Old Swan & Minster Mill, Oxfordshire
What's so special
The Old Swan & Minster Mill, just a few miles away from Burford, dates back to the 15th century, writes John Stepek. It's in two parts: the Old Swan, a traditional country inn, and Minster Hall, which has a more contemporary feel. The hotel reopened last June after a refurbishment by its new owners.
How they rate it
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You start to unwind almost as soon as you see the River Windrush, which flows through the hotel grounds (you can borrow rods from the reception and fish for trout, if you're so inclined). We stayed in a comfortable, spacious family suite in the Minster Mill. The hotel is very child-friendly; there are plenty of activities to occupy the kids (our girls loved the birds-of-prey show), nor will you feel a glower of hushed disapproval should the children join you at dinner.
The cosy restaurant and bar at the Old Swan serves tasty gastro-pub food, incorporating local ingredients. Portions are generous, with fun extras: the fish and thick-cut chips came served with a little bucket of mushy peas on the side.
A double room starts from £165 per night, including breakfast. For more information see www.oldswanandminstermill.com or call 01993-774441.
Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire
What's so special
Calcot Manor traces its roots back to the 14th century. The hotel, which offers accommodation ranging from family cottages in the grounds to suites for couples in the main property, is set in more than 220 acres of Cotswold meadowland near Tetbury, so this is one place you can literally get away from it all.
How they rate it
If you're a spa junky, Calcot Manor is the perfect getaway: last year, it was a runner-up for Cond Nast Traveller's Favourite UK Hotel Spa' reader award, and Zara Phillips has been preparing for her forthcoming wedding with regular facials there. Better yet, the hotel has a well-staffed and superbly-equipped nursery for tots and young children, with an area upstairs filled with DVDs and games consoles for older children, so you can relax and enjoy a treatment or a sauna, knowing your children are in safe hands.
Casual dining and tea for the children is served in the Gumstool Inn, while there is fine dining at The Conservatory, which boasts dishes such as free-range Madgetts Farm duck, with honey and blood orange, or a selection of shellfish.
Doubles cost from £240 per night, including breakfast and use of spa facilities. For more see www.calcotmanor.co.uk or call 01666-890391.
What the travel writers are saying
The British pub should lie at the heart of a great rural break, but where are the best in the country? Susan d'Arcy has rounded up the best new gastropubs in The Sunday Times.
The Cary Arms (pictured above, see Caryarms.co.uk) in Babbacombe, Devon, is "surprisingly homespun" given that its owners, the de Savarys, have created some of Britain's "glitziest" hotels, including Skibo Castle. But at the Cary Arms, "the bar welcomes the muddiest of walkers, with a dinner menu for dogs". The human menu is "geared towards hearty appetites almost as full-flavoured as the views to Babbacombe Bay", with dishes such as whole-grilled lobster or roast duck breast.
The Oak Tree Inn (Theoaktreehelperby.com) in Helperby, North Yorkshire, could "so easily be the setting for one of those Sunday-night, feelgood TV series: a rustic retreat with polished oak beams, exposed brick walls and wood-burning stoves". It is run by Publican of the Year, Michael Ibbotson, who is hoping to repeat the success of his award-winning Durham Ox inn, also in North Yorkshire. The meals and accommodation are "traditional and yet top-notch".
The Anchor Inn (Theanchorinngarelochhead.co.uk) in Garelochhead, Argyll and Bute, enjoys a perfect setting. "A cute little pub at the head of a peaceful loch, with views over heather-filled slops and the imposing peaks of the Arrochar Alps." The food is "good pub grub" rather than anything fancy, with dishes such as lasagne and scampi.
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