Stately, grand, and evocative of the country's aristocratic tradition, the elegant country mansion is a quintessential image of the classic English countryside. Today, there are thousands of such homes that have been converted into hotels spread throughout the country and updated to suit such contemporary demands as chic design elements, luxurious spa treatments, and family-friendly activities. Check into one of these English country house hotels and enjoy the privileges and charm of country life.
1. Ellenborough Park, Gloucestershire
Tucked away at the end of a long drive on the edge of the sumptuous Cotswolds, the grand Ellenborough Park dates back to the 15th century and was the 19th century home of the Earl of Ellenborough, from whom it takes its name. Gossip from the Ellenboroughs' era provides historical backdrop: While much is made of Lady Ellenborough's extramarital affairs and scandalous lifestyle (a punchy cocktail at the bar is named after her), sit down with the hotel's GM who will enlighten you to the fact that the Earl himself was also quite the philanderer; yet it is she who got the bad reputation. (Some things never change.) Interiors feature original Tudor fireplaces, stained glass windows, and wallpaper and a bespoke mural by celebrated English designer Nina Campbell. Besides the spa and invigorating outdoor swimming pool, activities on offer including archery and duck herding. Ladies, don't forget your hat: The hotel overlooks the famous Cheltenham Racecourse, to which it is directly connected via a private road.
2. Bovey Castle, Dartmoor National Park
Built in 1907 as Viscount Hambleden's mansion, Bovey Castle was turned into a grand hotel in 1930, operated by the Great Western Railway. Set on 275 acres, the hotel places you in the wild and secluded Dartmoor National Park, surrounded by ancient moorlands. While the oak-paneled rooms, ornate ceilings, and roaring fireplaces provide a stately atmosphere, the hotel is anything but stuffy. In fact, it's particularly attractive for those traveling with children who can enjoy the hotel's Bovey Rangers activities including camp fire building, falconry, owl encounters, and ferret racing. While the kids are occupied, adults can make use of the art deco swimming pool, spa, and 18-hole golf course — or try their hands at making sloe gin.
3. The Pig, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset
With four properties to its name — and a fifth opening this summer in Devon — The Pig is building a small empire of charming, laid-back, country house hotels, particularly noted for their excellent restaurants, which focus on locally sourced food. At The Pig on the Beach in Dorset, the 23-room hotel offers uninterrupted views of long stretches of Dorset's sandy coastline and chalk white cliffs. Colorful Hunter wellington boots are lined up at the front door for guests to go exploring in the often wet countryside — look out for the pair of resident wooly coated pigs. The hotel offers spa treatments in a rustic shepherd's hut and also features a greenhouse restaurant, which only serves ingredients sourced within 25 miles — much of which comes from the hotel's own garden.
4. Babington House, Somerset
Fans of the glam Soho House empire will likely be familiar with Babington House. When the brand reinvented this 18th-century manor home, transforming it into a chic country retreat, it marked marked a new era in country house accommodations. Set in 18 acres of landscaped grounds, guest rooms are stylish — split-level Walled Garden Bedrooms offer the most seclusion as well as double soaking tubs — and amenities include tennis courts, a cricket pitch and (naturally) the Soho House brand's much-loved Cowshed Spa.
5. Coworth Park, Ascot
Ladies of London who love the Ascot Races will love Coworth Park, a glamorous five-star country house hotel and spa just 10 minutes from the racecourse. Set in 240 acres of Berkshire countryside, and bordering Windsor Great Park, the hotel (part of the luxe Dorchester collection) offers quintessentially English activities such as croquet and polo on the grounds of the 18th-century house, as well as a fabulous spa that will have you in tip-top shape for Ladies Day.
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