Whether you want to walk around the gardens as if you own the place, or catch up on the latest estate gossip over afternoon tea, there’s a four-poster bed with your name on it in one of these traditional country house hotels, selected by the Good Hotel Guide with Lord and Lady Grantham in mind.
Stroll the gardens of Gravetye Manor, Sussex
This elegant Elizabethan manor house was awarded Good Hotel Guide’s César for Country House Hotel of the Year 2017, and for very good reason. The service is flawless, and the grounds are glorious. From 1884 to 1935, Gravetye was owned by William Robinson, revered gardener and pioneer of the English natural garden style. For the ultimate taste of the manor, pick the Lounge and Garden menu, take a seat in these amazing gardens and dine on produce plucked from the kitchen garden.
Soak up the colourful past of Lewtrenchard Manor, Devon
If history is your ideal bedfellow, make a beeline for Lewtrenchard Manor. Since it first made an appearance in the history books in 1086 AD, its owners have lived rather colourful lives. One earned the favour of the newly restored king during the Civil War and was made the Duke of Albemarle. One pretended to be a highwayman and committed murder while trying to retrieve his gambling losses, while another penned the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers. Portraits of these figures hang on the walls; apparently, their ghosts still haunt the place.
Take afternoon tea at Cliveden House, Berkshire
For sheer opulence, you can’t beat Cliveden, an Italianate mansion above the banks of the River Thames. The Great Hall has an enormous fireplace, suits of armour and masses of paintings and antiques, all presided over by a grand panelled ceiling. It’s the perfect place to take afternoon tea. Sip Cliveden blend tea as you indulge in delicate finger sandwiches and dainty delicacies, or dial up the decadence with a glass of Champagne. Finish with a wander around the gardens.
Eat like a king at Hambleton Hall, Rutland
Hambleton’s restaurant has held a Michelin star since 1982 – the longest retained star in the UK. Head chef Aaron Patterson’s daily-changing menu showcases local produce such as Launde Farm lamb, and, refreshingly, vegetarian dishes get joint top billing. The wine list is equally impressive. Take a sommelier-led tour of the cellar to see the thousands of bottles waiting for their turn in the spotlight. Bread lovers can tour Hambleton’s award-winning traditional bakery in nearby Exton.
Do some social climbing at Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds
If there’s a part of the UK that invites lord and lady-style living, it’s the Cotswolds. This timeless cluster of honey-hued villages and green fields is home to a throng of celebrities. Royals Zara Phillips, Princess Anne and Prince Charles as well as supermodel Kate Moss and author Jilly Cooper all call the region home. Emulate them at the Lords of the Manor hotel as you sip pre-dinner drinks in the drawing room, dine in the Michelin-star restaurant, then retire to your bed in the Tracy Room, the original master’s room.
Feel part of the family at Farlam Hall, Lake District
Farlam Hall was once owned by a family that brought a donkey into the billiards room for entertainment on rainy-day birthdays! That comfortable, informal country house atmosphere still reigns today, under the management of the Quinion family who have owned Farlam since 1975. There are just 12 bedrooms, each eclectically furnished with patterned wallpaper, while the drawing rooms have original fireplaces. Meet there for drinks with the other guests before sitting down to dinner in this most English of manor houses.
Try some country pursuits at Ballathie House Hotel, Perth & Kinross, Scotland
This 19th-century house on the banks of the River Tay has a long and illustrious association with salmon fishing and country sports – attested to by the sporting prints and display cabinets showcasing ‘monster’ fishing trophies. The large estate, which offers walking, cycling, clay pigeon shooting as well as the renowned fishing, is close to some of Scotland’s finest golf courses. Oh, and by the way, the Queen Mother came here for a house party in 1922..!
Drink in the views at Bodysgallen Hall and Spa, Conwy, Wales
Don’t be fooled by the name - Bodysgallen means ‘house among thistles’ - let’s put that down to characteristic British self-deprecation. The gardens here are manicured, and a fitting backdrop to the 17th-century mansion (the oldest part actually dates to the 13th century). The views are as exceptional as the hotel. Check into the Lady Augusta or Conwy suite and gaze out of stone-mullioned windows to the Snowdonia mountains and Conwy Castle.
Find more traditional British hotels at www.goodhotelguide.com.