FORGET BAG RESTRICTIONS AND SECURITY QUEUES-THESE RETREATS ARE ONLY A DRIVE ORTRAIN RIDE AWAY
CRILLON LE BRAVE, FRANCE
The drive from Avignon station to Crillon Le Brave may take you past 6 HRS1 pretty villages and vineyards, but still nothing can prepare you for your arrival at this exquisite hilltop hotel. Over the past couple of decades, what was originally a single building has spread to become a mini-village of stone houses converted into spacious suites with terracotta-tiled floors and views to die for. If you can tear yourself away from the vista, visit the sprawling terrace for breakfast, and the fine dining restaurant with an epic wine list. A 10-minute drive away is the village of Carpentras. Grab bread and cheese at the Friday market for a DIY Gallic picnic, buy freshly dug truffles or book a table at Chez Serge, a gorgeous little bistro with a set truffle-based menu dishing up as much of the black stuff as you can handle for 75 euros. WOW FACTOR Wine lovers will be in heaven. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Beaumes de Venise and other wineries are only short drives away.
GO Double rooms cost from £242, B&B (crillonlebrave.com) while Eurostar (eurostar.com) to Avignon starts at £109 return.
THE SCARLET, CORNWALL
Eco doesn’t mean roughing it at this luxe hotel on the North Cornwall coast. Yes, there are solar panels to heat the indoor pool, a rainwater harvesting scheme and the boiler runs on biomass fuel, but there’s also an ultra-indulgent spa, clifftop hot-tubs and comfy rooms in natural tones — all with glorious views of the Atlantic and Mawgan Porth Beach. There is a no-children policy here and laid-back is the name of the game, whether it’s lazing by the outdoor pool or hanging in a womb-like relaxation pod in the spa. Halfway between foodie Padstow and St Ives (which has an outpost of the Tate Gallery), The Scarlet is perfectly located for day trips, although there’s plenty to do on your doorstep too. Try surfing lessons, scenic walks along the coast or even embrace your inner child and go tree climbing (serious climbers can try the Mighty Oak Tree Climbing Company, mighty-oak.co.uk). Make sure you’re back at the hotel for dinner, where everything is seasonal, local and utterly delicious.
WOW FACTOR For a spa treatment that keeps on giving, book a ‘Rediscover each other’ treatment for a therapist-led massage lesson.
GO Double rooms cost from £200, B&B (scarlethotel.co.uk).
ANDAZ AMSTERDAM PRINSENGRACHT,
If you are a bit shaky on the history of Amsterdam, Marcel Wanders, Andaz’s A-list designer, has a novel solution. The toilets in each of the hotel’s 122 rooms are wallpapered with enough maps, illustrations and tales to make you linger an awkward length of time. Its just one clever flourish in a five-star bolthole that’s full of them — the sinks daubed in Marcel’s signature blue patterns (painted in just one minute), his wacky ‘whale comb’ artwork over the bed (pictured), and a seven-storey high model Alice who peers over her ‘wonderland’ courtyard. Understated this is not, but the quirk)’ vibe is just right for its Nine Streets district location, which is a rabbit warren of boutiques, bars and restaurants.
GO Double rooms cost from £274 (amsterdam.prinsengracht.andaz.com while Eurostar (eurostar.com) to Amsterdam starts at £99 return.
What is it about canals and romance? Another watery city 1,000 or so kilometres north of Venice (and a mere hop south from Amsterdam), Bruges’s canals and cobbled streets ooze romance… and chocolate shops. You want to sleep in a palace? Then check in at the Dukes Palace, which comes with a Rapunzel-esque turret and princess-worthy suites. Start the day in regal style with a hearty breakfast of eggs Florentine, shrimps and champagne before a horse-drawn city tour — just stop short of the royal wave as you pass crowds of tourists outside the 13th-century belfry.
WOW FACTOR Check out the contemporary sculpture exhibition in the gardens.
GO Double rooms cost from £185, B&B (kempinski.com) while Eurostar (eurostar.com) to Bruges starts at £80 return.
Тhе facade might be classic Paris (all Haussmann-ега grandeur) but the inside of W’s Paris outpost — which opened last year and faces the iconic Palais Gamier Opera House — is definitely not. «The City of Light’ is the theme here, which begins with the digital installation pulsing with light in the lobby and public spaces, and extends to the minimal white decor in the rooms, punctuated with flashes of colour. The hotel is walking distance to the Louvre and boutiques of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, but if you want to hit the hottest spots in Paris, speak to concierge Cecile. The hotel bar is a hip hangout in itelf. Cool creative types crowd in come evening — order a signature Spark cocktail (vodka, orange juice, ft raspberry, saffron-infused spring water, honey and champagne) and sit back to people-watch.
WOW FACTOR The attention to detail — even the mat in the lift is changed from ‘Good morning’ to ‘afternoon and evening’ throughout the day.
GO Double rooms cost from £330 (whotels.com/paris) while Eurostar (eurostar.com) to Paris starts at £69 return.
THE PIG, HAMPSHIRE, UK
If you think country house hotel means cashmere twinsets and Laura Ashley floral prints, think again. The Pig, on the fringes of the New Forest, is the kind of place where a battered old Clio is parked next to an Aston on the driveway. The vibe is relaxed — even the staff wear jeans and Converse trainers — and the decor is artfully styled to look like no effort went into it at all: mismatched glassware, flea-market furniture and stacks of beaten-up vintage suitcases set against earthy, Farrow & Ball-ish greys and greens. Rooms come in Snug, Comfy and Spacious varieties, but the whole place is really about the walled kitchen garden and the restaurant in a Victorian greenhouse that dishes up its produce (anything not from the garden is sourced within a 25-mile radius). After you are well-fed, Hunter wellies are on hand for a tramp through the countryside, or join the hotels resident forager to discover some of the forest’s bounty that ends up on your plate come dinnertime. Then get comfy in one of the battered leather chairs by the bar for a different taste of the outdoors, from the drinks trolley of garden-infused vodka: rosemary, chilli or elderflower anyone?
WOW FACTOR With a name like The Pig, you expect breakfast to be top-notch and The Full Pig-out won’t disappoint.
GO Double rooms cost from £129
For minimum travel and maximum luxury, ditch your passports and drive to the Cotswolds. The hip heart of the West Country — with its charming villages and gastro pubs — is the ideal place for a post-wedding love-in. True, there’s no shortage of high-end hotels in the Cotswolds, but none are quite like Barnsley House. On one hand, it is the epitome of rolling-hills luxe; as your car sweeps up the drive, the Grade-II listed manor promises to fulfil your five-star fantasies. Yet once inside, you feel as if you’re staying at a fashionable friends country home. No two bedrooms are the same at Barnsley. Room 17, a mezzanine suite, has the ubiquitous roll-top bath opposite the bed; although it feels a little dated, it’s easy to overlook when you discover that the bathroom doubles up as a steam room. Upstairs, a sitting room — complete with DVD menu — dares you to snub the hotel’s terraced restaurant and order room service. But do venture out because Barnsley’s local, the Village Pub, is a two-minute walk away and has a cult foodie following. Hidden within the hotel’s woodland you’ll find the Garden Spa, where you can indulge in a Morning Dew treatment — perfect to clear your post-wedding day head (read: hangover).
WOW FACTOR Book out the hotel’s private cinema (free of charge) for just you and him. Your first date-night as Mr and Mrs will definitely be one to remember.
GO Double rooms cost from £280, B&B (barnsleyhouse.com).
LAKE DISTRICT, UK
Gorgeous scenery, gourmet food and staff who leap out with an umbrella to escort you to the door — what more do you want from a honeymoon hotel? Perched overlooking Lake Windermere, The Samling is a discreet retreat (it’s no wonder that Tom Cruise and the Beckhams are among former guests) with just 11 rooms — ours, Hovera, spread over three half-floors, has open fires and is decorated in cosy autumnal colours. Others, in nautical blues and white (Manmire) or country tartans (Methera), are spread through the main house and cottages — only one (Yan) doesn’t have lake views. But you didn’t come to England’s largest national park to gaze out the window, and there are plenty of scenic walks. Try Wansfell Pike, stopping for a pub lunch on the way down. The area is a feast of gourmet restaurants and the hotel’s own is no exception. Dinner is a spoiling of inventive dishes — including an Asian-style broth brewed at your table using a coffee percolator before being topped with turbot. It’s as delicious as the views.
WOW FACTOR Book time in the hot tub overlooking the lake, and make sure there’s a bottle of champagne on ice.
GO Mr & Mrs Smith (mrandmrssmith.com) offers double rooms from £150, B&B.