TO THE MANOR BORN

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The Independent Culture
LAKE DISTRICT: Michael's Nook

Cosy alternative to the region's more famous Sharrow Bay Hotel. Victorian house with roaring fires in a superb position under Rydal Fell. Good - if slightly hysterical - food. Huge set five-course dinner. Only 14 rooms so quite intimate, and owners very much in evidence.

Perfect for: sociable, fell- walking gourmets.

Grasmere LA22 9RP (01539 435 496). Doubles start from pounds 156 (all prices quoted per room per night, including VAT.)

LEICESTERSHIRE: Hambleton Hall

Small Victorian House (15 rooms) overlooking Rutland Water. Slightly gloomy Gothic feel but lovely views, terrace and delightful swimming pool. Owners very much in evidence - and staff sometimes over-familiar. Superb Michelin starred food. In slightly featureless area apart from villages and vast reservoir.

Perfect for: tired, gourmet lovers separated by north-south divide.

Hambleton, Oakham LE15 8TH (01572 756 991).

Doubles from pounds 150.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE: Lords of the Manor

Seventeenth century rectory in lovely Cotswold village. Superb setting - but only at the front. 27 rooms but insist on one in main house overlooking lake. Exquisite Michelin-starred food served in romantic dining room.

Perfect for: romantically-incli-ned, gourmet antique hunters.

Upper Slaughter, nr Bourton-on-the-Water GL54 2JD (01451 820 243). Doubles from pounds 155.

HAMPSHIRE: Chewton Glenn

Large Michelin-starred complex growing around original Captain Marryat- style house offering sporting and dining experience: indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, golf course, croquet, spa. 57 rooms.

Perfect for: gourmet, fitness fanatic couples trying desperately to disguise the fact that they have nothing to say to each other any more.

Christchurch Road, New Milton BH25 6QS (01425 275 341). Doubles from pounds 305.

WILTSHIRE: Woolley Grange

Jacobean manor house - with lovely gardens, charming rooms, swimming pool, and separate nursery, games room, eating area and full-time nanny for children. 20 rooms.

Perfect for: couples with kids seeking romantic break but unable to find babysitter.

Woolley Green, Bradford on Avon BA15 1TX (01225 864 705). Doubles from pounds 95.

SUSSEX: Gravetye Manor

Famously romantic, atmospheric Elizabethan manor house with good food and excellent service. William Robinson gardens, trout lake and lovely Sussex Weald views. Very handy for London (30 miles) but rather short on places to visit (nearest attractions include Crawley, Gatwick airport). 18 rooms.

Perfect for: lovers caught in first throes of passion.

East Grinstead RH19 4LJ (01342 810 567). Doubles from pounds 164.50.

DEVON: Gidleigh Park

Sensational - and reasonably priced - food under chef Michael Caines - one of top dozen restaurants in the country. Timbered house (15 rooms), water garden, tennis and fishing set in superb countryside.

Perfect for: discerning gour-mets with big, fast cars.

Chagford TQ13 8HH (01647 432 367). Doubles from pounds 310.

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