Romance is elusive. It always involves two people but it can be found in myriad different ways, from the clichéd to the unexpected. When it comes to hotels, it’s not simply Champagne on ice and rose petals on the bed that hold the key to finding romance; it’s an amalgam of elements – the cloud-like comfort of that bed, the prettiness of the room, a well-chosen collection of books, a vase of country flowers – that makes the heart melt. Champagne in the bath or private hot tubs are all very well, but if there’s a view – perhaps across an unspoilt valley, along an avenue of lime trees or over a sparkling bay – to contemplate while you stetch out and sip your bubbles, then your memories will last much longer, particularly if you're celebrating a really special trip like a honeymoon.
Here are 40 hotels where romance can be found far more easily than at other addresses. It may be because of beautiful views, but there are other triggers: roaring fires and old beams; cosy eyries in lofts and eaves or cabins and treehouses; sybaritic spas; gorgeous gardens; glamorous dining rooms; sexy bars; secret corners. These hotels may each offer a different form of romance, but they all share one thing in common; attention to detail. Whether you are taking a private boat trip, wallowing in a a cliff-top hot tub or indulging in a dish of oysters or lobster thermidor, you will be in good and caring hands.
THE MOST ROMANTIC HOTELS IN England
The property began life as two Georgian townhouses in the mid-18th century and was rented by Lady Ann Bingham (whose sister married the first Earl of Spencer) before aunt and niece Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper occupied it between 1899-1914, when it became something of a literary hub. No two rooms are the same and they are each named after Michael Field’s poems; six have freestanding copper tubs. At the back is the hotel’s most prized feature: terraces, lawn and flowerbeds leading to the Thames’s towpath and the peaceful river beyond.
This charming boutique hotel is tucked on a quiet side street in Pimlico, and filled with playful, contemporary art that will make you smile. The 10 retro-inspired rooms have been carefully curated to give shabby-chic a serious makeover, with inviting velvet armchairs, Smeg fridges and limited-edition prints. The Loft gets bonus points for its sleek and sexy bathtub that’s big enough for two and gives off a cosy, alpine feel surrounded by reclaimed wooden floorboards and walls.
If there's a more sultry, sexy spot for pre-dinner drinks in the capital than the cosy Fumoir Bar at Claridge's then we're yet to find it. In fact, the entire Art Deco style hotel is a fine example of 1920s inspired romance. Yes, the prices here are also some of the highest (for everything, the room rates, food, cocktails...) but there's a reason and it's all to do with utterly faultless service, the kind that anticipates your every move, yet never feels stifling. They also know how to deliver romance without it ever seeming cringey which is a hard feat to manage.
There is titillation at every turn. The lobby is like a lothario’s library: while the Letters of Horace Walpole adorn the shelves, aubergine velvet pouffes with more tassels than a ra-ra girl skim the floors. The lounge on the other side of the corridor has a disco feel, with a mirrored ceiling speckled with orange LED lights. Despite all the crazy, quirky touches, the building, which was once a baptist church, still carries an air of magnificence. ‘Boudoir’ doesn’t do the bedrooms justice. Think a jazz-hands-waggling riot of tassels, parrot sconces, turquoise velvet screens and hummingbird lamps.
Two neo-classical mansions on Stanley Gardens form this charming hotel where no two rooms are alike. Cosy is the name of the game here and room sizes range dramatically from the tiny yet beautiful attic rooms to the compact doubles and larger rooms that boast freestanding Victorian tubs (some balanced on old books) – it was in room No 16 that Kate Moss and Johnny Depp famously filled one with champagne. Some beds sit on high four-posters and the bed in No 13 even has steps leading up to it. Sinkably soft pillows and bouncy mattresses will cocoon you as soon as you turn in for the night.
Quirky Kit Kemp interiors, cosy guest spaces, a buzzy bar and a winning West End location makes this hotel an enduring star of the Firmdale Group. Join a post-theatre crowd for a cocktail and some brasserie classics in the restaurant before retiring to a room that looks like an interiors spread in a glossy magazine. The Junior Loft Suite might be the top pick, with its charming window seat, wooden beams and spacious bathroom – the huge tub with television on the wall is an added indulgence.
A true Firmdale classic, brimming with Kit Kemp’s signature style, and featuring subtle references to the renowned Bloomsbury Group in original art from the period, including by Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf’s sister. There’s a grand feel to the place from its exterior, with Union Jack flying, but once inside it’s boutique through and through. There's lots of romantic spaces to hide in: the small lobby has a cosy fireplace and armchairs; beyond it is the library and drawing room, and to the left is the gorgeous Oscar bar and restaurant.
Every room in this townhouse hotel is bursting with colour and effervescent charm, thanks to splashy Chelsea textiles and characterful artwork. Beds are tall with thick and firm mattresses made-to-order by Sleepeezee. The small bottles of lavender and eucalyptus linen mist on the pillows are a nice welcoming touch. Some rooms face the garden, while others look out to the upscale residences on Sumner Place; two have balconies. Bathrooms have speckled granite walls and a tub-shower combo. Snazzy robes with green piping detail and slippers are provided.
This stylish boutique b&b, sister to The Capital a couple of doors away, enjoys a prime position in the heart of Knightsbridge – memorably described as a 'croissant throw from Harrods' and maybe a couple of throws from Harvey Nichols. It's a delightfully grown-up hotel, so perfect for a break for two. Now run like The Capital by upmarket, American-owned Warwick Hotels & Resorts – its first foray into London – The Levin continues to offer the atmosphere of an elegant townhouse; a luxurious, home-from-home bolthole.
Sister to the popular Hazlitt's, this little hideaway is a warren of cute-as-a-button rooms discovered through wonky wooden doorways, antiques and curious knick knacks stuffed into every nook and cranny. It's a charming contrast to its hip, edgy East London neighbourhood outside, so after wandering around cool cafés and independent boutiques head back and help yourselves to drinks in the honesty bar. Hunkering down next to an open fire for the afternoon is pretty magical. Room to book for a romantic weekend in London is The Rook's Nest, a penthouse suite spread across two floors made for squirreling away.
What a beauty. With its golden stone, gables and mullion windows this is a dreamily romantic house. But for all that, the building is magnificently upstaged by its famous garden, created by the property's late owner Rosemary Verey. Soothingly furnished in cream and grey/browns, the 18 bedrooms feature artworks inspired by gardens and nature – a row of watering cans, a chandelier made out of flower pots. All offer slick accoutrements of Bose speaker and Nespresso machine as well as a host of carefully chosen books. Hidden in a garden dell is the uber-stylish spa, complete with outdoor hydrotherapy pool.
The gardens define this country house. Guests can amble amongst the heaving rhododendron bushes and popping pink magnolia trees, or explore the apple orchard and fruit'n'veg garden. Gravetye Manor itself – an eight-minute drive from East Grinstead station – is an authentic Elizabethan edifice, all mullioned windows and red-brick chimney stacks. Inside, the past doesn't echo; it booms. Instead of chairs expect 16th-century-style oak thrones; instead of radiators, gigantic fireplaces, engraved with Tudor flowers and coats of arms. The restaurant, overseen by George Blogg, has a Michelin star and is one of the most pleasurable places to dine in the country.
Thyme is a cluster of honey-stone properties in postcard-pretty Southrop and is one of the most romantic hotels in the UK. It is a dreamy, other-worldly haven, composed of various elements – a former rectory, an old farmhouse, cottages and barns – all beautifully restyled. Facilities are first-class, from the Meadow Spa with eight treatment rooms to the heated spring water swimming pool, tennis court, topiary-filled garden and ample grounds beyond. It is an epicurean delight. You dine in style at the Ox Barn, where the short menu changes daily and is very largely based on what’s available from the vegetable garden. Rooms are individually designed: Pinewood has a cinema screen, while English Rose is delicately decked out in subtle pinks and antiques.
This National Trust property, dating back to the late 17th century and set among 376 verdant acres on the banks of the Thames, is truly something special. There are lots of different features throughout the rooms so ask if you want a four-poster bed, a working fireplace, a free-standing bathtub or an outdoor hot tub. The pool – where the infamous Profumo Affair started – is a boon in summer, surrounded by loungers, with two hot tubs. Don’t miss champagne at sundown on one of the hotel’s vintage boats.
Wake up to the sound of cows, birds and bees at this chic, family-run and food-focused guesthouse in the East Devon AONB. It’s a future model of what the classic B&B should look like. Every room sings, together with Studio Alexandra, owner Olive created the vision for the interiors, which are inspired by the Bloomsbury Group’s Charlton House: every nook is dressed; every angle worth lingering over. It’s also excellent walking territory – a lovingly illustrated and detailed walk book is provided in each room, offering the owners’ favourite walks, taking in pub stop-off points, the best places for crab sandwiches, sea views and foraging tips.
A refined country house without pretension in the heart of the New Forest. Facilities include bikes and boots for exploring; a lush spa with outdoor hot pool, indoor lap pool and hydrotherapy suite; an impressive treatment list includes relaxing Bamford massages and facials alongside improving Sarah Chapman skincare treatments. Delightfully decadent rooms are all universally equipped with baskets of magazines, walking guides, coffee machines, room pantries of snacks and supplies and luscious Bamford toiletries whether you opt for a starting price characterful eaves room with its floral wallpaper and country-cottage feel or a sleek forest suite with in-room roll-top tub.
Billionaire Gerald Chan’s luxury country house, only an hour from London and surrounded by 400 acres of grounds, is something rather magical. There’s a sense of warmth, naturalness and flop-down homeliness that’s also artistic (fine 20th-century English pictures from Chan’s private collection); literary (a curated collection of books); earthy and artisanal (lime plaster walls in natural colours, linens, English oak floors, hand-crafted furniture, headboards and matting woven from sweet-smelling River Ouse rush). A small spa with three treatment rooms will be joined by a larger spa and infinity pool. Guests can enjoy wild swimming in the lakes, and walking, running and cycling on tracks across the estate.
The grounds of The Tawny are the star of the show, with shimmering lakes and wild woodlands to explore. There are lots of lovely grassy banks perfect for picnicking amidst row upon row of royal purple foxgloves, as well as cosy corners of woodland and countless follies (turrets, stone circles, arches) that offer unique viewpoints and give a real sense of character to the place. And when it comes to the rooms they are just as romantic – spread around in boathouses, treehouses, shepherd’s huts and more, so you can wake up to the superlative views. Outdoor tubs add to the appeal.
Gilpin Hotel is a stylish gateway to the Lakes with a well-deserved reputation for being beautifully run. This is true relaxation, albeit in a convivial atmosphere. Book a spa suite, on the edge of the main hotel property; perfect for those who truly want to switch off in total privacy — and there are plenty of switches to help you do it, via your own hot tub, sauna, steam room and Sonos system for music. The floor-to-ceiling window means you wake up to views across the fells. Fishing, shooting, horse riding and mountain biking can also be organised on-site. The hotel has eschewed the classic Modern British or gastronomic tricks of other Lake District luxury hotels and brought in Asian and Indian themes at Michelin-starred HRiSHi and the more relaxed Gilpin Spice.
A relaxed country house hotel without the swags and fuss but with plenty of stylish warmth and comfort - and a Simon Rogan (of Michelin-star fame) restaurant. Close to the honeypots of Bowness and Windermere but cocooned in gardens and with stunning views, you need never leave. It's a sprawling Edwardian house of whitewashed render and black-and-white timbered gables. Views through picture windows to the lake and fells are soporific. For real peace and privacy, opt for one of the six suites in the cedar-clad, chalet-style buildings set in the grounds, with floor-to-ceiling windows, the best glimpsing the lake through trees. Wander the 14 acres of grounds with croquet and boules pitches, small tarn and rowing boats, plus striking art installations.
In film-set-perfect parkland and with Palladian good looks, this hotel fires on five-star cylinders: a marble-clad pool, elite fitness facilities, gracious bedrooms, and chef Shaun Rankin leading a swathe of dining options. Classic stately home features have been elegantly reinterpreted for the 21st century: bay trees in urns guard the entrance; panelled and columned reception rooms – some in soft creams and Wedgwood blues, others rich in oak panelling – are elegant with velvet furniture; doors open onto numerous terraces, perfect for sunset drinks.
A verdant, Grade 1-listed Eden between Dartmoor and Exmoor, with shell houses and hidden glades for romantic tête-à-têtes. The gardens, designed by Humphry Repton, have verdant glades, secret grottos, ancient trees, rose-wreathed arches, a shell house, formal parterre, and lawns that sweep down towards the River Tamar. Long corridors, hushed tones and wood-panelled walls studded with crests lend a collegiate feel, and there are two homely drawing rooms with roaring fires, ottomans, botanical paintings, plump sofas and bookshelves lined with classics. Room five is the most impressive, with a glamorous chaise longue, bird-themed wallpaper, roll-top bath and beautiful views.
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Gara Rock’s remote location, which is refreshingly devoid of mobile reception, lends it a low-fi, analogue vibe, where couples play board games in the cosy lounge, muck about on the beach or strike out on long coastal walks. Rooms share a cosy, rustic, industrial feel, with velvet cushions, pom-pom-fringed throws, rough timber feature walls, vintage dial phones and geometric-tiled bathrooms with power showers and bespoke argan oil toiletries. But the cherry on top here is the Secret Suite, overlooking the sea, it's a luxurious hideaway for lovebirds (ideal for a honeymoon).
It's not in the most sought-after part of Norfolk, but the Gunton Arms is winningly situated in the vast, early 18th-century deer park of Gunton Hall, south of the seaside resort of Cromer. Owned by art dealer, Ivor Braka, this flint-built estate hostelry-with-rooms is not just packed with original artworks, but artworks by some of the biggest names. Exotic butterflies by Damian Hirst, neon works by Tracey Emin, erotic photographs by the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi, an etching by Lucian Freud and works by Gilbert & George. It's an incredible find for those who find their romance in the arts, plus it's got a great crowd: well-heeled Londoners, celebrity musicians and top-ranking artists rub shoulders with a loyal, local contingent.
The house, now extended and painted yellow by its current owners, is a quirky fantasy that reminds one, with its overlapping tiled Portland stone roof, of the witch's gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. It’s cosy inside, full of antiques and curios, and relaxing outside, with terrace, huge lawn and walled kitchen garden. All the rooms are delightful, many with interesting original features; two are delightful two-storey thatched follies overlooking the kitchen garden, and another is in a converted shepherd’s hut under the trees, with its own bathroom.
While many eco-hotels sacrifice style and comfort in pursuit of green credentials, The Scarlet more than lives up to the hype. The Ayurvedic spa has proved a big success and there are wide outdoor terraces on each level with designer loungers, log-fired whirlpool tubs, and a reed-filtered natural swimming pool. Rooms are all individually styled with luxurious sateen sheets on deep mattresses, blonde wood furnishings, oval baths – often in the bedroom itself – and powerful rain-showers. Most have a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that slides back to access outdoor space, all cleverly designed to give privacy.
Tresanton’s unique style is signalled from the moment you walk in. First of all there’s the terracotta Madonna and Child embedded in the wall above the door; then there’s the luxuriant sub-tropical vegetation, and the dizzying scent of exotic flowers; then the sea views from the tiled tables set out on the terrace. The hotel’s classic wooden yacht, Pinuccia, built in 1939, is available for skippered sails around the sheltered waters of the Fal Estuary and lovely Helford River from May to September. Thirty rooms in a terrace of five fishermans cottages and a stylish annexe, each subtly different, each with a sea-view, and 11 with their own furnished terraces or balconies.
Enter hog heaven at this quirky countryside idyll in Devon’s peaceful Otter Valley. The Pig’s charmingly informal yet exquisite take on the traditional manor house hotel experience is a formula not to be messed with. With a croquet lawn put to good use as much as the board games in the snug lounge, and two treatment rooms in the Potting Shed, there’s plenty to do. Even just a wander around the extensive and beautifully executed kitchen garden will easily while away an hour before dinner. Take your wellies and a good appetite – you’ll leave feeling as happy as a pig in clover.
Lively but laid-back Babington House can make a fair claim to being the UK's original trendy country-house retreat. One set of outbuildings includes sizeable indoor and outdoor swimming pools (both heated year round), a sauna and steam room, plus a cinema showing films every evening. The substantial, rustic-chic Cowshed Spa offers a wide range of treatments. There are 32 individually designed, rather gorgeous and very comfy bedrooms, many with working fireplaces. The three tranquil and slightly more modern split-level Walled Garden Rooms have tub baths intended for two on their terraces.
The Newt is one of the most exceptional country house hotels Britain has seen. Interiors are from co-owner and former editor of Elle Decoration Karen Roos, and there is plenty to admire, especially the simplicity: no curtains at the lovely sash windows, nor pointless cushions on the blissful beds; the rough-hewn walls of the natural, unadorned spa; the unfussy, almost Scandinavian style of the 23 bedrooms and bathrooms; the juxtaposition of modern and old. The centrepiece is the egg-shaped Parabola walled garden, now planted with a comprehensive collection of 460 trained British apple trees, of 267 varieties, arranged in a Baroque-style maze. The hotel has a spa with sauna, salt steam room and beautiful pool leading to a heated outdoor hydrotherapy pool.
Middleton Lodge is a rambling Georgian country estate offering sumptuous boutique accommodation (and actually two wedding venues). Owner Becky, an architect, designed all 45 stylish rooms, rooting out antiques and quality furnishings to complement the vaulted beamed ceilings and graceful Georgian windows. Décor in the Main House (which has 16 rooms and is private hire) is plush Georgian Regency, a mix of contemporary and traditional in the other rooms. Explore the grounds using the complimentary bikes, indulge in a treatment, and head to the three-AA-Rosette restaurant, The Forge, for a fine dining experience and a garden-to-fork ethos.
This kooky 16th-century inn, on the Sussex-Kent border and within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has a curious offbeat charm. There are seven rooms in the main building, all individual and crammed with curious trinkets. In the garden, there are four lodges, all with pitched ceilings inspired by the local oast houses. Pour l’Amour is a cosy pine-panelled room with a reclaimed stained glass window; the Love Nest comes straight from the pages of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree books, with curved wooden walls, a flock of cuckoo clocks, a terrace and a free-standing copper tub.
This was Kent’s foremost rock 'n' roll venue in the Sixties and Seventies and the vibe has been preserved with a decadent, velvety feel in the series of cosy sitting rooms, the bar and the main house bedrooms: think Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithful, Biba. Go for a Hop Pickers’ Hut, ranged along the Nailbourne stream and accessed via a boardwalk. They are romantic little wooden boltholes which are beautifully finished (think Bakelite light switches and telephones, roll top baths, monsoon showers, wood burners). Kent is brilliant for locally sourced food and the huge kitchen garden here is already producing plenty of home-grown produce.
This early 19th-century windmill turned cosy guesthouse is in a scenic coastal location, making it a fabulous base for walkers, birdwatchers and romantic couples. Not only does it have characterful rooms, hearty food and friendly staff, but guests are privy to superb views over reed beds towards Blakeney Harbour too. There are nine rooms including three in the circular tower of the mill: these have the best views and the most character. The ground floor of the mill is a circular sitting room with a wood burning stove where games, books and complimentary sherry are left out for guests.
THE MOST ROMANTIC HOTELS IN SCOTLAND
Although a quiet, country-house setting, this Baroque-meets-Georgian mansion is shamelessly seductive. With swags and columns, brocades and velvets, rich colours and intimate corners, it is wildly opulent. Drama, theatre, romance and passion hang heavily in the air. Minimalism be damned; more is definitely more. It proves Oscar Wilde’s maxim that 'nothing succeeds like excess'. Rooms are irrepressibly romantic in a husky-throated boudoir sort of way. If you're hopelessly bathroom-obsessed, try the Owner’s Suite, where you can steep in a silver chariot bath.
This extraordinary collection of fantasy suites is the ultimate romantic hideaway: sumptuous, indulgent and slightly (delightfully) mad. The nine suites are an antique dealer’s dream: the rooms set-dressed with fascinatingly eclectic clutter; all jewel-coloured velvets, silks and brocades, carved wood, gilding and candle-light - think decadent ecclesiastical. Beds are dramatically draped or four-postered (or both); chin-deep bateau baths are perfect for sharing. Choose to breakfast in your suite and the hamper will arrive as if by a muscular mouse just inside your door at the appointed time in the morning; or you can watch owl-like from your bed while it is laid out on your dining table.
The delight is in the detail at this wildly romantic, fascinating passion project from international art dealers Hauser & Wirth. From William Morris to Timorous Beasties, interior designer Russell Sage has used sumptuous fabrics, acres of antiques and fine rugs. Queen Victoria's watercolour of a stag's head hangs companionably in the same space as Richard Jackson's neon and blown glass antler chandelier. Even if your budget doesn't stretch to one of the stage-set-style suites, all the bedrooms are themed, with glimpses of magnificent mountains. The Flying Stag public bar is jolly and noisy; Elsa's Bar, pink and Art Deco, is named for fashion designer Elsa Schiaperelli. Do try the oysters cooked over head chef Magnus Burstedt's prized wood fire.
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THE MOST ROMANTIC HOTELS IN WALES
The hotel is set in 26 acres of grounds (including lawns, woodland and meadowland; a kitchen garden; and a walled garden) amid deep countryside, with distant views of the Preseli Hills. You may wake up to the sound of a woodpecker. The main building is a handsome three-storey residence with Georgian proportions and distinctive Arts and Crafts panelling and fireplaces. The lounges – cosy yet elegant, with real fires, window seats, plush sofas and modern prints and paintings of coastal Pembrokeshire – set the tone of the whole property. Expect treats such as the softest of sheets, posh toiletries, thick towels and house-made biscotti. Some rooms even have fireplaces.
Gorgeously and luxuriously eclectic. It is not, in fact, an abbey, though the ruined chapel in its gardens certainly add to its charm. It’s a late 18th-century house, built in the rare Strawberry Gothic style that explains the snaking, arched windows and door-frames. There are 11 rooms, all lovely and all unique in character. Room Six is perfect for a romantic break, papered in gorgeous Zophany wallpaper in a pastoral print. Rooms Five and Seven are both huge and have sea views – Five has a four-poster bed, and Seven has a Narnia wardrobe (open it, and it leads into a secret bathroom). It's set above the sea, amid tumbling gardens, and is just a 30 minute-walk from Tenby (and is probably Pembrokeshire's loveliest bolthole).
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