and Gladstone, the classical stucco white frontage, with Doric columns and balustraded balconies, is a trio of 1842 townhouses united to create the Roseate London. The fact that Westbourne Terrace was named after one of London’s lost rivers, as the capital expanded westwards, is a reminder of a lost age.
Within a 5 minute walk of Paddington railway station and a 10 minute stroll to Hyde Park, the Roseate tucked away on Westbourne Terrace and sheltered by maple-leafed plane trees, is a tranquil place to rediscover London post-lockdown.
Every room is an art gallery featuring original art curated by Antiques Roadshow expert, Jonty Hearnden. In the suites,
hand-crafted four-poster Bellestrata beds, dressed with Irish linen, hidden from the world by thick-lined drapes, prompt deep, restorative sleep. Whilst in the bathrooms, solid stainless-steel plumbing recalls the solid engineering of steam-ships supplying an empire on which the sun never set.
Although there’s a Victoriana ambience contemporary greys and a jazz-funk sound-track in the bar firmly place the Roseate London in 2021.
Cocktails are taken very seriously in the Hyde Bar and restaurant – as is whisky. A 72-page bible, The Story of Whisky, is a global education and a list of the bar’s 130 whiskies. Select a dram from Scotland, Japan, India, the USA and beyond.
Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa, Nantwich
For all the history of this Georgian mansion built in 1816, now a luxurious hotel, given an air of a French chateau by a mid 19th century make-over, most guests talk of a more recent event.
It was at Rookery Hall, that young footballer David Beckham and Spice Girls singer Victoria Adams held a party to announce their engagement.
Rookery Hall, amongst green Cheshire pastures and black and white timbered houses, where Rooks still fly across the skyline, also attracted Margaret Thatcher to seek a peaceful sanctuary. From the restaurant, which specialises in local seasonal dishes, guests look out through the bay windows on to a classic English terrace of wisteria and roses, past lawns and fountains, down to the River Weaver which meanders through the hotel’s 38 acres.
Today, the spa, converted from the stables which once sat at the centre of the estate, attracts many visitors for pampered breaks. Around the 17 metre indoor pool there are seven treatment rooms, a hydro-pool, sauna and steam room.
Over lockdown, Hand Picked Hotels have used the time to renovate 10 feature rooms, in the spirit of the Georgian era, within the original mansion.
The Cavendish London
We have a lot of shopping, dining and living to catch-up on. With a prime Jermyn Street location, opposite Fortnum and Mason, The Cavendish London is in pole position for the easing of lock-down. In particular, the Royal Suite offers a sweeping panorama from its terrace.
Also, The Cavendish tells the inspirational rags-to-riches story of Rosa Lewis who worked her way up from humble origins to cook for King Edward Vll and ultimately to own The Cavendish. Nick-named The Duchess of Jermyn Street, her rumoured affair with King Edward was the inspiration for the 1970s BBC drama The Duchess of Duke Street.
It is worth dropping into The Petrichor Bar and toasting Rosa Lewis’s remarkable life with a Duchess cocktail – whilst reading her original hand-written menu, displayed on the wall, for a meal she served to the king.
For the record The Petrichor Bar and Restaurant is named after the pleasant smell that often accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Appropriately the two AA Rosette restaurant focuses on seasonal and local produce.
London hotels pride themselves on personal service from a well-connected concierge who knows London. One of the very best is at The Cavendish London. Richard Jenkins, proudly wears his Golden Keys of the Clefs d’Or, whilst he acquires scarce tickets for exhibitions, pulls strings to reserve tables at London’s best restaurants or fittings at Jermyn Street’s shirt makers and tailors.
The Cary Arms and Spa, Babbacombe, Devon
The Inn on the beach, blends New England design chic with the Côte d’Azur. Palm trees, water-skiing on seas as azure as the Med and bobbing white spinnakers all contribute to a sense of the French Riviera.
When the railways spread their tentacles to Devon in the 19th century, The Cary Arms was just half a day’s travel from London for members of the royal family.
Since Peter and Lana de Savary acquired the Cary Arms in 2009, they have moved from Olde World pub to a stylish getaway featured in the Condé Nast Johansen directory of hotels. A spa with high glass walls showcasing stunning coastal views. Whilst massive canvases feature 1920s Côte d’Azur 1920s sun-bathing and retro railway posters from the 1930s make the Cary Arms far more stylish than merely an Inn on the Beach.
Linked to the original inn, The Beach Houses are a light clapperboard slice of Hampton’s simplicity with maritime features: a porthole for the upstairs bedroom, a ship’s rope serving as a stairs bannister, carved wood fish and lighthouse ornaments. Although the Beach Houses have a feel of a 1930s Art Deco cruise liner they are but a few steps from the Cary Arms’ AA Rosette restaurant.
If you can’t wait until May for hotels to open then the Cary Arms has a selection of 2,3,4 and 5 bedroom cottages with the restaurant open for outside lunches.