The Scarlet, north Cornwall
Here’s a beachside hotel with a difference – a luxury eco-spa for adults. You can watch surfers battle the rollers from the comfort of hot water in a wooden barrel sauna and wooden hot tubs set high on the cliffs above the beach at Mawgan Porth, between Newquay and Padstow. The Scarlet is sustainably focused, using a biomass boiler, solar panels, clever heat capture and exchange technology to reduce its ecological impact. Outside, a natural reed-filtered cold-water swimming pool offers a sleek alternative to the waves beyond, and free yoga and tai chi classes and wellbeing talks are laid on. An ayurvedic spa offers unusual treatments such as a candlelit copper bathtub soak in Cornish seaweed, plus a relaxation lounge with dangling cocoon pod tents to chill out in afterwards. Good nosh is also part of the package. Expect delicate inventions such as poussin kiev and lemongrass prawn dim sum in the restaurant, or blackened pollack with crushed peas on the outdoor terraces, before the ever-present views of the sea.
• Doubles from £250 a night, rooms available from mid-September, scarlethotel.co.uk
Buxton Crescent, Derbyshire
Although it launched very briefly last October before having to close again for the second lockdown, the Buxton Crescent – a luxurious reworking of one of Britain’s finest Georgian buildings – now brings the town’s spa history into the present. The Crescent was built in the 1780s by the fifth Duke of Devonshire, to establish the Derbyshire town as a spa destination, and was constructed over a natural spring used since Roman times – a million litres of warm spring water still bubbles up every day. A protracted £50m rebuild has produced a modern spa hotel, with restaurant, 81 rooms and suites, and saunas, steam rooms, yoga studio and treatment rooms galore. The Victorian pool has been refurbished as a thermal pool, where you can swim in the spring water people usually buy in bottles; there’s also a dark relaxation pool, and a rooftop outdoor pool. A salt cave treatment is said to help heal damaged lungs and boost immunity. It’s all styled with old-fashioned grandeur, and Buxton’s interesting shops and sights and a tableau of craggy Peak District scenery are on the doorstep.
• Doubles from £155 B&B including spa access, midweek availability from June, weekends from August, ensanahotels.com
The Bradley Hare, Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire
This new pub with rooms, due to open in June, reinvents the traditional village boozer as a pared-back, upmarket haven. While roaring fires, beers on tap, dogs under the table and other pubby features are still reassuringly present, the fact the seven bedrooms have been dolled up under the eye of a former Soho House design director is clear. Modern art, well-chosen antiques and eye-catchingly decorative upholstery raise the bar. Rather than add on a glitzy, glass spa building, the Bradley Hare has chosen to offer pampering in the Potting Shed beauty studio in the gardens, using organic vegan products for treatments and holistic therapies.
Diners can plonk themselves down to eat wherever they like – in the pub, the lounge, the garden or the Snug dining area, choosing perhaps crispy pork belly, barbecued asparagus, lamb loin and veggies grown in the garden. The kitchen aims to be zero waste, so any excess raw produce is fermented, pickled or cured for later dishes. The location is perfect for walks in the Wiltshire and Somerset countryside, and for making trips to consider the comparative merits of Bruton, with its fashionable Hauser & Wirth art gallery, and Frome, with fantastic independent shops.
• Doubles from £115 B&B, availability from June thebradleyhare.co.uk
Askham Hall, Penrith, Lake District
A grand 13th-century country pile is given a contemporary twist at this food-focused retreat near Penrith in the north of the Lake District. While this is a stately home retreat (with a romantically rustic barn for weddings to boot), Askham defines itself primarily as an upmarket restaurant with rooms. No one’s going to insist you go running up Blencathra at dawn here, not when you’re likely to have spent the previous night over-indulging in the hotel’s Michelin-star restaurant, Allium. Head chef Richard Swale returned to his homeland of Cumbria, where he grew up fishing in local rivers, to put the area’s natural larder to use on the menu.
A huge kitchen garden and animals including rare-breed chickens raised on the estate help maintain a local, seasonal, sustainable focus, with almost everything sourced from within 20 miles, including – this month – wild garlic foraged from the banks of the River Lowther. The result is dishes such as grouse with a tart of butternut squash, duck liver and lingonberry, and Lowther beef fillet with ceps. Unfussy bedrooms have four-posters and antiques, while the health barn offers sports massages, chiropractic treatments and reflexology. The Grade II-listed gardens, open to the public, have a pizza cafe. Also part of the estate are two pubs, the Queens Head, on the same site, and the George and Dragon in nearby Clifton, both with their own rooms and restaurants.
• Doubles from £130 B&B at the Queens Head, from £160 at the Hall. Two-night package for two including a meal at Allium from £490 for two people, a sprinkling of availability over summer and into early autumn, askhamhall.co.uk
Fritton Lake, Norfolk
A floating sauna is being added to the epic two-mile-long wild waters of Fritton Lake, which already offers paddleboarding, kayaking and boat hire from its shores. On dry land, the resort has tennis courts and bike trails, plus a heated outdoor pool for the wimps. Don’t be put off by the fact that this contemporary holiday park on a 400-hectare rewilding estate has holiday properties (smart, sleek timber cabins) to buy, and bandies around words like “membership” and “ownership”. Its Clubhouse operates as a normal hotel, with eight rooms beautifully decorated in muted greens and blues, pepped up with exotic textiles. Downstairs, swimmers can warm up in wingback chairs by the fire in the pink lounge before a sharpener or two in the estate’s pub, the Fritton Arms. Dishes using ingredients reared and grown here are served in the dining room and large outdoor dining space.
Fritton is part of the Rewilding Britain network and the Wild East initiative, which is committed to returning 20% of East Anglia to nature. As such it offers sessions on biodiversity and improving natural ecosystems as part of its guided tours of the grounds, which are home to red and fallow deer, water buffalo, Highland cattle and pigs.
• Doubles from £140 B&B, two-night minimum, good availability, frittonlake.co.uk1
Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead, Norfolk
Booze and food are the names of the game at this fun little 17th-century coaching inn near Ringstead, where creative new dishes are added to the menu each week and the bar is stocked with 100 types of gin. “Simplicity and detail” is head chef Stuart Wyllie’s angle, with creative plates whipped together with elements from local producers. That might mean oysters with Stuart’s signature seaweed hot sauce, then quail with pancetta and cranberry stuffing and – go on, you’ll have room – a blood orange pavlova. Afterwards, you’ve only to roll to one of the 13 rooms and cottages, all decked out with woolly blankets and antiques, so maybe a glass of sauternes to finish with too? The vegan menu claims to celebrate “root to stem dining”; and Sunday here means roasts, done with aplomb. Ringstead is a brilliant location for exploring the best of north Norfolk: Blakeney for seal-spotting boat trips, ethereal Scolt Head island, and the many beaches and salt marshes.
• Doubles from £120 B&B, availability from June, thegintrapinn.co.uk
Wildhive at Callow Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Opening 1 August and promising some of the swishest interiors in Derbyshire, Callow Hall in Mappleton, just outside the historic market town of Ashbourne, looks set to be a scorcher. The revamped Victorian country house will have 15 rooms in the main building, all jazzed up with gorgeous patterned fabrics, and 13 “Wild Hives” – cabins and (from autumn) timber treehouses – in the 14-hectare grounds. A wellbeing centre, the Coach House, will be the place to get your back pummelled and your face seen to, plus there’s a sauna and gym with cycling and rowing machines. Food here follows the modern-day obsession with local and seasonal, and staff are happy to pack picnics and put on barbecues for a change from the dining room. Guests can borrow the hotel’s hybrid and electric bikes for rides into the Peak District, mosey around the antiques shops of the high street just a mile away and hike into the Dove Valley – Ashbourne is the gateway town.
• Doubles from £189 room-only, availability from August, wildhive.co.uk
The Star, Alfriston, East Sussex
In this magical village at the eastern end of the South Downs, an ancient, heavily timbered inn has been given a stellar makeover by the Polizzi hotel and interior design clan to create the new Star Inn. Colourful and exuberant patterned fabrics on curtains and headboards add zest to the 21 rooms and nine suites, which all have individual furnishings and works by local artists, selected and brought together with a dab hand by Olga Polizzi. In the bar, little appears to have altered since Tudor times – the inn appears in several 16th-century travel books. It’s a relaxing, firelit space with atmospheric lighting and wooden beams. There’s also a small library with woodburner and a flower-filled courtyard for warm-weather cocktails, local beers and all-day dining. While the Star may not have a pool or a spa, it’s very close to the Cuckmere River, a calm, waterway that forms great meanders on its way to the seaside at Cuckmere Haven: both river and pebble beach are lovely for swimming.
• Doubles from £180 B&B, opens 14 June, some availability from July, thepolizzicollection.com
The Pig in the South Downs, near Arundel, West Sussex
While many boutique hotels have only meagre pickings of availability left for this year, reservations for the newest Pig hotel, which opens in early September, don’t open until late May (date tbc) so you’re in with a chance of securing the date of your choosing with some Glastonbury-style finger-on-the buzzer booking tactics. This 30-room piggy is in the hamlet of Madehurst, four miles from Arundel with its impressive medieval castle. Fantastic walking and cycling in the chalky downlands are at hand, as are Sussex coast charmers such as West Wittering, Chichester and Bosham. At the hotel, traditional flint, brick and timber stableyard buildings accompany a Regency-era house, where the restaurant is the focal point. Bespoke wagons in the walled garden and fields will provide a glamping option. As well as a very large kitchen garden and a flock of sheep, this Pig will be the first to have its own vineyard, planted with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
• Doubles from £155 room-only, thepighotel.com
Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms, Nottingham
While some people had posh restaurant meals delivered during lockdown, others have been saving themselves for when venues reopen properly. If that’s you and you fancy making a big deal of it, a stay at a restaurant with rooms such as Sat Bains’ Nottingham retreat should make up for lost fine-dining time. Tasting menus whip, ferment, dry, wood-fire and cure all manner of seasonal ingredients for dishes such as Anjou pigeon with shawarma spices, and monkfish with morels and wild garlic. A “crossover” course takes you from savoury to sweet: in the past that has included inventions such as “tomato and thyme jammy dodger” and “carrot and almond sherbet dib-dab”. If you can’t get a dinner slot, lunch may offer more availability. Eight soothing bedrooms will cocoon you and your full tummy amid luxurious fabrics, wallpapers and bedding, Aesop toiletries, slipper baths and sofas.
• Doubles from £180 B&B, a sprinkling of availability in coming months but more restaurant slots available, restaurantsatbains.com
Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, Lake District
When the Lodore Falls opened a couple of years ago it was quite a step up from the Lake District’s muddy-boots-and-real-ale inns, with la-di-dah touches such as a slick outdoor pool area, a champagne bar and a pan-Asian restaurant called Mizu. In Borrowdale and overlooking Derwentwater, one of Cumbria’s most beautiful lakes, the 200-year- old building has 87 smart rooms in taupe, grey and tawny colours. But it’s really all about the spa, where a glass-fronted Finnish sauna, a hydro pool with jets, and a series of fragrant, steamy, hot and salty experience rooms should help undo whatever harm the past year may have done to you. There’s a gym too, but why would you, with all that amazing fell running, wild swimming and hiking on the doorstep? Even if you’re just here to lie down, it’s worth a wander to see the Lodore Falls cascade over huge boulders right behind the hotel.
• Doubles from £200 B&B or £240 half-board, spa entry £25pp extra for most rooms except spa rooms, which cost from £460 a night. Limited availability until September, lakedistricthotels.net
Finn Lough, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
Like many hospitality venues, Finn Lough has used lockdown to renovate, extend and spruce up its already quite novel and impressive spa offering. Unusual wellbeing and relaxation experiences include the “elements spa trail”, where features such as a salt scrub shower and a hydrotherapy pool are dotted through woodlands and on the banks of Lough Erne. Extra wood-fired Finnish saunas and hot tubs are being added for May/June, along with a waterside dome for yoga and mindfulness sessions. Increasing the range of spaces is a huge new Eden Dome, due to open in August, with nine bedrooms featuring living green walls, plus a heated pool and a waterfall. The current 28 rooms include geodesic domes for stargazing, suites in the main building and lakeside villas. Tasting menus will launch at the new Forest Barn restaurant, while the Lakeside Bar that looks across to the Cliffs of Magho is the place for sundowners (this isn’t an ascetic sort of spa).
• Doubles from £175 B&B, some availability from June, finnlough.com
Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, Ballymena, County Antrim
Just outside Belfast on the Causeway coast, this rambling spa resort is decked out as if it were in Bali, with tree ferns, palms and tropical foliage surrounding outdoor hot tubs, and a cavernous palm house decorated with strings of lights and day beds. Since a £2m spending spree last year, the “thermal spa village” now covers a hectare (three acres) and has a 10-metre infinity pool and wood-fired riverside tubs next to the tumbling River Maine.
Spa sessions include an after-dinner nightfall experience, with hot water immersions in the dark and cocktails. It’s easy to ignore the golfing element of the resort if that’s not your bag, and while rooms and suites number 122 in the main hotel, 17 garden cottages were added last summer, for more seclusion.
• Doubles from £190 B&B including spa access, some summer availability, galgorm.com
Killiehuntly, Kingussie, Highlands
Don’t be fooled by the simple 17th-century farmhouse exterior of Killiehuntly, a Highlands guesthouse in the Cairngorms national park. Inside it is an utterly stylish Scandinavian-style haven, where a palette of teal and grey forms a chic backdrop to furniture by famous Nordic designers and local carpenters, piles of sheepskins, and roll-top baths in the four elegant guest rooms. It’s no surprise to learn that the owners are Danish, bringing everything from toiletries to woolly jumpers for guests to borrow from their homeland to this working farm estate. Super breakfasts are served by the Aga in the smart farmhouse kitchen, and dinner sees kitchen garden ingredients accompanying wild venison, Scottish salmon and trout.
A woodburning sauna yurt has a cold plunge pool in a wooden tub for cooling off in, and the hotel can arrange pony picnics (riding out for lunch, not eating the ponies), fishing and bike hire. There’s the option to self-cater in two estate cottages too. The Danish pair have just opened the similarly fabulous Lundies House, an arty guesthouse in Sutherland, with terrazzo floors, homemade kombucha and boutique gins by the fire.
• Doubles at Killiehuntly from £395 half-board, limited availability until late autumn, killiehuntly.scot. Doubles at Lundies from £455 half-board, good availability, wildland.scot/lundies-house
Smoo Lodge, Durness, Sutherland
If relaxation is about getting away from it all, you can’t get much further than this captivating enclave at the far north-western tip of Scotland, where the land runs out and the northern lights put on a show in winter. The village is a speck of civilisation beside the gobsmackingly huge and untrammelled silver-white beaches of Sango Bay and Balnakeill, with Cape Wrath at the corner. Named after Smoo Caves, which are almost visible from the cosy lounge, this is predominantly a B&B, with four unfussy rooms, but evening meals can be arranged on request. And you definitely should arrange a dinner of the local lobster, hand-dived scallops and Scrabster fish, transformed with Japanese and Korean ingredients and twists. Long rambles into the wilderness can fill the days, along with trips to the loch-view studios of ceramic artist Lotte Glob, the Balnakeil Craft Village – in a disused military camp – and the seabird colonies of Handa Island, reached by ferry.
• Doubles from £160 B&B, over-12s only, good availability, smoolodge.co.uk
Stobo Castle, Peebles, Scottish Borders
A 25-metre swimming pool with windows looking out into Peebles countryside is one of the many features of the modern spa complex attached to turreted Stobo Castle. Although this is a fairly substantial hotel, it’s easy to find a peaceful spot in the enormous grounds – by the burbling brooks of the Japanese water gardens, on a lounger on the manicured lawns, or by heading out on mountain bikes around Stobo Loch. Complimentary fitness classes include kettlebells, pilates, chiball and spin in the studio, and evenings can be spent undoing all the good work in the plush dining room and cocktail lounge. The hotel has delayed its reopening until July, but early autumn is a wonderful time to visit the region midge-free, with landscapes wildly animated by the fiery forest colours. Such hues are reflected in the interior design of the bedrooms, with their dazzling patterned wallpapers in auburns and heather pinks.
• Two-night spa packages including all meals and two treatments from £319pp, limited availability until September, stobocastle.co.uk
Portavadie, Argyll and Bute
The south-west coast of the Cowal peninsula, which sticks out into the Firth of Clyde between Loch Fyne and Loch Long, has been dubbed “Argyll’s secret coast”, revered for its butterscotch beaches, empty hills, art galleries and seafood such as hand-dived scallops and plump langoustines. Visitors can admire this magnificent scene, staring across Loch Fyne all the way to the Isle of Arran, from Scotland’s largest outdoor heated infinity pool, showpiece of the Portavadie hotel. Scandinavian saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools and a wide range of massages and treatments using seaweed products from the Hebridean island of Lewis provide the pampering. Many come here for the sailing, and the hotel has its own marina for those exploring Loch Fyne and beyond. Accommodation options include apartments, cottages, hotel rooms and even a campsite.
• Apartments for two from £144 B&B, cottage rooms for four from £220, summer availability booking fast, portavadie.com
Llanerch Vineyard Hotel, Vale of Glamorgan
It’s wine o’clock at lunch, dinner and even breakfast at the Llanerch, west of Cardiff, where rows and rows of vines create a gorgeous setting for this country farmhouse hotel. Tastings of the estate’s white, rosé and sparkling wines, under the Cariad label, are held year-round on request in the bar or refurbished restaurant overlooking the vines, and tours of the vineyard (£15pp) are offered between April and October. The 37 smart bedrooms and a restaurant serving Sunday roasts, afternoon tea and posh meals of, say, baked cod with hazelnut butter and watercress, or sea trout and scallop sausage roll, create a happy basecamp for forays to the coast. Or sign up to improve your own kitchen skills at the Angela Gray cookery school, which runs courses on the estate.
• Doubles from £90 room-only, good midweek availability, weekends limited, llanerch.co.uk
Newbridge on Usk, near Newport
This little six-bedroom inn has transcended its humble origins to become a trendy, foodie bolthole next to the water. It is a sister hotel to the enormous Celtic Manor, a few miles away along the river, so guests staying at Newbridge on Usk get the best of both worlds – sleeping and eating in this small historic hideaway in the countryside, but able to use the mega spa complex of the larger hotel, where several floors of bedrooms sit above a health club with a 20-metre pool, gym, dance studio, saunas and steam rooms. Returning to the inn, dinner might be soused mackerel with capers, a watercress risotto, or truffle gnocchi with mushroom puree, before a riverside tipple in the garden to watch the sun go down.
• Doubles from £88 B&B, reopening 28 May, good availability, celtic-manor.com
Llys Meddyg, Newport, Pembrokeshire
Swimming and surfing off the beaches of Pembrokeshire might be the only form of relaxation aid you need, but after getting salt and sand in your hair, finishing the day drinking cocktails at this Georgian coaching house on the Nevern estuary should seal you into a happy comatose state. Ingredients from the surrounding landscapes and hedgerows, and seafood and meat from local producers, go into the restaurant’s spectacular gourmet creations, such as cockle popcorn, crispy duck egg with truffle, and Welsh shoulder of lamb with foraged sea vegetables. Eight large rooms in rich dark hues boast deep bathtubs, paintings by local artists and Welsh blankets, or there’s a yurt for hire in the garden for the cosiest sort of camping – warmed by underfloor heating and with a smart bathroom.
• Doubles from £130 B&B, limited availability until September, llysmeddyg.com