Small is mighty, as they say. In the hospitality world, it’s a byword for individually designed rooms, personal touches and usually good old peace and quiet.
Self-catering escapes may be popular this year, but for relaxing weekends away, lengthy sojourns and everything in between, we’d book one of these boutique hotels. Not only are they brilliantly stylish, but you won't need to cook (or do the washing up).
Number One Bruton
Somerset hotspot Bruton’s latest opening is petite hotel Number One Bruton (named not for town-topping ambitions, but for its prime position on the high street), which occupies the Georgian townhouse above Merlin Labron-Johnson’s equally diminutive farm-to-table restaurant, Osip.
Gentle interiors by London studio Frank & Faber mix antiques and Morris & Co wallpaper with contributions from local creatives – think leather key rings by Bill Amberg and arresting shots by Don McCullin in the lounge. There are also three cottages across the courtyard, with four new rooms in the old forge set to open in spring. From £130 per night, including breakfast, numberonebruton.com
Much of the Kent coast is in a state of flux, driven largely by outpriced Londoners desperate for some sea air, though Deal has always been something of a charmer. And few would protest the transformation of a particularly grim pub (it was, by all accounts, dire) into this cheery boutique hotel, with its masterful use of colour – turquoise, mustard, burnt orange and magenta – and characterful Victorian and mid-century mash-up.
Each of the eight rooms has real personality, with vintage furniture, record players and artwork curated by local gallery Counter Editions, while the Sunday lunch at the restaurant below is said to be the best in town. From £100 per night, including breakfast, therosedeal.com
Though it has no lack of lovely country piles, Wales has hardly proven a magnet for modish design hotels. Until last year, that is, when Clive Sweeting and Rob Perham turned a fading family home into spirited guesthouse The Royston – their first foray into hospitality, if you can believe it – with seven individually designed rooms and views to the Cambrian Mountains.
There are moody, Victoriana hues, punchy art by Perham and mid-century furniture aplenty. Bedrooms boast beds by designer James Harrison draped with vintage Welsh blankets, and there’s a pleasingly pastoral edge to the food too, with eggs from their own hens and much of the produce plucked from the garden out back. From £129 per night, including breakfast, theroystonwales.com
The opening of Killiehuntly Farmhouse in 2015 was the catalyst for the coinage of ‘Scandi-Scot’ style, and potentially its pinnacle, too. Tucked at the foot of the Cairngorms, this was the property that heralded the hospitality ambitions of Anne and Anders Holch Povlsen – billionaire founders of conservation project Wildland – and it proves unrivalled in the Highlands five years on.
With its wild sauna yurt, handmade Swedish mattresses and Arne Jacobsen ‘Series 7’ chairs, you might say it swings further towards Scandi than Scot (though interior designer Ruth Kramer is, in fact, Swiss). Choose from four exquisite bedrooms and a snug self-contained apartment. From £350 per night, including dinner and breakfast, killiehuntly.scot
Five Acre Barn
A labour of love by owners David Woodbine and Bruce Badrock, this B&B just outside Aldeburgh must be one of Britain’s most architecturally appealing. The restored 19th-century barn acts as a communal lounge, while the zig-zagging profile of the extension shelters five airy rooms.
There’s plenty of polished concrete and birch ply, but it’s paired with local art and vintage Ercol furniture bought at auction. David took upholstery lessons so he could refurbish a sofa, and turn fabric offcuts from Heal’s and Lucienne Day into cushions. The result is an antidote to the area’s affinity with chintz and seaside pastiche: ‘We’ve promised ourselves that we will never succumb to driftwood or seagulls,’ say the pair. From £105 per night, including breakfast, fiveacrebarn.co.uk
West Malling, Kent
Londoners flocking to Margate et al might be missing a trick in the form of pretty market town West Malling, which makes up for what it lacks in coastal clout with a stretch of proudly independent shops and eateries.
Among them is restaurant-with-rooms Amano, which is temporarily trading its authentic Italian menu for a Portuguese-themed pop-up until spring. Though the star of the grade-II-listed pub conversion is the orangery-style extension with its inky tongue-and-groove panelling, those in the know will retire to one of four plush rooms upstairs. From £110 per night, including breakfast, amanorestaurant.co.uk
One Shore Street
Donaghadee, County Down
A proprietor with a keen eye for potential has birthed many a boutique retreat. For Karen Bolleboom, it was a crumbling former chemist’s with a winning seafront location in Donaghadee, a charming town half an hour from Belfast on Northern Ireland’s east coast.
A stay at Stockholm’s Ett Hem hotel helped shape the renovation, though the Danes are better represented here – think furniture by Skagerak and tableware from Broste Copenhagen. From £140 per night, including breakfast, oneshorestreet.co.uk
The Grandtully Hotel
It’s hard to believe this was once a tired hostel, before Chris and Rachel Rowley, fresh from launching rural restaurant and cookery school with rooms Ballintaggart Farm a few miles up the road, got their hands on it. The setting is decidedly sleepy, which makes the inventive food and bold and convivial common spaces all the more special (the ‘Press for whisky’ button in the teal bar, a tribute to Soho haunt Bob Bob Ricard’s ‘Press for champagne’ bells, says it all).
Rooms have roll-top baths and are far from identikit – number eight has a roof terrace, room three a record player – with splashes of colour that range from restful lilac to a knock-your-socks-off coral. From £150 per night, including breakfast, ballintaggart.com/grandtully-hotel
Before the upscale motel trend took flight, there was Mhor 84, with its airy do-it-all dining room and egalitarian attitude – weekenders, walkers and dogs are welcome alike.
This younger sibling of grander lochside retreat Monachyle Mhor (and part of a family mini-dynasty that also boasts a bakery, fish and chip shop, food festival and eclectic Mhor In Store next to the motel) offers 11 firmly tartan-free rooms to those exploring the loch-dotted Trossachs or en route to the Highlands. Though it’s resolutely a motel rather than a hotel, this is a pitstop with panache. From £90 per night, mhor84.net
Neatly nestled between the station and the River Thames (and well situated for many of Oxford’s big draws) The Porterhouse is a smart Edwardian boozer with a bonus – seven slick rooms upstairs. With petrol-hued walls, industrial brass lighting and wooden floors (if you suspect they might be sloping, refer back to its 100-plus year heritage), this is the contemporary way to do a conversion, and a reminder that cultivating a sense of place works whatever the scale.
The gastropub itself is a carnivore’s mecca, with steak playing a starring role in the cooked breakfast and almost everything that comes after. From £120 per night, including breakfast, theporterhouse-oxford.com
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