Whether you are drawn to sand and surf, to lake or mountain, to elegant city or pastoral idyll, the perfect romantic destination awaits
Words: Rose Shepherd
Spring comes early to the west of Cornwall, warmed by the Gulf Stream, where the Roseland Peninsula is washed by reflected light from the Fal Estuary and St Austell Bay. It is a harmonious mix of sandy beaches, secluded coves, wooded valleys, dramatic headlands and picturesque hamlets. Caerhays Castle, built by Regency architect John Nash, stands in woodland gardens ablaze with rhododendrons and camellias, home to champion trees and a century-old magnolia. One of England’s prettiest churches, the 13th-century, creekside St Just in Roseland, almost dips a toe in the water. At Miss V’s Tea Room, in the subtropical gardens, a Cornish cream tea comes with freshly baked scones and local jam.
Where to stay The creation of Olga Polizzi, doyenne of hoteliers, the Tresanton sits perched above the fishing village of St Mawes. Enjoy freshly landed seafood in a south-facing dining room, with views towards St Anthony’s Lighthouse. tresanton.com
The dramatic glacial landscape of mountains and ribbon lakes daunted early tourists, inspired exponents of the Picturesque, and moved to ecstasy Romantic poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Here is England’s largest lake, the breathtakingly beautiful Windermere, and highest mountain, Scafell Pike. You’ll find cascading waterfalls such as the ‘advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing’ Lodore Falls extolled by Southey, which tumbles over rocks into the Borrowdale valley. In Grasmere you can visit Dove Cottage, once home to the Wordsworth siblings John and Dorothy, and the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden. Or stroll by Derwentwater to see those wildflowers in full cry, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Where to stay From Derwentwater it is a short drive to The Cottage in the Wood, in a spellbinding setting, beside a rushing brook on Magic Hill, surrounded by Britain’s only true mountain forest. The former coaching inn now offers Michelin-starred cooking in a dining room with wraparound veranda and views to the mountain of Skiddaw. Wildlife and birdsong abound. www.cottageinthewood.co.uk
Under the big Essex skies lie the timeless pastoral landscapes of Dedham Vale, beloved of John Constable, for whom painting was ‘but another word for feeling’. Your exploration might begin in the artist’s native village, picture-postcard East Bergholt, where he first met the rector’s granddaughter, Maria Bicknell, his future wife and great love of his life. You must not miss Flatford, scene of Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House, immortalised in his most famous painting, The Hay Wain. From there, stroll alongside the Stour to Dedham, where one of Constable’s rare religious-themed paintings, The Ascension, adorns a wall in St Mary’s church.
Where to stay Just opposite the church is the 15th-century Sun Inn, a classic old coaching hostelry where open fires burn merrily in the bar, beamed dining room and oak-panelled lounge. Constable Room, overlooking the High Street, has a bay window and half-tester bed. www.thesuninndedham.com