Had to forgo Mediterranean sunshine, palm-fringed beaches and supper in your favourite waterside taverna last year? We say: treat yourself to a hedonistic blowout closer to home and splurge the cash you would have spent abroad pampering yourself silly on a mini break at one of the South West’s most luxurious country house hotels. Which will you choose?
Summer Lodge, Dorset
Spend a few days in the lap of luxury at Summer Lodge in Dorset because, after months of Covid-19 upheaval and lockdown at home, you deserve it.
In the delightful village of Evershot, amid the rolling hills of Thomas Hardy country, this five-star country house hotel makes an excellent rural escape from reality. Treat yourself to a glam suite complete with four-poster bed, antique furniture and original fireplaces.
How to unwind: Anyone for tennis or croquet? Alongside quintessential English pastimes, you can relax by the pool, rejuvenate with treatments in the spa or amble around five acres of manicured grounds.
Spirit connoisseurs can chill out in the traditional wood-panelled whisky lounge while gourmets might like to dally over afternoon tea in the conservatory.
What’s good to eat? Signature dishes such as roast loin of lamb, served with glazed sweetbreads, have wow factor. Executive chef Steven Titman’s refined three AA-rosette cooking is based around delicious Dorset fare.
Ultimate splurge: Book Bea’s Cottage where special touches await including a welcome hamper, cut flowers and a bottle of Blanc de Mer.
Don’t miss: Ask sommelier Eric Zweibel for his pick of the cellar: there are around 1,600 wines to discover including 50+ champagnes and bottles from Bouchard Finlayson, the hotel’s own South African vineyard.
Hotel Endsleigh, Devon
Hotel Endsleigh, on the edge of Dartmoor, is a relaxing bolthole for the ultimate rural-luxe weekend away and, as you might expect from a hotel owned and designed by the Polizzi family, exudes style and understated elegance.
How to unwind: There are numerous good places, including Buckland Abbey and a few excellent National Trust houses and gardens, to visit nearby, but no one will judge you if you spend the weekend simply strolling around the fairytale gardens (designed by Humphry Repton) or sitting in front of the fire with a page-turner. The Grade I-listed building – a former residence of the Duke of Bedford – is surrounded by vast swathes of woodland and you’ll discover plenty of classic tomes in the library (the house is full of little nooks for curling up with a book).
What’s good to eat? Chef Thomas Ewings’ dishes showcase rural Devon delicacies such as spiced loin and cheek of pork, which can be enjoyed in the wood panelled and crest-studded dining room.
Ultimate splurge: Leave the realities of 2020 behind for a while and treat yourself to a couple of nights in a timelessly chic bedroom with chaise longue, bird-themed hand painted wallpaper, rolltop bath and stunning views of the garden.
Don’t miss: Make a 3.30pm date for a sumptuous afternoon tea of freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches and cakes in the library.
The Slaughters Manor House, Gloucestershire
The Slaughters Manor House fits the bill for smart country-living: art, sumptuous furnishings and splendid architecture combine to create a luxurious sanctuary.
The French chateau-style manor house in the Cotswolds is part of Andrew and Christina Brownsword’s collection of boutique hotels, and is renowned for its elegantly chic decor and five acres of landscaped gardens.
How to unwind: Pull up a blush velvet stool at the cocktail bar for a pre-dinner tipple (the gin list is particularly excellent); explore five acres of stunning gardens; relax in the lounge with a coffee and homemade biscuits, or enjoy the quiet conviviality of a game of billiards. There are also tennis courts and a croquet lawn.
What’s good to eat? Top-notch regional produce and classic seasonal ingredients combine with more unusual foraged flavours on an innovative menu. Dishes such as Herdwick lamb with braised gem lettuce, mint and black garlic are followed by memorable desserts such as Oakchurch cherry vacherin.
Ultimate splurge: Splash out on a suite complete with four-poster king-sized bed, glorious garden views, L’Occitane products and fluffy robes.
Don’t miss: Order an afternoon tea hamper (complete with bottle of chilled Champagne) to take with you on a day out from the hotel.
Lords of the Manor Hotel, Gloucestershire
For a break-from-the-drudgery escape in the heart of the Cotswold countryside, book a glamorous stay at this 17th century manor.
Not only is Lords of the Manor Hotel’s location (in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside) exceptional, it also offers the complete package for getting away from it all: beautiful bedrooms, splendid gardens, a well-stocked bar and two restaurants.
How to unwind: If you do happen to tire of eight acres of grand gardens, spectacular autumnal walks in the countryside and drinks by a crackling log fire in the lounge, there are plenty of nearby historic houses, National Trust properties and gardens to explore.
What’s good to eat? Ensconce yourself in The Atrium restaurant where head chef Charles Smith (who’s CV includes the likes of Petrus by Marcus Wareing) entrances diners with intricate tasting menus based around luxuries such as pan-roasted foie gras, Wye Valley rhubarb, lovage and pistachio.
Ultimate splurge: Live it up and order the fabulous matched wine flight with dinner.
Don’t miss: the opportunity to take your dog along too, as four-legged companions are thoroughly spoilt here (we’re talking room service).
Gidleigh Park, Devon
This thoroughly charming Dartmoor destination has long been a must-visit on Trencherman’s readers’ hit-lists and continues to live up to its reputation for stellar food, one of the best wine cellars in the UK, and top-notch service.
If you’ve always wanted to visit this romantic Tudor-style country house in its 107 acres, now could be the moment to make a dream come true.
How to unwind: Sit on the terrace and sip a glass of Champagne as you bathe in the sounds of the natural world, or get cosy in the beautiful oak-panelled sitting room with its log fire and objet d’art as you nibble exquisitely crafted canapes. Those who enjoy genteel sports will like the Peter Allis 18-hole putting course, fly fishing opportunities, tennis and croquet.
What’s good to eat? Executive head chef Chris Eden’s refined plates, served in two intimate dining rooms with views over the garden, are crafted with a produce-led ethos which echoes the bucolic surroundings. Cooking with a dash of adventure can be sampled in dishes such as fillet of beef cooked over coals with smoked bone marrow, garlic and spinach.
Ultimate splurge: Ask the sommelier to match dinner with something extra special from Gidleigh’s internationally renowned wine cellar which features an astonishing 1,300 bins and 13,000 bottles from around the world.
Don’t miss: Going out for the day? Order a “grown-up” picnic hamper to take with you. Or simply stay in your silk jimjams and picnic in your room – this is about indulgence, right?