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Best UK hotels 2023: Where to stay for a luxury or affordable break

Don’t compromise on comfort or style – head to these top spots for the ultimate staycation

Shivani Ashoka
Friday 23 June 2023 14:10 BST
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<p>Beaverbrook Town House is where you’ll find one of London’s best Japanese restaurants</p>

Beaverbrook Town House is where you’ll find one of London’s best Japanese restaurants

We get it – ‘best hotels’ lists are often dominated by over-exposed and over-priced options. We, however, like to think we’re a fair bunch. We look at what sets the UK’s best staycation properties apart, and where – whether spenny or spend-thrifty – you’ll truly feel like the bill is justified.

Fortunately, the British isles is brimming with holiday must-haves, from beautiful beaches in the South of England and the serene lakes of Scotland to countless pretty villages in between. Of course, we’re rich in breathtaking countryside and chic cities, too, so ramblers, shoppers, history-lovers and hedonists alike are all catered for. And you certainly won’t struggle when it comes to dining, with almost 200 Michelin star restaurants to pick from.

No matter which spot of our fair land you’ve set your sights on – a countryside retreat in Cornwall, a lavish London pit-stop, a whistle-stop tour of Wales, or one of the many other appealing corners of the UK – we’ve got you covered.

Here’s our pick of homegrown pads, from affordable guest houses in Powys and romantic country piles in Hampshire to classy Chelsea town houses and ethical stays in the Highlands.

Best luxury hotel: Beaverbrook Town House

Location: London

Sip a negroni at Beaverbrook’s swanky cocktail bar

Sure, its sprawling sister estate in Leatherhead has topped many a ‘best hotels’ list in its day, but if you’re inclined to go against the grain, you’ll be more impressed by what’s behind the unassuming doors of this swanky Sloane Street pied-a-terre. This is where you’ll find one of London’s best Japanese restaurants – The Fuji Grill, which easily gives Roka and Zuma a run for their money – as well one of the city’s most quietly chic cocktail bars.

The best thing, though? The 14 deceptively large rooms – all named after London’s best theatres – each of which includes access to one of Chelsea’s most exclusive residential green spaces, Cadogan Gardens. Ask for The Coliseum, an entry-level room that easily outdoes some of the more expensive ones, in both size and décor.

Best hotel for romance: Heckfield Place

Location: Hampshire

If this sexily decorated country pile feels like it’s giving ‘story-book romance’, you might well be onto something. Amid sprawling green hectares near Jane Austen’s Hampshire home of Chawlton, you’ll find a quietly swanky members’ club and cinema, a farm-to-table restaurant, and utterly seductive hotel rooms – think spacious roll-top baths, stacks of books, cloud-like beds and personalised keys. It’s the kind of manor Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would be proud to call home.

Between the full-scale biodynamic farm and afternoon walks around the on-site orchard and woodland, this 18th-century estate is a brilliant backdrop for modern love stories.

Price: Doubles from £450

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Best hotel for an ethical stay: Saorsa 1875

Location: Scottish Highlands

Countless hotels ham up their sustainable credos nowadays but few tend to deliver under the magnifying glass. However, this homely 11-key pad – which became the UK’s first “vegan hotel” when it opened in Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands in 2019 – comes out swinging.

Not only does it use exclusively cruelty-free suppliers – whether that’s the Glaswegian food co-op advocating for human rights or the property’s fair-trade textiles (not a hide of leather in sight) – it also demonstrates a strong environmental commitment, from powering the stoves using offcuts of the birch wood on site to planting a tree in the UK’s most deforested areas for every meal served. Which brings us to the food. Forget what you think you know about vegan restaurants or communal dining – this might just be the most exciting “plant-curious” cooking in the country.

Price: Doubles from £170

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Best hotel for a city pad: Artist Residence, Bristol

Location: Bristol

There’s a ton of Artist Residence boutique hotels in the UK but this is one of the best

This offering from Britain’s most creative hotel group may well be its best. Credited with being one of the first hotels to showcase local artists, the five-strong Artist Residence group – which began when co-owner Justin Salisbury overhauled his family’s Brighton B&B – is also known for repurposing both furnishings and buildings to create lived-in interiors.

It’s something that its Bristol outpost (a former boot factory and Georgian town house in Stokes Croft) does brilliantly. An ode to the city’s community, its artwork is by Bristolians – including internationally acclaimed Rose Vickers, as well as members of staff – and the property’s approach throughout is almost entirely sustainable, meaning the community is key to its progress, whether that’s a healthy and happy workforce or buying local.

While each of the 23 bedrooms is unique in design, the Lookout is split-level and has a beautiful four-poster bed. And you won’t want to miss the all-day café and bar – this is where the hotel’s “Best of Bristol” approach comes into its own, from musicians to craft gin.

Best hotel for impressive grounds: Grantley Hall

Location: Yorkshire

Grantley Hall lit up at night is nothing short of spectacular

This honey-hued stately home exudes such a palpable sense of tranquillity, your shoulders drop as soon as you walk through the door. Located on the banks of the River Skell, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, you’re surrounded by rolling heather-covered hills, acres of forested parkland and a pretty flowered stream, as well as the property’s pastoral showpiece: one of the country’s oldest Japanese gardens.

Little wonder, then, that the hotel works hard to preserve the environment and uplift the community around it – from BREEM-standard architecture to operating a distinctly luxurious outfit under strong ethical principles.

Best for foodies: Coombeshead Farm

Location: Cornwall

The perfect place for a lazy Sunday morning

When two celebrated British chefs came together in 2016 to turn a 66-acre Cornish dairy farm into an eco-friendly guesthouse, they unknowingly created the blueprint for fantasy foodie stays.

Straddling the Devon border in sleepy Lewannick, this working farm harks back to both Tom Adams’s and April Bloomfield’s zero-waste roots. Almost everything – from the exceptional pork loin and the warm, buttered sourdough to the cosy blankets and colourful pottery – is made on site, sourced locally or repurposed.

What’s more, it’s utterly gorgeous to look at. Think quirky-but-comfy antique furniture, as well as nine unique rooms split between the old farm and grain houses. If you request no.9, we’d recommend making time for the freestanding roll-top bath underneath the eaves – it’s got seemingly limitless views of rolling green farmland.

Price: Doubles from £145

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Best hotel for families: Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve

Location: Kent

Port Lympne’s “savannah” grounds are what make it really special

Who said you had to leave the UK to go on safari? Certainly not the folks at this 600-acre Kentish ”savannah”, which is dedicated to conservation and helps to re-populate endangered wildlife.

While you can expect to spend your days spotting everything from giraffes and rhinos to zebras, the decision gets slightly trickier when it comes to where you lay your head at night. There’s everything from bubble pods to treehouse suites, which not only means an achingly cool holiday for children, but a sliding scale on the cost for the parent(s) picking up the tab. As it turns out, you really can please everyone.

Location: Lake District

Fancy a bit of luxury? Go for the Lake House

On the eastern side of the National Park, behind Lake Windermere, you’ll find one of the most serene spas in the country. You’ll live the high life, literally, in the spa suite – tricked-out cedar cabins, perched 6ft off the ground, with convertible treatment rooms and unbelievable views of the Lake District fells. Or get spoilt rotten in one of the five slick spa lodges, which come with their own hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas and treatment rooms with infrared beds, as well as pretty walled gardens.

Either way, it feels like you’re in another world – so much so that a quick visit to the main hotel (an Edwardian house with a blingy take on Scandi design) may seem superfluous. Oh, and if you really want to up the ante on the seclusion front, the Gilpin Lake House, with its own spa facilities and indoor pool, sleeps 12.

Best hotel for adults: Wildhive Callow Hall

Location: Peak District

Callow Hall doesn’t just have great food – it even makes its own honey

This five-star hotel – a restored gothic Victorian manor with acres of woodland and meadows, magazine-worthy interiors, first-rate food and drink, and a thoroughly decent spa – comes with a remarkably unstarry price tag. But such is the premise of Wildhive: a hotel group that aims to bring tourism cash to areas of the country that may need it, through the lure of a photogenic and sustainably minded luxury hotel (of which the Wildhive Callow Hall acts as the flagship).

Forget what you know about typical stuffy country piles – here, staff and guests are on a first-name basis and everyone’s about hiking the nearby Tissington Trail, before kicking off their Hunter wellies (on loan from the hotel, natch) and sipping cocktails in front of the fire.

The best bit? The thoughtful amenities in the rooms – whether you stay in The Big House or in one of the pretty stilted cabins on the grounds, you’ll want to make a beeline for the hotel’s homemade honey.

Best budget break: The Royston

Location: Powys

A trip to Powys, Wales, is worth it for The Royston alone

We’d wager that this chic guesthouse in the lush Cambrian countryside – about an hour’s drive from Shrewsbury – is enough to tempt even hardened city folk into lacing up their hiking boots. Near Snowdonia National Park and the Cardigan Bay coastline, most visitors plan to head out in search of the area’s impossibly pretty waterfalls and woodlands.

But with mesmerising views of Powys’s rolling hills, and lip-smackingly good flatbread pizzas (all food is prepared and served by owners, Rob and Clive, largely using ingredients grown on site), many end up staying put in the lounge or alfresco at the fire-pit – setting the world to rights by way of the honesty bar. Not that we’re judging – between the original fireplaces, the antique furniture and the cosy linen in each of the seven bedrooms, even making it downstairs seems impressive.

Price: Doubles from £131

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