The First Few Years of Your Relationship by Hotel
by Amanda Statham (January 2013)
From a first date in a glam hotel, via a Valentine’s night in a country mansion, to a chic honeymoon off the Cornish coast, I’ve scoured the UK to find the ultimate romantic retreats for the early years of a relationship. Designed to help ease those all-important decisions, such as where to head on your first weekend break or where to pop the question, my top ten doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of happiness together, but a night at one of these is a great start!
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Whitehall Place, London
Okay, we’re not necessarily saying book a hotel for the first date, that could appear a little, ahem, keen, however an upmarket hotel bar does make a brilliant first date: expertly mixed cocktails, great people-watching and a little bit sexy. One of the hottest places in the capital at the moment is London’s new Corinthia Hotel and a date at its Massimo Oyster Bar, knocking back glasses of Champagne and fresh seafood (oysters are an aphrodisiac don’t you know!), is pretty much guaranteed to lead to a second meet-up.
43/44 Marine Parade, Brighton
The first date went well, you’ve seen each other a few times since and you’re beginning to fall for one another: it’s weekend break time! Use this opportunity to put your new relationship to the test: can you be in a car together for more than an hour without arguing about the music choice? Are they up at the crack of dawn ‘sightseeing’, while you order breakfast in bed at 11am? Brighton is perfect for a saucy weekend: by the sea, cool hotels, easy to get to by road or rain and packed full of bars, restaurants and things to do, so if your new partner doesn’t turn out to be as endlessly fascinating as you’d hoped, there are plenty of distractions before you head home (early!). Check in to Drakes, a boutique retreat in a double-fronted Georgian townhouse on Marine Parade, which has everything you could require for a weekend of amour, from massive double beds with dreamy sea views to freestanding baths in the bedroom and soft white robes to curl up in afterwards.
The Royal Welsh Way, Llandudno
Things are hotting up. If you’re still together at V-Day it’s time to up the romance (unless they say it’s a commercial con by greetings card companies, in which case ditch them and take your best friend instead!). Bring on the roaring log fires to cuddle in front of, rolling countryside for romantic windswept walks, gourmet restaurant and bedroom with a four-poster. Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, a former 17th century mansion in north Wales (it’s the AA’s Welsh hotel of the year) has all of the above plus views across Snowdonia and Conwy Castle and a three AA rosette restaurant, not to mention a full Welsh breakfast served in the morning. Valentine-tastic.
Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth
Weekends away are all well and good, but to really get to know someone you’ve got to pack your suitcase for at least a week. Few can put on an act for seven days or more, so you’ll soon discover if they’re as ‘laid back and easy going’ as they said they were on Match.com when you’ve left the room key in the beach bag, on the beach, for the third time. Cornwall, in the spring or summer, is ideal: not only are the beaches and countryside stunning, the long car journey down there is time to banter (or reflect on how little you have to say). If you’re not on a tight budget, the Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth is a couple-magnet thanks to touches like the outside hot tubs and al fresco terrace for sea-view dining. Less flash but equally as romantic (and less pricey) is Dune Cottage at Rosevidney Manor, a gorgeous cottage you can hire by the week, which has Jacuzzi bathroom, king-size beds and use of a heated pool.
Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford
Meeting in-laws for the first time is always daunting and mother-in-laws are particularly intimidating, so start off on the right foot by getting together on neutral ground, preferably somewhere with fantastic food, so there’s a distraction if they don’t find your jokes/job/manners/face (delete as appropriate) as good as you’d hoped. Lunch at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, celeb chef Raymond Blanc’s gorgeous two-Michelin star escape in Oxfordshire, is spot on. It’s suitably special (and pricey), but Monsieur Blanc has made sure that it’s not stuffy, so you’ll be able to get to know each other without worrying about which fork to use or what half the menu means. What’s more, the garden, with its lavender beds, vast veggie plot with labels for all the produce and croquet lawn, makes a great place to stroll around together/escape from interrogation post-lunch.
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