The most romantic places for couples to enjoy post-wedding bliss
As of last month, gay and lesbian couples can marry in England and Wales, but when it comes to honeymoons the whole of Britain is your oyster!
A London Hideaway
London has plenty of appeal – but is it really an idyllic honeymoon destination? Further Afield, (a British-based company offering hand-picked gay-friendly places to stay) and Les Deux Messieurs believe it is; both recommend Hazlitt’s Hotel in the heart of London’s gay Soho neighbourhood.
The former home of 18th century writer William Hazlitt is now an intimate boutique property. Despite its proximity to one of the world’s most vivacious gay scenes, Hazlitt’s retains the restrained ambience of a private gentleman’s club. Owners Peter and Douglas were personally involved in the creation and design of each of the 30 guestrooms, and their passion for antiques and traditional craftsmanship shows throughout, with quirky details like character beds, feature marble washstands and claw-foot baths – so it’s perfect for lovers of something a bit different. “For your honeymoon, ask for the Duke of Monmouth Suite,” says Hugh of Les Deux Messieurs. “It’s the ultimate celebration pad, boasting a fridge full of the very finest champagne, a gorgeous four-poster bed, giant bathtub, and roof terrace complete with giant marble stag!” Room rates from £288.
A Welsh Valentine
A small island off the coast of Anglesey in North Wales, a 2hr drive southwest of Manchester, Ynys Llanddwyn (Llanddwyn Island) is considered one of Wales’s most beautiful – and romantic – spots. Llanddwyn means “the church of St. Dwynwen”, and the island has links to Dwynwen, a 6th century saint and the Welsh patron saint of lovers (making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine). The path to true love isn’t always easy, and neither is the path to this beauty spot – the island can only be reached by foot about a mile along a beach, and remains attached to the mainland at all but the highest tides. Nevertheless, Hollywood and royalty have appreciated its beauty: romantic thriller Half Light starring Demi Moore and blockbuster Clash of the Titans starring Sam Worthington were filmed here, while royal couple the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved nearby following their marriage in 2011.
There’s nowhere to stay on the island, so make your base at Beaumaris, a 40 minute drive away from Ynys Llanddwyn. There you can take your pick from historic charm at Ye Olde Bull’s Head Inn, or contemporary cool at The Townhouse, both under the same management. The food at The Bull is excellent – don’t miss out on the seafood – and the wooden beamed bar is the perfect place to head after dinner, and imagine Dr Johnson and Charles Dickens’s visits to the spot. Ye Olde Bulls Head and The Townhouse are a part of the Welsh Rarebits collection of ‘Hotels of Distinction’ in Wales. Doubles from £105, suites from £155.
Around forty miles south of Beaumaris is the enchanting Italianate village of Portmeirion. Designed and built between 1925 and 1975 by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, its inspiration was drawn from his love of classic Italian towns like Portofino. Following a starring role in 1960s TV show The Prisoner, today Portmeirion is one of Wales’s leading tourist attractions – and you may stay in its dainty tutti-frutti coloured cottages and grand seafront hotel, where guests have included Noël Coward, H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Room rates from £109.
A Classical Trip to the English CoastHistory Month in February 2014 is set to celebrate music, tied to the fact that November 2013 marks the centenary of famous gay composer Benjamin Britten. Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, settled in the unspoilt seaside town of Aldeburgh, a 2hr 30min drive northeast of London. Here, they were instrumental in setting up the Aldeburgh Festival, which remains one of England’s most important celebrations of classical music. Stay at the Crown and Castle in the neighbouring village of Orford, a delightful hotel and restaurant with 21 stylish bedrooms. It’s co-owned by Ruth Watson, presenter of British TV shows The Hotel Inspector and Country House Rescue. Room rates from £135. A host of centenary events to commemorate Britten’s life are being organised throughout the coming year by the Britten-Pears Foundation, so classical music fans should tie a visit in with that.
Scottish City Breaks
Renowned for Edinburgh International Festival, a three-week celebration of the arts taking place in August each year, and the alternative Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Scotland’s capital also boasts a fabulously theatrical gay-owned hotel. Recommended by Les Deux Messieurs, Prestonfield House Hotel is an historical 17th century Edinburgh mansion that today features 23 decadent boudoir-style rooms and suites. With velvet-upholstered walls, extravagant damask sofas, dramatic flowers, masses of candles and complementary champagne on ice, it’s guaranteed to bring out your inner diva! Room rates from £295.
Owner James Thomson also presides over The Witchery By The Castle, an opulent and acclaimed restaurant on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, with signature dishes including Angus beef steak tartare, briny-fresh seafood platters and haggis.
The Scottish city of Glasgow flies the rainbow flag every November for Glasgay! This gay and lesbian arts festival spans comedy, music, film, theatre, visual art, literature, clubbing and community arts projects. Over the last three years the festival has grown to be the largest multi-artform festival of its kind in the UK, and this year sees its twentieth anniversary – proving that festivals, like marriages, get better with every year.
Glasgow is under an hour by train from Edinburgh, but it’s a great city to make your base too and you needn’t break the bank with 15 Glasgow, a luxury gay-friendly B&B with doubles from £95 and superior rooms from £150; book via Further Afield. Or you could go all out and stay at the 5 star spa hotel Blythswood Square. If you book in the £1500 per night penthouse suit you’ll get a terrace, private bar, bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon in your room and £200 of spa treatments. Classic bedrooms from £160.
An Island Retreat
Looking for a romantic retreat on what National Geographic Magazine voted the 4th best island in the world, in a property that’s been applauded by Britain’s Sunday Times and The Guardian newspapers? Forget the Caribbean – Further Afield recommend the Black Shed, a simply stylish self-catering cabin designed for two on Scotland’s breathtaking Isle of Skye, a spectacular 6hr drive from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen. Located on a working croft, with livestock including hens, ducks, geese and Hebridean sheep, there’s an authentic sense of going back to nature. Honeymooners can snuggle beneath organic cotton sheets and blankets made locally by Skye Weavers, while polished concrete under-heated flooring and timber-clad walls insulated with sheep’s wool keep everything toasty. Rates from £525 per week.
Although the owners of Black Shed supply guests with seasonal homegrown produce, it’s worth venturing out to The Three Chimneys. This internationally acclaimed restaurant utilises the Isle of Skye’s natural larder in dishes that reference Scotland’s rich culinary heritage. Their showcase dinner menu “Seven Courses of Skye” features Loch Dunvegan langoustines with tattie scones, local crab and oysters, and slow cooked haunch of venison. They also provide accommodation in six junior suites in the adjacent House Over-By.
Eco- & Gay-Friendly
The UK’s first new-build environmentally friendly boutique hotel, The Scarlett sounds too good to be true. Perched upon a cliff with far reaching views of the rugged coastline of north Cornwall, a 4hr 30min drive south-west of London, its carbon footprint is just a quarter of the average building of this size: rainwater tops up the solar-heated swimming pool, its biomass boiler is fuelled by local wood chip waste and even the spa flip-flops are made from recycled car tyres. In spite of all this, The Scarlett doesn’t compromise on style or luxury, and is as proud of its Design Hotels® status as it is of its eco credentials. It’s gay-friendly and a recommended honeymoon spot by Further Afield. Room rates from £190.
Honeymoons with Pride
All the 45 hotels in the Pride of Britain consortium’s prestigious portfolio are gay-friendly, but worthy of special mention is Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa. Dating from 1520, this Elizabethan manor house set in nine acres of gardens is today a luxurious hotel with 28 distinctive bedrooms and suites, Its spa is built within a Victorian walled garden and features indoor-outdoor linked swimming pools, sauna, steam room, hot tub and treatment rooms – or you may opt for a massage in the hotel’s wildflower meadow for a feeling of natural serenity. There’s also a Michelin-starred restaurant. Located just over 1hr south of London, it’s also just 30 minutes from the gay-popular seaside city of Brighton, giving honeymooners the best of both city and countryside.