From the English Riviera to the Highlands of Scotland, five travel writers describe the places around Britain they are desperate to go back to as they share their… lockdown daydreams
- Simon Heptinstall dreams of the Carey Arms, a seaside gem that sits in a secluded cove in South Devon
- Jane Knight can’t wait to return to the Lake District’s Brimstone Hotel, which feels like an ‘uber-sexy ski chalet’
- Sarah Turner looks forward to revisiting Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire where afternoon tea is ‘unbeatable’
Have you thought about where you’ll be when the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
Here our travel writers reveal the places they are longing to visit around the UK as soon as it’s safe to do so.
The Victorian grandeur of Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, the decadence of The Methuen Arms in Wiltshire, the luxuriousness of the Carey Arms in Devon, the uber-sexiness of the Brimstone Hotel in the Lake District and the cosiness of Islay House in Scotland all beckon for our scribes. Read on and decide if you’ll be joining them…
Sarah Turner hopes to revisit Gladstone’s Library later this year
Sarah Turner: Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire
Is this place a hotel or a library with a particularly delightful sense of hospitality? It may not be easy to categorise but I come here with friends every year.
It was founded by Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1895. The ground floor is all polished floorboards, Victorian panelling and portraits. Upstairs, the bedrooms, reached through a maze of corridors, are light and super-cosy, with Welsh blankets, anglepoise lamps and Roberts radios.
The food – be that breakfast, Sunday roast or dinner – is always a highlight. But it is difficult to beat the afternoon tea, with billowy scones straight from the oven and help-yourself quantities of cream and locally made jam. After my last visit, staff even wrapped some up for us to take home on the train.
There are some lovable quirks here. There aren’t televisions in the bedrooms but there is wi-fi. You collect your food through a hatch but you eat in a grand dining room, which spills out into the garden in good weather.
And while it’s too thoughtful to be a party place, Gladstone’s Library isn’t cloistered either: the hotel hosts regular talks, courses and events throughout the year.
When my friends and I can get back, I know exactly what we’ll do. We’ll spend time in the library itself, a gloriously vaulted haven of quietness. That said, we’ll probably spend just as much time in the Gladstone Room, filled with leather armchairs, a log fire, chessboards and piles of newspapers and magazines.
A novel place to stay: Gladstone’s Library was founded by Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1895
It is also home to an honesty bar, filled with rather nice wine and a notebook to write down what you’ve had, and shelves of the latest fiction to borrow.
Location-wise, Gladstone’s Library is a complete winner too. It’s just a 20-minute bus ride from Chester, just over the Welsh border in the village of Hawarden, and there are walks from the front door. My favourite one covers a ruined 13th Century castle, a cricket pitch and an orchard, and finishes at the Hawarden Estate farm shop and cafe.
My friends and I are due to return in July. And because it’s such a nice place, Gladstone’s Library has said we can move our booking back if necessary – or forwards if possible.
B&B rooms cost from £110 a night (gladstoneslibrary.org).
Jennifer Cox longs for another staycation at The Methuen Arms in Wiltshire
Jennifer Cox: The Methuen Arms, Corsham, Wiltshire
It was in the bitter depths of winter when my husband Nick and I checked in to The Methuen Arms and we barely glimpsed the impressive Georgian exterior as we skidded in from the snowy car park.
And we headed straight to our huge bedroom upstairs, so we failed to notice properly the pretty dining rooms decorated with botanic prints and cushioned banquettes off the original hall.
Our room was light and bright even on a grim day, featuring original beams, walls painted in soft Farrow & Ball tones, and an oversized armchair.
And on a plinth in the corner was a free-standing bath. Oh how I love the sheer decadence of a bedroom with a bath. For the next hour, I was up to my neck in Bramley bubbles, while my husband lounged on the super-king four-poster bed, scoffing home-made biscuits and watching TV.
Later, fully defrosted, we took a stroll into the charming market town of Corsham. Dating back to the 11th Century, it’s almost too pretty to be true: its wide high street is a golden jumble of beautiful 17th Century Bath stone Flemish weaver houses, behind which lies Corsham Court, a grand Elizabethan manor house set in Capability Brown-designed parkland. Poldark fans will almost certainly recognise it, as Corsham doubled as Truro in the BBC drama.
Cotswolds charm: The Methuen Arms has 19 bedrooms – five in the former stable block outside, 14 in the main building
Dating from 1608, The Methuen Arms sits in the south-west corner of the Cotswolds, a short drive from Bath and the village of Lacock, with its striking abbey (a significant number of interior Hogwarts scenes for the Harry Potter films were shot here).
I long to go back to this friendly pub in warmer times, and not just because its 19 bedrooms – five in the former stable block outside, 14 in the main building – were recently renovated. It is because the food served up by award-winning chef and manager Leigh Evans is sublime. I still think about the malt-glazed guinea fowl and roasted hake we devoured, along with garlicky potato dauphinoise and spiced red cabbage braised with apples. Breakfast was a greedy feast of Wiltshire bacon and sausages, with bread and pastries fresh from the hotel’s own bakery and honey produced in its own hives.
I loved the wintry packed bar, serving local Butcombe ales and a good selection of wines. But I look forward even more to relaxing with a glass of wine in the garden festooned with fairy lights, watching bees buzz around its well-stocked kitchen gardens, and drinking in every moment.
B&B costs from £140 a night (themethuenarms.com).
Simon Heptinstall dreams of returning to The Carey Arms in Devon
Simon Heptinstall: Carey Arms, Babbacombe, South Devon
My lockdown dream is to return to the best hotel room I have ever seen.
It was last summer when I discovered the Carey Arms, a luxurious seaside gem which is the epitome of the English Riviera.
Waking up in the Beach Suite, I will watch the sun rise slowly across the sea from my bed. I will throw open the glass doors and sip a cup of tea, listening to the waves splash the edge of my private terrace. Then I’ll dress for a leisurely breakfast (fresh almond croissants and a glass of champagne will do), probably on the hotel’s 1937 wooden yacht Escape, which is moored just offshore. Heaven.
Cary’s reception, restaurant, lounge and spa are in a charming old stone pub halfway up a cliff. The rooms, meanwhile, are mostly cottages and New England-style lodges scattered along steep footpaths and winding through gardens around this sheltered cove.
Period cliffside cottages seemed to have stepped out of a period drama thanks to their sweet sea-view gardens, while modern wooden two-storey beach huts are cool and romantic.
But who could not fall for the Beach Suite, set down some stone steps at the water’s edge. This simple whitewashed building has an airy living room, bedroom and bathroom. One wall is made up entirely of folding glass doors, making the most of the fantastic views as waves splash against giant boulders.
During my stay, the TV will remain off as I lie outside on a traditional sunlounger sampling the free decanter of home-made sloe gin while gazing at distant yachts and fishing boats.
Cary’s hidden cove is part of Babbacombe, a smart Torquay suburb. Guests stroll to sandy beaches or take wooded coast path walks lined with wildflowers. A clunky volunteer-run funicular runs up to a small independent theatre at the cliff top.
The hotel’s fans included Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who rowed ashore from the Royal Yacht, and Winston Churchill
The hotel’s fans included Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who rowed ashore from the Royal Yacht, and Winston Churchill, who enjoyed Carey lobster sent to his London wartime bunker.
To honour Winston’s way of surviving his own Blitz lockdown, I will dine alfresco on barbecued lobster and wash it down with a bottle of the hotel’s commemorative stock of Churchill’s favourite Pol Roger champagne, at a £395 a bottle. This is a dream, after all.
B&B at the Beach Suite costs from £489 a night – other rooms from £269 B&B (caryarms.co.uk).
Jane Knight can’t wait to go back to Brimstone Hotel in the Lake District
Jane Knight: Brimstone Hotel, Great Langdale, Lake District
It felt crazy at the time: a six-hour car journey to the Lake District for the weekend. But who wouldn’t now jump in the car for six hours, just for the sheer joy of driving somewhere, anywhere?
Yet the 16-room Brimstone isn’t just anywhere, and it isn’t any old hotel. With fabulous fells on its doorstep and a designer’s heaven of wood and slate within, it has the best of both outside and in.
Half a dozen or so trails lead directly into the scenic Langdale Valley, including a two-hour tramp that dips your toes into the countryside without the whole pike-climbing experience.
Here the fells beckon, with their squiggly dry-stone walls, noisy brooks and views over Grasmere.
Forgotten your boots and waterproofs? No problem: the hotel has a complimentary kit room (as well as a Reading Room, where you can stock up on free snacks and drinks).
Our hike was not really long enough to justify the special massage for walkers in Brimstone’s sleek timber and stone spa overlooking a lake. However, a scenic bike ride did set me up nicely for a visit to the sauna and steam room, plus a muscle-soothing dip in the indoors/outdoors vitality pool.
Inside, the hotel feels like an uber-sexy ski chalet, with acres of slate, wood, silver and purple furnishings. Rooms come with a wood-burning stove, modern oval bath, and perhaps a bed on a mezzanine level. It’s no wonder that Jamie Oliver dubbed the rooms ‘ridiculously beautiful’ – they’re certainly a perfect place to relax with a pizza ordered from room service.
Relax: Brimstone’s spa lit up at night where you can take a dip in the indoors/outdoors vitality pool
Instead of dining in Brimstone’s modern restaurant, we headed to the atmospheric Wainwrights’ Inn, a five-minute stroll away. It is part of the estate (which includes the Langdale Hotel) so you can charge the tasty pub grub to your account. Be sure to try the famous lamb shoulder with mash and veg.
Later, in our room, we got a fit of the giggles. It wasn’t the free wine from the Reading Room that set us off, but the light switch, with not just a ‘sexy’ setting but one that reads ‘tinkle’ to turn on the bathroom lights. This hotel even has a sense of humour. Which is exactly what I need right now.
B&B costs £370 a night (brimstonehotel.co.uk).
Lizzie Enfield pines for wild Hebridean views and walks through rugged hills and across sweeping sandy beaches
Lizzie Enfield: Islay House, Isle of Islay, Scotland
All hail, Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor! It’s not just the remote Scottish setting which brought out my inner witch but the fact that Islay House was built in 1677 by Hugh Campbell, the then Thane of Cawdor.
He selected the best spot on the island and his house, now an 11-bedroom hotel, enjoys a glorious position, overlooking Loch Indaal on the east coast of Islay.
I checked in in 2016, not long after the house was transformed from family home into an island hotel getaway.
Now I find myself once again dreaming of wild Hebridean views, walks through rugged hills, across sweeping sandy beaches and along undulating coastal paths.
Islay House sits in 28 acres of gardens and is surrounded by woods through which you can stroll along the banks of the River Sorn to the Islay Woollen Mill.
The three witches told Shakespeare’s thane he would become king. While the Campbell clan were never crowned, Islay House has a link with royalty – the Queen stayed here as a guest of previous owners, as did Margaret Thatcher.
With chaises longues positioned to take advantage of sweeping views of the loch, four-posters in the bedrooms and en suites boasting freestanding baths, the cosy luxury allowed me to feel as if I were staying with an aristocratic friend in their ancestral pile.
Island getaway: The 17th Century Islay House is now an 11-bedroom hotel, which overlooks Loch Indaal on the east coast of Islay
In the evenings, guests gathered before dinner in the Peat Cutter Bar, where an oil painting above the mantelpiece depicts men cutting turf still used to heat local homes. The peat also gives the island’s famous whiskies their unique smoky taste.
The owners of Islay House have begun restoration of the kitchen since lockdown and the distilleries are producing hand sanitiser. When the hurly burly’s done, I look forward to returning to celebrate with a wee dram of single malt.
Double rooms cost from £99 a night, with a five per cent discount for direct booking in April (islayhouse.co.uk).
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