Top Five Romantic Hotels
There is nothing quite so romantic as a surprise stay in a beautiful hotel, so here are five of the best to lavish on your partner, wife, or husband.
Each one is a little different from the others, but they all include another great passion of mine - fine dining. These are not bargain hotels, the cheapest room I found on researching was a little over £100 per room per night, and prices ranged up to almost £700 (per room per night), but that's the whole point. These are luxurious, hotels, designed for the ultimate, romantic, relaxing, rejuvenating experience.
Don't wait for Valentine's Day to spoil someone special. Does there have to be a reason?
Burgh Island Hotel, Bigbury, Devon
This is my number one favourite romantic hotel; in fact, it's a whole island set in a tidal bay. At high tide, Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland and may only be reached by a sea tractor.
The hotel was built in the 1920's and has been lovingly restored to 1930's Jazz Age chic. The whole experience of staying here makes you feel like a glamorous 30's filmstar, while the service is second to none.
You could begin your stay by drinking a cocktail or two in the Palm Court Bar, before dining in the restaurant. Eighty percent of the food is locally sourced; the meat is free range and the fish is fresh from the boats at Brixham. Scallops and lobster may well have been caught on the doorstep at Bigbury Bay, and menus change daily depending on what's good in the markets. expect to dress for dinner - dress code is black tie.
Rooms are luxurious, with retro radios, wi-fi and bespoke furnishings, while the marble bathrooms have bespoke Burgh Island tioletries.
Watching the rise and fall of the tides is relaxing in itself, but you could also take a cream tea, sunbathe on the terrace, or walk the clifftops. Some mad fools like to swim around the entire island, but you really need a guide for that, and to be a strong swimmer. The Pilchard Pub at Burgh Island is a fourteenth century smugglers' inn, which boasts a poltergeist called Tom Crocker.
The hotel has a games room, gym, a sauna and a treatment room, alternatively you could just sit and read Agatha Christie novels all day.
The whole experience is geared up for 1930's glamour, but expect to pay the higher price range for the experience. It's so well worth it though. Why not go the whole romantic hog and have your wedding here.
Non residents can sample Burgh Islands delights, and may join residents for lunch or dinner. The sea tractor costs £2.00 each way for visitors.
Stapleford Park Hotel, Stapleford, Leicestershire
Stapleford Park Hotel is set in 500 acres of wood and parkland in the pretty Leicestershire countryside, and is a beautiful stately home dating back to the 1400's. It's an idea to get good directions, as it can be easy to miss if you don't know the area, but the staff are extremely helpful with all matters.
The hotel is traditional in style, with roaring log fires, squashy sofas and views over the countryside. On wet days, just grab a brolly from the stand inside the door and roam the gardens and parks.
There are 55 bedrooms, each individually designed and reflecting the style of the designer. The last time I stayed here, the bath was an ancient Victorian (maybe Georgian) affair, which was filled by a big brass hydrant rather than taps and was big enough to swim in! Rooms are entitled House Rooms, Manor Rooms, Grand, State Rooms and Suites, with prices varying accordingly. There are also two cottages in the grounds.
There is complimentary Sloe Gin in the rooms, wi-fi and complimentary newspaper, plus a well stocked minibar, and I've always found room service to be prompt.
Stapleford offers Golf, sports, sporting packages (think country sports - huntin, shootin and fishin), a technogym, swimming pool, steam room, Jaccuzzi and Clarins Spa, or a squashy sofa and a book in front of the fire.
The food in the two restaurants is out of this world, or you can choose to dine privately, although if you do, then you won't be able to play spot the celebrity.
- Hambleton Hall
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Burgh Island Hotel is a romantic and eccentric art deco palace, set in its own island linked to Devon by a tidal causeway. The hotel has 25 suites, all with dramatic sea-views and its glamourous rooms are furnished in '30s English style.
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Gidleigh Park Hotel, Dartmoor, Devon
This hotel makes it into my top five because of it's location in the Dartmoor National Park, and because of it's Michelin starred food. It is a family owned hotel, with twenty four individually designed rooms, and is set 107 acres in the wilds of Dartmoor.
The North Teign River runs through the grounds, which offer a tennis court, two croquet lawns, a putting green and a bowling green, whilst the rooms offer wi-fi, HDTV and L'Occitane toiletries in the marbled wet rooms.
The main treat for me though, is the food. Executive Chef Michael Caines MBE (two Michelin Stars) and his team offer a la carte dining, plus a tasting menu and classic tasting menu, on a modern European theme.
Gidleigh offers a totally relaxing, girth increasing stay, but if you can waddle out of your comfort zone, there is plenty to see and do in the Dartmoor National Park.
St Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall
This more reasonably priced, and more modernly furnished hotel makes it into my top five because of the food and the location. Michelin starred chef, Nathan Outlaw relocated from Fowey to Rock this year, to open a Seafood Restaurant and Grill at the hotel and great food is really important if you're indulging in a romantic break. you can work off all the calories on the beach.
The hotel has wonderful views over the Camel Estuary and offers 16 modern, comfortable rooms, plus four family rooms. There is an outdoor pool, billiard room and sauna. Of the five hotels this one is more reasonably priced.
Rock itself is a quiet seaside village, famed for being holiday destination of the wealthy and for having Royal connections - the younger Royals enjoying party time and water sports here; there is a smattering of boutiques, plus a few bars and restaurants. The beaches are white and sandy, and at low tide you can walk along the strand to Polzeath, a sandy beach with coves, and surfing safe enough for the weediest beginner.
If you want more night life, the bustling fishing port of Padstow (also nicknamed Padstein) is just across the bay and easily accessible by the ferry or water taxi; the journey takes minutes only. The nickname Padstein comes from the fact that the famous chef Rick Stein has many establishments there - his seafood restaurant, his pasty shop, his boutique, etc etc. however, there are plenty of other bars, restaurants, boutiques and shops to keep you occupied for a couple of days. Alternatively you could just sit on the sands at Rock, watching all the tourists across the bay and do a spot of Royal watching, or famous chef spotting
Hambleton Hall Hotel, Hambleton, Rutland
This hotel sits on the shores of Rutland Water Reservoir, with it's 26 miles of walks and cycle ways. It is a country house hotel with 15 double rooms, lovingly designed by it's owners, and was originally built in 1881 by Walter Marshall (of Marshall's Brewery) as a hunting box, where he could join the local fox hunts, the Cottesmore, Belvoir, Quorn or Fernie.
The hotel offers manicured gardens, tennis and an outdoor pool, plus fine dining in it's restaurants. I did have a little misdemeanor with the Sommelier here after I mis-pronounced St Emilion (read more here) - oops.
The market towns of Oakham, Stamford and Uppingham are all close by and are well worth exploring if you like small, independent shops and antiques.
Hambleton Village is pretty to walk around, and you may be lucky enough to see Red Kites wheeling overhead. In the summer, endangered Osprey Fish Eagles return to the reservoir. If you like gardening, Geoff Hamilton's Gardens and nursery are close by.
What all of these romantic hotels have in common is a commitment to service that provides the visitor the utmost luxurious stay, where all needs are catered for, and a commitment to really good food. All of them are superbly indulgent and romantic, but if I had to choose just one it would be Burgh Island, which for me, just has the whole package. Just remember to take your ballgown and cocktail frock.
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