The best hotels for romance
Who doesn’t want to stay in a romantic hotel for Valentines Day? Just picture the scene: a luxury bedroom with a four-poster bed, thick carpet and possibly a fireplace, a bottle of something chilling next to the bed and a massive bathroom with an extremely large roll-top bath for two – what could be more romantic?
Add a top restaurant serving great food, spectacular gardens for a pre-dinner stroll and a cosy bar for that evening nightcap and you’re looking at a memorable getaway. Maybe you’d like to add spa treatments, rose petals, chocolate-covered strawberries, late check-out – the works, that’s up to you. But here are some of the most romantic hotels in the UK to whet your appetite – what you do there is up to you!
What could be more romantic than spending the night in a castle? Reached via winding Devonshire country lanes, the vast Bovey Castle hotel – it has 60 bedrooms and suites, 22 self-contained cottages and is set in 275 acres of rolling Dartmoor countryside – could be intimidating but thanks to the welcoming staff and beautiful interiors, a stay here is gloriously friendly and relaxing.
The rooms are vast – my first visit I stayed in Room 50, a corner suite in the castle itself with a huge lounge, large bedroom and bathroom with a freestanding tub, while on my second visit I was lucky to stay in one of the vast three-storey self-catering lodges and have sumptuous Beef Wellington delivered to our door. There’s also two excellent restaurants, the spa and lots of activities including archery, shooting, falconry and a 4×4 Landrover experience.
Book yourself and your partner into one of Cary Arms’s romantic Beach Suites cottages and you’ll want to move in permanently. With a private terrace suspended over the beach, sweeping views across Babbacombe Bay, a lounge with flickering virtual fire and cosy sofa, an immaculate bathroom and bedroom decked out in a classic New England-style, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more romantic hotel room in Britain.
There are lovely touches, such as a coffee table handmade from stones and driftwood from the east coast of Scotland, a decanter of Plymouth sloe gin to tuck into, a bite-sized portion of seaside rock on your pillow instead of the usual chocolate and thick rugs for you to wrap yourself up in on the loungers outside for when the weather isn’t quite as clement as you’d hoped. The hotel itself has a rooftop spa with indoor hydrotherapy pool, a cosy pub with excellent locally-sourced food so with the waves on your doorstep you just won’t want to leave.
For a romantic hotel break it’s almost impossible to choose between Bailiffscourt and its sister hotel, Ockenden Manor just a few miles away in Cuckfield – where I spent Christmas – but I’ve gone for Bailiffscourt as I think it just has the edge for romance. The hotel building is 100 years old but seems much older, with low ceilings, tapestries, winding staircases and and a whole rabbit warren of rooms which make you feel as if you have gone back in time.
It’s just a few minutes to the beach for those romantic blustery walks, and it also has the very grand Baylies Suite which has a vast four-poster bed, a massive timber vaulted ceiling, plus a wood-burning stove, cosy furniture and a huge bathroom with, rather unusually, two baths placed side by side. Add its modern luxury spa and excellent restaurant and you’ve ticked most if not all the romantic boxes.
A long-time favourite of mine, Gravetye Manor consistently appears on lists of Best Hotels in Britain and it’s easy to see why. Reached by a winding drive through the West Sussex countryside (but surprisingly close to Gatwick airport) Gravetye feels like a hotel that time has left alone – but in a good way. There’s no spa or modern gimmicks (iPods in rooms etc) but what there is is great customer service, large, well-appointed bedrooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant and Gravetye’s USP – an award-winning garden.
Managed by Tom Coward, Gravetye’s stunning display is a fixture on the garden circuit and his kitchen garden supplies the restaurant daily. Staying here in the summertime you would definitely get the most from the garden – you can dine outside in the sunshine and go for a lovely country walk afterwards – but if you’re here around Valentine’s Day then find a cosy spot, set yourself up with a board game or book, stay warm by the fire and prepare for a memorable dinner in its newly-created dining room.
Staying in a treehouse might not sound the most romantic of treats but these are Chewton Glen’s famous luxury treehouses, perched high in the New Forest but with everything you could desire in the way of modern comforts. Each has a private balcony and hot tub, plus all the attributes of a luxury suite: a massive flatscreen TV, log-burning stove, an impressive sound system, two bedrooms and a beautiful bathroom with free-standing bath, separate walk-in shower and more fluffy towels than you’d know what to do with.
If you can tear yourself away then there’s a world-class spa, fine-dining restaurant and croquet, tennis, country walks and all – however I reckon you’ll be staying put in your very own room in the treetops.
The Cotswolds are not short of romantic hotels and the likes of Barnsley House and The Painswick could easily feature here. But as nothing says romance like a luxury spa, then it has to be the excellent Dormy House, with its cosy interiors, shabby-chic styling, excellent food and its modern spa, which contains an indoor swimming pool, outdoor hot tub and various saunas, steam rooms to ensure that you’re thoroughly relaxed.
Many rooms, like ours which was called The Snug, come with vast stand-alone bathtubs for that romantic night in, and the hotel’s location on the hill overlooking Broadway means that there are lots of great walks on your doorstep (so you can come back and warm up in front of Dormy House’s open wood fires).
From the moment the gates open to let you into the hotel’s charming courtyard, you know you’re going to be well looked after during your stay at Whatley Manor. Run by experienced GM Sue Williams (who used to manage top luxury hotel Cliveden), Whatley Manor’s charm is in being a traditional but luxurious hotel which appeals people keen on fine-dining and pre-dinner cocktails as much as those who want to indulge themselves in the luxury spa or to watch a film in Whatley Manor’s private cinema.
With a two-Michelin star restaurant, an award-winning modern spa, 12 acres of gardens and large, opulent bedrooms, a stay at Whatley Manor is perfect for Valentine’s Day – or any other day. It’s not cheap but it will be indulgent, relaxing and memorable.
The Adnams-brewery-owned Swan at Southwold is more of a very posh pub hotel rather than a country house hotel but it’s no less romantic for that. When I stayed here recently I loved our room which was beautifully designed (the complimentary bottle of Adnams vodka helped) and the excellent attention to detail was continued throughout the hotel, from the smart lounges to the gleaming restaurant downstairs to the cosy pub at the back of the hotel.
The Swan is built on the site of the 150-year old Adnams brewery and right in the heart of the charming seaside town of Southwold, so walks on the beach are a must. You can also go on one of the fascinating tours round the brewery itself or the modern distillery next door (Adnams makes fantastic gins and whiskies as well as vodka and beer) and even fit in a cocktail-making class if you have time before dinner.
If your idea of a romantic break is really getting away from it all then foodie favourite Ynyshir in West Wales is a remote romantic bolthole. Now billed as a restaurant with rooms rather than a hotel with a restaurant, Ynyshir is surrounded by stunning Welsh scenery – Snowdonia and the seaside are just minutes away – and the hotel itself is set in beautiful grounds with plenty of walking opportunities nearby.
However it’s the restaurant which is the big draw here and the reason Ynyshir is always on the list of top hotel restaurants in Wales and the UK – chef Nathan Ward has held a Michelin star here for several years now and his epic tasting menu lasts all night. The rooms are either in the main house or the separate cottage buildings – many are dog-friendly – and with no spa or other distractions you can tuck yourself away for the duration of the stay. What could be more romantic than that?
I tried to limit this piece to just some 9 of the most romantic hotels but in all honesty almost all of the excellent hotels featured on ALadyofLeisure.com would qualify. Here are some of my Best of the Rest when it comes to the most romantic hotels in the UK and which I would also heartily recommend. Pun intended!
Hambleton Hall, Rutland. Cosy, traditional, Michelin star, stunning location on Rutland Water.
Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. Setting of Eyes Wide Shut and Four Weddings, huge grounds, ornate interiors.
Talbooth House, Essex. Small but perfectly formed country house with heated outdoor pool and top restaurant Le Talbooth nearby.
Barnsley House, Cotswolds. Award-winning gardens, beautiful rooms, private cinema, spa and excellent food.
Sopwell House, St Albans. A VIP spa, garden suites courtyard and hot tubs everywhere make this a great couples hotel (but not exclusively).
Cliveden House, Berkshire. An iconic luxury hotel with stunning gardens, great restaurant and traditional opulent rooms.
If you want a swimming pool above all else for your romantic hotel break, here’s 43 of the best hotels with swimming pools
What are your recommendation for romantic hotel breaks? Let me know in the comments!