It’s official: hotels can fling open their doors from Monday, May 17. And oh how we’ve missed them. Though self-catering properties have valiantly filled the void for the past month, the excitement and indulgence of a good hotel stay simply can’t be matched.
As expected there’s been a rush on bookings. However, there are still a number of fabulous options across the country for stays throughout May and June. From seaside spots to city slickers, here are 10 top hotels to book for that first break.
University Arms Cambridge
Cambridge’s oldest hotel (originally opened in 1834) was reimagined as the University Arms in 2018 with a no-expense-spared £80 million injection. As the name suggests, the university is referenced at every turn, from the Cambridge blue walls to the Parker’s Tavern restaurant, a glossy take on a college dining hall. Be sure to book a table at this British bistro for beef dripping toast and a daily changing pie. The studious style continues in the rooms, which are all stocked with a few books from Cambridge luminaries. Bicycles are available to borrow if you want to explore the city like a student.
Doubles from £200; universityarms.com
Henrietta Hotel, London
You won’t struggle for rooms in London this summer, as the capital’s hotels suffer from the lack of overseas visitors. And though many are rushing for the coast or country, a staycation in the city has never been more appealing, with more reasonable room rates and a chance to explore without the crowds. Take Covent Garden’s Henrietta Hotel, only a minute from the usually packed Piazza. Suddenly getting a table at that in-demand dumpling spot or seeing a performance at the Royal Opera House may be more achievable. At the hotel itself (part of the Experimental Group stable), décor is playful, with statement multi-layered headboards and Art Deco bathrooms. New for this summer is a relaxed restaurant inspired by Italy’s west coast.
Doubles £250; henriettahotel.com
Bike & Boot, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Coastal stays are in short supply this summer, but head up to Scarborough for a blast of sea air at this forward-thinking hotel geared towards surfers, cyclists and walkers. Totally practical, there's even an area to clean your boots, store your boards and wash your dogs. After a busy day out and about, return to the hotel for complimentary cake and hot drinks. In the evenings, there’s film screenings, board games aplenty and a buzzy vibe in the Bareca restaurant, which serves craft ales and Mediterranean sharing platters. Rooms are reasonably priced but still thoughtfully designed with vintage Scarborough posters and quirky light fittings; many also have sea views.
Doubles from £65; bikeandboot.com
Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
Any missed milestone to celebrate? There are few places more enticing than Gleneagles, that grand Perthshire resort with an Art Deco flair. With 850 acres to roam and a range of country pursuits to try (such as gun dog training and falconry), you’ll need a few days to explore. To tempt you further, this summer the hotel is offering 20 per cent off stays of three nights or more. Much will move outside when the hotel reopens, with plans for al fresco foodie pop-ups, garden games on the lawn, picnics by the loch and whisky nights around a roaring fire pit.
Doubles from £380; gleneagles.com
Artist Residence, Brighton
Bohemian Brighton is the perfect antidote to the mundanity of lockdown. The original Artist Residence (which has since been joined by outposts in London, Oxfordshire, Cornwall and soon Bristol) leans into the city’s creative feel with original artwork and graffiti on the walls. Of the 25 individually designed rooms, the best has a freestanding copper bath and a little balcony you can climb out on to. For families, there’s a new sea-view apartment with bedroom, bunk room and an open plan kitchen/living space. May availability is limited, but if you can spare a couple of weekdays in June then you can secure that quirky seaside break.
Doubles from £130; artistresidence.co.uk
Bovey Castle, Dartmoor
If only a grand country pile will do, Bovey Castle still has decent availability in June. Its stirring location on the western side of Dartmoor National Park is reason enough to visit. Expect a dizzying array of activities, including golf, tennis, archery, croquet and even a free falconry display each morning. The spa is another highlight with an indoor pool overlooking rolling hills. The style is classic stately home, with mahogany staircases and huge stone fireplaces. Get dressed up for dinner at the Tasting Room, which serves seven-course menus based on produce from the estate.
Doubles from £224; boveycastle.com
The Crown, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Within easy reach of London (around 45 minutes, whether by car, tube or train) is the Crown, an Elizabethan coaching inn, with a stylish look and unexpected restaurant. There’s a sense of its Tudor roots in the low-beamed ceilings, casement windows and cobbled courtyard, though the Ilse Crawford-designed rooms (whose previous projects include Soho House New York) are thoroughly up to date – all grey tones and clean lines. Hawkyn’s restaurant is at the heart of the hotel and has a pubby feel, which makes its interesting Indian fusion dishes (think spiced squid with kumquat chutney or beef short ribs with kale aloo) a surprise.
Doubles from £120; thecrownamersham.com
Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa, Windermere, Lake District
The Lake District is in high-demand once again this summer, but this modern resort in an unbeatable spot overlooking Lake Windermere still has some space. Originally built in the 18th century, it has expanded over the years, recently adding a spa and slick new chalet-style bedrooms with balconies overlooking the water. The hotel is as suitable for family holidays as romantic breaks, with a watersports centre and contemporary wood-fired grill restaurant among the top offerings. Rooms vary significantly in terms of size and views, but all have a soft-grey palette and come with a welcome treat of Grasmere gingerbread.
Doubles from £200; englishlakes.co.uk
The Mitre, Hampton Court
For a stylish Surrey stay, try the Mitre, the new venture from old Beaverbrook boss Hector Ross. This revamped riverside hotel opposite Hampton Court Palace impresses with individually designed rooms (some feature vintage tennis rackets, others hand-painted wallpaper), which come with complimentary cookies and ginger liqueur. Order rock oysters and a crab toastie at the 1665 brasserie, where there's plenty of outdoor seating available, or the hotel can arrange for a picnic on the banks of the Thames.
Doubles from £150; mitrehamptoncourt.com
All availability was checked directly through the hotels' websites and was correct at the time of publishing.
Read more: A complete guide to the best hotels in the UK