Whether your perfect short break involves Michelin-starred food, boutique shopping, stately homes and gardens or indulgent spa treatments (or all the above), there’s a hotel near the UK capital to suit.
The Good Hotel Guide has selected these five great hotels within two hours of London, all perfect for a hassle-free mini-break.
Best for a foodie weekend: Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead
From the garden flowers in the public rooms to the hot-water bottle, TV remote and Radio Times left on the bed at evening turn-down, a stay at this Elizabethan manor house is like a stay in a private home – albeit the private home of a world-class chef and gardener. The hotel’s brand new restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the historic gardens, is a fitting spot to sample chef George Blogg’s Michelin-starred cooking; he uses produce from the hotel’s orchards and extraordinary kitchen garden to create dishes that look as beautiful as they taste.
While you’re there… devote at least a few hours to the wild garden – it’s one of the most important gardens in the country, play croquet, and order the exquisite seven-course tasting menu.
Get there… in 1 hour 30 mins by road, or 1 hour by rail from London Bridge to East Grinstead Station followed by a short taxi ride.
Best for a design-led city break: The Old Vine, Winchester
Built over a subterranean 14th-century tavern a short stroll from Winchester cathedral, Ashton Gray’s 18th-century pub-with-rooms overflows with hanging baskets and character. Interiors blend the traditional with smart contemporary. The bar has beams and open fires; each bedroom is named after a fabric and wallpaper designer and furnished with Victorian, Arts and Crafts and contemporary pieces. Under the eaves, the Design House Cathedral View Suite stretches the length of the building. Osborne and Little, overlooking the cathedral green, has intricate Georgian plaster panelling.
While you’re there… visit Jane Austen’s grave in the cathedral ,stroll the charming streets and squares of England’s ancient capital, and browse three floors of antiquarian and vintage books at The Winchester Bookshop.
Get there… in 1 hour 30 mins by road, or 1 hour 10 mins by rail from London Waterloo to Winchester Station followed by a 10-min walk.
Best for a sophisticated retreat in a stately home: Hartwell House, Aylesbury
Swish up the drive through an Arcadian landscape to reach this Jacobean mansion. Enlarged and remodelled in the 1700s, it’s now a National Trust-owned luxury hotel, complete with grand interiors, a two AA rosette restaurant and a spa. Bedrooms are huge; bathrobes and home-made biscuits come as standard. For an über-romantic break, book one of the antique-filled Royal four-poster rooms, where Louis XVIII of France and his queen stayed when the house was home to his court-in-exile.
While you’re there… spend a lazy afternoon in the spa and its swimming pool, dress up for a candlelit dinner, and promenade through the hotel’s 90 acres of gardens and parkland.
Get there… in 1 hour 20 mins by road, or 1 hour by rail from Marylebone Station to Haddenham & Thame Parkway or Aylesbury Station, followed by a short taxi or bus ride.
Best for a stay in a historic castle: Hever Castle B&B, Hever
Connect with the past in this sumptuous B&B, which occupies two Edwardian additions to 13th-century Hever Castle. Moulded ceilings, grand chimney pieces, and corridors lined with paintings heighten the sense of grandeur; in the Astor and Anne Boleyn wings, individually decorated bedrooms, each with a bathroom of limestone or marble, are full of character. A blend of Tudor-inspired features and modern-day comfort, they may have a golden chaise longue, a four-poster bed, a glimpse of the castle through leaded windows.
While you’re there… enjoy complimentary access to the castle and grounds during opening hours, wander through parts of the peaceful gardens after the public has left, and walk to the atmospheric village pub, King Henry VIII, for dinner.
Get there… in 1 hour 20 mins by road, or 40 mins by rail from London Bridge to Hever Station followed by a 5-min taxi ride or a 25-min walk.
Best for a country house experience: Cliveden House, Taplow
The service at this Grade I-listed stately home with a scurrilous history is exceptional, the décor suitably grand, and the setting above the River Thames exquisite. Some bedrooms are opulent, some austere, all different; even some of the smallest bedrooms have a private terrace with a hot tub and courtyard views. Grab a moment of calm in the spa, swim in the notorious outdoor pool that sparked the Profumo affair (one of the biggest political scandals in British history), then nab a table by a window in the flawless restaurant and dine on chef André Garrett’s excellent modern meals. If it was good enough for Meghan Markle on the night before her wedding…
While you’re there… get lost in the Cliveden yew maze, follow a trail through Cliveden’s National Trust-run estate for far-reaching views across Berkshire and back to the house, and take a jaunt along the River Thames in one of Cliveden’s vintage launches.
Get there… in 1 hour by road, or 30 mins by rail from London Paddington to Taplow or Burnham station followed by a 10-min taxi ride, or 50 mins to Bourne End Station followed by a 40-minute walk across the fields.