A weekend break in the countryside used to be a trip back in time in terms of service, style and comfort. But this crop of sophisticated, modern rural retreats provide a real breath of fresh air - with not a swirly carpet in sight

1 Hotel Endsleigh, Devon

The feeling you're heading somewhere special begins with the journey down the Endsleigh's majestic mile-long drive. Set in 104 acres of secluded valley, the hotel has all the exquisite interior touches you'd expect from Olga Polizzi. "I like to see this place as the post-new country house hotel," says manager and Olga's daughter, Alex.

Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Tavistock, Devon, tel: 01822 870 578, www.hotelendsligh.com, doubles from £210 per night, including breakfast

2 Babington House, Somerset

The rural outpost of Soho House in London. Owner Nick Jones had originally envisaged a classic country house hotel, but designer Ilse Crawford convinced him otherwise. "I said it should look modern, but cosy," she says, "and not too design-perfect or stuffy." The result? White walls, natural light, games areas, all-day dining, a spa, and droves of weekend refugees from Notting Hill.

Babington House, near Frome, Somerset, tel: 01373 812 266, www.babingtonhouse.co.uk, doubles from £295 per night, not including breakfast

3 Hotel Tresanton, Cornwall

It may be five hours from London but the sea views, meals of locally caught fish and Olga Polizzi's blend of huge divans and antique chaises in the bedrooms have established it as a destination bolthole. "My sole intention was to produce somewhere I'd like to stay, something a little better than home that doesn't frighten the horses or sacrifice comfort," says Polizzi. "And I think over the past five years or so I've brought a different kind of visitor to Cornwall."

Hotel Tresanton, St Mawes, Cornwall, tel: 01326 270 055, www.tresanton.com, doubles from £165 per night, including breakfast

4 Charlton House, Somerset

One of the first cutting-edge country house hotels, Charlton was opened in 1996 by Roger and Monty Saul. "We wanted the place to exude a comfortable, informal splendour," says Roger. And with a new spa and a restaurant serving produce from the Sauls' nearby organic estate, informal splendour is exactly what guests get.

Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, near Bath, tel: 01749 342 008, www.charltonhouse.com, doubles from £230 per night, including breakfast

5 Hurst House, South Wales

Co-owned by actor Neil Morrissey, Hurst House is an arty enclave in what was a 16th-century dairy farm. Hip touches abound, and the bar is popular with city escapees and savvy locals alike. There are also outdoor pleasures, from quadbiking to walks along the wild coastline.

Hurst House, East Marsh, Laugharne, South Wales, tel: 01994 427 417, www.hurst-house.co.uk, doubles from £150 per night, including breakfast

6 The Grove, Hertfordshire

The owners describe it as "groovy grand" and it'd be hard to better that. Under an hour from London, The Grove has a fabulous spa, golf course, pool and kids' club. The Grove may be in Footballers' Wives country, but it is pure House & Garden glamour.

The Grove, Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire, tel: 01923 807 807, www.thegrove.co.uk, doubles from £250 per night including breakfast

7 Barnsley House, Gloucestershire

Just over an hour from London, Barnsley House is an imposing 17th-century manor house designed by former owner, Rosemary Verey. Since opening to the public in 2003, modern conveniences (plasma TVs, a helicopter pad) have been added to make it an über-cool destination for city dwellers looking to spend downtime in a stylish setting. The restaurant is worth the trip alone.

Barnsley House, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, tel: 01285 740 000, www.barnsleyhouse.com, doubles from £270 per night, including breakfast

8 Cowley Manor, Gloucestershire

A startling blend of 1850s grandeur and modern flamboyance, Cowley is a gorgeous Italianate house that will utterly confuse anyone looking for old-world formality. Instead, guests will find a state-of-the-art spa and rooms that feel as cosy as they look cool. There's also an indoor-outdoor pool and 55 acres of land to enjoy.

Cowley Manor, Cowley near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, tel: 01242 870 900, www.cowleymanor.com, doubles from £230 per night, including breakfast

9 Hartwell Hotel, Buckinghamshire

This stunning house was once leased to the exiled King Louis XVIII of France. These days, it offers 30 bedrooms and suites as well as a spa and pool. But the main attraction is feeling as if you somehow belong in this setting, which means you are expected to overlook the occasional doddery service and muddled drinks orders - easy, when you see the house turning buttery yellow in the setting sun.

Hartwell House, Oxford Road, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, tel: 01296 747 444, www.hartwell-house.com, doubles from £270 per night, including breakfast

10 The Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk

This hotel, in the east wing of a National Trust stately home, is cool enough to keep the most discerning grown-ups happy but, for children, it is heaven on earth. There are help-yourself bikes, an indoor pool, a games room and 1,800 acres of grounds to be explored with horses, quadbikes or wellies. A top-notch restaurant and spa will keep parents quiet, but you'll be happiest here with some small people.

The Ickworth Hotel, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, tel: 01284 735 350, www.luxuryfamilyhotels.com, doubles from £200, including dinner and breakfast