1. Best snug for the witching hour
Let your imagination fly, possibly on a broomstick, at AA 4-star The Red Lion, Long Compton. The village was once notorious for witchcraft and a walk to the Neolithic Rollright Stones reveals what legend claims to be a king and his knights put under a spell by a witch. Afterwards, snuggle down safely with a nightcap by the 18th-century coaching inn’s log fire before diving beneath your bedcovers. (Alastair Sawday listed.)
2. Best for village ‘good life’
The Howard Arms is proud to be at the heart of Ilmington village. Dig into the 400-year-old inn’s famous three-course breakfasts, tasty lunches or dinners and you too can savour the ‘good life’. Meat comes locally from E&P and Barry the Butcher, milk and eggs from Mabel’s farm, and folk supply fresh fruit and veg from their allotments in exchange for beer. Ilmington schoolchildren have even created a walk based on local orchard heritage. Slumber the night away in bedrooms that marry shabby chic with a sumptuous contemporary feel. (Enjoy England 5 star; Alastair Sawday listed.)
3. Best secluded getaway
Escape to Hidden Cottages near Henley-in-Arden for the ultimate in secluded self-catering. Charming Enjoy England 4-star cottage and barn accommodation comes with the chance to relax in a wildflower meadow, watch the wildlife, or simply read your book in peace and quiet. After a day’s sightseeing, put your feet up on your own terrace and daydream.
4. Best country house to lord it up
Live and sleep ‘to the manor born’ at AA 4-star Ettington Park Hotel, Alderminster, staying in luxury suites that occupy the original rooms of the Lord and Lady of the house. Enjoy superb views over the historic estate and grounds, and treat yourself to in-room private dining – although you will also want to make the most of the Neo-Gothic mansion’s antique-filled public rooms, swimming pool and sauna.
5. Best bed and Bard
It’s not just the 16th-century charm of Grade 2-listed The Old Manor House, Halford, that makes you think you’ve wandered back into Shakespearian times. Jane and William Pusey’s home has intriguing links with the Bard and, in his famous words, a tale of ‘murder most foul’. Stay at this sumptuous B&B and hear the story, maybe over one of Cordon Bleu cook Jane’s scrumptious breakfasts. (Alastair Sawday listed.)
6. Best Michelin magic
Indulge in Michelin-star magic at AA 3-star Mallory Court Hotel, in the Warwickshire countryside near Leamington Spa. The oak-panelled dining room sets an exquisite scene and daily changing menus feature the best seasonal produce as well as dishes inspired by the hotel’s kitchen gardens. Push the boat out with the seven-course Menu Surprise and then stretch your legs in the 10-acre grounds before heading for the Land of Nod.
7. Best creative retreat
VisitBritain 4-star Machado Gallery, Barford, was originally a cottage and workshops. Renovated by sculptor and designer Sue Machado, it now includes a B&B with three attractive en suite rooms within a lovely walled garden. Come and stay for one of a range of creative classes and courses, from baking to sculpture and raku ceramics. The gallery featuring work by artists, artisans and designers could provide inspiration too. (Alastair Sawday listed.)
8. Best for counting sheep
Where better to get some zeds than the restored 19th-century Shepherd’s Hut in the orchard of 450-acre Hill Farm, near Southam. Once providing shelter for shepherds and lambs, the Hut is now a cosy, romantic B&B room with double bed and antique settle. You really can count sheep here, or maybe cattle, and wake to the countryside sounds of skylarks and farm animals.
9. Best for gourmet gardens and golf
AA 4-star Menzies Welcombe Hotel Spa & Golf Club, near Stratford-upon-Avon, has undergone £2.2 million refurbishment. Accommodation at the Jacobean-style country house ranges from contemporary air-conditioned garden rooms to stunning four-poster suites. Tee off on the 18-hole championship golf course and then dine in the award-winning restaurant with views over the beautiful Italian gardens and water features.
10. Best for healthy eccentrics
Eighteenth-century fashionistas swore (perhaps literally) by the benefits of a cold bath and The Bath House, hidden away in woodland near Stratford-upon-Avon, recalls those days. The bath chamber and room above where brave dippers recovered is let by The Landmark Trust and accommodates two people. Just love the dome with coolly dripping icicles and walls frosted with shells!
11. Best for walking and cycling
Handsome 19th-century Marston House, Priors Marston, stands beside the Welsh Road along which medieval English soldiers marched to conquer Wales. It’s peaceful today, and the many cycle and walking trails on the doorstep invite the pursuit of pure pleasure. Borrow a map from owners Kim and John and perhaps seek out the Millennium Way for a ramble, or simply toddle to the village pub. (Alastair Sawday listed.)
12. Best for boutique and gastropub chic
The Bell, part of the Alscot Estate at Alderminster, combines the temptations of a quirky, award-winning gastropub with the comforts of individually styled boutique bedrooms. Share a toast of Alscot Ale, choose a hearty meal from the seasonal specials, and relax beside an open fire. Then sink into bed in rooms that vary from funky and flamboyant to Regency with glamorous gold. (Alastair Sawday listed.)
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