From secret Somerset inns to Cotswold boltholes with rolltop baths, Chantal Borciani reveals the top cosy weekend breaks you need to know about
Sometimes you want to head off for a weekend, stay in a great place but not pay through the nose.
But where are the little gems, those unusual boutique inns that only those in the know, well, know about?
Whether you want outdoor hot tubs, Michelin dining, rolltop baths or riverside views, the UK has some fantastic secret boutique accommodation. Hell, we’ll even throw in a castle.
TOP CITY BREAK FOR FOODIES: CASTLE HOUSE
If Bath and Brighton feel a little overdone, then head to Hereford for history, winding narrow streets, riverside views and a top foodie hotel.
Castle House Hotel is family run and the owner of the hotel also owns Ballingham Farm just eight miles away. The farm supplies the hotel’s fabulous Herefordshire beef as well as much of its chicken, eggs, seasonal vegetables and lamb.
With such fresh produce winging its way into the kitchen everyday it’s little surprise this townhouse hotel has a great menu.
Expect marbled, melt-in-the-mouth beef, game in season, hand-made gnocchi and colourful micro salads. The seven-course tasting menu is £50 per person and decadent.
The hotel’s frontage is more traditional than boutique but inside the rooms are country chic. Little touches you might find include free sherry or a welcome hamper.
The English country garden leads down to the river and is perfect for a sundowner or there’s lots to explore in Hereford and the surrounding countryside.
Insider tip: If you can, opt for a room with garden access – lovely for the summer.
Doubles from £130. Or stay Friday or Saturday nights and enjoy a three-course à la carte dinner on each evening, a Hereford Tea for Two and full English breakfast from £245 per room per night.
TOP COTSWOLDS INN: THE PORCH HOUSE
Winner of the coveted ‘New Pub of the Year’ award from the Good Pub Guide, the beautifully renovated Porch House boasts beautiful food and a romantic setting. A historic inn slap bang in the charming Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold, this 13-room luxury bolthole has parts that date back to 947AD.
Perfect for country yomps and antique hunting (Stow has a plethora of antique shops), The Porch House is a great Cotswold base and has a stone-walled garden for drinks or lunch in the sun.
As you’d expect from an inn that claims to be the oldest in England, dark woods and huge open fireplaces abound but designer lamps and mix and match hand-upholstered furniture keeps things fresh and fun.
In the bar, cosy nooks and snugs lie around every corner but the bedrooms are bright, beamed and a sea of grey throws and soft white linen.
An ideal escape from London, Kingham Station (five minutes away) is 1hr 25mins from Paddington with Great Western trains.
The relaxed dining room showcases a flavourful and seasonal menu and the beautiful conservatory seats 22 for breakfast, lunch or dinner and can hold private parties.
Insider tip: The room at the top of the house has the most beautiful beams and rolltop bath.
Doubles from £99-£159 a night B&B.
COOLEST SECRET INN: THE WHITE HART, SOMERSET
There’s something rather wonderfully understated about this eight-room renovated Somerset inn.
Like a shoot from Elle Decor, the furniture is brilliantly curated; trunks for side tables, eclectic lamps, colourful mosaics and quirky light fixtures.
The food impresses and has a feeling of The Pig brand but without the hefty price tag (Tom Blake, the head chef hails from River Cottage so expect local and fresh ingredients).
It’s Shoreditch meats Somerset, in only the best way.
Located in the market village of Somerton, The White Hart is close to Glastonbury Tor and boasts great walking routes nearby, not to mention the Mulberry HQ outlet in nearby West Shepton.
Doubles (amazingly) from £85 B&B with the top room and its open plan bath £130.
TOP CORNISH GETAWAY: MERCHANTS MANOR
An easy walk to Falmouth’s beaches, this country-house-style hotel is perfect for an easygoing couple (or family) who are looking to enjoy all the Cornish treats without spending mega bucks.
The Old Master House rooms have rolltop baths, private balconies and beautiful views of Falmouth Bay, yet still come in under £159 B&B and comfy doubles are around £145 B&B (early birds can bag rooms for £130).
The evening menu is classic good gastro pub fare, at lunch sandwiches come bursting with home-baked ham and brie but the real winner is the breakfast spread which boasts pastries, hams, cheeses and a great fry up.
It’s slightly more family friendly than classy boutique but with nice touches, reasonably priced rooms and a central location, guests will be happy.
A three-minute drive takes you to the harbour front where day ferries zip across the estuary to the Roseland Peninsula and the exceptionally quaint village of St Mawes where a Cornish pasty on the harbour wall is a must.
During the holidays expect to see a bucket and spade or two at the front door but couples can easily retire to the beautiful conservatory library to relax.
Insider tip: If dining out, head to Rick Stein’s Fish restaurant for amazing fish and chips (eat-in or take away) and great Asian inspired dishes in the relaxed restaurant.
Doubles from £130. Ask for one of the rooms with the new bathrooms.
QUIET SPA STAY: OCKENDEN MANOR
With a modern spa and Michelin-star restaurant, Ockenden Manor is the perfect place to retreat and relax.
The spa has a swim-through outdoor pool, sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub and the therapists certainly know their stuff. For those wanting something a little different the Kundalini Back Treatment ‘uses chakra and sound healing’ and claims to release physical and emotional tension, boost blood and lymph circulation and return body and mind to a state of awareness and balance.
The main house is far more traditional with velvety snugs and a Tudor-style dining room. The food is classic and superb.
For those with deeper pockets, Ockenden’s sister hotel Bailiffscourt is pretty gorgeous.
Midweek offers and yoga breaks can be booked online.
Doubles from £139.
THE WILDCARD FOR A ROMANTIC WEEKEND: HELLIFIELD PEEL CASTLE
Despite the grand exterior and stunning setting, this renovated castle turned boutique B&B has doubles from £170 and is probably one of the best-kept secrets for those looking for a romantic weekend away.
Set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, the rooms range from the ‘Chapel’ with its beautiful stained glass window to the ‘Square bedroom’ with its views from the deep black granite bath for two.
The extraordinary ‘Attic Apartment’ is the top suite with a modern open-plan living space and to-die-for balcony.
For those looking for something a bit different, Hellifield is it. It’s perfectly situated to explore the Yorkshire Dales and has great dining spots a short drive away.
The breakfast is all locally sourced and the owners (who rebuilt the castle from ruins) cannot do enough to help.
Great walking suggestions and restaurant recommendations are always on hand, though I cannot wait for them to offer dining in situ (please?)!
Relax, breath in the country air and enjoy the hospitality of this very special place.