Head to a country-house hotel for exquisite local cuisine

Country house hotels are not just the places to revel in rural beauty, they are also home to some of the most inventive and refined food in the land.

At Boath House Hotel and Spa, Auldearn, Nairn (01667 454896; boath-house.com), chef Charlie Lockley uses the top-notch local Scottish produce to create dishes such as fillet of west coast halibut, brandade of Arbroath smokie, orange and fennel salad.

Newly appointed chef Nigel Godwin brings a touch of "molecular gastronomy" to the Northamptonshire countryside at Equilibrium, Fawsley Hall Hotel, Fawsley, Near Daventry (01327 892000; fawsleyhall.com), where a ballotine of pigeon breast is served with confit leg wrapped in gold leaf and pigeon "tea".

Dishes such as scallops served with pork belly, sweet potato, apple and cumin are as exuberant as the shades-of-purple interior design at Cassis, Stanley House, Mellor (01254 769200; stanleyhouse.co.uk).

Don't go to Gidleigh Park, Chagford (01647 432367; gidleigh.com), unless you're prepared to have your heart stolen by the beautiful woodland setting and elegant, sophisticated dishes from chef Michael Caines such as langoustine cannelloni with braised fennel and langoustine bisque.

Welsh ingredients are to the fore at The Lake Country House Hotel & Spa, Llangammarch Wells, Powys (01591 620202; lakecountryhouse.co.uk), where the menu might include braised shin of Welsh beef.

Dine in grand style in the Suffolk countryside at Hintlesham Hall, Hintlesham, Ipswich (01473 652334; hintleshamhall.co.uk) where dishes including fillet of sea bream served in a garlic and chive chowder are prepared with herbs from the hotel's own garden.

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