10 Great Hotels for Romance this February
by Adrian Mourby (January 2017)
I proposed to my first wife above a launderette in Middlesbrough and to my second in the tiny kitchen of my Oxford flat. Neither location was inherently romantic but the end result - in both cases - was positive.
These days however it's becoming common practice to go away specifically to become engaged. Couples book into a suitably amorous location so the proposal can be made. Maybe it’s our growing need to record everything on social media that has led to this need for the right backdrop to every event.
Fortunately there are plenty of hotels in Britain with the right connotations, props or views that speak to the romantic in us all.
So whether you’re looking to propose this February or just to take someone special out for a splendid meal and overnight, here is my selection of ten hotels that are just right for 14 February 2017. And any other occasions this year when you want to push the romantic boat out.
Why does Valentines have to only happen once a year?
Showing below are all 10 records in "10 Great Hotels for Romance this February"
The Mansion House, Luton
Luton Hoo has had a long association with romance in the movies. Hugh Grant attended Wedding Number Two here in Four Weddings and a Funeral and ended up gatecrashing Bernard and Lydia’s wedding night (it’s Bedroom 6 in the main house in case you fancy hiding in a connubial cupboard like his character, poor Charles).
Wernher, the hotel’s dining room served as a ballroom the night before the Battle of Waterloo in Mira Nair’s film of Vanity Fair giving rise to one of the most romantic speeches in recent move history. Who can forget Captain Rawdon Crawley (James Purefoy) telling his Becky (Reese Witherspoon) that even if he meets his death in battle, she is a woman who has been loved?
Luton Hoo only became a hotel in 2008 when the mansion of Edwardian diamond mine-owner, Sir Julius Wernher was finally restored to its former glory. Today it’s very popular for weddings and elegant afternoon teas, but it’s also become a favourite for people wanting to propose. The dining room, with its marble panelling, tapestries, and original chandeliers, has an atmosphere all of its own and –importantly- even when it’s full you can hear the person opposite you leaning across with amorous whisperings.
Moreover the hotel's Rock Garden, in a small secluded valley below the mansion, has also become very popular for a proposal or two. If you alert the hotel in advance they’ll even lay on a red carpet and a table with champagne on ice. It would be a brave potential fiancee who’d say no in this serene Japanese arcadia.
Port Appin, Appin
The team at this old whitewashed, loch-side inn are softies for romance. Recently when they overheard a guest proposing – and being accepted – over dinner they nipped upstairs and sprinkled the couple’s bed with rose petals. Airds is a delightful getaway with gorgeous views across to the Scottish Islands. It’s the kind of place where on a February afternoon you curl up with a good book in front of a roaring fire and decide you’re never going back to work.
Walks along Loch Linnhe have proved themselves a good pretext for romance and Shaun, the owner of Airds, has been known to give Cupid a helping hand, placing a bottle of champagne and two glasses further along the path. The location of the hotel is so remote there’s no danger that local ne’er-do-wells will have made off with it before the (soon to be) happy couple arrive.
Sitting on a Bronte-esque moor on the edge of post-industrial Halifax, Holdsworth lives up to billing as a hidden gem. You would never guess as you drive past all those giant mills and modern industrial units that suddenly you’ll be in countryside, stepping back into history through the formal hedged garden of a seventeenth-century farmhouse. You also step past a tiny stone gazebo just roomy enough for two people to get married with four witnesses.
In the seventeenth century Holdsworth was the local manor house and its recent refurbishment has emphasised this, doing away with all modern accretions. Inside the hotel consists of a series wood-panelled rooms with antique furniture picked up at auctions in the 1960s when Holdsworth was better known as the Cavalier Country Club. The leather armchairs on either side of the log burning fireplaces rather recall Bilbo’s cozy Bag-End house in The Hobbit.
From Holdsworth House there is a good three-hour walk eight miles across fields and down B-roads to Haworth where the Bronte sisters are celebrated at its old parsonage. Avoid the Halifax Road as much as you can and walk via Oxenhope in order to arrive at Haworth over Penistone Hill, keeping a Wuthering Heights feel to your day in Bronte Land. All that windswept moorland is pure nineteenth-century romance.
The Green, Kingham, Chipping Norton
The Plough in rural Kingham has rapidly built up an enviable reputation thanks to the skill of chef Emily Watkins who reworks traditional British dishes like squash soup, pork wellington, and kedgeree in ways that have garnered her rave reviews. Years at the celebrated Fat Duck in Bray prepared Emily well for going solo in Kingham. This converted Cotswold tithe barn is a popular spot for dinner most nights of the year and trebly so around Valentines and Christmas. The visual style of the pub is instantly recognisable: very Farrow and Ball with sisal floor coverings, a few well-chosen antiques and some pictures of hearty pigs. This is almost a decorative style of its own nowadays: Should we call it Pub Chic or maybe Home Counties Cool. And the hotel's commitment to artisans, such as Roger the celebatedlocal cheesemaker is because of the quality of the ingredients rather than any sentimental attachment to the terroir.
All six bedrooms have DVD players so you can take along your much-played copy of Shakespeare In Love or Bridget Jones. There are also copious piles of paperback books that guests have been known to return from all over the world. Elsewhere there is a lot of reality: real fires, real ale and real rafters abound. But what could be more romantic though than a really good meal and no obligation to drive home afterwards?
11 Bistro Place, Edinburgh
Valentine’s Day in a lunatic asylum? It may sound a strange idea but Edinburgh’s Hotel du Vin, tucked away in Bristo Place is a surprisingly cozy nook to hide away for the night. Back in the heady days of the second Jacobite Rebellion, 500 deranged adults and 180 children were crammed into this space where there are now just two dozen rooms and a great glass wine-tasting suite floating above the dining room. Things have changed a lot since 1745 here at the Boho end of Edinburgh. Hotel du Vin is right next door to Bedlam Theatre and very close to Elephant House, the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book.
You'll find a touch of Grand Guignol in the huge mural of local bodysnatchers Burke and Hare in the private dining room named after them. And the odd ghost too but the people on reception are very kind. If you get lost -or frightened- on the way back to your room they will gladly escort you.
This is a Valentine’s hotel for those who need more than fluffy pillows and chocolates on the pillow. You’ll get those of course - but a touch of frisson too.
Main Road, Worleston, Nantwich
According to local legend – and there is no reason to doubt it – David Beckham proposed to his favourite Spice Girl at Rookery Hall in 1998 and the rest is now media history.
Anyone who wants to follow in the romantic footsteps of “Posh and Becks” will enjoy a night at this hotel twenty miles east of Chester. It was built as a private home in 1816 by William Hilton Cooke of Chester who owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica. In 1867 Cooke's heirs sold the Rookery to a London banker who gloried in the name Baron William Von Schroder. Baron Bill became High Sheriff of Cheshire before his death in 1912 and it was he who was responsible for giving the hall its current neo-Elizabethan look.
Rookery Hall was converted into a hotel in 1984 and today has various gazebos around the grounds ideal for proposing or just hiding away from the world.
A footnote to hotel history records than when the Beckhams’ engagement was announced, the hotel management presented the couple with a cake that depicted Rookery Hall with a marzipan Posh and Becks sitting on top of it. As both had to take care of their famous figures the cake was auctioned and the proceeds given to a local school.
Park Street, Woodstock
The Macdonald Bear is a kindly, ancient hotel. As a coaching inn on the road between Stratford and Oxford it dates back to the thirteenth century and has its own share of stone spiral staircases, open fires and ghosties, as well as the Churchill family at the end of the street (Sir Winston was born half a mile away at Blenheim Palace).
But one of the nicest touches you’ll find here is an oversized teddy bear called Winston and his paramour Clemmie. Named after the British prime minister and his wife, Winston and Clemmie can be booked to join you at your table if you are dining alone or – horrors – your date stands you up.
Over the years the bears of Woodstock have done stalwart service, particularly on Valentine’s Night. Occasionally they have been caught on CCTV being spirited away to a guest’s bedroom but they always make it back down again for breakfast.
For sheer eccentric British humour – as well as a compassionate gesture towards those who dine alone in hotels – the Bear at Woodstock with all its half timbers and tartan carpets deserves a round of applause.
North Street, Winchcombe
Sitting on the Cotswold Way, the ancient Lion at Winchcombe is a classic British pub in the nicest possible way. Should your idea of a perfect weekend away involve a Cotswold village, a pub with open fires, good food and an amiable landlady with two enormous dogs, then this is the place for your rural getaway.
There are just seven bedrooms up above along corridors that slope alarmingly (no, you haven’t had too much to drink) and best of all there’s no television when you get to your room. Be honest, if you’ve come all this way for a touch of Richard Curtis movie-inspired romance the last thing you want is for your partner to be glued to the telly. Come to think of it, there’s no TV in the bar either. This is a pub that focuses on what matters: food, booze, log fires, and cosy bedrooms. What more do you need?
9 Fore Street, Evershot
There is a rumour that local novelist Thomas Hardy designed the graceful and imposing extension to Evershot’s Summer Lodge. Like so many hotel stories this is unlikely. Hardy had long given up architecture to write full time when the Dower House was extended with a superb blue drawing room, incorporating over-sized alcoves and fine master bedroom (No1) above. Nevertheless both rooms have a romance about them. And for those who enjoyed Hardy’s great tale of thwarted love, Tess of D’Urbevilles there is plenty more 19th century romance to be found in Evershot.
This Dorset village is called Evershed in Hardy’s novels. It is here that poor Tess pauses to take breakfast by St Osmund’s Church on the way to see her new husband’s parents. (Like all great plans in Hardy’s novels the visit goes horribly wrong).
The owners of Summer Lodge also own the local pub, the Acorn Inn which features as the Sow and Acorn in two of Hardy stories, Interlopers at the Knap and 'The First Countess of Wessex. So if you like your romance tinged with a little melancholy, come to Evershot, drink a preprandial at the Acorn Inn and then settle in at Summer Lodge for a much nicer evening than poor Tess ever managed.
1 King Street, Frome
Frome is an unexpected place, a busy, ancient old market town down a steep-streeted valley 13 miles from Bath. For years locals have said Frome is about to become the New Bath - but the old one hasn’t stepped aside yet.
When it does the Archangel Hotel will be a venue ripe for discovery. As a hostelry it was first recorded in 1311. From the outside Archangel is unremarkable, a low-rise whitewashed building on King Street, running parallel to the delightful boutique-lined Cheap Street (where you can buy yourself so much never knew you needed).
Inside the hotel you enter a low, glassed-over corridor from which bedrooms lead off in all directions. Five ancient buildings are actually linked together by this glass canopy, which means you might easily find yourself sleeping over an old barn or the inn’s former stable block. And at the end of the corridor up a flight of metal steps, a “free-floating” glass restaurant sits inside a massive ancient dovecote. “Freefloating” here means glass floors cantilevered from the ground so the medieval walls of ancient Frome are not compromised. It's quite something to behold.
Archangel's staff like clearly enjoy the building in which they work and they'll make you very welcome. They’re also very proud of their cocktail range by the way. But best of all are the hotel bedrooms, tucked away all over the place in this diminutive, bucolic, Falstaffian inn. Ask to see which are available; some of the best are up old narrow stairs you wouldn’t realise led anywhere. A door opens and hey presto: a big metal bath under the rafters and an even bigger bed.
So if your idea of romance is hiding away in a mediaeval inn with a cocktail or two Archangel may be the just place for you this February.
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