The Queen's Platinum Jubilee may have passed but that doesn't mean you have to stop living like royalty. The UK is filled grand stays where you can indulge in your inner king or queen fantasies. From castles in Northern Ireland and manor house hotels in bucolic English landscapes, to the Duke of Marlborough’s former fishing retreat and a fairytale retreat on the Holkham Estate – these minibreaks are fit for nobility.
Thornbury Castle, Thornbury, Bristol
Best for: History buffs
This country house-come-castle was first built in 1511 as a lavish bolthole by Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham. After he lost his head for treason in 1521, it was confiscated by Henry VIII and used as a stop on his honeymoon tour with Anne Boleyn. Lauded by Historic England as one of finest examples of Tudor domestic architecture in the country, its towers, turrets and spectacular two-tier oriel windows look imposing but the atmosphere feels warm and intimate, with friendly staff for whom nothing seems too much trouble. Relax with a massage in the south wing treatment room then sink into the plump sofas for cocktails (try The Headless Queen) and canapes in front of the fire before dinner. The grand, wood-panelled bedrooms are probably better described as chambers, with thick-set stone fireplaces, roll top baths and four-poster beds that feel a bit like sleeping on a cloud.
Stella loves: The decanters of delicious local sloe gin in each room
Out and about: Local history guides offer bespoke tours of the architecture and walled gardens, which used to have a two-tier timber gallery with direct access to the 14th century St Mary’s Church, next door. A short drive from Bristol or Bath, Thornbury itself is a pretty little market town with several traditional pubs (fun fact: its old-school greengrocers, Riddiford’s was the inspiration for the BBC’s Open All Hours). Just down the road, 6 O’Clock Gin, makers of the aforementioned sloe gin, offer £25 tours and tastings at their artisan distillery.
How to do it: Rooms at Thornbury Castle (01454 281182, thornburycastle.co.uk) are priced from £249 on a bed and breakfast basis.
By Rachel Cocker
Monkey Island Estate, Bray, Maidenhead
Best for: foodies after a dose of tranquility
There may not be any monkeys swinging from the conifers, but this dreamy estate, just an hour outside of London, manages to live up to its fabulously exotic name. The perfectly manicured estate is a little slice of lush paradise on its own seven-acre private island on the Thames, just a stone’s throw from the Michelin-starred offerings of Bray. Once the fishing retreat for the Duke of Marlborough, its recent renovation means it’s fresh and modern on the inside (rooms are Insta-chich in a glam cottagecore way) while retaining its imposing facade and traditional charm. The estate’s restaurant, The Monkey Island Brasserie in Bray, serves up fresh fare using local produce and afternoon teas - either in its sleek dining room or on its Thames-side terrace. With its picture-perfect entrance bridge, herb garden and waterside setting, it’s a true hidden gem.
Stella loves: The floating spa on board an elegant barge moored to the island for pure tranquillity.
Out and about: Windsor Castle and the surrounding bustling cobbled shopping streets are just five miles down the road. Even closer, in Bary itself, are a selection of some of the country's top restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin-starred The Fat Duck and the equally feted Waterside Inn. On the estate, book in for a spot of beekeeping for a fascinating experience in nature.
How to do it: Nightly rates at Monkey Island Estate (0207 657 8200, monkeyislandestate.co.uk) start from £275, per room, per night in a Temple Room.
By Naomi Greenaway
De Vere Latimer Estate, Chesham, Bucks
Best for: bucolic English scenery
At the top of a long driveway, surrounded by pleasant green Buckinghamshire fields and woodland, there’s a certain romance to this manor house hotel. The estate itself dates back as far as 1194 AD and during WW2, it became a secret centre for military intelligence. Today, the sense of history is present both outside and in, where the décor nods to the past - old-fashioned typewriters in communal areas, packing cases, gramophones and the like. But there’s nothing fusty about it. The restaurant, with its central glass atrium, is large and airy, the chefs in the open kitchen dishing up modern classics: seabass fillets, pan-roasted duck breast, roast salmon with Champagne and caper cream sauce. Children are welcomed, with a kids’ menu and friendly staff. And if a walk along the adjacent River Chess doesn’t wear them out, there’s always the hotel pool.
Stella loves: The view from the bedroom window – bucolic English scenery at its best.
Out and about: Amersham Old Town (4 miles away) is a beguiling place to spend an afternoon, with its beautiful heritage buildings dating from 1450. Drop into the charming local history museum, (£4.50 per adult, children free) which charts its journey from medieval market town to Metroland. You can also step back in time at the fantastic Chiltern Open Air Museum (5 miles away, from £7.50 per adult and £6 per child aged 4-16), where historic buildings have been rebuilt, preserved and fitted out with period décor from a range of eras.
How to do it: Rooms at De Vere Latimer Estate (01494 412312, devere.co.uk/latimer-estate) start from £129 per night on a bed and breakfast basis.
By Rosa Silverman
Castle Hotel, Windsor, Berkshire
Best for: playing duchess for the day
This beautiful 16th-century Georgian hotel is smack bang in the middle of Windsor's busy high street, yet when you walk in, you immediately feel tucked away from the hustle and bustle. The decor is a mix of dark wooden panelling, large windows and oil paintings, alongside plush sofas and the newly interior designed restaurant and bar. The creaky, ever-so-slightly uneven floorboards in the bedrooms are a wonderful reminder that the hotel started life in 1528 as a humble pub (known as The Mermaid Inn), before slowly being transformed into the area’s most fashionable hotel – so much so, the Duke of Wellington dined here after his victory over Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. These days, it's very child-friendly and would make the perfect base for a family trip to nearby Legoland, which is a ten minute drive away.
Stella loves: The elegant afternoon tea. Pass the scones, please.
Out and about: Where to begin? It's directly opposite Windsor Castle and The Windsor Guildhall (where the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall married), a stone's throw from the shops, bars and restaurants that line the high street and surrounding roads, and a 15-minute walk (over the bridge) to historic Eton.
How to do it: Room rates at Castle Hotel Windsor (01753 851577, castlehotelwindsor.com) start from £154 inclusive of breakfast and VAT.
By Maria Lally
The Falcondale, Ceredigion, Wales
Best for: dog lovers
This grade II-listed hotel has an air of Downton about it – with its mile-long drive and 14 acres of sweeping lawns, gardens and woodland overlooking the beautiful Teifi valley. The country-house theme carries on into the 17 bedrooms, which are all decorated in calm Farrow & Ball colours with a mix of classic and antique furniture - ours had a four-poster. Dogs are made very welcome and if you'd rather not leave them in your room, you can take them into the conservatory to eat - they even get offered a breakfast sausage! There are walks aplenty, including a short loop around the grounds – the hotel also has leaflets describing trails along rivers into woods full of bluebells in the spring. If you’re looking for something more substantial, you have the Cambrian mountains on your doorstep and the Ceredigion coastline just a short drive away.
Stella loves: The box of dog goodies in our room, including bowls and blankets, was a lovely touch.
Out and about: Strata Florida Abbey is well worth a visit. Half an hour north from the hotel, the ‘Westminster Abbey of Wales’ is the resting place of generations of medieval Welsh princes. The carved west doorway into the abbey offers an epic view down the nave to where the high altar once stood, and you can still see some of the original tiles that would have decorated the floors of the church. Drive just over an hour in the opposite direction and you’ll come to Pentre Ifan, a Neolithic burial chamber. The 5m long capstone has stood for 5,000 years and is the same Pembrokeshire blue stone used to build part of Stonehenge. A beautiful drive through the Preseli Hillls takes you to the lovely seaside town of New Quay. Bag some fish and chips from the Lime Crab then sit on the harbour wall and spot the bottlenose dolphins famous for basking in these waters.
How to do it: Rooms at The Falcondale (01570 422910, thefalcondale.co.uk) are priced from £169 per night.
By Joanna Morris
Penrallt Country House Hotel, Aberporth, Ceredigion, Wales
Best for: a remote seaside retreat
Penrallt House is an imposing Arts and Craft-style residence in an up and coming area of West Wales, which originally opened as a hotel in the 1960s. It has 25 bedrooms; 15 in the main house and 10 garden rooms with private terraces, which welcome four-legged guests (the owners are dog people). The hotel restaurant does an excellent Sunday lunch with cracking views across Aberporth and the bar is a jolly place to while away several hours. If you can tear yourself away, it’s just a 20 minute stroll to the family-friendly local Blue Flag beach.
Stella loves: The visiting bottlenose dolphin pod and the locally brewed gin from the nearby maverick Welsh Wind distillery.
Out and about: You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to nearby beaches. Head to The Boy Ashore, a food shack and takeaway, for craft beer and cocktails on Dyffryn Beach. Then there’s Penbryn beach, an untrammelled mile of golden sand and the utterly beautiful Mwnt, a sheltered sandy National Trust cove.
How to do it: The average cost of a room at Penrallt Country House Hotel (01239 810088, penrallthotel.co.uk)varies season to season from £120, or £180 in the summer.
By Jessamy Calkin
The Montagu Arms Hotel, Beaulieu, New Forest, Hampshire
Best for: a picture-perfect family break
In the heart of the almost impossibly pretty New Forest village of Beaulieu, this homely and elegant 33-bedroom hotel has an enviable history, dating back to the 16th century when it began life as a coaching inn. Guests have included notables from Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle to former French president Charles de Gaulle. However neither had the pleasure of sampling the out-of-this world cuisine in its award-winning restaurant The Terrace, which makes this place so very special and popular. Grab a table overlooking the beautifully tended gardens and go for the seasonal and regional tasting menu, with delights such as Black Water pig belly and signature My Dad and Me dessert (caramel and beer feature heavily). Then discover Beaulieu itself (which literally means ‘beautiful place’), which is like a fictional Famous Five village - all chocolate shops and tea rooms, perched on a tidal river made for picnics and lashings of ginger beer.
Stella loves: The garden courtyard rooms in the newly converted outbuilding that was previously the chauffeurs garage. They come with chic, modern décor, a private terrace and a complimentary decanter of gin.
Out and about: A visit to the National Motor Museum is an absolute must. With everything from F1 supercars to Del Boy’s Robin Reliant van, as well as beautiful grounds with sculptures and a monorail, it’s got family day out written all over it. We also loved Beaulieu Palace House. Overlooking the Beaulieu River millpond, it has been part of the Montagu family since the 1500ss and is now an impressive Victorian country home, complete with restored Victorian kitchen. www.beaulieu.co.uk
How to do it: Rooms at The Montagu Arms Hotel (01590 624467, montaguarmshotel.co.uk) start from £171 on a bed and breakfast basis.
By Marianne Jones
The Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland, Northumberland
Best for: solitude seekers
The Lord Crewe Arms, part of the Calcot Manor Group of luxury hotels, is in the heart of Blanchland in the Northumbrian countryside. If you stand on the doorstep of the hotel, you can see from one side of the village to the other without moving a step. The hotel was once a 12th century abbey, and while some original features are still intact, the rooms are comfortable and modern, decked out in a relaxing, muted green, grey and burgundy colour palette that reflects the natural shades of the surrounding moors. You immediately feel at home here, thanks to the warm, kind staff, all of whom take huge pride in the history of their hotel and the local area. Meanwhile, the restaurant rustles up hearty food like roast guinea hen and North Sea cod with caviar butter – exactly what you need after a day striding around the Pennines.
Stella loves: Stargazing with Andrew Gray, a retired local science teacher who is equipped with a huge telescope to show you the moon, stars and constellations, while you sip sloe gin from the local distillery, Hepple Spirits.
Out and about: No sense of direction? Hotel staffer Karl will take you on a guided hike of the moors just outside your door. Further afield, the pretty market towns of Hexham and Corbridge are both a 20 minute drive north and well worth a visit (quirky homewares shop RE, hidden behind Corbridge’s petrol station, is a must).
How to do it: Rooms at The Lord Crewe Arms (01434 677100, lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk) start from £189 on a bed and breakfast basis.
By Helen Gibson
Callow Hall Hotel, Peak District, Derbyshire
Best for: laidback luxury
The first opening in a promised Wildhive portfolio of rural boutique hotels is on the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire, far from the buzzy Cotswolds or Somerset. But the buzz is strong here too, and rightly so. With inviting, colour-saturated interiors by Isabella Worsley, a dazzling glass-box restaurant and friendly staff, Callow Hall is all about unpretentious country-house hospitality with heart. The hotel has 15 rooms in the main building and a growing collection of treehouses hidden up a steep hill. The treehouses – like shepherd’s huts on stilts, cantilevered over a hill, with views straight into the forest canopy – are timber-lined cocoons. Opt for the two-bedroom option and soak in a roll top bath on the wraparound deck.
Stella loves: Watching the sun set over the Dales from the comfort of The Garden Room’s bar, a Mapleton Mule by drinks master Munro in hand.
Out and about: A taxi journey from Derby railway station takes you through Ashbourne, a pretty village with a parade of antique shops. It’s a 20-minute walk from the hotel and the ideal place to pick up souvenirs (or antique tea sets, depending on your priorities). And cyclists, take note: Callow Hall is a two-minute cycle from an entrance to the Tissington Trail, a traffic-free walking and cycling trail through the Peak District National Park. If that’s too active, explore the kitchen garden (the source of many cocktail ingredients and garnishes) on your way to a massage in the Coach House. The 100 Acres products will have you floating back to your room or treehouse on a cloud of British-grown botanicals.
How to do it: Rooms at Callow Hall Hotel (wildhive.uk) start from from £179.
By Emily Cronin
Ballygally Castle, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
Best for: an Irish seaside retreat with a spirit
In the small village on the Northern Irish coast, 25 miles north of Belfast, you’ll find this 17th century castle, which was reimagined and expanded as a hotel in 1966. IIt has 54 rooms, a restaurant, bar… oh, and a resident spirit. The ghost of Lady Isabella Shaw lives in the original castle, and her room is still there untouched and open for visitors. Legend has it that she died trying to escape from her tower room after being locked in it by her husband Lord James Shaw. Don’t worry though, she’s a friendly ghost. The hotel staff are as welcoming of her as they are of present day guests. They ensure that your stay is comfortable (helped greatly by the super king-sized beds) and enjoyable (don’t check out until you have tried staff member Scott’s Irish Coffee). The hotel’s chef cooks up traditional Irish grub made with local ingredients and the breakfast is not to be missed, especially the porridge which is served with Bushmills Irish whiskey.
Stella loves: the Sunday lunch buffet - a huge carvery that’s not for the faint hearted.
Out and about: There is not much to do in Ballygally, except for a dip in the cold Irish sea that laps right outside the castle’s door, if you’re feeling brave. So make sure you walk the 20 minutes to Matties Meeting House, a very local watering hole that serves the best Guiness pie in Ireland, accompanied by the best craic.
How to do it: Enjoy an overnight stay at Ballygally Castle (028 9047 1066, hastingshotels.com) on a room only basis from £50pps, or from £60 per person including a full Irish breakfast.
By Helen Gibson
Mitre Hampton Court, East Molesey, Surrey
Best for: a riverside break
Set in a Thames-side building dating back to 1665 and originally built as a hostel for visitors to Hampton Court Palace next door, The Mitre marries a rich history, retained through its characterful features and quirky layouts, with all the sophistication you’d expect from a modern boutique hotel; from luxurious roll top baths to bespoke interiors schemes with contributions from artists such as Rachael Cocker. You could while away a whole weekend here, swanning from the cosy library to one of the various restaurants or bars, where the menu has been masterminded by Claridges alumnus Ronnie Kimbugwe. Highlights include the cauliflower popcorn (honestly, it's delicious) and the Signet Spritz cocktail.
Stella loves: The river views from the restaurant – or even better the terrace if it’s sunny.
Out and about: a visit to Hampton Court Palace, just over the road is a given, then explore Bushy Park and Home Park, both former playgrounds of Henry VIII. There’s a row of restaurants and cafes to try just across the bridge and La Fiamma is the best local Italian.
How to do it: Classic rooms for two adults at Mitre Hampton Court (020 8979 9988, mitrehamptoncourt.com) start from £150 on a bed and breakfast basis.
By Bethan Holt
Triumphal Arch, Holkham Hall, Norfolk
Best for: antiquarians
Staying at this one-bedroom cottage is like being in a fairytale – case in point, the spiral staircase that leads to the four-poster bed and a view of the surrounding 25,000 acres of Holkham Estate. The most endearing part is that you’re actually inside an arch – a Grade 1 18th century listed one at that, with cows and deer meandering past the door. It’s self-catering, but not as we know it. For lunch, head past Holkham Hall to The Victoria Inn, an upmarket gastro pub on the edge of the estate, and a favourite of the chic North Norfolk set. The Sunday roast is cracking.
Stella loves: The welcome hamper on arrival, which highlights the best of what Holkham has to offer, from rapeseed oil, to homemade jam to wine.
Out and about: The best way to explore the Holkham grounds is to rent an electric bike for the whole day (£48). Holkham Hall is open to visitors on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays – on the other days the Earl of Leicester and his family reside there. You can also ride the bike down to the vast sands and big skies of Holkham beach. Scenes from Shakespeare in Love (1998) and The Duchess (2008) were filmed here.
How to do it: Stays at Triumphal Arch start from £132 per night in low season and can be booked via norfolkcottages.co.uk
By Hikmat Mohammed