The West Arms, near Llangollen
The picturesque village of Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, in the remote Ceiriog valley, is home to this inn in a farmhouse dating back to 1570. It’s a community hub but also does unusual gourmet food (fish with Menai Strait mussels and sauteed sea vegetables, perhaps). This bit of north Wales has bags of charm and interesting spots include dramatic Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall, the idiosyncratic town of Llangollen and the 13th-century Chirk Castle, with a vast parkland that’s glorious in autumn, and Erddig House, with Christmas events such as walks and breakfasts with Santa from the end of November. You’re close to Snowdonia, too.
• Doubles from £135 B&B, mains from £17, thewestarms.com
Milebrook House Hotel, Powys
James Sheehan and Zoe Carter bought Milebrook at the end of 2018 and have wasted no time putting their mark on it. Parquet floors gleam, huge windows show off the views and good art pulls everything together. Take a seat in front of the fire in the lively bar for a G&T before dinner. Local chef, Christina, cooks modern British fare with an emphasis on seasonal Welsh produce. Ten peaceful bedrooms are big enough to sit and read or watch TV. There’s croquet, badminton, boules and table tennis in the gardens; and you can join the Offa’s Dyke path in nearby Knighton or hike in the Shropshire Hills on the doorstep.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, mains from £15, sawdays.co.uk
Llys Meddyg, Pembrokeshire
This beautiful, small Newport hotel packs a punch, with eight chic bedrooms, a cellar bar for cocktails before dinner and a stylish restaurant with Welsh art on the walls. Menus might feature home-smoked salmon or slow-cooked lamb and caramelised pear with blue-cheese ice-cream. The bedrooms in the main house have cool colours, vast beds and fancy bathrooms, while those in the mews have a rustic feel and garden views. It’s well placed for exploring Pembrokeshire’s hills, the coastal path and sandy beaches.
• Doubles from £100 B&B, mains from £14.50, sawdays.co.uk
Escape Boutique B&B, Conwy
Though part of the new school of beautiful B&Bs, Escape isn’t the kind of place where one worries about leaving a cushion out of place. Life inside this Victorian Llandudno villa is perfectly relaxed. Of nine distinct rooms, best for winter is either the platinum Number 3, complete with a huge roll-top copper bathtub, or wooden-floored Number 1, where orange swivel chairs, a large bay window and patchwork woollen quilt enliven grey hues. For a day out, start at Llandudno pier, the longest in Wales at 700 metres, then move on to Snowdonia, Conwy Castle and the National Trust gardens at Bodnant. First, though, come the B&B’s acclaimed breakfasts – including porridge and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs.
• Doubles from £105 B&B, escapebandb.co.uk
The Harp, Powys
It’s the views of the broad Radnor valley and the welcoming atmosphere that make this down-to-earth pub a winner for winter walkers, and it was recently named in the top 10 of the Good Pub Guide’s Country Pub of the Year for 2020. In the village of Old Radnor, this venerable Welsh longhouse (by a notable medieval church at the end of a cul de sac) is an idyllic spot with antique high-backed settles tucked into crannies, slate floors and a woodburner, plus Ludlow Gold and Betty Stoggs on hand-pump. If it’s too blustery to hike, have a mosey around the bookshops of nearby Hay-on-Wye. The five bedrooms are simple but spick and span, one with a four-poster.
• Doubles from £115 B&B, mains from £10.50, harpinnradnor.co.uk
The Bridge Inn, near Edinburgh
Anyone hitting Edinburgh for festive shopping or shows could opt to stay in the peaceful village of Ratho, seven miles west of the city centre, where the intimate Bridge Inn has four cosy rooms overlooking the Union Canal and a lovely line in Scottish pub classics such as crispy haggis, venison and cullen skink. Home-bred pork and vegetables grown in the pub’s own walled garden supply the kitchen, and the elegant rooms are all different, with either a four-poster, a chandelier or a slipper bath.
• Doubles from £105 B&B, mains from £11, bridgeinn.com
Kildrummy Inn, Aberdeenshire
Explore the Grampian mountains and Cairngorm national park, follow Aberdeenshire’s castle trail linking 14 fairytale castles, or warm up with some whisky tasting in the local distilleries while staying at the Kildrummy Inn near Alford. The main lounge looks Christmassy all year round, with its red and green tartan carpet, woodburner and burgundy leather sofas, while the restaurant is overseen by David Littlewood, who won Scottish Chef of the Year in 2013-14 (try the halibut fillet with crab risotto and salmon scotch egg). Anglers will want to come at the tail end of winter, because the pub has its own four miles of salmon and trout fishing in the River Don, good from March or April.
• Doubles from £79 room-only, two courses £28, kildrummyinn.co.uk
Mhor 48, Highlands
The talented team behind the lochside Monachyle Mhor have transformed this old roadside inn near Lochearnhead into one of the coolest motels in the land. Outside, the glen slopes down to Loch Voil, with mountains to climb and bike tracks to follow. Inside, chic white minimalism mixes with warm Scottish tradition. Fires roar, cake stands bulge and the food is fabulous: perhaps porridge with honey for breakfast, sourdough and hummus for lunch, Scotch rarebit, Tyree lobster and plum crumble for dinner. Seven simple bedrooms have white walls, contemporary art and small armchairs.
• Doubles from £70 room-only, breakfast from £4.50, three-course dinner from £25, sawdays.co.uk
The Pottery House, Highlands
There is a scarcity of accommodation right on Loch Ness, but there are fine views over the water from two of the three rooms at the Pottery House, which is 10 miles south of Inverness. The B&B is on the quieter, wooded north-eastern shore, away from the busy A82, and a good restaurant, the Dores Inn, is a five-minute walk away. Other good reasons to stay include regular red squirrel sightings, breakfasts with homemade jams, just-baked rolls and eggs provided by the garden’s hens. And the Falls of Foyer, which should be in full spate at this time of year, are just a short drive away.
• Doubles from £95 B&B, potteryhouse.co.uk
One Shore Street, County Down
The port town of Donaghadee is 20 miles east of Belfast on the Ards peninsula, an unspoilt landscape of quiet villages, castles, beaches and abbeys. Facing its lighthouse is this upmarket seafront B&B, which opened this year. The five teal-and-white rooms have organic smellies, sea views and cashmere mattresses on super-king beds. Handily, two alcohol-themed attractions are within walking distance: Grace Neill’s, which purports to be among Ireland’s oldest pubs, and the gin and malt whiskey Copeland Distillery.
• Doubles from £140 B&B, closed 4-19 January, oneshorestreet.co.uk
The Old Inn, County Down
People have been sipping ale in the cosy characterful confines of the Old Inn since the reign of Elizabeth I; it was frequented by CS Lewis and lies on one of Northern Ireland’s oldest highways, to nearby Bangor. Whether you’re taking afternoon tea in front of the fire in the parlour bar, scoffing an Ulster fry for breakfast or supping pints below bright red walls and suits of armour, it’s a place to feel toasty again after a windswept walk along the North Down Coastal Path or a night out in Belfast (a 20-minute drive away). Interiors are castle-like, with panels of stained glass, while the bedrooms are rather grand, with fires, exposed beams and four-posters.
• Doubles from £80 B&B, mains from £9.95, theoldinn.com
The Kirkstile Inn, Lake District
Favourite Lakeland pub of many a hill-walker, the unfussy Kirkstile’s higgledy-piggledy lounges with fires make it the ideal place to hole up after charging over the fells, for pints of Loweswater Gold from its own brewery and fantastic, filling pub fare (steak and ale pie, lamb shank, vegan curry). It’s only a mile to both Crummock Water and Loweswater, and Buttermere and Ennerdale are also near for crunchy wintery walks along the water’s edge, as is family favourite Whinlatter Forest, which has a Christmas wreath-making workshop on 25 November. The pub’s 11 bedrooms were recently smartened up, with pheasant-pattern wallpaper and four-posters.
• Doubles from £112 B&B, mains from £10, kirkstile.com
The Roebuck Inn, Cheshire
A Grade II-listed building in the village of Mobberley dating back to 1708, the Roebuck was brought back to life in 2016 after a long closure. It’s a welcoming bistro-cum-classic old English inn, serving an interesting mix of dishes from stone-baked pizza to sharing platters, or mains of rotisserie chicken and tempura monkfish – and the Sunday roasts are top-notch, all with roasted duck fat potatoes. There are six boho-chic style bedrooms, with antique furniture, lavish fabrics, wooden floors and original artwork. Pretty Cheshire countryside to explore is right on the doorstep – download the pub’s walk leaflet; the route winds through four miles of rural bliss. Mobberley is 20 minutes’ drive west of Macclesfield.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, mains from £14, roebuckinnmobberley.co.uk
Shibden Mill Inn, West Yorkshire
Gentleman Jack, the BBC TV drama, brought attention to the rural setting of the Shibden Valley near Halifax, and specifically to Shibden estate, home to diarist Anne Lister, whose life was portrayed in the show. At its heart is the inn, converted from a corn and spinning mill into a pub in 1890, and now with 11 luxurious and colourful rooms, fine dining and a cosy fire-warmed bar. Explore the Calderdale Valley, visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the shops and lights of Leeds (a half-hour drive away) and of course beautiful Shibden Hall, dating to 1420, where there’s a winter craft fair on 16 November.
• Doubles from £95 B&B, mains from £14, shibdenmillinn.com
The Fleece Inn, Lancashire
On the western edge of the Forest of Bowland, where winter walks take you over moors, through wooded valleys and along rivers, the village of Dolphinholme is home to the love-worn Fleece, a real community pub with a village shop and rooms. The interior is light but warm feeling, with flagstone floors, high-backed wooden settles, oriental rugs and real fires, while the nine bedrooms are simple and stylish, with tartan fabrics, thick wool carpets and exposed beams. Dine on typical pub fare and don’t feel too guilty if you don’t manage to drag yourself from the fire to hike into the Trough of Bowland and the forest: it’s hibernation time.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, mains from £7.95, fleeceinn.co.uk
Rose and Crown, County Durham
In a lovely corner of Upper Teesdale, the ivy-covered Rose and Crown, by Romaldkirk’s Saxon church, is a great bolthole for those exploring this less-visited region of the north. Clamber around the walls at Barnard Castle, browse its antiques shops, and make time for the magical Bowes Museum, which hosts a Santa’s Grotto in December. Lovely quiet rambles can be made from the door to the Teesdale Way footpath. The snowy moors make for romantic winter walking, and Low and High Force waterfalls are nearby. Come in a gang and book the private oak-panelled dining room, or sit in the ancient-feeling bar, with stone floors, benches draped in fur and antique knick-knacks on the walls.
• Doubles from £120 B&B, mains from £16, rose-and-crown.co.uk
The Yan, Lake District
This recently opened converted farmhouse is a mile outside Grasmere, with its William Wordsworth associations, gift shops and restaurants. The breakfast menu is interesting: halloumi and beans, courgette and herb frittata, full Cumbrian, homemade muesli and yoghurt. Lunch and dinner is modern European with a twist. Seven unfussy en suite bedrooms have sofas and views of the fells. There’s a guest sitting room to take your tea in after days out. Ambleside is only three miles away and Helvellyn, Windermere, Coniston Water and Ullswater are also nearby.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, mains from £12.95, sawdays.co.uk
Beck Hall, Yorkshire Dales
Sitting right in the centre of Malham, a mecca for hill-walkers, this hotel and restaurant is a delightful base from which to explore the Dales. This is some of the most gorgeous countryside in the UK and it’s great for cycling as well as hiking. The 21 comfortable bedrooms are all very different, beautifully furnished and dog-friendly, too – beds, mats and bowls can be provided for your hound. The streamside restaurant specialises in seasonal, local food such as Wensleydale cheese croquettes, seasonal pot pie and Dales beef.
• Doubles from £75 B&B, mains from £11.95, sawdays.co.uk
Tickton Grange, East Yorkshire
This fine Georgian manor house near Beverley, surrounded by four acres of formal gardens, parklands and fields, is now a 21-room family-run hotel. There is meticulous attention to detail, for example dinner of cured pigeon or salt-aged hogget served on specially commissioned Royal Crown Derby china; drinks afterwards in the stylish library; dressing gowns, slippers and eye masks in your room, plus handmade truffles on your pillow. Visit Beverley or Hull, join the Hockney Trail, return for an afternoon tea to rival the Ritz – dainty cakes and scones with champagne or a G&T (the bar has 45 varieties of gin).
• Doubles from £120 B&B, two courses £38.50, sawdays.co.uk
Nanny Brow, Lake District
Who says the Lake District is just for summer? Its frosty flanks and snow-dusted banks make for fine, crisp winter stomps if you don’t mind a bit of mud – and you’ll have them largely to yourselves, too. Just outside Ambleside and just north of Windermere, Nanny Brow is an Arts and Crafts gem featuring period wood panelling, fine plasterwork and carved oak fireplaces. Some of the 14 rooms and suites also have views up Langdale and breakfast – from fresh fruit salad to Lakeland fry-ups – is also impressive. Maps, packed lunches and flask-filling beverages can be arranged, and drying facilities mean you can go out and get wet all over again the next day.
• Doubles from £130 B&B, nannybrow.co.uk
St Cuthbert’s House, Northumberland
This B&B in a 200-year-old chapel in Seahouses looks suitably festive, and its six snuggly bedrooms are a great base for forays along a coast that’s most dramatic in winter. Start days with kippers from the town’s smokehouse, then stride out to long beaches, big skies and castles. In winter, grey seal pups can be spotted on boat trips around the Farne Islands. The friendliness and attention to detail of the hosts have won them awards from the Good Hotel Guide and Visit Britain.
• Doubles from £130 B&B, stcuthbertshouse.com
The Sun Inn, Essex
Get a bit of the winter vibe at this Essex coaching inn in the village of Dedham – it’s sure to warm the cockles with its bright yellow facade and mustardy interior of oak-panelled snugs, beamed ceilings and roaring fires. Before dinners of pork cutlet with girolle mushrooms or pear and artichoke gnocchi, hike to Flatford Mill, depicted in several of Constable’s paintings (and see one of his originals in the village church), go antique shopping at Long Melford, and take bracing beach walks at Frinton-on-Sea. Brinkhaus pillows, Vispring mattresses and large showers boost the appeal of the seven bedrooms.
• Doubles from £150 B&B, mains from £12.75, thesuninndedham.com
The Wife of Bath, Kent
Offering a taste of northern Spain in the Kent countryside, this restaurant and tapas bar with rooms is a refreshing bolthole – a Grade II-listed building in the village of Wye marrying wood-beamed history with punchy decor. Owned by chef Mark Sargeant of Rocksalt Restaurant in Folkestone, the food is the focus with outstanding Galician fare (from an eight-course tasting menu featuring spiced crab with apple or rabbit with chorizo to small plates at the bar). The six bedrooms are comfy and characterful, with grey walls, wrought-iron beds and bright artwork. Breakfast is an event, too, with hampers delivered to rooms or a Spanish cooked breakfast in the restaurant. Wye is a picturesque place for a wander, and Canterbury is a short train ride away.
• Doubles from £105, £38 for two courses, thewifeofbath.com
The Pheasant, Berkshire
There’s a great deal on Sunday nights through winter at the Pheasant, a coolly styled pub of green-grey walls, bookshelves and dark wood antiques: eat in the restaurant and spend more than £100 (easily done with a tempting menu of cauliflower, almond and truffle oil soup, duck breast with celeriac, a vegan menu and good wines) and they’ll give you one of the 11 relaxed, contemporary bedrooms for the night for free. There’s a Christmas craft market on 27 November, and live music following the Newbury Races on 30 November. The pub is four miles north of Hungerford, close to the beautiful North Wessex Downs and the Ridgeway.
• Doubles from £115 B&B, mains from £14, thepheasant-inn.co.uk
The Half Moon, West Sussex
You’d think a pub opened by a supermodel would be all low-calorie salads and bling, but Jodie Kidd’s Half Moon is proper, serving the most interesting and best-presented food for miles around. A poshed-up inn opposite the village church of Kirdford, near Billingshurst, with half-timbered walls, vintage wallpapers, copper lights and woodburners, it is handy for winter events at Goodwood House or frosty rambles along the South Downs. Seasonal menu corkers include rabbit saddle or truffle macaroni; there’s also a six-course vegetarian tasting menu (£45pp), and locally produced dinners called RH14, after the pub’s postcode, where ingredients are foraged. The upstairs holiday apartment is similarly stylish.
• Apartment for two from £156 on Airbnb.co.uk, mains from £15, halfmoonkirdford.co.uk
The Ram Inn, East Sussex
There’s an open fire lit every day through winter in each of the three main rooms of the 500-year-old Ram Inn, painted in deliciously dark shades and with low lighting, candles and snuggly nooks. Game comes from the local Firle Estate and meat from nearby farms for creative dishes such as leg of lamb with butternut squash puree and cashew dukkah. Nearby, Charleston, a house once used as a retreat by the Bloomsbury Group, has winter events including a woodcut Christmas card workshop on 19 November. The pub’s five rustic-chic bedrooms are polished but pared back.
• Doubles from £100 B&B, £150 at weekends, mains from £12. From February, there is a special offer of £50 a room on Sunday night, raminn.co.uk
The Pot Kiln, Berkshire
Set in a conservation area in West Berkshire, the 300-year-old Pot Kiln, tucked among the trees of the Yattendon Estate, has good walks at hand and specialises in the kind of food you’d want to eat at this time of year, with a focus on game and wild foods. The autumn menu brings a pavé of fallow deer, muntjac shoulder with greens, and Szechuan poached pear with ginger and rhubarb ice-cream. A recent extension has added three guest bedrooms. The estate will be selling sustainable Christmas trees and hosting a Christmas market from the end of November.
• Double rooms open in January 2020, from £95 B&B, mains from £15, potkiln.org
Daisybank Cottage, New Forest
At this chic Arts and Crafts house, pony-littered tramps or cycles across the heathland and woods can be followed by pre-dinner nips from the honesty bar before dinner at one of the many restaurants and pubs (and tearooms) nearby. Breakfast features a wide range of options showcasing Hampshire producers, while eight spacious bedrooms have robes, bathtubs, Bramley toiletries and espresso machines; four also have wet rooms. To seal the deal, homemade cupcakes are dispensed by the friendly owners upon your arrival.
• Doubles from £110 B&B, bedandbreakfast-newforest.co.uk
The Great House, Suffolk
The facade may be Georgian, but parts of this historic house date from the 14th century, and it’s chock-full of character. Overlooking the market place of Lavenham, the Great House is primarily an elegant French restaurant, headed by chef patron Guillaume Dericq; candle-lit at night and warm and welcoming when it’s cold outside. Simple, modern cuisine may be roasted duck breast with purple carrot puree or vegetable tartlet on a daily changing menu. There are five bedrooms, including romantic attic room, Versailles, with its Jacobean bed, and Elysee, with sitting area and space for a family. Medieval Lavenham is a jumble of narrow streets with half-timbered houses with plenty of art galleries and antique shops – and beautiful Suffolk countryside on the doorstep.
• Doubles from £99 B&B, two-course lunch £22.50, dinner mains from £24, thegreathouse.co.uk
The Dial House, Norfolk
In the Queen Anne building that dominates the market square of Reepham, this is a beautiful, buzzing foodie hotel. A delightful eccentricity prevails, from a library of vinyl for the fabulous eight rooms, to a grand piano guests can play. Discover Reepham’s secret lanes and its two churches built a few feet apart, or set off with a hamper to the Norfolk Broads. Return to a Norfolk-sourced meal – roast hake with clams or a sharing roast on a Sunday, served beneath a vintage chandelier. And don’t miss the afternoon tea.
• Doubles from £130 B&B, mains from £9, sawdays.co.uk
The Mill, Suffolk
There are two luxury, accessible bedrooms at this former mill’s restored cottage near Sudbury: the open-plan Melford room, with gigantic brass-and-nickel bath and its own patio facing stately home Melford Hall; and the snugger Garden room with cast-iron slipper tub, walk-in shower, woodburner and private garden. Breakfast comes with eggs from the resident chickens. Long Melford’s village pubs are a saunter away, and free bicycles are provided to explore lovely Lavenham and the banks of the River Stour.
• Doubles from £135 B&B, themill-longmelford.com
Russell House, Northamptonshire
Free cake. That’s what you get on arrival at this wisteria-swathed ironstone house in Flore village, setting the tone for a decadent stay. Tea is served on squishy sofas by the drawing room’s log fire, ringed by antiques and gilt-framed portraiture. Things are equally Georgian in the dining room, where breakfast of toasted bagels or homemade kedgeree is served, and upstairs in the Brampton bedroom – all beams and burgundy curtains. The other two bedrooms are more contemporary – the duck egg-blue Atkinson is particularly attractive. Petrolheads will be most content: it’s close to both the British Motor Museum and Silverstone.
• Doubles from £9 B&B, no under-18s and no dogs (they’ve got their own), russellhouseflore.com
West and south-west England
The Cott Inn, Devon
In Dartington, between the coast and Dartmoor, the thatch-roofed Cott Inn is a homely family-run pub that’s been around since 1320. Low-beamed ceilings and log fires make it a cosy choice for winter, and with live music in the bar on Wednesday and Sunday nights the atmosphere can be crackling. The menu focuses on local Devon meat and daily fish specials, with Sunday lunches drawing locals and visitors (so book ahead). Upstairs, the five en suite bedrooms are bright, modern and comfortable. The Dartington estate and gardens are great for a wander and it’s a pretty walk, partly along the River Dart, to Totnes.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, mains from £13, cottinn.co.uk
Number One Bruton, Somerset
Bruton, already a hotspot since the arrival of Hauser & Wirth gallery and stately hotel The Newt, is gaining an exciting new restaurant-with-rooms combo on 22 November. Set in an old forge, Osip is by Merlin Labron-Johnson, who snaffled a Michelin star at Portland Restaurant at the age of 24. Here he’s indulging his passion for local organic, biodynamic vegetables and commitment to low waste by reintegrating plant and animal trimmings. With set and á la carte menus that include winter warmers such as wild duck and partridge pie and upmarket vegan fare, it pays homage to the county’s produce. You can stagger out of Osip and into the eight eclectic rooms at Number One Bruton, opening the same day. They are dotted with pieces contributed by locals artists, from photographer Don McCullin to accessories designer Bill Amberg.
• Doubles from £130 B&B, numberonebruton.com. Mains from £15, osiprestaurant.com
The Swan, Somerset
Between November and February, the skies in some parts of the UK bear witness to a dramatic event, when starling murmurations sweep their whirling patterns across the heavens. The Somerset Levels are one of the best places to see it, where the Swan in the village of Wedmore, in all its festive loveliness, makes a good base. It is an hour from Bath and 10 miles from the wide beaches of Burnham-on-Sea and Brean. For a Somerset tipple, pub staff can arrange a cider tasting at several breweries and farms. The seven rooms are simple with roll-top baths, while gastro-pub fare is cooked by Tom Heralds, formerly of River Cottage: expect dishes such as vegan chickpea burger, and pumpkin lasagne.
• Doubles from £70 (book direct for free breakfast offer), mains from £13.50, theswanwedmore.com or on i-escape.com
Luttrell Arms, Somerset
You get a triple whammy here: spectacular Dunster Castle, its beautiful estate village and this medieval coaching inn on the high street – the view from the terrace across to the castle is candy for the eyes. Inside, a recent refurbishment has brought in a warm style, including a beautiful restaurant serving dishes like smoked haddock chowder, braised shin of beef and chocolate and raspberry tart; an attractive sitting room for afternoon tea; a high-ceilinged bar with an open fire; and a boot bar for sleeping dogs and a game of cribbage. Twenty-eight bedrooms are scattered about, some with village views, others overlooking the estate, and four are huge with grand four-posters. The Luttrell Arms is also a good base for exploring Exmoor and the north Devon and Somerset coasts.
• Doubles from £110 B&B, lunch mains from £12.95, sawdays.co.uk
The Lion & Pheasant, Shrewsbury
In a 16th-century building in Shrewsbury’s historic centre, this hotel has had a full makeover inside and out, combining original features with cool, fresh interiors. There’s a bar serving great cocktails and numerous gins, and a big open fire in the dining area. The 26 upstairs bedrooms are packed with character and atmosphere, with slipper bath tubs, cavernous walk-in showers and views of the stone bridge and river. Lunch and dinner are seasonal and change throughout the week, with dishes like Shropshire lamb with wild garlic and asparagus, and warm tomato consommé on the vegetarian/vegan menu. Explore the Stretton Hills and Long Mynd on foot or hire canoes on the River Severn.
• Doubles from £109 B&B, mains from £16, sawdays.co.uk
The Ollerod, Dorset
Beaminster – or Emminster in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbevilles – sits in a lush Dorset valley. From the hills above, you drop through glorious country, rolling down to this old market town, where the church tower soars heavenward. This lovely hotel, which opened late last year, is in a 13th-century priest’s house and comes with original trimmings: stone flags, mullioned windows, old beams and huge inglenooks. It’s intimate and deeply comfortable, with something beautiful at every turn. Thirteen bedrooms, including two family rooms, are individually styled from cool modern to classic English. Owner Chris Staines is in charge in the kitchen and uses vegetables from the garden in the fine vegan menu, alongside the excellent seafood and gamey mains on the á la carte.
• Doubles from £99 B&B, mains from £17, sawdays.co.uk
The Old School, Cotswolds
Once a Victorian school, this stone house in Little Compton is now a cosy B&B. Its quartet of en suite rooms are delightful, with fluffy gowns, hot-water bottles and Egyptian cotton sheets on king-size beds. The upstairs lounge has church-style windows and a woodburner, and the fine food ranges from cooked breakfasts (including grilled halloumi and locally cured bacon) to lemon-drizzle cake for afternoon tea. The delightful Cotswolds countryside all around is gloriously tourist-free in winter, and it’s within reach of Moreton-in-Marsh, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon.
• Doubles from £145 B&B, theold schoolbedandbreakfast.com
Blackmore Farm, Somerset
Partial to some time travel? Grade I-listed, this medieval manor house near Bridgwater retains its original low stone archways, beams and 15th-century garderobes, while breakfast is served in the great hall on a long carved oak table beside mullion windows and a huge, crackling fireplace. All three chambers are no less venerable, especially the west bedroom with its four-poster bed. It faces the ramble-friendly Quantock Hills; nearer still is the owners’ working cattle farm and cafe/shop, whose pork pies and Mars-bar cheesecake make fine picnic additions. Lots of local National Trust houses open year-round, as do the Cheddar Gorge caves.
• Doubles from £120 B&B, blackmorefarm.co.uk
The 10 hotels chosen by Alastair Sawday are featured in the publisher’s new Great British Hotel & Inn Guide (£14.99)
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