Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa, Cuckfield
Ancient meets modern at this charming 28-room Elizabethan-era hotel with separate stand-out spa including pool and sun terrace. The ivy-clad house, dating back to 1520, has everything you could want from a country escape (large cosy sofas, open roaring fires, afternoon tea), while the Brutalist modern spa is big on wow factor thanks to its enormous glass walls with views of Cuckfield Park and a pool with swim-through access to the outside. Evenings are covered with the cosy snug bar and formal restaurant, while rooms in the main building have wonderful period features like Tudor oak panelling and four-poster beds.
Trains from London Victoria to Haywards Heath; 45 minutes
Read the full review: Ockenden Manor
The House at Beaverbrook, Leatherhead
Just 18 miles from central London in 400 acres of woodlands, step into a bygone era of English high society, original artworks and elegant styling at this personality-filled country house hotel (where press baron Lord Beaverbrook entertained world leaders and literary greats). Designed by Susie Atkinson, grandeur and opulence ooze from every room in the house but it’s not stuffy at all. Book a treatment in The Coach House Spa or, if you’re feeling adventurous, see how you fair at bushcraft with the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. Sushi is the order of the day in ex-Nobu head chef, Maruyama Taiji’s Japanese Grill. Don’t miss a nightcap at Gatsbyesque Sir Frank’s Bar.
Trains from London Waterloo to Leatherhead; 47 minutes
Read the full review: The House at Beaverbrook
Where to start? Perhaps most famous as the setting for the infamous Profumo affair, this imposingly grand stately home has been home to three Dukes, an Earl and a Prince of Wales since it was first built in 1666. Queen Victoria was once a frequent guest and – fun fact – Meghan Markle stayed here the night before the royal wedding. The interiors match the grandeur of its past, with high panelled ceilings, period bathrooms and glistening chandeliers. Enjoy the view of the Grade I-listed gardens in the Cliveden Dining Room or opt to go casual in the Astor Grill built in the old stable block. There are 376 acres to explore, but you’ll be tempted to a day lounging by the listed outdoor pool: the scene of that famous 1960’s affair.
Trains from London Paddington to Taplow; 42 minutes
Read the full review: Cliveden
• The best hotels in Berkshire
River Arts Club, Maidenhead
Is it a gallery, or is it a guesthouse? The River Arts Club, in a leafy enclave on the River Thames, feels more like an exclusive gallery-turned-guesthouse than a ‘normal’ hotel. The interiors are truly eclectic: original Victorian furniture and graphic Designers’ Guild wallpaper with a mix of Middle Eastern antiques, multi-coloured chandeliers and vibrant Venezuelan artwork. The pretty garden runs right down to the waterfront, from which Ophelia – the hotel’s private boat – whisks guests to some of the country’s best restaurants, including Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck.
Trains from London Paddington to Maidenhead; 39 minutes
Read the full review: River Arts Club
• The best hotels in England
The Pheasant Freehouse & Hotel, Hungerford
In blissfully bucolic surroundings in the Berkshire Downs, yet less than a mile off the M4, this revamped sheep drovers’ inn is the ultimate upscale pub getaway. With its open fire, red leather banquettes and old-school wood-panelled bar, the Young’s pub is at the heart of this property that also has 11 uniquely designed bedrooms with plush fabric headboards, printed wallpapers, marble bathrooms and Roberts radios. Traditionally a place favoured by jockeys – the pub overlooks the famed ‘Valley of the Racehorse’ – but owner Jack Greenall (of the Greenall Whitley brewing dynasty) has managed to add sophistication with traditional ales flowing on tap and a reassuringly hearty menu.
Trains from London Paddington to Hungerford; 50 minutes
Read the full review: The Pheasant
Heckfield Place, Hook
Lake swimming, Michelin-starred farm-to-fork dining, an all-natural spa… Heckfield Place is all about understated luxury. The gently wild setting features ancient heather, woodland and meadows that give it a magical feel. A-list culinary director Skye Gyngell has the farm and biodynamic market garden from which to create her menus for the Marle restaurant, which has a Green Michelin star. The Georgian house is grand, yes, but there is an earthy vibe to its décor (think bespoke English oak furniture, locally sourced rush mats, open fires and neutral linen). Little Bothy Spa offers all-natural treatments and a movement studio from Bodyism.
Trains from Waterloo to Winchfield; 60 minutes
Read the full review here: Heckfield Place
Four Seasons Hampshire
A majestic 18th-century Georgian manorhouse with the pitch perfect modern service and facilities of a five-star Four Seasons. In other words it’s the ultimate best of both worlds – try your hand at country pursuits such as horse riding and clay pigeon shooting (or zip wire, if you’re feeling adventurous) within the Downton-esque parkland of the Dogmersfield Park Estate before retreating to the opulently restored hotel (think marble lobby, chandeliers, colourful country house styling) for a craft cocktail and decadent dinner at Wild Carrot bar and brassiere. Don’t miss the state-of-the-art spa and glasshouse pool, too.
Trains from Waterloo to Hook, Winchfield or Fleet; 60 minutes
Read the full review here: Four Seasons Hampshire
The Grove, Chandler’s Cross
Just 20 minutes from Euston, the former home of the Earl of Clarendon is best described as country house five-star resort with golf, a spa, multiple dining options (from gastro pub to Indian and fine dining) with gardens and activities galore. The interiors are luxurious but also comfortable and laidback – think antique furniture, modern art on the walls and claw foot baths in some rooms. It’s perfect for a luxury getaway with the family, too, thanks to the kids’ club, table tennis and, in the summer months, the walled garden which plays host to ‘Ralph’s Beach’, a heated pool with sand and deckchairs, as well the Everyman outdoor cinema showing classic movies.
Trains from London Euston to Watford Junction; 20 minutes
Rooms from £400 a night, thegrove.co.uk
Read the full review: The Grove
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton
Yes, it’s eye-watering expensive, but there is a reason. This bucket list-worthy break at chef-patron Raymond Blanc’s 15th-century manor house is still the only British restaurant to have held two Michelin stars for more than three decades. The setting is England-meets-France genteel – all manicured lawns, croquet and boules, and 15th-century ponds. Then there’s the fanciful Japanese ornamental gardens and riotous rooms inspired by Blanc’s unique imagination and global travels. All are large, impeccably luxurious and welcome guests with sugared almonds and a decanter of Madeira. Facilities are foodie-focused with courses on offer at The Raymond Blanc Cookery School plus, the new gardening school, based in the beautiful Botanic Glasshouse within the grounds.
Trains from London Marylebone to Haddenham & Thame Parkway; 45 minutes
Read the full review here: Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Voco Oxford Thames, Oxford
Location is king at this historic honey-hued stone manor house thanks to its idyllic riverside setting and handy 15-minute drive into Oxford city centre. It’s only 30 minutes by car to some of the Cotswolds prettiest villages, too. Some parts of the building date back to the 15th century but the interior styling is clean and contemporary. Rooms in the old College Wing feature original fireplaces and free-standing bathtubs. If you’re not out exploring, you can enjoy the indoor pool and hammam, a leafy courtyard and the Crusader’s Bar in the striking, exposed stone lobby with all-day dining. You can even make use of the hotel’s 1920s barge.
Trains from London Paddington or Marylebone to Oxford Central; 60 minutes
Read the full review here: Voco Oxford Thames
The Reading Rooms, Margate
It doesn’t get much hipper than Margate right now and The Reading Rooms is a fashionable bed and breakfast in a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse just a stone’s throw from Margate’s sandy beach, quirky Old Town and the Turner Contemporary gallery. There are only two bedrooms but they span a floor of the house each and have floor-to-ceiling windows, whitewashed walls, parquet floors and chandeliers – faded grandeur meets French shabby chic. Add to this a lavish breakfast enjoyed in the privacy of your room, it feels more like a luxury hotel than your typical beachside b&b.
Trains from Kings Cross St Pancras to Margate; 90 minutes
Rooms from £160 a night, thereadingroomsmargate.co.uk
Read the full review: Reading Rooms
The Pig at Bridge Place, Bridge
Set in the lush meadows of the Nailbourne Valley, the sixth of Robin and Judy Hutson’s litter of exceptionally stylish hotels is a fine red-bricked Jacobean manor house that stands in 10 acres of park and water meadows just outside the village of Bridge, three miles from Canterbury. In the 1960s and 1970s, it just happened to be Kent’s foremost rock’n’roll venue with posters harking back to the big-name line-ups (Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are said to have played here). All the Pig signatures are here – roaring fires, the huge garden kitchen (with exceptional food sourced from its own garden or no less than a 25-mile radius) and rooms that play up original features, in chic colours and with printed William Morris wallpapers. There are also seven ‘Kentish Hop Pickers’ Huts’ on stilts dotted alongside the river to choose from if you fancy the great outdoors.
Trains from London St Pancras to Canterbury West; 54 minutes
Read the full review here: The Pig at Bridge Place
Rocksalt Rooms, Folkestone
This chic coastal getaway directly on Folkestone Harbour is a foodie hotspot with four bright and breezy bedrooms. Sitting on the sun-bleached timber terrace, watching the boats on the water, it’s easy to forget you’re in England. The restaurant is super sleek with its statement panoramic glass wall, and boasts a bounty of local produce, both from the ocean and the ‘Garden of England’. The bedrooms – picture exposed brick walls, antique wrought-iron beds and neat little wet rooms – are situated in the adjacent Smokehouse, which is also home to a summer-only fish and chip restaurant.
Trains from London St Pancras to Folkestone Central; 55 minutes
Read the full review here: Rocksalt
The Artist Residence, Brighton
If you could condense the spirit of Brighton into one building, this would be it. Creative and bohemian, set over four floors of a towering Regency townhouse, each quirky room has been decorated by a different artist (hence the name) and is accordingly adorned with limited edition prints and murals, as well as enjoying views over stunning Regency Square and the West Pier. Downstairs is the lively ‘clubhouse space’, a multipurpose hang-out zone where you’ll find light and airy spaces for a laidback brunch, settling in with your laptop and a coffee, or enjoying a cocktail or three with the new friends you’re almost certain to make.
Trains from London Victoria or London Bridge to Brighton; 60 minutes
Read the full review here: Artist Residence
The Bull, Ditchling
Set in arty Ditchling, a picturesque village with panoramic South Downs views, this 16th century Sussex inn is the perfect rustic escape for those who want to be close to Brighton, without being in the city. As the oldest pub in the village it brims with character, from its pistachio green façade to blackened beams, wonky ceilings and vast brick fireplaces. Each of the six contemporary rooms – reached via a secret doorway from the pub – are chic and comfortable with giant beds, half-timber walls and nice touches like Roberts radios and modern bathrooms with Cowshed products. Head downstairs for excellent gastropub fare and fine ales from the pub’s own Bedlam brewery.
Trains from London Victoria to Hassocks; 57 minutes
Read the full review here: The Bull