7 of the most Instagrammable winter walks near London

Crisp, clean air, winter sun shining, frost crunching underfoot – it’s the perfect time of year to take an invigorating walk across one of these picture-perfect routes, all within a couple of hours reach of the capital.

Thames Path National Trail

Embarking on this long-distance walking route (184 miles/294km) is an excellent way to discover the gorgeous scenery alongside the River Thames but even dipping in and out of it delivers a raft of Instagrammable sights that look beautiful bathed in winter sunshine and silvery frost. Rural tranquillity welcomes you as the Thames Path National Trail starts at the very source of the river in the Cotswolds, before meandering through several of south-east England’s rural counties and lovely villages. The trail also passes by towns and cities such as Oxford, Windsor and Henley, bringing further photo opportunities (university colleges, ‘dreaming spires’ and a castle or two to name just a few!) before heading through the charming leafy boroughs of Richmond and Kew, with the trail culminating at London’s historic Docklands. This is a perfect winter walking route as there are plenty of places to stop off to warm up en route; in fact, the trail has teamed up with the Hop Kettle Brewery to produce the Trail Ale Liquid Highway, a bespoke ale sold along the trail with a donation made to its upkeep with every one sold.

Time from central London: 2 hours to the start of the trail

Constable Country, Essex

The area of Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley has been attracting visitors keen to portray its beauty for centuries. One of Britain’s most famous painters, John Constable, depicted the stunning scenery here in several of his renowned works – it’s an area of pretty villages, picturesque meadows, ancient woodlands and a labyrinth of cute lanes. The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Stour Valley area boasts many walking routes and, if you head to the National Trust at Flatford, you’ll see those very views, villages and hamlets that inspired Constable’s famous works, The Hay Wain and Flatford Mill, meaning you can capture the contemporary version.

Time from central London: 2 hours

Hampstead Heath Circular, north London

London and its suburbs are famous for their green spaces, so you can experience a stunning winter walk without travelling out too far from the capital’s centre. Hampstead Heath to the north of the capital is a popular place to stroll, with several trails available. If you’re on the circular route, you’ll have the chance to snap pictures of Victorian architecture dotted along Hampstead High Street, the famous Hampstead Ponds and the magnificent panoramic views across central London once you’ve climbed Parliament Hill. Heading back down from the Heath you can also take in the genteel Kenwood House, which houses important works of art, and the elegant Hampstead Grove.

Time from central London: 30 minutes

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

The grounds of the National Trust’s Waddesdon Manor are ideal for exploring at this time of year – the even come with their very own Winter Garden. The route around the Winter Gardens emphasises the country manor estate’s finest points, with views back to Flint House – a unique-looking building in the grounds that is used to accommodate academics and artists working with Waddesdon’s educational and artistic programme and which also won the RIBA House of the Year Award in 2015 – and highlights the remarkable bronze and black colours of the Winter Garden’s features. Take time to walk to the Aviary Glade and visit its exotic species of birds, stop for a picture with the amazing 3D plant sculptures or the awesome contemporary sculpture dotted throughout the gardens, before warming up again with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in its Stables Café.

Time from central London: 1 ¾ hours

Saxon Shore Way, Kent and East Sussex

It may well be a long-distance pathway – stretching from Gravesend in Kent, hugging the south-east England coastline and ending in Hastings, East Sussex 163 miles (262km) away, but joining any part of the Saxon Shore Way will have you reaching for your camera phone. It traverses through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a number of Nature Reserves where you’ll spot a multitude of birds, butterflies and mammals. Must-see panoramic views to capture digitally include the route along the cliffs from Folkestone to Rye as well as the vista you’re rewarded with as you walk along the sandstone cliffs of the High Weald at Hastings.

Time from central London: 2 hours

Leith Hill, Surrey

Close to the charming market town of Dorking is Leith Hill, looked after by the National Trust – endeavour to climb this hill and you’ll be rewarded with astounding views over the county of Surrey and the Surrey Hills. Come on a clear day and you may well be able to see London to the north and the coastline to the south too. With plenty of walking trails through open heathland or woodland you’ll get to experience different terrains but the pièce de résistance of views you’ll want to capture on camera is from the top of Leith Hill Tower – this is the highest point of south-east England and you’ll discover why this part of the landscape is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Time from central London: 1.5 hours

Coombe Hill & Chequers, Chiltern Hills

Ever wondered what the British Prime Minister’s grand country residence looked like? Embark on this 8.5-mile walk through countryside landscapes looked after by the National Trust, and you can find out! The route also includes the chance to climb to the Boer War Memorial at the top of Coombe Hill in the county of Buckinghamshire and, from here, you’ll experience the spectacular views across to the Cotswold and Aylesbury Vale and even catch a glimpse of distant landmarks via the toposcope located on top of the hill. That’s before you’ve walked through stunning woodlands, the pretty village of Ellesborough and the footpath that then leads you past the driveway entrance of Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat.

Time from central London: 1.5 hours

Accommodation Update - December 2018

Whether you’re looking for a boutique luxury hotel in leafy Kent or affordable accommodation in the heart of Glasgow, our round-up of the UK’s newest hotels offers something for every traveller. Discover our top picks below.

Recently refurbished

London

The Marylebone, Marylebone

Situated in the heart of central London a short walk from Bond Street, The Marylebone is a recently renovated boutique hotel boasting new facilities. These include The Cocktail Bar, which combines 4 adjoining spaces themed around the seasons, from the cosy winter lounge complete with a roaring fire to the outdoor terrace that’s perfect for summer socialising. Other additions include The Marylebone Rooms and Number Six – a series of stylish private event rooms designed in the hotel’s signature art deco style by the award-winning Michaelis Boyd studio. There is also a range of newly refurbished luxury rooms and suites to choose from.

Recently opened

Scotland

The Grandtully Hotel, Perthshire

Dedicated to delivering exceptional Scottish food and drink to its guests, the newly renovated The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart offers luxurious culinary experiences in equally luxurious settings. With just eight bedrooms, this boutique property has been lovingly restored and features a careful blend of traditional features and contemporary design. Facilities include a 30-cover restaurant serving fine local produce, a bar, a private dining area and an outdoor terrace. 

Citi Hotel, Aberdeen

City Hotel in Aberdeen prides itself on offering affordable stays in the heart of the city. Based on the former site of The Royal Hotel, the property underwent a £500,000 refurbishment over 12 months and reopened at the start of November.  The self-dubbed ‘poshtel’ boasts a new reception area, newly fitted bathroom suites, refined décor and 42 bedrooms starting from just £35 per night.  

Opening soon

London

The Bedford, Balham

Opening December 2018

Beloved by musicians including Ed Sheeran, London’s famous The Bedford pub is undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment. Scheduled to reopen this December, the Grade II-listed building will boast five bars, a ballroom, four private rooms and a 250-capacity live music venue hosting a range of events, from comedy to burlesque. There are also 15 ensuite bedrooms to choose from, each designed around the pub’s distinctive medley of art deco and 1970s style.

The Standard, St Pancras

Opening in spring 2019

The boutique Standard Hotel chain will soon be celebrating the opening of its first international hotel in London. Scheduled to open in early 2019, the hotel will be the newest addition to the chain’s properties in New York, Miami and L.A. Located within the Camden Town Hall Annex, one of the city’s best-known examples of 1970s brutalist architecture, the hotel promises to embody the quirky culture and history of the local area while serving as a luxury base from which to explore King’s Cross and the surrounding area.

 

South-east England

Lion Lodge, Port Lympne, Kent  

Opening in spring 2019

The luxurious Lion Lodge will give guests the chance to stay in close proximity to Port Lympne’s lion pride. Set within the lions’ enclosure, the loft-style lodge features floor-to-ceiling windows in the open plan living space and master bedroom, an open fire, underfloor heating and a monsoon shower and wet room. Designed to sleep four, the master bedroom offers incredible views of the lions at rest and play, with the mezzanine level offering two additional beds accessed by spiral staircase. Guests can also enjoy the Scandinavian outdoor bath, built on a platform overlooking the sea and the 600-acre wildlife reserve.

The Albion Rooms, Margate

Opening date to be confirmed

Owned and developed by The Libertines rock band, The Albion Rooms is located on the seafront of Margate, a classic British seaside town with a strong artistic heritage. The development will comprise both a studio – scheduled to be finished in February 2019 - and bar within the five-storey Victorian building, in addition to 10 guest bedrooms individually designed by the band. The official opening date is still to be confirmed, but future guests can track the development’s progress here.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Canterbury

Opening in spring 2019

The Pig at Bridge Place is the latest hotel to be developed by the popular Pig Hotel chain. Opening its doors in spring 2019, the hotel is located in the former Bridge Place Country Club, a delightful 16th-century manor just outside Canterbury in historic Bridge village. In addition to the main building, guests can choose to stay in one of 12 bedrooms in the Coach House or 2 in the newly renovated gate lodge. Alternatively, there’s the option to choose from 7 ‘hop picker’ huts, for those looking for a more romantic getaway.

 

North-west England

Whitworth Locke, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Due to open next month, Whitworth Locke is an 160-unit aparthotel offering a choice of one-bedroom suites or 24-sq metre studios overlooking Rochdale Canal. Designed by architects Grzywinski + Pons, this stylish residence and former cotton mill will offer the services and facilities of hotel living with the autonomy of a private apartment.

 

Hotel Indigo, Manchester

Opening in December 2018

Located in the city’s Northern Quarter opposite Victoria Station, Hotel Indigo embodies the style and originality that typifies the former industrial heart of the city - now a mecca for hipsters, musicians and the achingly cool. The hotel offers 187 bedrooms, all of which have been carefully renovated to reflect the cultural history of the area, and combines original Victorian features with modern facilities including an on-site gym, bar and restaurant.

 

London Warehouse, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

The newly renovated London Warehouse hotel will open in spring 2019. Located in the Victorian railway warehouse formerly occupied by The Place Aparthotel, this luxurious 166-bed four-star aparthotel will offer facilities including a gym created by fitness brand BLOK. Other highlights include an all-day hangout space and a mini cinema, restaurant, bar and lounge managed by Bistrotheque restaurant.

 

Dakota Hotel, Manchester

Opening in spring 2019

Work has now begun on the £25 million pound development of Dakota Deluxe design hotel in Manchester. Scheduled to open in spring 2019, the hotel is located close to Piccadilly Station and promises to deliver the same elegant style, tasteful décor and luxurious facilities as its sister properties in Leeds and Glasgow.

 

Stock Exchange Hotel

Opening in spring 2019

Manchester’s historic Stock Exchange building is being redeveloped into a luxurious five-star boutique hotel courtesy of former Manchester United football stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs (GG Hospitality). Due to open in spring 2019, the Edwardian Baroque building – with its impressive central dome – is located in Norfolk Street. In addition to 40 bedrooms and suites, two luxurious presidential suites and two fine dining restaurants, the hotel will offer private dining in the wine cellars.

Ten cool hotels to have on your radar in 2019

Suitcases at the ready – some fabulously cool hotels are set to open in Britain next year, each bringing their own unique vibe as they set to join the ‘hottest properties to stay at’ lists.

The Hard Rock Hotel, London

Get ready to rock – located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, the legendary Hard Rock Hotel is scheduled to open its new London property in Spring next year. With 1,000 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe®, Hard Rock Hotel London will pay tribute in its memorabilia collection to former residents such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Madonna. The lobby will house its world-famous Rock Shop® featuring Hard Rock merchandise, and guests seeking the ultimate experience will have the opportunity to elevate their status and become Rock Royalty®. These luxurious Rock Royalty rooms and suites will offer extra perks including a personal concierge and access to a lavish lounge.

The DogHouse, Aberdeenshire, north Scotland

Beer lovers rejoice; independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel – wittily called The DogHouse – and will launch this immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland. Set to welcome guests in the first half of 2019, the 26-room hotel will feature beer taps in the rooms, a built-in shower beer fridge, while the rooms will overlook the brewery itself. Guests will also be able to watch brewers at work from rooms overlooking the new facility.

Vineyard hotel at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey, south-east England

If wine is more your favourite tipple, look no further than England’s largest single estate vineyard, which, come Spring 2019, will have converted its existing farmhouse accommodation into what is being billed as the UK’s first vineyard hotel. Set on the Denbies estate in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and offering panoramic views across the vineyard and North Downs Way, the new hotel will have 17 en-suite bedrooms, an Orangery-style garden restaurant, outdoor dining cabanas and its own ‘Enomatic™ wine dispensing machine’ – meaning guests can taste and purchase Denbies wine by the glass. Plus, there’ll be complimentary wine tasting tutorials. Cheers to that!

art'otel Hoxton, London

What could be cooler than staying in a hotel with its own art gallery? art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, which will be an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary hotel. As well as an art gallery located in the publicly accessible arts centre, plans are said to include a top-floor restaurant and bar and luxury spa. Another art’otel property to have on your radar is the one the hotel group is said to be opening near the historic Battersea Power Station in the new Nine Elms district, south London.

Grantley Hall, Yorkshire Dales, north England

When Spring rolls round, the doors are set to open on a new five-star luxury country resort hotel and spa, set in a grand 17th-century house on its own island! Situated between the elegant Yorkshire towns of Ripon and Harrogate, Grantley Hall is being restored to its former early 20th-century glory and guests will be able to choose from 47 rooms and suites, four restaurants, three bars, a private members club, a spa pool, state-of-the-art gym and elite performance centre. The elegance continues outside; explore gorgeous landscaped gardens, which including a 1910 Japanese Garden that features on Historic England’s National Heritage List.

Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester, north-west England

If you’re a football fan, the newest hotel owned by Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville should be on your hotel hot list. The former footballers-turned-hoteliers are transforming Manchester’s beautiful old Stock Exchange building into a five-star boutique hotel, with 40 bedrooms, two presidential suites, two restaurants and private dining in the wine cellars for up to 100 people. The hotel is due to open in Spring 2019.

The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent, south-east England

Joining the litter of Pig Hotels, The Pig at Bridge Place in Kent is due to open in Spring. Its home is within a 17th-century manor house that may once have been the refined Bridge Place Country Club but was also host to some legendary parties and gigs in its time – Led Zeppelin even played here in the 1970s. Its 28 bedrooms will be enhanced by period features such as large fireplaces, secret stairways and panelled rooms, and there’ll be a further 12 bedrooms in its new Coach House. As with all Pigs, the kitchen garden and restaurant will be at the heart of this new property, and anything that can’t be supplied by the gardens will be sourced from the best producers within a 25-mile (40-km) radius. Also keep an eye out for another Pig opening towards the end of 2019; The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, south-west England.

Market Street Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland

Early 2019 will see Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, welcome a property from the Carlton House Collection, called Market Street Hotel. Situated on the edge of Edinburgh’s gorgeous Old Town, the historic nature of the building means lovely high ceilings and plenty of historic references, although the 98 bedrooms will be contemporary, urban-styled rooms with ante-room bathrooms. Its top floor is intriguingly being described as a ‘Champagne city residence’ and will offer wonderful vistas across the city.

The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, north-west England

Get ready for some serious indulgence as the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, welcomes an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel to the Grade I-listed architectural masterpiece The Crescent. The hotel will be part of the overall transformation of The Crescent – which originally opened in 1789 and is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Britain – and guests will also have access to the splendid Assembly Rooms, a thermal natural mineral water spa in the Natural Baths plus to the six prestigious retail premises along the front ground façade.

The Grand, Birmingham, central England

The chance to stay in hotels housed in some of Britain’s most iconic architectural sights continues in Birmingham, where one of the city’s best-known, Grade II-listed buildings is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool. While the hotel is scheduled to open in early 2019, several lovely bars and cafés have already set up home in the development - The Alchemist, Gusto and 200 Degrees cafe – that hotel guests will have easy access to.

19 fabulous things to do in Britain in 2019

  1. Channel your inner Formula 1 driver

When the Silverstone Heritage Experience opens in Spring at the home of British Motor Racing, this thrilling new visitor attraction – which will use state-of-the-art interactive displays to tell the story of motor racing in a permanent exhibition – culminates in an immersive show dome finale where you can experience what it’s like to zip around the track alongside your racing heroes.

 

  1. Watch the world premiere of an Idris Elba production

As part of the Manchester International Festival – the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events and the biggest event on Manchester’s cultural calendar that takes place every two years – film and TV star Idris Elba joins forces with London’s Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, for the thrilling production of Tree. This, among many other cultural events, will take place at venues all over the city between 4 – 21 July.

 

  1. Surf inland in England’s south west

Pull on a wetsuit and hit the waves…in the city of Bristol. Set to open in the autumn, new inland surfing lake The Wave Bristol will be powered by the latest wave-making technology and generate up to 1,000 quality waves per hour. There’ll be three surf zones for different abilities and a high-performance surf centre for elite athletes and aspiring pros.

  1. Book tickets to one of Britain’s youngest music festivals

Following on from the success of last year’s launch, the RiZE Festival is one of the newest multi-genre music festivals to arrive in the UK. This is a party for everyone; the music genres range from indie and pop to dance and urban and takes places in Chelmsford, Essex, in south-east England between 16 – 17 August.
 

  1. Explore a world-class medicine collection

Following a £24 million investment, the entire first floor of London’s Science Museum will be given over to one of the most significant medicine collections in the world at the museum’s new Medicine Galleries. Due to open in 2019, the extraordinary collections of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum will be on display, telling the stories of how our lives have been transformed by changes in medicine and health over the last 400 years.
 

  1. Party like a dancing queen

Opening its doors at London’s The O2 in summer 2019 is the must-visit event from Stockholm – Mamma Mia! The Party. Guests will be transported to Nikos’ Taverna on an exotic Greek island, where they’ll be served Mediterranean food and drink and sing and dance along to ABBA songs. The perfect event for anyone who loves to party.
 

  1. See sporting legends make history

Britain has been crazy about cricket for centuries, making it a fantastic destination for the ICC Cricket World Cup

 

  1. Join a ‘Carnival of History’

2019 will see Leeds Castle in Kent, south-east England, celebrate its incredible 900-year anniversary, with events taking place over the entire 12 months. Put the 27 – 28 July in your diary in particular as it will host an amazing ‘Carnival of History’, a colourful procession that will culminate in an impressive finale set against the backdrop of this stunning castle.
 

  1. Discover why Van Gogh loved London

​​​​​​​Tate Britain has announced the largest exhibition of Vincent van Gogh’s work in the UK for nearly a decade (27 March – 11 August). Van Gogh and Britain will bring together 40 paintings of the artist’s most famous works, including one of the Sunflowers paintings and will examine Van Gogh’s relationship with Britain – he lived in London in his early 20s – and the British art, literature and culture he was inspired by.
 

  1. Watch the world’s best golfers battle to win one of golf’s most prestigious cups

The biggest event in women’s golf, the Solheim Cup, comes to the celebrated Gleneagles Golf Course in Perthshire, Scotland, between 9 – 15 September. Teams of 12 players representing Europe and the United States will hit the world-renowned golf course, with more than 100,000 spectators expected to attend from around the world. Will one of them be you?
 

  1. Gain cultural kudos at Britain’s largest sculpture festival

​​​​​​​Head to the county of Yorkshire in north England next year for the first-ever Yorkshire Sculpture International, a free, 100-day festival that will be presented by four world-renowned cultural institutions based in Leeds and Wakefield: the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The festival will build upon Yorkshire’s rich history as the birthplace of pioneering sculptors, and as the home of this unique consortium of galleries and celebrated sculpture collections.
 

  1. Cheer on your country

​​​​​​​The competitive world of netball comes to Liverpool, north-west England, between 12 – 21 July, as the city hosts the Netball World Cup. Sixteen international teams will be arriving in Liverpool, with host nation England placed at second seeds, following their Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this year. Who will you be supporting?
 

  1. Celebrate a British icon’s birthday

​​​​​​​The legendary Mini turns 60 next year and, for the first time in five years, the International Mini Meet will take place in the UK. Washingpool Farm near Bristol in south-west England will be the host (8 – 12 August), welcoming Mini owners from all over the world and celebrating with a huge birthday party. Also head to the British Motor Museum in Warwick, south-west England, where a two-day show between 3 – 4 August will mark the landmark birthday with a series of Mini-themed activities.
 

  1. Witness the return of Girl Power

​​​​​​​We’re sure you’ve heard…but British super-group The Spice Girls will be setting out on a reunion tour in June 2019 as a four-piece (minus Victoria Beckham) at various stadia across Britain. Will you be among the lucky ones to get tickets?
 

  1. Set your eyes on fabulous fashion

​​​​​​​A must-see for anyone who follows fashion are two fantastic exhibitions coming to London’s V&A Museum in 2019. Opening in February is Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams while April sees the launch of an exhibition dedicated to 1960s fashion revolutionary Mary Quant.
 

  1. Embrace your love for literature

​​​​​​​2019 will see cultural leaders from 28 countries come to Britain in May for a global gathering of the UNESCO Cities of Literature, the first time the event will take place in the UK. Dubbed Nottwich 2019 – as its gathering of writers and programme of cultural events will take place in Norwich and Nottingham in east England, two of Britain’s Cities of Literature – look out for a literary programme that will challenge your mind.
 

  1. Party like it’s 2019

​​​​​​​Celebrate with the people of London’s first-ever Borough of Culture – an initiative launched by London Mayor Sadiq Khan – as Waltham Forest in north-east London, kicks off its year-long cultural programme between 11 – 13 January with a huge party called Welcome to the Forest. Expect a magnificent visual and audio show, carnivals and light installations all telling the stories of the local people and area.
 

  1. Reserve a table at one of London’s hottest new restaurants

​​​​​​​Slated to open in January, chef Leonardo Pereira – who spent five years working at Noma in Copenhagen, one of the world’s most famous restaurants – is opening a Covent Garden-based restaurant called Nutshell, which will feature Iranian cuisine created from British produce.
 

  1. Book to see a new West End show

​​​​​​​London’s West End will welcome a host of fabulous new shows in 2019, including the hit musical Waitress, which comes to the Adelphi Theatre in Spring, while Mary Poppins makes a welcome return to the stage in Autumn at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Five luxurious ways to travel around Britain

Get from A to B with these seriously glamorous ways to travel, which turn exploring British destinations into an upper-class experience all the way.

Train

One of the greatest travel experiences has to be while relaxing with a glass of Champagne, savouring luxurious surroundings while gazing out of the window at ever-changing, beautiful scenery. Train travel on board the lavish Belmond Royal Scotsman (sister train of the Venice Simplon Orient Express) evokes the romance of travel from a bygone era and is all about delivering an exclusive experience; only a maximum of 36 guests are on board on any journey. There are a number of routes available; whisky lovers should check out its Malt Whisky Trail or fans of history can book onto a journey that takes you to visit castles and country estates. But it’s the experience on board that’s just as unforgettable as the stops. Visit its on-board spa for an indulgent treatment, enjoy fine dining across its two elegant dining cars and relax in the Edwardian Observation car.

Even if you only have one day to spare, you can experience the thrill of luxury train travel by dining on board the Northern Belle, which departs from regional stations throughout the UK and takes you through some of the most stunning countryside. Enjoy Champagne receptions, grand dinners or sumptuous afternoon teas in its gorgeous carriages, each of which is named after a British castle or stately home.

Hot-air balloon

Admire the exceptional beauty of the British countryside as you float above the landscapes on an exclusive trip in a hot-air balloon. Visitors have their pick of companies across the destination offering these trips; one example is Kent Ballooning, which offers ballooning over the ‘Garden of England’ – the county of Kent – in south-east England. Take it to a more exclusive, luxurious level with its VIP flights. Two passengers board their own private balloon – after watching its inflation – and enjoy Champagne during the flight.  

Alternatively, why not take part in Britain’s most famous hot-air balloon festival by booking a once-in-a-lifetime hot-air balloon trip with Virgin Balloon Flights at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, which returns in August 2019? You’ll take to the skies over the gorgeous Somerset landscapes for three-to-four hours and witness all the other balloons taking part in the fiesta beside you, while sipping on Champagne!

Helicopter

See Britain from a different angle as you cruise above it by helicopter…all piloted of course! You just have to sit back and enjoy the scenery. If you’re in England’s capital, one of the most exclusive ways to see the city is on board The London Helicopter on a trip that takes in all the iconic landmarks from the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. For an extra special journey tie in a luxury chauffeur service to and from your helicopter flight and, on arrival back at the heliport in Battersea, complete the trip with a glass or two of Champagne at neighbouring ‘The Pad’ at the Crowne Plaza. Helicopter flights can, of course, be more than sightseeing. Aerial Charter Scotland, for example, offers Helicopter Distillery Tours, where whisky lovers can travel between distilleries across the five distinctive whisky producing regions of Scotland. Spot the magnificent lochs, dramatic mountains and vibrant cities as you soar overhead en route to the distilleries.

Cruise ship

Britain is an island – so what better way to explore it than on board a luxury cruise ship? There are a wide range of cruise companies operating itineraries, from around the remote Scottish islands to cruises around the whole of Britain. You’ll find all-inclusive luxury – think butler service, gourmet dining, fine wines, Champagne, suites with private verandas and indulgent spas – with companies such as Regent Seven Seas, Six Star Cruises and Silversea. A two-week cruise by Silversea departs from London and stops at ports such as the spectacular Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall at the south-western tip of England; the exciting city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, the stunning Scottish islands of Lewis, Shetland, Orkney and Mull as well as the vibrant Scottish capital Edinburgh. Six Star Cruises offers a ‘British Isles Legacy’ route, with stops in Fowey in Cornwall, Liverpool in north-west England and Scotland, while Regent Seven Seas’ offers a ‘Treasures of the British Isles’ cruise, departing from Bristol, heading up to the Scottish islands and across to Aberdeen, before taking in Guernsey in the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly.

Chauffeur-driven luxury car

Enjoy the VIP treatment by visiting some of Britain’s top attractions and most beautiful destinations via chauffeur-driven luxury vehicle. There is a wealth of companies across Britain offering this type of service but to enhance the experience further, ensure your driver is also a knowledgeable guide. British Chauffeur Tours offers tailor-made tours to suit individual interests but check out popular journeys such as its Harry Potter tours, football tours and tours of the Cotswolds. Ever wanted to channel your inner James Bond? Book onto its Espionage London tour to discover the secret world of the spy – all, of course, from the comfort of a luxury car. Visitors can also have multi-day bespoke tours created. British Heritage Chauffeur Tours, for example, offers entire trips around Wales, England or Scotland – which include five-star accommodation along the way – as well as tours across a range in themes, from Poldark to Queen Victoria.

Michelin Guide 2019 – ten winning British restaurants you have to eat at

The MICHELIN Guide has spoken; Britain & Ireland welcomed three new two-star restaurants and 21 new one-star establishments to the 2019 guide, bringing the destination’s total to an incredible 155 one-Michelin star restaurants, 20 two-star, five one-star and 143 Bib Gourmands. We take a look at ten of the first-time winners in their categories, demonstrating how Britain continues to be a must-visit gastronomic destination thanks to its ever-evolving culinary scene.

Two Stars

Core by Clare Smyth, London

As Chef Patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Clare Smyth was the first and only female chef to run a three-star Michelin restaurant in Britain; and now, with her debut restaurant Core gaining a coveted two stars it may not be long before she’s doing the same with her own restaurant. It might be located in the well-heeled London neighbourhood of Notting Hill but Core veers away from being showy or stuffy and is instead informal and welcoming. The key focus is on gourmet meals created from sustainable ingredients from UK producers and farmers, and include dishes ranging from Sharpham Park spelt, morels, asparagus and wild garlic to duck and nectarine with thyme, honey and Timut pepper.

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, London

Tucked away at the back of Bubbledogs – a restaurant where hot dogs are paired with Champagne – in London’s elegant Fitzrovia is a discrete entrance that will lead you into Kitchen Table, which has been awarded two Michelin stars. And with just 20 seats there’s plenty of interaction between customers and chefs, led by Head Chef James Knappett, who will talk through and serve a daily changing menu created from sourced and foraged British ingredients. Its 12-course tasting menu is influenced by Knappett’s previous roles at noma and Per Se but remains true to British traditions and flavours. Sandia Chang, James’ wife, is general manager and sommelier, selecting a wine list with more than 100 choices, including wines made by small producers.

Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall, Lancashire, north-west England

When Lancashire born-and-bred Mark Birchall became Chef Patron at Moor Hall, a luxury restaurant with rooms in the beautiful Lancashire countryside (only 30 minutes from Liverpool), he brought with him his vast experience gained as Executive Chef of the two-Michelin star L’Enclume in Cumbria, and from his role at three-Michelin star El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. Home-grown ingredients and produce inspired by the countryside surroundings are an important focus for Mark, who creates menus of modern British cuisine. Sample menus feature creative dishes such as turnip and crab with anise hyssop and sunflower seeds, and Westmorland chicken, hen of the woods, with candisa cabbage in ham fat.

One Star

Brat, London

Proving the Shoreditch scene is still attracting the cool chefs, Brat was opened earlier this year by ex-Kitty Fisher’s chef Tomos Parry, who has brought a bold blend of Welsh and Basque cuisine to east London. So how does that translate onto a menu? Gorgeous dishes such as Herdwick lamb, pork and laverbread salami, wild rabbit with blood sausage and beans, and whole turbots.

Roganic, London

What first opened as a two-year pop-up in Marylebone is now a firm fixture in London’s culinary scene. Owned by top British chef Simon Rogan, it brings elements of L’Enclume – Rogan’s two Michelin-star restaurant in the Lake District – to the capital and is run alongside its development kitchen and eight-seat chef’s table Aulis London. Expect to find the best produce from the UK used in its dishes – including from Rogan’s ‘Our Farm’ in the Lake District – that feature on its long and short tasting menus. The dishes may list just a few ingredients (such as ‘almond, scallop, apple’ or ‘tomato, seatrout, farm offerings’) but you know they will be of the highest quality and be part of something spectacular. (Simon Rogan’s Rogan & Co in Cumbria was also awarded a Michelin star in this year’s guide.)

Chris Simpson’s Gidleigh Park, Devon, south-west England

When Chris Simpson joined luxury country house hotel Gidleigh Park at the start of the year, he came with an outstanding CV, having worked as as Head Chef at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall for seven years, which has held two Michelin stars since 2011. Taking a modern approach to classical cooking, Chris is a keen advocate of using local ingredients to create his inspirational dishes, which are refined, yet simple. As well as à la carte, there are two seven-course tasting menus (one of which is vegetarian), that feature beautiful dishes such as Cornish turbot with leeks, purple sprouting broccoli and caviar hollandaise.

Olive Tree, Bath, south-west England

Located below the gorgeous boutique Queensberry Hotel in the historic city of Bath, The Olive Tree is headed up by Chris Cleghorn who, during his career, has worked under the guidance of three Michelin-star chefs, including Heston Blumenthal. Now, at The Olive Tree (which also has three AA rosettes for culinary excellence), he delivers a regularly changing menu created from local produce, menus that feature either five or seven dishes, known as The Five or The Seven, as well as the Vegetarian Seven, the Vegan Seven and the Dairy Free Seven.

Salt, Stratford-upon-Avon, west England

Run by Paul Foster and his wife Rhiain, Salt was created after they launched a crowdfunding campaign for Paul to fulfil his dream of having his own restaurant. They’re now the proud owners of fine-dining establishment Salt, which focuses on using top-quality, seasonal produce. Come Friday or Saturday evening to experience either its creative five- or eight-course tasting menu, while the à la carte during the week is equally innovative. Choose from starters such as St Austell mussels with confit tomato, tomato juice, basil, samphire, mains such as roast partridge with salt-baked celeriac, black shallot pureé and grelots and desserts such as quince and rose geranium custard tart with a celery sorbet.

Fordwich Arms, Canterbury, Kent, south-east England

One of the few pubs to have gained a Michelin star this year, the Fordwich Arms is located in Fordwich, Britain’s smallest town. Chef patron Daniel Smith – who’s also been awarded The Observer’s Young Chef of the Year – showcases the best of Kent’s seasonal ingredients throughout all his menus. Starters include native lobster, butternut squash with pumpkin seed and orange and mains of venison sourced from a local farm with celeriac, damson and smoked bone marrow. There are also tasting menus and short tasting menus for vegetarian customers. The food is complemented by the restaurant’s lovely surroundings, with views over the River Stour.

Bulrush, Bristol, south-west England

Chef George Livesey opened this independent restaurant after a career in several high-end establishments, such as St John Restaurant, Roux Fine Dining under Dan Cox, Club Gascon and White Rabbit in Dalston, London. Mid-week customers can choose from à la carte and an eight-course tasting menu while Friday and Saturday evenings are about the show-stopping nine-course tasting menu. This is where you’ll find dishes such as starters of Highland grouse with cherries and sunflower seed and creative desserts such as butternut squash ice cream with hops, blackberries and cornflake crisp.

Find the full list of Michelin-star restaurants in Britain and Ireland here.

Six of the best non-hotel accommodation in South England

Sometimes, on vacation, you just want to stay somewhere a little less traditional than a hotel. Fortunately, Britain comes with a raft of alternative, creative and unique types of accommodation that will ensure a memorable stay. Here we take a look at just a few of these amazing places in the south of England.

 

Stay in… a treehouse, double-decker bus or helicopter

Blackberry Wood in the stunning Sussex countryside is a pretty place for camping thanks to its cute woodland glades…and you’ll also find some extraordinary glamping options thanks to its unique transformations of public transport! A converted 1965 search and rescue helicopter sleeps up to four and comes equipped with an outside kitchen area, while its 1964 Routemaster London double-decker bus has transformed the upstairs into a cosy sleeping and lounge area – complete with soft play area if you’re coming with children – and downstairs an area to cook and dine. And, for something really special, its Higgledy Tree House looks like it’s appeared from a fairy tale. High up in the trees there’s room for up to four and is fully contained with a shower room in its turret and enchanting window seats for observing the wildlife. A truly magical experience.

Getting there: Blackberry Wood is around 30 minutes’ drive from Brighton, or two hours from London.

 

Stay in… a windmill

In the heart of Rye near Hastings, and on the banks of the river Tillingham, Rye Windmill B&B offers ten ensuite rooms, with two actually in the white smock, Grade II-listed windmill itself, making it a luxurious and unusual place to stay. It occupies a historic site in Gibbet's Marsh where a windmill has stood, in one form or another, since at least the 16th century. Book into its Windmill Suite, which is situated over two floors in the Mill, offering fantastic panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside. Enjoy drinks in its cosy lounge with its guest honesty bar, plus outdoor terrace for the summer and fireplace to cosy up to in the winter.

Getting there: Rye Windmill is around two hours’ drive from London.

 

Stay in… a zoo

For a sleepover safari, book into one of the nine lodges at Whipsnade Zoo and experience something other visitors to the zoo wouldn’t get. At Whipsnade, people view the animal closures by their own cars or the zoo’s bus services, so after you’ve completed a sunset tour of Asia and Africa, you’ll enjoy dinner followed by a torchlit walk to see what animals are still awake. After breakfast you’ll tour the European area and help feed some of the animals. Each of the lodges has twin or double beds, as well as a private veranda. Open between late March and October, there are adult-only nights as well as family nights to include children aged five years and above.

Getting there: Whipsnade Zoo is around one hour 15 minutes’ drive from both London and Oxford.

 

Stay in… a folly

For a truly romantic experience, The Hadlow Tower in Kent is a picturesque, Grade I-listed Gothic folly (a highly decorative or ornamental building often built for aesthetics rather than practicality). This 19th-century tower – the tallest Gothic folly in the world – is now home to four luxury bedrooms spread over five floors, connected by pretty spiral staircases and offers gorgeous panoramic views of the Kent countryside. Inside is particularly lavish, with stained-glass period window and stylish furniture and antiques. Guests have exclusive use of the property during their stay and can even hire in a chef to cook meals. There is also an exhibition centre detailing the history and renovation of the tower on the ground floor.

Getting there: Hadlow Tower is in the village of Hadlow, just over an hour’s drive from London.

 

Stay in… a railway carriage

Nestled within Northiam Steam Railway Station, on the border between the counties of Kent and East Sussex, Railway Retreats has converted former carriages that sit within a working station – you can even see the steam trains pull up just 20 feet/six metres away. The transformed MK1 railway carriage sleeps up to six and an additional two goods wagons each sleep up to four – all come with en-suite facilities. The former also boasts an elevated glass balcony giving fabulous views of the station and the surrounding countryside.

Getting there: Northiam is around two hours’ drive from London.

 

Stay in… an Art Deco barge

A unique way to explore the Thames is by staying with the owners on their Art Deco barge, built by British craftsman, as they take you through the beautiful scenery and stopping at charming riverside pubs between Kingston in Surrey to Oxford – that’s 90 miles and 32 locks. The barge offers complete comfort – guest accommodation and facilities are private from that of the crew’s, so you can enjoy total privacy when you want. Enjoy the pretty villages and towns along the way, such as Henley, Sonning (where George and Amal Clooney have a home), Hampton Court, Marlow and Windsor.

Getting there: If boarding in Kingston, Kingston is 30 minutes’ train journey from London Waterloo.

Six of the best English country gardens

An English country garden is a sight to behold and there are plenty within an hour’s journey of central London that can easily be visited on a day trip. Here are just a few suggestions of some of the best late summer season gardens to visit before autumn sets in.

 

RHS Wisley, Surrey

The Royal Horticultural Society has a wonderful gem in the heart of Surrey with its gardens at Wisley – there’s a rich variety of areas to visit and it’s a garden that continues to evolve. Last year saw the opening of its new Exotic Garden, a beautiful showcase of plants with a tropical look but which can grow well outdoors in a typical British summer climate. You’ll find a dazzling array of flowers, palms and dahlias, which look their very best up until late summer. Discover pretty mixed summer borders, as well as visit the exciting, vibrant displays at the Trials Field, designed to inspire visitors and demonstrate good environmental practice. The many roses at Wisley are in stunning bloom and August is also a great month to view the vivid blues of Agapanthus. Garden lovers should put the 4-9 September in their diaries for the RHS Wisley Flower Show; expect to see a Flower Bus, Anita Nowinska’s exhibition of floral artwork and more than 100 dahlia exhibitors.

Getting there: Take the train from London Waterloo to Effingham Junction (45 minutes) then a taxi to Wisley (ten minutes).

 

National Trust Cliveden, Berkshire

The numerous, magnificent gardens of Cliveden – ranging from the Water Garden, Walled Garden, Round Garden, the Long Garden, the Parterre and all the spectacular garden sculptures – are maintained by the National Trust and are as glorious to visit in the late summer months as they are early in the season. All summer long there’s a riot of colour and scents from its Rose Garden, where more than 900 roses bloom until September. The Rose Garden was recreated just four years ago, based on an original 1950s design by famed garden designer Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, and include various elements of the gardens’ original 18th-century wilderness landscape. A lovely way to top off a trip to Cliveden’s gardens is by booking tickets to an event in its formal gardens. Bring a picnic hamper and enjoy performances ranging from a new adaptation of a David Walliams novel to a reworking of a classic Sherlock Holmes case. And while the historic Cliveden House, on the wider estate, is now a luxury hotel, you can buy a ticket for a short-guided tour available three afternoons a week until the end of October.

Getting there: Take the train from London Paddington to Bourne End, (50 minutes) then walk a pleasant two miles through countryside to Cliveden.

 

Hatfield House & Gardens, Hertfordshire

History emanates from every corner of Hatfield House, the home of the seventh Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family; the estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. As well as the chance to see some of the finest examples of 17th-century architecture in the country, visitors will find Hatfield’s gardens just as impressive. Explore the roses and herbaceous plants in the West Garden, designed more than 100 years ago, and the Sundial Garden that was commissioned to mark Hatfield’s 400th anniversary in 2011. It’s also a wonderful place to discover contemporary sculpture set within the gardens – the new ‘Renaissance’ water sculpture by renowned sculptor Angela Connor, sits on the North Front of the House – as well as attend performances during its summer Theatre in the Park programme. Look out for the unique event on 1 September when the Urban Soul Orchestra performs classic Ibiza anthems in this gorgeous setting.

Getting there: Take the fast train from London Kings Cross to Hatfield, (20 minutes) and walk 15 minutes from the station to Hatfield House.

 

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle is perhaps one of the most attractive castles in England – and its gardens are just as spectacular; there’s more than 500 acres of stunning parkland and formal gardens. Its Culpeper Garden – named after the 17th-century owners of the castle – is a fine example of an English country garden, an informal layout with roses, poppies and lupins creating a wonderful colourful display. Its Woodland Garden runs alongside the River Len and is currently being redeveloped to create six magnificent individual gardens to explore. Visit in September (15-20) for its Festival of Flowers; discover floral displays inside the castle and around the rest of the grounds, all themed around ‘Ladies Day’ in 2018. Admire the creativity of award-winning floral designers, participate in floral workshops and watch specialist talks and demonstrations. Fortunately, if you like what you see, your admission ticket allows you to visit as many times as you like over 12 months, so it’s worth returning to admire the gardens in different seasons.

Getting there: Take the train from London Victoria to Bearsted (one hour) and take the coach shuttle service from the station to the castle, which runs between April and September.

 

Eltham Palace & Gardens, south-east London

Eltham Palace has an illustrious history; starting life as a medieval palace, it became a Tudor royal residence and was turned into an Art Deco mansion created by millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s. The palace is a must-visit, yet so are its 19 acres of historic gardens, which, like the home, boast a mix of medieval features in its landscape. Late summer is all about its long herbaceous border that encircles the medieval palace, which becomes a riot of purples, yellows, blues and coppers. It’s also home to 18 different varieties of oriental poppy plus a huge assortment of peonies and clematis. Wonderful scents arise from the plentiful roses in the Rose Garden and the Rose Quadrant, which include several historic rose varieties; late summer is also the perfect time to see the wildflower meadows and colourful dahlias.

Getting there: Take the train from London Charing Cross to Mottingham (25 minutes) and then walk to the palace (ten minutes).

 

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

Set in 360 acres of land, RHS Garden Hyde Hall was donated to the RHS in 1993 by renowned gardeners Helen and Dick Robinson and is in one of the driest parts of the UK, with an average rainfall of just 600mm. Hyde Hall's Clover Hill is a patchwork of colour, with vast swathes of grasses and herbaceous perennials flowing through its landscape. There are plenty of horticultural highlights; Hyde Hall holds the national plant collection of Viburnum, numbering around 250 accessions; the Dry Garden is one of breathtaking beauty even where there is very little rainfall. Don’t forget to visit the Global Growth Vegetable Garden, which opened last summer and features unusual fruit and vegetables from around the world. Plans for next year include the Big Sky Meadows, an ambitious planting project to create up to 50 acres of perennial meadowland.

Getting there: Take the train from London Liverpool Street to Chelmsford (30 minutes) and take a taxi or bus to Hyde Hall (20 minutes).

Accommodation Update July-October 2017

 

Britain’s best awarded at the AA Hospitality Awards 2017

The AA has announced the results of its Hospitality Awards 2017, naming its industry gold-standard hotels, pubs and restaurants across Britain. 

The Gainsborough Bath Spa in the south-west took England’s top spot for its 'sophisticated and luxurious experience', while The Douneside House in Aboyne was awarded Scotland’s Hotel of the Year. The Old Inn, Bangor, took first prize for Northern Ireland, praised for its 'untold elegance and grandeur'. Twr Y Felin Hotel, St Davids, won Hotel of the Year Wales, awarded for its 'excellent design and presentation, with noteworthy attention to detail'. Hotel of the Year London went to The Goring; described as 'an icon of British hospitality', it was where Kate Middleton famously got ready for her royal wedding to Prince William.

 

LONDON

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Mandrake, Fitzrovia

Billed as one of central London’s hottest new hotels, this exotic boutique luxury setting (named after a mystical plant) has already hosted London Fashion Week parties. Five years in the making, The Mandrake’s 30 bedrooms and three suites frame a jungle-style inner courtyard of tropical plants. The interior design mixes opulent purples and reds with gold finishes, velvet, feathers, ornate chandeliers and striking artwork. The lavish Mandrake Suite and the Penthouse are sure to be Instagram favourites, the latter clad in white marble with a huge bed and a jacuzzi under a retractable roof. The hotel’s headline restaurant is Serge et le Phoque, by Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Peneau.

 

Opening October 2017: Trafalgar St. James

This classic hotel overlooking Trafalgar Square –which has hosted the likes of Tom Cruise and Nicole Scherzinger – is unveiling its modern new look since joining the Curio Collection by Hilton. A “peer panel” of young Londoners – including lifestyle blogger Lucy Freedman and DJ Doug Marshall – were appointed during the project to give their perspective on everything from furnishings to menus. Trafalgar St. James now has 131 bedrooms, the Trafalgar Dining Rooms, an underground lounge, Biblio, and a 14-cover private dining room. The rooftop bar has great views of Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery. PR contact: hshearer@thecommunicationgroup.co.uk

 

Opening October 2017: The Pilgrm, Paddington

New design hotel The Pilgrm focuses on pared-back urban chic with a vintage touch. There is no lobby or reception desk – instead, guests will be able to check in online. The ground floor café will provide a welcome area, plus a lounge bar and dining room. Interiors showcase the building’s 200-year-old parquet flooring, as well as cast-iron radiators and a “cloud carpet”. The hotel’s 73 rooms come in four sizes: ‘bunk’ (two single beds), small, medium and large. PR contact: Alexandra Berry a.berry@gemmabellandcompany.com

 

Opening October 2017: New Road Hotel, Whitechapel, east London

With its “Everything you need, nothing you don’t” promise, New Road Hotel focuses on stylish stripped-back luxury. Owned by three brothers, the 80-bedroom boutique hotel has been built on the site of an old textile factory where their father once worked. The interiors reflect this heritage, and quirky touches include a rooftop Eco Shed and the Loft + Hot Tub room, with views of London’s skyline. The hotel’s restaurant is by Marco Pierre White, and other features include a fitness studio and social areas where guests can enjoy live music, games and a library.

 

Opening early 2018: Vintry & Mercer, Cannon Street, City of London

Located in London’s historic trading centre near St Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard, forthcoming 92-bedroom hotel Vintry & Mercer is named after two of the City’s historic professions: vintners, who traded fine wines, and mercers, who sold fine silks. Both trades will be reflected in the hotel’s design. For food and drink, there will be Vintry Kitchen, serving Mediterranean food; rooftop Mercer Terrace; and DND, (Do Not Disturb), an underground cocktail bar.

 

Long-lead

 

Date TBC: Marylebone Lane hotel, Marylebone, central London

A brand new luxury 206-bedroom, nine-storey hotel operated by Shiva Hotels is planned for Marylebone. The proposed hotel will have a spa, swimming pool, café and club lounge.

 

2020: The Hoxton, Shepherd's Bush, west London

Subject to planning permission, the capital will be getting another stylish Hoxton hotel in west London. The new 214-bedroom property will join sister hotels already open in London (Shoreditch and Holborn), and Amsterdam.

 

2020: Raffles Hotels & Resort London, Westminster, central London

One of London’s most significant historic buildings, the Old War Office – once the office of Winston Churchill, and sections of the British secret service – is being transformed into a 125-room luxury hotel by Raffles Hotels & Resorts. It will be the company’s first property in Britain, and rooms will include 50 suites and 88 private residences.

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Now open: The English Grill at The Rubens at the Palace, Westminster, central London

The Rubens at the Palace has opened its new restaurant as part of a five-year, multi-million pound refurbishment. The English Grill’s menu includes a daily roast, carved from a silver trolley at diners’ tables.

 

Opening November 2017: The Coral Room bar at Bloomsbury Hotel, central London

As part of a major refurbishment of the 153-room Bloomsbury Hotel, its new Coral Room bar will be unveiled in November alongside the hotel’s redesigned public spaces. PR contact: chloe.davison@ttc.com

 

SCOTLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

Following a top-to-toe refurbishment, The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square (formerly The Roxburghe Hotel) has re-opened its doors. One of Edinburgh’s oldest hotels, it’s hosted A-list Hollywood actors and is made up of seven inter-connecting Georgian townhouses in the city’s New Town. The concierge still wears a kilt and vintage red post boxes in the new lobby collect post daily. The 199 elegantly refurbished bedrooms (including 18 suites) are designed with Scottish accents and earthy colours. There is informal all-day-dining at The Garden, and eastern Mediterranean cuisine at BABA restaurant, opening in November. PR contact: georgie.griffiths@theprincipalhotel.com

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Opened September 2017: Sleeperz Hotels, Edinburgh

Budget operator Sleeperz Hotels has launched a new wing at its Cityroomz Edinburgh hotel, accessible via Princes Street. The 43 new bedrooms include superior doubles, family and cabin rooms, as well as ten suites. Flooring in the suite bathrooms is printed with a city street map of Edinburgh. Sleeperz will also be opening a 120-bedroom hotel in Dundee in 2018 opposite the new V&A Museum. PR contact: matthew@honeypotmedia.co.uk

 

Now open: Cameron House, Loch Lomond

Cameron House, the five-AA-star, luxury 36-bedroom resort set on the banks of Loch Lomond, has completed the final phase of its multi–million pound refurbishment. Its new-look rooms and suites have Scotland-inspired features, such as contemporary tartan and handmade leather sleigh beds. The hotel has also announced the launch of its new Cameron Kids offering, treating little ones to their own slice of luxury during their stay.

 

Summer 2018: Ten Hill Place, Edinburgh

Work has started on a 52-bedroom expansion of Ten Hill Place hotel. Owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, hotel profits go back into the college.

 

WALES

 

Long-lead

 

2021: Afan Valley Adventure Resort, Port Talbot, south Wales

Plans have been submitted for a new 480-acre adventure resort in south Wales, which will have a 100-bedroom hotel and spa, plus 400 luxury lodges, and adventures zones, bars, restaurants and retail outlets. The proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort site is just south of Afan Forest Park. There are plans for five main ‘zones’: Forest, Xtreme, Trails, Zen and Alpine, the last of which will include three different ski slopes. The resort will also be home to the Bear Grylls Survival Academy – a series of challenges and endurance courses designed by the TV survival expert. Other activities will include ice skating, Segway tours, indoor skydiving and surfing, ‘ninja warrior’ training, go-karting, forest zip wires, paintballing and mountain biking. Watch the action-packed teaser film here.

 

SOUTH AND SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened August 2017: Beaverbrook, Surrey

The former country home of press baron and politician Lord Beaverbrook has opened as the luxurious Beaverbrook hotel, following a multi-million pound transformation. Just 19 miles from London, the hotel is surrounded by 400 acres of privately owned countryside. Designed by Soho House interiors guru Susie Atkinson, the interiors exude classic opulence, featuring four-poster beds and rich fabrics. Each of the hotel’s 18 rooms and suites have been named after one of the estate’s famous former guests, which include Winston Churchill, James Bond author Ian Fleming, Elizabeth Taylor, and Charlie Chaplin. The hotel also has an Art Deco-style cinema, the glamorous Parrot Bar, a cookery school, and a Japanese restaurant, The Dining Room, headed up by top ex-Nobu chef Taiji Maruyama. By the end of the year the hotel will also have a spa with swimming pools, a hammam and a sauna. PR contact: gemma@gp-associates.com

 

Opened August 2017: Hog Deer Creek, Kent

This summer, Kent safari park Port Lympne Reserve opened its latest accommodation, Hog Deer Creek. The five luxury shepherd huts are designed for couples or families, and located within the park’s Asian Experience, so guests’ neighbours will include roaming Asian animals such as Sambar deer.

 

Opened September 2017: Piggledy Tree House, South Downs National Park

This new four-bed treehouse looks like a forest dwelling straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Designed for adults and kids alike, The Piggledy Tree House is located in Blackberry Wood at the foot of the South Downs National Park near Brighton, and comes with a kitchen and a balcony. Owner Tim fulfilled a childhood dream by building the treehouse, which took three years to complete.

 

Opening March 2018: Room 2, Southampton

Room 2 has confirmed details of its second design-led aparthotel in Southampton, due to open next year. Its 71 studio rooms will feature nautical-inspired designs and come in three sizes: little, regular and large.

 

Long-lead

 

2020: Malmaison, Bournemouth

Next year work will begin on a 100-bedroom Malmaison hotel in the coastal town of Bournemouth. Expected to take around two years to build, the new hotel will include a Chez Mal bar and brasserie, a rooftop bar and terrace overlooking the seafront, a gym, a swimming pool, and beauty rooms.

 

WEST MIDLANDS

 

Long-lead

Autumn 2018: Hawkstone Hall, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Hawkstone Hall, a Georgian country mansion in Shropshire, is being transformed into a 40-bedroom hotel and wedding venue. Refurbishment of the main hall and 12 suites will be complete in summer 2018. By autumn, all works are due to be complete, resulting in a total of 40 suites and bedrooms.

 

SOUTH-WEST ENGLAND

 

Refurbs & expansions

 

Re-opened July 2017: De Vere Tortworth Court, Gloucestershire

Victorian countryside mansion De Vere Tortworth Court is now open following its £5-million pound restoration, which has resulted in 11 spacious new suites, bringing the total number of guestrooms and suites in the main house to 55. All of the bedrooms have been refurbished to reflect modern British heritage, incorporating leather, tweed and linen. The largest suite, The Kipling, includes a dining table for six guests and a lounge that can be connected to The Paxton, to form a family suite that spans 129 square metres, overlooking the formal gardens.

 

Opened August 2017: Luxury sea-view suites at Lewinnick Lodge, Cornwall

Lewinnick Lodge has added six new suites to its cliff-top B&B hotel on Pentire Headland, close to Newquay’s Fistral Beach – widely regarded as England’s surfing capital. Each of the rooms has 180-degree coastal views, super-king beds, DAB radios, Bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, homemade biscuits and organic toiletries.

 

YORKSHIRE

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened July 2017: Swinton Country Club & Spa, North Yorkshire

The Good Spa Guide has awarded Swinton Estate’s new Country Club & Spa a five-bubble rating just two months after opening. The new club has a 10-metre outdoor natural water swimming pool and a hot tub, and the fitness team incorporate outdoor activities from the wider estate, such as running, cycling and outdoor yoga. The old Estate Gardener’s cottage has been transformed into a suite of beauty rooms, with signature treatments including the Elemis Garden of England Rose Restore Wrap.

 

Long-lead

 

2019: Bretton Hall, Wakefield, west Yorkshire  

Historic Georgian mansion house Bretton Hall is being transformed into a luxury 120-bedroom hotel and ‘creative campus’, set within 500 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland adjacent to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). The property’s redevelopment will include two theatres, a seminar space, exhibition area and conferencing facilities, with further accommodation, work and educational spaces planned for future phases.

 

Date TBC: Malmaison, York

Malmaison hotel chain will be opening a new site in York after being granted planning permission earlier this year. The new hotel will have 160 bedrooms and suites, as well as its Chez Mal Bar and Brasserie for cocktails and dining. Malmaison currently has hotels in 15 cities across Britain, including Leeds and Manchester.

 

NORTH-WEST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

2018: Dixie Dean Hotel, Liverpool

A 100-bedroom hotel in honour of Everton footballer Dixie Dean is due to open in Liverpool city centre next year, opposite The Shankly hotel, which similarly celebrates Scottish footballer and manager Bill Shankly (the two men were great friends). The Dixie Dean Hotel will have restaurants, bars and an events space, and showcase memorabilia from the footballer’s career.

 

Long lead

 

Date TBC: Manchester Moxy

Planning permission has been granted for a 145-bedroom Moxy hotel in Manchester’s Spinningfields district. Moxy is Marriot International’s millennial-focused boutique hotel concept, and the new hotel will join one other in London. There are plans for seven more in pipeline, located in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton, Bristol and York.

 

Date TBC: Re-opening of Trafford Park hotel, Manchester

The Trafford Park hotel, built in 1902, is being refurbished and relaunched under an international boutique brand after being derelict for eight years. Plans include an additional wing, which will expand the total bedroom count to 120.

 

Summer 2019: Zetter Hotel, London Road Fire Station, Manchester

Manchester's historic London Road Fire Station is being developed by London-based boutique hotel brand The Zetter Group. The new hotel will be the group’s first in Manchester, and will have on-site restaurants and bars.

 

NORTH-EAST ENGLAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

Opened September 2017: The Cookie Jar, Alnwick, Northumberland

Deborah Cook, wife of the former chief executive of Malmaison, Hotel du Vin and De Vere Hotels, has opened her first solo venture, a luxury boutique hotel overlooking Alnwick Castle. The Cookie Jar has 11 bedrooms and offers quirky treats such as freshly baked cookies and milk. It has initially opened as a bed and breakfast operation, serving coffees, teas and sharing plates from the bar – but there are plans for a restaurant in the near future.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND

 

New and upcoming openings

 

September 2017: Titanic Hotel Belfast

Northern Ireland’s much-anticipated luxury Titanic-themed hotel is now open on the site of the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, shipbuilders of the Titanic over 100 years ago. The 119-bedroom Titanic Hotel Belfast is sister hotel to the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool. The interior design includes nautical touches, models of the iconic ship, and old photographs. The hotel’s dining room has views of the slipway where the Titanic was built, and art deco-inspired suites give impressive views of the Belfast Titanic building and the entire Titanic Quarter. There are also corporate and entertainment spaces available for events and conferences. PR contact: jane.williams@jcomms.co.uk

 

Long-lead

 

June 2018: Grand Central Hotel, Belfast  

Work is starting on what will be Belfast’s largest hotel development, the 304-bedroom Grand Central Hotel, Belfast.

 

June 2018:  George Best Hotel, Belfast

The developer of The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool (themed around Liverpool Football Club's legendary Scottish player and manager) is building a new 80-bedroom hotel in Belfast, named after and inspired by Manchester United and Northern Ireland football legend, George Best.

TASTE – May 2018

This edition of TASTE brings you VisitBritain's latest round-up of new restaurant openings and foodie news from across the destination.

 

TREND: VEGANISM

Choice for vegan residents and visitors has been rapidly growing in Manchester in recent years, with must-visit spots now including: #PlantPoweredSundays at Grub Manchester; Allotment in Stockport which offers a vegan tasting menu; the casual delights of V Rev Vegan Diner, Zad’s pizzeria, Teatime Collective and desserts parlour Ice Shack; independent food co-ops The Eighth Day and Unicorn Grocery; plus regular vegan fairs and beer festivals at venues such as Islington Mill and Hulme Community Garden Centre.

East London-born The Vurger Co opened its first permanent site in Shoreditch in March after headlining many menus at festivals around the UK: try the Tabasco Auburger, made from aubergines, chickpeas, red onion and vegan cheese. All burgers are made from 100% vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains and legumes. For more healthy treats, Surrey Vegan (19 May) is the area’s third annual vegan fair, which will be home to a wide selection of food stalls dishing up tasty treats, alongside talks by inspirational speakers.

In Scotland, Harmonium in Leith is a new Edinburgh branch of the established Glasgow institutions Mono & Stereo and serves all the vegan comfort food you can imagine. Mala Carne in the Southside of Glasgow is also not to be missed – particularly the tofu scramble and vegan cakes. In the Scottish borders, vegan ice-cream now available at the award winning Giacopazzis.

 

LONDON

May promises to be all flowery with a brand new afternoon tea introduced by Dominique Ansel with a menu that follows the path of a seed growing and blossoming into a full-bloomed flower beginning with savoury bites and ending with a selection of sweets. Guests will be seated on the blossoming open-air terrace and then presented with dishes served on handmade ceramic-tiered stand with a “seed” at the base that gradually sprouts and blossoms as you work your way up through the “menu.” Dominique Ansel evolved the idea into a menu that starts from the ground up and is presented in a fresh and modern way.

The newly opened speakeasy Vijay’s Bar & Lounge is focusing on making extensive use of fresh herbs and floral syrups in their cocktail menu and demonstrates how astringent herbs can be used to draw out flavour. Savage Garden will be opening this summer as a new dramatic sky-high all-day bar and cocktail lounge. With 360-degree vistas, guests can take in some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks including The Shard, Tower of London, The Gherkin and St. Paul's Cathedral. Another connoisseur’s delight: the 16th May will be the official launch of the Champagne School by Searcys at St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar, which will champion English wine makers with the theme ‘Made in Britain.’ Monthly Champagne School dinners are designed to appeal to all kinds of wine lovers – from absolute beginners to accomplished connoisseurs. You can also book their own private classes for groups.

On 16 April Michelin starred Chef Heinz Beck officially opened his much anticipated new restaurant Beck at Brown’s in the heart of Mayfair at the iconic Brown’s hotel. The restaurant, freshly redesigned by Olga Polizzi, offers a new casual dining menu of classic Italian dishes, reinvented using the finest seasonal British ingredients, uniting Heinz’s inimitable style with the hotel’s British heritage and careful balance of classic elegance and contemporary flair.

 

SOUTH WEST ENGLAND

Bristol

To continue with the veganism trend, the new Bristol Vegan and Wellbeing Market will launch on Corn Street on 28 April and will then be held every Monday from 10am to 5pm. This is a logical progression in a city that has embraced the vegan diets with enthusiasm. The Roots Lounge – is the latest of a new generation of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

VegFest, the annual celebration of all things vegan is back – this time VegFest is taking place at the Ashton Gate stadium from 26-27 May and is promising a weekend of music, events, bean burgers, a gourmet vegan pizzeria, vegan chefs and more than 200 stallholders. Vegan comedians, a vegan art exhibition, dance stage, blues lounge and deep chill zone are among the entertaining accompaniments to some fabulous food.

The Faraway Cocktail Club opened in April to bring a tropical flavour to Bristol’s cocktail scene, with a new Caribbean themed bar. An offshoot of successful Flipside Cocktail Club, Faraway serves rum and tequila based cocktails and Tiki-style sharing punch bowls in a bar that’s big on palms, pineapples and party music.

 

Wiltshire

A new map showcasing the culinary magic conjured up by the county’s chefs, bakers and brewers has been published by VisitWiltshire: The ‘2018: It’s Time For Wiltshire Food and Drink Map’ features over 80 of the region’s finest producers, eateries, watering holes and cookery schools from a’Beckett’s Vineyard in Littleton Parnell to the Woodbridge Inn in Pewsey. Lucknam Park Hotel Cookery School is among three places highlighted in the guide where enthusiastic amateurs can hone their culinary skills with The Farm Cookery School and Vaughan’s Cookery School also on the menu.

 

Dorset

Swim is a café-bar by the sea in Lyme Regis, with arguable the best views over the Jurassic coast, serving a diverse menu across breakfast, lunch and dinner and an eclectic mix of craft beers and cocktails.

 

NORTH WEST ENGLAND

Manchester

Nestled under the iconic Mancunian Way flyover, Hatch is made up of repurposed shipping containers and is part of the Circle Square development which will bring living, office and green space to The Corridor area of the city. Run by the team behind Northern Quarter’s popular emporium Afflecks, the indy street food hotspot on Oxford Road features a rotating line-up of traders that change every twelve weeks. Opening traders include; artisan coffee house Takk, nano brewery ÖL, Mexican street food at El Marchador and Canadian poutine at Blue Caribou Canteen.

Following the success of its four restaurants at prisons across the UK, The Clink Charity has recently launched a new café in the heart of Manchester. The Clink Café, located within the Grade II listed Canada House, will continue the charity’s innovative rehabilitation initiative for offenders and homeless people those who need a second chance.

 

NORTH EAST ENGLAND

Hull

Fresh from its UK City of Culture success of 2017, Hull is seeing the creation of a thriving local food and drink scene. ‘Made in Hull’ is fast becoming an emerging theme for the city, with restaurants, gourmet street food, gin distilleries and microbreweries joining an already well-established Ale Trail which takes in historic pubs, particularly in the medieval Old Town. Offering a showcase for the city’s rapidly growing local food scene, the award-winning Hull Street Food Nights, funded and organised by HullBID, are back for 2018 - with food, drink and music combining in a nighttime street festival featuring scores of stalls.

 

SOUTH EAST ENGLAND

Kent

Inspired by the culinary and sensory delights of the rose, Hever in Bloom (26 June – 1July) will take visitors on a scented tour of the rose garden and will provide instruction on how to prepare roses for cooking as well as the basic principles behind distilling rose oil. Rose petals are completely edible and as a relative of the strawberry, the rose lends itself to many a dish including fruit salads, cakes, biscuits, granola and ice cream.

 

Hampshire

The Vineyards of Hampshire Cellar Door Experience will see seven vineyards across the county open their doors to visitors monthly from 18 May to 8 September for the opportunity to travel around the participating vineyards and pop in for a range wine tasting. For those planning on tasting a tipple to many, new venture Hampshire Tours provides private tours in the area, and is doing a special Cellar Door tastings offer of £350 for up to six people.

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

The latest addition to the Chop House family opened in March in Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield neighborhood. Serving the best British beef, dry-aged and butchered in-house, it brings a new casual dining experience focused on steak and cocktails to a new area of the city. Renowned for its sociable style of dining, Chop House proudly presents large cuts of beef, sharing starters and enticing side dishes designed to be enjoyed by the whole table.

The Register Club at The Edinburgh Grand opens its doors on the 1st June. Occupying the entire west wing of the St Andrew Square building’s fourth floor, the Club will offer Edinburgh a new reservation-only spot to eat, drink and relax in comfort and style in art deco surrounds. The high-end champagne and cocktail lounge bar will be run by The Bon Vivant, putting a spotlight on local and artisan producers with a bespoke cocktail list.

 

Glasgow

Ardnamurchan Restaurant and Bar opened in Glasgow’s Theatreland in May putting a taste of Scotland’s best produce on their menu including freshly caught langoustines from the Isle of Mull and venison from the Ardmurchan peninsula. The perfect place to go for a wee dram, with the bar serving up at least 50 different types of whisky and come winter they will have a roaring real fire in their snug.

Alchemilla has taken residence in Finnieston’s foodie quarter, with Glasgow girl and Ottolenghi alumni Rosie Healey as Head Chef.  Expect contemporary Ottolenghi style dishes, eastern spices and lots of small sharing plates in relaxed minimalist surroundings. The team behind 111 by Nico has launched a new restaurant, Six by Nico, in the trendy Finnieston area serving a six-course tasting menu based on a different place or memory - the theme will rotate every six weeks. 

The tearooms Mackintosh at the Willow are scheduled to open as part of Glasgow’s celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth. The Willow Tea Rooms building is recognised internationally as the only surviving tea room designed in its entirety by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, from the interior and the design of the cutlery to the waitress’s uniforms.

 

Isle of Skye

Skye Food & Drink Festival (13-14 June) is a celebration of food and drink from across Skye and the surrounding regions. With whisky, gin, wine, beer, meat, fish, chutney, bread, chocolate and cheese makers, the artisan producers market has something for everyone. Skye’s most celebrated chefs including Lady Claire MacDonald, Scott Davies and Calum Munro, along with Patisserie Chef of the Year Helen Vass, will showcase their culinary skills and offer cookery tips. There will be opportunities to taste and buy, cookery demonstrations, masterclasses, live music throughout the day and ceilidh’s on both evenings. 

 

Scottish Borders

Borders Distillery, the first Scotch Whisky distillery in the Scottish Borders since 1837, opened on the 1st May and is dedicated to making great whisky and to capturing the spirit of the Borders. See whisky production in action and gain an insight into a working commercial distillery. Public and private tours are available. Nestled at the heart of the Roxburghe Estate in the beautiful Scottish Borders is the outstanding Floors Castle, Scotland’s largest inhabited Castle, which will be hosting the Great British Food Festival this year on the 8th and 9th September.

 

WALES

Snowdonia

Palé Hall, North Wales’ first five-star hotel, launched a ‘gin-venture’ foraging experience in 2017. In partnership with Forager’s Gin, handcrafted by the Snowdonia Distillery, and local expedition specialists RAW Adventures, Palé Hall is now offering guests the chance to learn how gin is made and how to forage for botanicals. Enjoy an eight-course tasting menu from Head Chef Gareth Stevenson, where each dish features some of the best local produce, and afterwards retire in front of the roaring fire.