Four of the best country retreats

From a haunted Scottish castle to traipsing through the Welsh Marches, Chris Carter looks at the best places to relax country-style.


Dalhousie Castle: elegance, majesty and bumps in the night

Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian

Ghostly goings-on might not be everybody's idea of a relaxing break, says Laura Lynott in The Scotsman. But Dalhousie Castle where Lady Catherine, the castle's early 18th-century resident, is said to haunt the rooms has more to offer than bumps in the night.

The palatial 13th-century castle, outside Edinburgh, was once the home of the Earls of Dalhousie and it transports you to an era of elegance and majesty, with classical music playing softly in the corridors and historic artworks lining the walls. In the grounds, hone your falconry skills or head to the Aqueous Spa. Then take yourself off to the Dungeon. Thankfully, that's the name of one of two restaurants, headed up by chef Franois Giraud.

Doubles from £150 a night

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The Forest Side, Lake District

Considering you're in the Lake District, the Forest Side hotel is almost too well prepared, says Fiona Duncan in The Daily Telegraph. Almost. Look past, if you can, the Lincrusta walls, "shimmering" crushed velvet sofas and the floorboards reused to make dining tables, and the rural setting is never far from sight. The Herdwick sheep, grazing outside, can be thanked for the carpets and insulation and even the "divine" custom-made Harrison Spinks beds.

The local theme continues in the kitchen, where you will find "the hugely talented young chef", Kevin Tickle, who has never worked outside the county. That's if he's not out foraging. His dishes brim with ingredients such as scurvy grass and pickled allium flowers, served on beautiful local pottery. "Cumbria should be leaping for joy at the arrival of this stellar hotel, and so should you."

Doubles from £219 a night see

Welsh Marches

There is no better guide to walking the Welsh Marches than Reverend Francis Kilvert's diary from 1870, says Oliver Balch in The Guardian. In it, the wandering reverend paints a vivid picture of the Welsh border area from the beautiful Wye river to Offa's Dyke. As the "inveterate rambler" attests, the village of Clyro, home to the Baskerville Hall Hotel, makes for a great starting point.

A six-mile hike takes you to hilltop moorland called the Begwyns, past hill-farming country to the remains of Painscastle's motte-and-bailey castle. Just beyond it is the "welcome sight" of the Roast Ox, a medieval pub with flagstone floors, mentioned, but oddly not visited by Kilvert. Don't make the same mistake he did.

Doubles from £100 a night

Ilsington Country House Hotel, Dartmoor

Yomping up and down Haytor in the Dartmoor National Park is hungry work. So it's just as well that dinner is to be found nearby at Ilsington Country House Hotel, says Chris Eary in the Daily Mirror. The six-course tasting menu, complete with fillet of venison, is worthy of the restaurant's two AA rosettes, while the hotel is all wingback chairs, wood smoke and creaky beds.

But let's not forget the ultra-modern spa and "cool" bathrooms with huge bath tubs "just the place to soak those aching feet after roaming the moors". The spa is great for a massage, or you can laze away in the hydrotherapy pool and sauna. But the kubel dusche, an elevated bucket of cool water, is only for the brave. "Squealing in public is never a good look."

£285 per person for the two-night Relax and Recharge package


A taste of country life

Londoners turned countryside gourmetsBod and Annie Griffiths opened the Vale House Kitchen near Bath in 2013. Theircookery school offers "field to fork"seasonal courses, says Mina Hollandin The Guardian. Now that spring hasarrived, you can go foraging throughthe nearby fields and woodlands foringredients. Or learn how to land thencook your supper with a two-day flyfishingcourse followed by a Fish CookeryDay. It is a compelling taste of rural life.


Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.