We’re often asked by visiting friends to suggest perfect town ‘n’ country partners for twin-centre stays out of London, so here’s a ready-made mini adventure to whet your wanderlust… From thick-of-it thrills to pastoral perfection, this boutique road trip takes you from the history and bustle of the British capital to the fresh-air charms of the rolling Cotswolds countryside.
Electric, eccentric, traditional yet out-there, London is a cultural and culinary melting pot that lets you eat – and shop – your way around the globe, and catch guerilla art works in the streets of the East End, or Old Masters in the museums of the West. Unpack at one of London’s most distinguished addresses: Brown’s Hotel in moneyed Mayfair. This prestigious neighbourhood is an haute-cuisine hotspot, with some of the most hankered-after dining tables hidden among its streets.
Rent a bike from one of the new city-centre stands and pedal past all the London-postcard architecture, including the Houses of Parliament, the Natural History Museum and the V&A (handy for the Kensington Hotel, too). Early risers should make a trip to Borough Market and grab the best ‘store d’oeuvres’ – tasters of artisan cheeses, cakes and olive oils, before picking up a picnic to be enjoyed waterside on the South Bank – perhaps in front of the pioneering Tate Modern art gallery.
From the capital to the Cotswolds hills: only 90 minutes from the cultural kaleidoscope of London, the Cotswolds crosses Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, has scenery straight out of Jane Austen, and chocolate-box villages at the end of every country lane. Ancient, higgledy-piggledy buildings of buttermilk-yellow Cotswold stone make the picturesque village of Chipping Campden the stuff that tourist-board dreams are made on. Artists come to admire the scenery; ramblers come to wander it: start out from the Cotswold House hotel and make the four-mile journey to Broadway Tower. From the top, England spreads before you like a patchwork quilt; the panorama takes in up to 16 counties. On your return, be sure to stop in at the Eight Bells Inn for the classic country-pub experience. You’ll need to book, or get there early enough to nab a table on the terrace.
There’s culture in the countryside, too: visit in June or July and take in a soul-stirring performance of Verdi, Wagner or Mozart, care of the Longborough Festival Opera. Each production has a 90-minute picnic break, so take the opportunity to plunder Maylams delicatessen for Double Gloucester cheese, zingy chutneys and savoury cold cuts. Few capital-to-country escapes promise to have you this sated in every sense – that must be why we call it Great Britain.
Drive further south towards the gorgeous Georgian town of Bath and you’ll find plenty more cosy country stays along the way: our favourites include Rectory Hotel in Malmesbury for its low-key family-friendly welcome; and Lucknam Park for out-and-out aristocratic luxury…
ROAD TRIP ADDRESS BOOK: WHERE TO STAY
THE KENSINGTON HOTEL Kensington, London
Style Regal and ravishing
Setting Sumptuous South Ken
Situated in beautiful townhouse just off London’s Old Brompton Road, this is a relaxing spot in which to escape the bustle of SW7’s museum land. Everything in the hotel – from its handpicked furniture to the light installations – ticks the right fashion-magazine boxes. And it’s incredibly spacious: even the smallest rooms feel positively suite-like.
Doubles from £174. More details
BROWN’S HOTEL Mayfair, London
Style Understated elegance
Setting Magnificent Mayfair
Ageless good looks, combined with the jazzy glamour of the Donovan Bar and a moving, shaking guest list, have made Brown’s one of London’s must-stays. Olga Polizzi’s recent renovation blends fresh colours, mosaic floors and antique furnishings with historic wooden panelling, gilt mirrors and stained glass.
Doubles from £354. More details
COTSWOLD HOUSE Cotswolds
Style State-of-the-art comfort zone
Setting Charming Chipping Campden
A dream designer pad with all the mod cons, in a breathtaking rural village setting. Each room has its own USP, and comes equipped with a massive television, Bang & Olufsen entertainment centre, and one of the biggest and comfiest beds you will ever have the joy of sleeping in. It’s child-friendly, too.
RECTORY HOTEL Malmesbury, Cotswolds
Style Period-detail family retreat
Setting Walled gardens in Wiltshire
This family-friendly Cotswolds charmer is blessed with walled gardens, a heated outdoor pool and a talented chef. With its open log fires, canoodle-perfect armchairs and crisp Egyptian linen waiting for you in the bedrooms, it’s the ideal place to kickstart or rekindle romance – with or without the kids in tow.
Doubles from £95. More details