London is garlanded by strings of hills that are perfect for a weekend break to stretch your legs. From the chalky downs of the Chilterns to the rolling South Downs, there are plenty of opportunities for walking holidays.
Here, the Good Hotel Guide has selected five of the best hotels for hilly walks in southeast England.
A grand hotel in the Chilterns
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to walks at Cliveden. Set between the River Thames and The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this 17th-century stately home is a five-star base for gentle walks through rolling countryside and ancient woodland, along the Thames Path and past pretty villages. But no-one would blame you if you failed to leave Cliveden at all. It’s renowned for its exceptional hospitality, exquisite cuisine and stunning bedrooms – and the expansive Thames views, giant maze and glorious National Trust gardens make for excellent walks from Cliveden’s door.
Pretty villages and valleys in the Cotswolds
A wisteria-festooned arch frames the entry to the prettily refurbished Bay Tree Hotel, in a row of 17th-century honey-stone houses in Burford. Rising up from the Windrush river and jostling with tea shops and antiques, Burford is a gateway to the Cotswolds’ rolling hills and rambling villages, and some of the best walks in the Cotswolds follow the Windrush Valley. Back at the Bay Tree, put your tired feet up in the country-contemporary bedrooms. All have fluffy robes, upmarket toiletries, a Nespresso machine. The public areas are a weary walker’s haven, with flagstone floors, ancient beams, huge open fireplaces, board games, local ales and a restaurant serving well-crafted modern British cuisine.
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In the footsteps of monks in the South Downs and Surrey Hills
In the 13th century, a hostelry on this spot provided sleep and sustenance for monks on pilgrimage to Canterbury. Nowadays The Crown Inn, Chiddingfold, does the same for walkers following undulating trails across the Surrey Hill Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Downs National Park. The timber-framed 16th-century country inn is full of traditional character; in the popular bar, local tipples are served amid medieval carvings, massive beams and inglenook fireplaces. Delicious pub grub is attentively served in the oak-panelled restaurant. The eight characterful bedrooms, all sloping floors and antique furnishings, have chic toiletries; three have a four-poster bed.
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Real ales and a kindly welcome in the High Weald
Ramblers exploring Ashdown Forest and the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s hills are welcomed to The Cat Inn with big smiles and a warm-hearted atmosphere. This comfortably modernised 16th-century freehouse-with-rooms, all oak beams and inglenook fireplaces, is a haven for hikers and real-ale enthusiasts, and its high-quality, generously portioned pub grub and efficient service leaves guests purring. Upstairs, newly redecorated bedrooms enjoy little touches such as a Nespresso coffee machine, fresh milk, decent toiletries, and reading material to help while away the time between walks.
|The Royal Hotel|
A right royal reception for hikers on the Isle of Wight
There are 500 miles of footpaths to explore on the Isle of Wight, unfurling over chalky clifftops, rolling downs and rugged coves. This sunny island is a walkers’ paradise, with an annual walking festival to prove it. Located just a few minutes’ walk from Ventnor seafront, The Royal Hotel has catered for everyone from Queen Victoria and 19th-century health tourists to 21st-century ramblers, so it knows a thing or two about catering for outdoorsy people, especially those with a taste for the finer things in life. Helpful staff are on hand to help with ferry bookings and directions, and the charmingly old-fashioned Royal Tea is just the thing after a day in hiking boots – but do leave room for chef Jon-Paul Charlo’s inventive cooking. The traditionally styled bedrooms have fresh fruit, flowers and garden views.