Summer may be over for another year, but the cosy, colourful temptation of an autumn break awaits
We have come through the strangest of summers, with many holiday plans put on hold, but it is not too late to book a restorative break at one of the many brilliant hotels recommended by The Good Hotel Guide. Here the editors pick of ten of the best hotels for autumn breaks that are, if anything, at their best in this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
THE COTTAGE IN THE WOOD, BRAITHWAITE, CUMBRIA
Autumn is a glorious time to visit Liam and Kath Berney’s restaurant-with-rooms on Whinlatter Pass, in England’s only true mountain forest. It is the mating season, when stags sport magnificent headgear, while red squirrels gather nuts and seeds for their winter store. You can forage for fungi with the aid of a local guide, then warm yourself by a cheery fire. In the dining room, with views to Skiddaw, Michelin-starred chef Ben Wilkinson serves up Cumbria on a plate, in such dishes as Herdwick hogget loin, braised lentils, sweetbreads and spiced carrots – for veggies, hen of the woods, sour fennel and cabbage, capers and smoked emulsion. Boutique-style bedrooms range from the bijou to spacious.
D,B&B double £230-£320, dinner £55, tasting menu £75 (vegetarian £70). thecottageinthewood.co.uk
THE GUNTON ARMS, THORPE MARKET, NORFOLK
Close to the bracing North Norfolk coast, this dog-friendly pub-with-rooms is a showcase for owner Ivor Braka’s art collection, including works by the likes of Lucian Freud, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. In the Elk Room, crowned by a massive pair of antlers, Stuart Tattersall cooks over the leaping flames, venison from the surrounding 1,000-acre deer park, and beef from the Blickling estate, with goose-fat roast potatoes. Vegans won’t have a field day here, but pescatarians can tuck into chilli crab pasta or locally landed cod. Log fires blaze in comfy lounges, while characterful bedrooms include one in which Lillie Langtrey, mistress of the future Edward VII, used so sleep.
B&B single £85-£210, double £95-£320, à la carte £42, theguntonarms.co.uk
THE HARE AND HOUNDS, TETBURY, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
There is nowhere better in Britain to see spectacular autumn colour than at the National Arboretum, Westonbirt, a stroll from this Cotswold hotel. You can wander through the Acer Glade and Maple Loop, see hips and berries in profusion, then return for a cream tea by the fire, or snuggle up with a book in the library. Pub classics are served in dog-friendly Jack Hare’s Bar, while in the restaurant more ambitious seasonal menus include such dishes as grouse with girolles, celeriac, spinach and jus, or a veggie Thai green curry. You have a wide choice of individually styled bedrooms, in the main hotel and annexes.
B&B single from £105, double from £125, dogs £20 a night, à la carte (restaurant) £38, cotswold-inns-hotels.co.uk
MONTAGU ARMS, BEAULIEU, HAMPSHIRE
Wigeon and teal are arriving now to overwinter on the shining expanse of the Beaulieu River, in front of this Arts and Crafts-style Victorian hotel. It is an ideal base for exploring the New Forest when the bracken is ablaze with colour. As the acorns fall, the ponies, donkeys and cattle, for whom they are poisonous, are taken off the forest floor, but you might expect to see pigs happily rootling around the oaks. You might also visit Exbury Gardens, to see acers, Persian ironwood and the national collection of Nyassa in their October glad rags, then return for tea and scones with clotted cream. Bedrooms mix antique and contemporary furnishings. There is pub fare in Monty’s Inn, more ambitious cooking in the restaurant, where local and home-grown ingredients appear in such dishes as smoked belly of New Forest pork, potato terrine, apple and wild garlic.
B&B £219-£399, à la carte £40 (restaurant), £30 (Monty’s Inn), montaguarmshotel.co.uk
THE PIG AT BRIDGE PLACE, CANTERBURY, KENT
Take tea in a panelled bar with a log burner and deep, plush sofas, or cosy up in the snug or study, at this Grade I listed mansion, built in 1701, in a village close to Canterbury. A former music venue, it is now part of the innovative smallholding of Pig hotels, with the signature shabby-chic style. Blean Woods National Nature Reserve is nearby, and, since this is apple harvest time, the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale is well worth the 20-minute drive. Home-grown and local produce are mainstays of this Pig’s 25-mile menus, in such dishes as a Brogdale pork chop with garden greens and wholegrain mustard sauce. Quirky bedroom choices include hop pickers’ huts with their own log burner.
Room £109-£469, breakfast £12-£16, à la carte £42. thepighotel.com/at-bridge-place/
HOTEL ENDSLEIGH, MILTON ABBOT, DEVON
Hunter wellies wait by the door at Olga Polizzi’s dog-friendly ducal fishing lodge in parkland laid out by Humphry Repton, with the River Tamar running through. Shooting and fishing are available to guests, or you can visit the arboretum to see acers, tulip trees and Persian ironwood in full seasonal regalia. Return for a tea of scones warm from the oven, by a roaring log fire, or cocoon with a book in the library. Ms Polizzi’s eye for style is evident throughout, while in the original wood-panelled dining room Tom Ewings’s short menus include such dishes as herb-crusted confit duck leg, wholegrain mustard mash and red wine jus.
B&B £211.50-£485,dinner £52.50, hotelendsleigh.com
BIGGIN HALL, BIGGIN-BY-HARTINGTON, DERYBSHIRE
In a small Peak District village, James Moffett’s ancient manor house is run as a hotel in a spirit of generosity, with complimentary drinks on arrival, and a packed lunch for walker, cyclist or angler. Take an annexe room and your dog can stay, too, at no extra charge (unless for damage). Main house bedrooms have original features, some a four-poster. Chatsworth, seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is a pleasant drive away, with an arboretum planned by Joseph (Crystal Palace) Paxton within a Capability Brown landscape. Return to dine by candlelight on, say, slow-braised lamb rump with red wine sauce and bubble-and-squeak, or an imaginative vegan option.
B&B single from £80. double £120-£160, à la carte £32, indulgence menu £70, children 12 and over welcome, bigginhall.co.uk
THE ROSE AND CROWN, ROMALDKIRK, CO. DURHAM
Guide readers and their dogs love this village inn, with panelled dining room and a beamed locals bar warmed by a big open fire. Amid the stunning Pennine landscape of Teesdale, Moor House National Nature Reserve repays a visit. It is home to England’s largest juniper wood, where black grouse and golden plover gorge on the berries. Back at the inn, along with classic pub grub, chef Dave Hunter creates such dishes as roast loin of Teesdale lamb, braised lamb shepherd’s pie, mint pesto and lamb jus. Inn rooms are spacious, comfortable and traditional; ground-floor annexe rooms are more contemporary, each with outside seating.
B&B double £125-£210 (deduct £15 for single occupancy), à la carte £32, rose-and-crown.co.uk
KINLOCH LODGE, SLEAT, ISLE OF SKYE
Stalking, fishing and foraging with the aid of a ghillie are all laid on at Lord and Lady Macdonald’s former hunting lodge on the shores of Loch Na Dal. Wildlife-watchers can see rutting stags sporting magnificent antlers, or spy otters, seals, dolphins, even whales (but no midges!), as the wooded hillsides turn to russet and bronze. A fire burns in a hotel drawing room hung with family portraits. Antiques are displayed throughout, and some bedrooms have French doors and a loch view. Chef Marcello Tully creates such seasonal dishes as grouse wrapped in pancetta, stuffed with venison and Skye blueberries, served with Kinloch Forest chanterelles.
B&B double £280-£460, dinner £75, tasting menu £95, kinloch-lodge.co.uk
KILLIECRANKIE HOTEL, KILLIECRANKIE, PERTH AND KINROSS
Standing in the wooded grounds of the Pass of Killicrankie, this former dower house is today a family-friendly country house hotel, run by owner Henrietta Ferguson. A steep gorge carved out by the River Garry, the Pass is a delight in autumn as the leaves of oak, beech and aspen put on a show. It is a habitat for otters, roe deer and red squirrels, and you can follow a footpath alongside the water to Pitlochry. Hotel bedrooms are comfortable and traditionally styled. A bar menu offers such dishes as kedgeree, game pie and vegetable curry. In the restaurant, Mark Easton’s dinner menu includes such dishes as crispy-skin fillet of sea bream, lemon and herb couscous, sweet chilli and butter sauce.
Per person, D,B&B, single £235-£250, double £125-£150, à la carte (bar) £28, fixed-price dinner £45. killiecrankiehotel.co.uk