The great country houses of England and Scotland used to be the playgrounds of aristocrats at classic British country house parties. Some of them still are, but many are also enjoying a new life, reborn as romantic, exclusive hotels. Set in beautiful landscaped gardens or isolated in dramatic natural settings, country house manor hotels attract visitors who enjoy outdoor pursuits and fine dining in about equal measure.
Cliveden, in Taplow, west of London, is one of England's grandest and most colorful manor house hotels. Built in 1666 by the Duke of Buckingham, a notorious womanizer, the house has been the scene of aristocratic hanky panky for centuries. William Waldorf Astor, then America's richest man, bought it in the 1890s, only to give it to his son Waldorf and daughter-in-law Nancy Astor. The American socialite became England's first woman MP and a noted society hostess. Another house party, decades later, resulted in the Profumo sex scandal that brought down an English government. Today the house, owned by the National Trust, is an extravagant and luxurious hotel. Lady Astor's suite still has her original antique furniture.
Holbeck Ghyll overlooks Lake Windermere in the English Lake District. Built in the 19th century, it was a hunting lodge for Lord Lonsdale, first president of the Automobile Association (AA) and patron of British boxing's Lonsdale Belt. The house itself is a showcase of Arts & Crafts period detail with stained glass, carved wood, ceramic and hammered copper touches everywhere. Rooms in the main house and several additional buildings are traditional and luxurious. Many have four-poster beds and oversized baths. The hotel restaurant has had a Michelin star for more than 10 years.
The Devonshire Arms is a small, luxury hotel on the Duke of Devonshire's 30,000-acre Bolton Abbey estate in the Yorkshire Dales. The hotel has 40, individually designed guestrooms and suites and a Michelin-starred restaurant. The hotel caters to active guests. It has a health spa that, in addition to treatments, has an indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, and steam room; a cold plunge pool, gym, all-weather tennis courts and mountain bikes for guests to borrow.
Menzies Welcombe Stratford-upon-Avon
The Menzies Welcombe is a mock-Jacobean country manor house just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, a town indelibly associated with William Shakespeare. Built in the 19th century, the house sits on land that once belonged to Shakespeare and his descendants. Set in 157 acres of parkland, the hotel has a golf course and spa with a glamorous indoor pool. Rooms are spacious, with high ceilings, generous bathrooms and antique furnishings. Many have four-poster beds and all have extensive views of the parkland, the golf course or the mansion's formal Italianate gardens.
- Cliveden: Contacts
- Holbeck Ghyll Country House Hotel; Holbeck Lane; Windermere; Cumbria LA23 1LU; 011-44-1539-432-375
- Devonshire Arms: Contacts
- Menzies Welcome Stratford-upon-Avon: Contact and Directions
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