Five Best: Hotels for hikes

After a hard day's walking, there's nothing better than a night of luxury


Hotel Endsleigh, Devon

The former shooting lodge of the Dukes of Bedford on the edge of Dartmoor was refurbished in 2005 by Olga Polizzi. It is furnished in country house-goes-boutique chic style with panelling and wallpaper in the original Regency spirit, shutters and white blinds, and stylish pots of orchids. The 16-bedroom house is set in 108 acres by the River Tamar - with one of Britain's wildest national parks beyond.

Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Tavistock, Devon (01822 870 000; www.hotelendsleigh.com). Doubles start at £200, including breakfast.

Clearvewe, Wales

The views of Monmouthshire's hills, woodlands and valleys from Clearvewe are stunning. This luxury B&B opened in June last year and offers three bedrooms and a comfy lounge in a beautifully converted old stone cart house. It is set in the heart of terrific walking country, with the Usk Valley on the doorstep and the Wye Valley within easy reach. What's more, this peaceful, rolling landscape is much overlooked, with most tourists beating a path to the coast and national parks of Wales.

Clearvewe, Ty Wilson Barn, Llangwm, Monmouthshire (01291 671 515; www.clearvewe.com). Doubles start at £70, including breakfast.

Moonfleet Manor, Dorset

The Jurassic Coast path (declared a Unesco world heritage site in 2001 - and at one time more tamely known as the Dorset Coast Path) lies at the end of the garden of this Georgian country house. Just beyond is Chesil Beach and The Fleet nature reserve. As well as offering great hiking opportunities, Moonfleet Manor is a super-sybaritic, family-friendly hotel. Its 36 bedrooms are decorated with a slightly wacky touch of Raj Victoriana. Its restaurant serves modern British/French cuisine.

Moonfleet Manor, Fleet, Near Weymouth, Dorset (01305 786 948; www.moonfleetmanorhotel.co.uk). Doubles start at £160, half board including daily newspaper.

Punch Bowl Inn, Cumbria

The Punch Bowl's position couldn't be prettier. The pastoral outlook is lovely and the opportunities for fell walks plentiful. Sister property to the much-loved Drunken Duck Inn at Ambleside, the olde worlde pub was given a stylish facelift in 2005. Its nine light, bright bedrooms feature exposed beams, flat-screen TVs, Roberts radios and underfloor heating, while downstairs is a restaurant and a buzzy bar. Two quieter, cosy rooms off the bar offer open fires.

The Punch Bowl Inn, Crosthwaite, Lyth Valley, Cumbria (01539 568 237; www.the-punchbowl.co.uk). Doubles start at £110, including breakfast, afternoon tea and daily newspaper.

Ardanaiseig Hotel, Argyll

Three miles down the road from Kilchrenan village, this 16-bedroom baronial manor house sits on the shores of Loch Awe. With wood panelling, log fires and art works, there's the atmosphere of a contemporary chic house. But the real joy is in striding out into the Highlands. Lochside walks start from the drawing room steps, while beyond the 100-acre woodland gardens there are vast hillscapes to roam, with Ben Cruachan - at 3,659ft - dominating. Maps and picnics can be provided.

Ardanaiseig Hotel, Argyll, Scotland (01866 833 333; www.ardanaiseig.com). Doubles start at £110, with breakfast.

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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