Best new UK hotel openings to check out this winter

Hotel expert Ianthe Butt shares six of the UK’s best new staycation properties for the cooler months

Saturday 07 November 2020 13:25
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Nobu Hotel London Portman Square is among the big hitters to check out this winter
Nobu Hotel London Portman Square is among the big hitters to check out this winter
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ith the number of international destinations on the travel corridors list dwindling week by week, there’s never been a better time to check into a UK hotel for some R&R.

Fortunately, there’s a whole slew of new openings to choose from, including a hip seaside offering from noughties indie-rock royalty, a duo of big-hitting London openings and a long-awaited spa haven in the Peak District.

Here are six hotels to warm your soul this winter.

As travel restrictions vary across the UK, and are subject to change at short notice, do check the latest government advice before travel.

The Independent’s hotel reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

The Albion Rooms is three years in the making from The Libertines

Heralded by a jet black facade and crimson neon signage, this Victorian townhouse brings a heady dose of gothic fanfare to Margate’s Eastern Esplanade, courtesy of indie rockers The Libertines. The band – working with designer Rhiannon Sussex – have spent three years transforming a run-down, rather insalubrious hotel into a kooky, seven-room boutique crashpad.

Bedrooms are louche-luxe; onyx offset with gilded touches, shabby-chic mirrors, Pete Doherty’s expressive artwork, vintage typewriters and Haeckels toiletries. Downstairs there’s a recording studio and the chequerboard-floored Waste Land bar for Gunga Gin and tonics and hearty burgers. Menus have been magicked up by chef Joe Hill of The Table in Broadstairs, and the best of the bunch are the Thursday-Sunday fine dining suppers served at the Arcady Coffee House, which pack a local lilt and Asian twists – think Steve Gadd’s sourdough, hand-dived Rye scallops and crescents of roasted pumpkin in seaweed dashi – set to candlelight and a Carl Barât-approved soundtrack.

While die-hard Libertines fans will be tickled by band memorabilia and lyrics in-jokes (such as the tongue-in-cheek “Death” artwork above a staircase), theatrical interiors and top-notch dining make it a rip-roaring stay in its own right.

From £114, B&B. www.thealbionrooms.live

No. 26 By The Sea has just nine boutique rooms

Over on Scotland’s west coast, another seaside newbie making waves is a nine-room, family-run hotel from hospitality pro Paul Sloan and partner and GM Ioana Moldovan. With the help of interior designer Dominic Paul of Glasgow-based IBDP, the Victorian property and former guesthouse on the Corran Esplanade has been transformed into a rustic-cool bolthole.

Room categories range from wee through intimate to gorgeous, and most have sea, garden or woodland views. Personality-packed bedrooms are kitted out with quirky touches such as statement timber walls, Hepburn radios, a tartan-clad artist’s mannequin and Timorous Beasties thistle-patterned wallpaper. Tub lovers should make a beeline for room six for the sexy red clawfoot slipper bath.

For nightcaps, there’s an honesty bar with comfy velvet couches and a range of tipples including Scottish gins and whiskys. At breakfast, fuel up on brioche French toast, and sweet potato and avocado hash ahead of strolls to Ganavan Sands or energetic climbs up Pulpit Hill. In future, there are plans to launch on-site cooking classes led by house chef Alex Needham.

From £180, B&B www.no26bythesea.com

The Falcon, Castle Ashby

The Falcon sits in Castle Ashby’s sprawling estate

Newly opened in Northampton’s sprawling Castle Ashby estate is The Falcon, a 16th-century Grade-II-listed coaching inn transformed into a 22-bedroom rural retreat. Connection with nature sits at the heart of everything here, from activities such as cycling, yoga, wild swimming and mindful walks through ancient woodland, to restful countryside-inspired terracotta and olive colour palettes, botanical prints and petrified log furniture in the property’s eight bedrooms and 14 cottages.

Owned by Lord and Lady Northampton, the wellness ethos draws heavily on her experience as a psychotherapist, counsellor and yoga teacher, and guests are consulted ahead of a visit to determine what they want to get out of a stay.

At Eyas restaurant, chef Mark Lawton works closely with local farmers and serves up dishes like root vegetable pakora with lentil daal followed by plum, raspberry and basil crumble. Once you’re done exploring the great outdoors, there are two drinking spots to choose from – the cute stone-walled, banquette-filled Cellar Bar, and afternoon tea spot the East Wing which has a terrace with stunning tiered-lawn views.

From £140, B&B; at weekends, a two-night minimum stay applies, from £400, B&B. thefalcon-castleashby.com

The Mayfair Townhouse, London

The Mayfair Townhouse comes from the group behind Chewton Glen and Cliveden House

Come the end of November and the latest opening from Iconic Luxury Hotels – of Cliveden House and Chewton Glen fame – touches down with a flamboyant bounce on Mayfair’s Half Moon Street. A collection of 15 Georgian townhouses, the 172-room property’s design is inspired by the storied history of Half Moon Street – setting for Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest – and the boho Dandy set drawn here in Victorian times.

Classy bedrooms have a townshouse-of-one’s-own look, with sapphire, gold and ruby bedroom palettes and minibars featuring jazzy socks and absinthe cocktail kits. Dine on Scottish lobster curry and cardamom rice in The Club Room, or hot foot it to the Dandy Bar to sip fresh takes on the original whisky-based Dandy cocktail, accompanied by superfood salad and roasted cauliflower and hummus sharing plates, while surrounded by silk-pleated lampshades and printed velvet fabrics. While Green Park, Burlington Arcade and The Royal Academy of Arts are close by, knowledgeable Les Clefs d’Or concierge Dianna Beran is on hand to reveal the inside track on the capital’s latest must-dos.

From £350, B&B; www.themayfairtownhouse.com

Nobu Hotel London Portman Square comes with Japanese minimalist interiors

Just a neighbourhood away over in Marylebone is another heavyweight opening – Nobu Hotel London Portman Square. From early December, food lovers can feast on classics such as black cod miso and yellowtail sashimi paired with superior sake at the newest Nobu Restaurant (relocated from Berkeley Street) in a whopping 192-cover space with sushi counter and private dining area.

For after-supper snoozing, 249 rooms and suites pair minimal Japanese-style decor and neutral colour palettes with comforting tea sets and Natura Bissé toiletries. Communal areas by David Collins Studio feature Japanese traditional crafts – such as tatami mats – with contemporary twists, and a mesmerising kinetic sculpture by Ivan Black hangs in the lobby. Other flashpoints include a Nobu Bar with dramatic timber-screened walls and a year-round terrace for yuzupolitans and oni negronis (Aperol, vermouth, Roku gin and Hokusetsu sake), The Lounge for California-style fare – think truffle cheese toasties, and kale and dandelion salad with orange ponzu – and there’s a gym and wellness area too.

From £345, room-only. www.nobuhotelportmansquare.com

Buxton Crescent Hotel’s impressive thermal pool

Ensana Hotels – famed for their raft of European health spa hotels with outposts in Slovakia and Hungary – have just opened their first UK property in historic spa town Buxton. The impressive John Carr-designed crescent building – formerly the site of two hotels during Georgian times – has been brought back to life after a lengthy, £70m revamp.  

“Taking the waters” remains the main event; mermaid murals lead to the spa’s original Victorian bathhouse, where there’s a showstopping thermal pool fed with Buxton’s mineral-rich waters underneath a stained glass canopy, an indoor relaxation pool with twinkly light-filled ceiling, as well as a rooftop pool with whirlpool jets. There’s also a salt cave, CO2 mineral baths, eight treatment rooms and a cafe for light bites and smoothies (saunas and steam rooms are currently closed due to government regulations).

Post-soak, retreat to one of 81 comfortable rooms with cosy fossil grey bedthrows, dazzling chandeliers, and – in the ritziest suites – four-poster beds. Over at the Dining Room restaurant, locally sourced Derbyshire produce and comforting Brit desserts such as Eton Mess and treacle tart take centre stage.

Rooms from £125, B&B. www.ensanahotels.com/buxton/en

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