Four British holiday retreats fit for royalty
Settling for a holiday in the UK needn’t mean roughing it, says Chris Carter.
Wild swimming at the home of Anne Boleyn
Hever Castle in Kent (above) was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill-fated wife, says Suzanne Blumsom in the Financial Times. “With towers, battlements, a moat and drawbridge… [it certainly] lives up to all the fairytale expectations.” Much later, around the turn of the last century, William Waldorf Astor, America’s richest man, and later a British peer, added the 38-acre lake and the various follies around it. “We drove up to the replica Tudor ‘village’, built by the Astors… The buildings, interconnected with a pretty courtyard at their heart, are attached to their original 13th-century castle by a corridor over the moat. Two wings (which made up the original Astor home and their servants’ quarters) were turned into a 28-room B&B eight years ago.”
Visitors can now even swim in the lake until the end of September and again from April (£11, or £15.95 for newcomers, hevercastleswimming.co.uk). “Stepping into the warm water, your feet squelch into an oozy mud. But there is also a welcome absence of monotonous swimming lanes… and chlorine. Just glorious open space and water.”From £180, hevercastle.co.uk
A medieval castle with all mod cons
Kilmartin Castle, a 16th-century fortress in Argyll, western Scotland, “is extraordinary”, says Ted Thornhill in the Mail Online. It is an “imposing, dramatic, thick-walled fortress – but with mod cons, delightful luxury boutique touches and a splash of cool (this is a castle where guests can spin vinyl)”.
The “bonhomie-infused” owners are laid-back and welcoming and, while “medieval authenticity abounds… you’ll be as comfortable here as in a five-star hotel”. In the bedroom, “a beautifully upholstered antique double bed sits beneath a wall with semi-exposed stonework and a vaulted ceiling. Upcycled vintage travel trunks form one of the side tables… This turret en suite even has a heated floor, as do the other turret bathrooms and the entire ground floor.” But the “pièce de résistance” is the handmade standalone copper bathtub at the end of the bed. “Outside a storm was raging, but we couldn’t hear a thing. We were in our own little medieval wonderland.” From £200, kilmartincastle.com
A hallmark of prestige
Buxted Park, in east Sussex, “has been a hallmark of power and prestige for 800 years”, says Jenny Rowe in Britain magazine. It has hosted the prince regent (later George IV) and Queen Victoria, while some of its seven palatial suites are named after other guests: Winston Churchill, Robert Browning and William Wordsworth.
“Nowadays Buxted Park retains its air of magnificence, but as a hotel it is also functionally slick and sophisticated, manned by impeccable staff who get the balance between friendliness and discretion just right.” The historic woodland, overlooked from the “sun-catching” terrace, “is the perfect pre- or post-dinner sojourn”. Ashdown Forest, Hever Castle, Glyndebourne Opera House, Rathfinny Wine Estates and the terminus of the vintage steam Bluebell Railway line are all nearby. From around £270, handpickedhotels.co.uk/buxtedpark
Visit Hampton Court’s local
Hampton Court has new neighbours, says Liz Edwards in The Sunday Times. The Mitre is a 17th-century coaching inn that is just over the road from the palace and it has been given a whole new lease on life. “The result is a hotel with 36 bedrooms, two riverside restaurants, suntrap terraces and a residents’ library stocked with help-yourself decanters, where the lead-in rate of £180 seems entirely reasonable.”
“Hundreds of plants add life and birds are a running theme” – and not just the ones to be found on the Thames. Henry VIII is also dotted around – in the “Do Not Disturb” signs, the name of the house ale and a few of the room names. “The nicest suite, with high ceilings and river views from its big brass tub, is named after Catherine Parr, the wife who survived him [while] the swanky Henry VIII suite is, as you’d hope, above Parr.”
While “the food’s great” and the welcome “warm”, “really the Mitre is all about the location”. Naturally, the river and the palace are the star attractions – The Mitre offers complimentary tickets to the latter. mitrehamptoncourt.com