The fickle British weather has turned back in our favour – which means it is the season for the spontaneous mini break. However countryside hotels and campsites have been booking up fast. Make hay while the sun shines and book one of these boutique options for a countryside getaway, while spaces are still available.
Ellenborough Park Hotel, Gloucestershire
This country castle, which dates back to the Tudor era, has the honeyed yellow stone and crenellated turrets you’d expect of a Cotswold estate. Now a five-star hotel and spa, once you tire of exploring the 90-acre grounds, you can relax in the jacuzzi, sauna or heated outdoor pool. A half spa day costs £80.
The bedrooms are characterful and spread across different parts of the estate, including the mews and lodge houses. Many come with four poster beds, chandeliers and roll-top baths and all have Nespresso machines.
Dinner is available from The Horse Box, a modern restaurant-bar serving everything from light salads to flame-grilled steaks. Prices are reasonable, with most mains costing less than £20. Romantic glass pods have been installed outside for al fresco dining.
The hotel sits about three miles outside of Cheltenham on the edge of the Cotswolds, so is an ideal base for exploring the former’s quirky boutiques and gourmet delis or taking long walks around nearby Sudeley Castle or Cotswold Lavender Farm. There’s also the option to bring dogs along, who get their own bedrooms and luxury treatment.
Rooms start from £299, including a full English or continental breakfast.
Cloud Nine, Norfolk
One for the families, holidays at Cloud Nine’s glamping sites are jam-packed with activities, from beginner’s paddleboarding lessons to afternoon hacks with their friendly horses. There are also adults-only sessions, including boozy painting classes and hot tubs. Some activities are free – others you have to pay extra for.
Cloud Nine has three sites: in the Cotswolds, Dorset and Norfolk. We recommend the latter, because of its 52-acre private lake where you can go kayaking and wild swimming.
Prices for a standard bell tent, which sleeps four, start from £132 per night. These include mattresses, 15 tog duvets and fluffy bath towels – but no power sockets. Luxury bell tents come with power, double beds, a kettle and fire pit with charcoal. The sites are equipped with good Wifi hubs, their own street food markets and pop-up champagne and craft beer bars – although guests are welcome to bring their own food too. It is about forty minutes’ to the coast and an hour to Norwich.
Cloud Nine’s Covid-19 policy guarantees to refund those who can’t make their booking because they test positive or have to self-isolate.
The Ickworth, Suffolk
The iconic rotunda at the heart of this property was inspired by the Italian architecture seen by the owner, the Earl Bishop, during his grand tour of Europe. Its design was ground-breaking at the time and remains completely unique in Britain. The expansive grounds boast over 10 kilometres worth of walking and cycling trails through shady woods and wild flower meadows, meaning there's little reason to roam beyond the estate.
The luxury hotel is housed in the large wing of this National Trust house and boasts a walled garden, tennis court, cinema, library, swimming pool and treatment rooms. Children are well catered for with an on-site creche, bike hire and baby listening service.
Prices start from £359 a night for a family room, including breakfast.
Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa, London
If you don’t want to travel too far from home to get a taste of the countryside, Richmond Harbour Hotel is the answer. Just a 20-minute train ride from central London, it is also only a three minute walk from Richmond Park’s 2,500 acres of rolling green space. There is the extra option of riverside cycles along the Thames to Hampton Court or the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. You can even hire a canoe from nearby Back of Beyond Adventures and float down to Teddington Lock.
The 18th century manor house hotel is due to gain a new spa in July. The latter will have 13 treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room and a heated 20-metre swimming pool as well as hydrotherapy and plunge pools.
The greenhouse-style bar does excellent cocktails and there is complimentary gin and sherry in the rooms. Standard rooms come with cosy bathrobes and slippers while the luxury suites have their own dining areas for room service dinners. Rates start from £140 per night on a b&b basis.
Coworth Park, Berkshire
Racing is back on at Ascot for summer 2021, which means the town will be back to its bustling, well-heeled and hatted glory. One of the most sought-after places to stay nearby is Coworth Park: a five-star hotel-spa with its own stables. Coworth offers everything from beginner’s lessons to solo hacks around the 240-acre estate and even its own polo academy. For some gentler exercise there is a lovely wildflower meadow to explore – plus the historical and horticultural curiosities of Windsor Great Park is within walking distance.
The rooms are spread across the estate, ranging from modern rooms inside the main mansion house to private cottages with their own terraces. The hotel restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star. For more relaxing dining, The Barn, a converted farm building, does similarly good grub – and delicious Sunday lunches – in a less formal setting.
Rooms cost from £675 per night.
The Grove, Hertfordshire
An all-weather tennis court, heated outdoor pool and even a pop-up beach with a Jude’s ice cream van: a stay at The Grove could easily trick you into thinking you're abroad.
In reality, this luxury Hertfordshire hotel is just an hour’s drive from London. Country pursuits are ten a penny within the estate’s 300-acre grounds, including laser clay pigeon shooting, segway tours and hawking. There’s also a golf course, where Tiger Woods won the World Championship in 2006; a spa and fitness studio.
The hotel, formerly the home of the Earls of Clarendon, went through an extensive refurbishment during lockdown – so expect immaculate finishes. Many visitors come simply to dine at The Glasshouse restaurant, which is well-known in the area.
Prices start from £370 per night for a classic room.