As the nights draw in, and a new issue of The Good Hotel Guide launches online, we asked the editors to share with us their choice of the ten best winter hotels for an uplifting break
The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, Sussex
Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow. This dog-friendly 16th-century, tile-hung free house in a hilltop village is snug as could be, with a warm, buzzy atmosphere, log fires, beams, and real ale on tap. Hearty pub fare – steak, burgers, fish and chips, Sunday roasts – is served in the dining-room and dog-friendly bar. There are just four guest bedrooms, two on the cosy side, all supplied with a coffee machine, fresh milk and Bramley toiletries. Children over seven are welcome. For a bracing walk, Ashdown Forest is almost on the doorstep.
Wed–Sun. B&B doubles from £1.60, à la carte £40, catinn.co.uk
The Blakeney Hotel, Blakeney, Norfolk
The North Norfolk coast is breathtaking in winter, with empty beaches under a vast sky, and this family-friendly quayside hotel, with views over salt marshes to Blakeney Point, is an ideal base for exploring. A wide choice of bedrooms includes some with a balcony, terrace or direct garden access. A daily-changing menu include such dishes as crab linguine, roast sirloin of beef, vegetarian options. There’s an indoor heated pool and mini gym, so on bitterly cold days you can exercise without stepping outside, but a walk on the coast path, a seal trip or visit to nearby stately homes all suggest themselves.
B&B doubles from £174, à la carte £45, blakeney-hotel.co.uk
Palé Hall, Bala
It may be freezing at times, and the days are short, but Snowdonia has a particular magic in winter, when the peaks are capped with white, and tea by a blazing fire awaits intrepid hikers at this Relais & Châteaux hotel. A splendid neo-Jacobean pile, it has hosted both Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill, and stands in riverside gardens with the national park on the doorstep. Interiors are rich in architectural detail and filled with antiques. Every bedroom has character, from a narrow turret double to the room Victoria chose for herself, with original hand basin and a half-tester bed. You can eat simply in the dog-friendly Huntsman Bar and Bistro or opt for a meat, fish or vegetable tasting menu in the dining room.
B&B doubles from £299, singles from £236. Tasting menu £80/£105 (4–8 courses), bistro à la carte £45/£50 (2/3 courses), palehall.co.uk.
The Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk, Co. Durham
Beside a Saxon church in a Pennine village, this 18th-century inn is hugely popular with Good Hotel Guide readers. Owned by the Robinson family, who have farmed in Teesdale for four generations, it has characterful, affordable bedrooms, with more contemporary accommodation in a single-storey stone building to the rear. After an invigorating riverside or fells walk you can pop in for a pint of Wainwright’s and a sandwich by the fire in the atmospheric bar, or eat in the panelled dining room. Menus are short, with wider choice at night, the food a cut above standard pub grub, with platters, steak and Guinness pie, a veggie option. Bring the dog, bring the kids, all are welcome, although they don’t allow under-eights in the dining room after 8pm.
B&B doubles from £140, singles from £125. À la carte £39, rose-and-crown.co.uk
Storrs Hall, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria
The Lake District is transformed in winter, when the tourists melt away, mists drift over frozen waters, snow caps the fells, and the Herdwick sheep are snug in their thick fleeces. Hike, amble, cycle, then return to the lap of luxury at this Georgian-cum-Victorian country house in grounds running down to Lake Windermere. Choose between house bedrooms and contemporary, open-plan, lakeside suites with hot tub. There are large, comfortable sitting rooms, each with crackling fire and grand piano. A new bistro serves such dishes as rack of Cumbrian lamb to share, or you can eat more informally in the bar.
B&B doubles from £210. à la carte £62, storrshall.com
The Tawny, Consall, Staffordshire
The perfect getaway when you want to go AWOL, The Tawny offers a range of boltholes spread over 70 landscaped and wooded acres of a former colliery site. Boathouses, treehouses, cedar-clad cabins and dog-friendly glad huts and lookouts are set among ponds. The design is stylish and contemporary. All have a coffee machine, mini bar and their own outdoor spa bath. Snug wildwood huts have a log burner. Buggies carry your luggage from the car park, where you’ll find a lounge and the Plumicorn restaurant, serving such creative modern dishes as cod, heritage tomato, tomato bisque, baby leeks, sea herbs.
Doubles from £240, la carte £50, thetawny.co.uk
The Wentworth, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
It’s not trendy or boutique, but after more than a century in the care of the same family, this hotel just across from the sand-and-shingle beach, is loved especially by older Guide readers for its traditional charms. Acres of comfy seating in spacious, carpeted lounges, real fires, a cosy bar with log burner, friendly, long-serving staff and a caring owner make guests feel cosseted. Bedrooms are decorated in restful colours. Breakfast staples include stewed prunes, kippers; lunch and dinner menus bring fillet steak medallions and grilled Dover sole, alongside more modern dishes. An affordable afternoon tea awaits those who’ve been out for a breath of North Sea air.
B&B single from £136, double from £196, à la carte £31.50/£37.50 (2/3 courses), wentworth-aldeburgh.com
The White Swan, Pickering, Yorkshire
After tramping the heather-clad North York Moors, thaw out by a fire at the Buchanan family’s 16th-century coaching inn. It has a good mix of bedrooms, some with a four-poster, all supplied with fresh milk and Bramley toiletries. Dog-friendly, ground-floor ‘hideaway’ rooms in converted outbuildings are larger and more modern. This is a comfortable place, traditional but in no way passé. The menu mixes pub classics (battered Whitby haddock and chips, burger and chargrilled steak) with such innovative dishes as maple-glazed, slow roast celeriac, apple and caper salad, black garlic mayonnaise.
B&B doubles from £185, singles from £155, à la carte £40, white-swan.co.uk
The Pig in the Forest, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
Pick your Pig. There are eight of them now, and – apart from Southampton’s special little piglet, built into the medieval city wall – all have the same inviting, shabby-chic aesthetic and prolific kitchen garden supplying locally sourced menus. This Grade I listed Jacobean mansion, a former music venue that once hosted the likes of Led Zeppelin, has been styled with a whole lotta love, by Judy Hutson, wife of the Pigs’ founder, Robin Hutson. Squashy sofas invite you to sit by a carved-oak fireplace. Walls are hung with gilt-framed portraits. The village is almost within the sound of Canterbury bells, so you could go for evensong at the cathedral before supper.
Doubles from £200. Breakfast £13.50–£18.50, à la carte £50, min 2 nights at weekends, thepighotel.com/at-bridge-place/.
The Meikleour Arms, Meilkeour, Perth and Kinross
Within a designed landscape in a conservation village, this dog-friendly and very likeable Georgian coaching inn is owned by the Marquess of Lansdowne and his Bordeaux-born wife, with an ethos that reflects the family’s Franco-Scottish roots. Your bedrooms might have Toile de Jouy wallpaper, an antique French bed; all have Arran Aromatics toiletries and a decanter of sherry. Such dishes as confit duck cassoulet and terrine de cochon sit alongside Scottish haddock and chips and Mull cheddar quiche on field-to-plate (or sea-to-plate) menus, so vive the auld alliance! A haven for anglers, with beats, boats and ghillies, on January 15 the Lansdowne estate hosts the opening of the Tay salmon-fishing season.
B&B doubles from £100, singles from £90, à la carte £35, meikleourarms.co.uk