Wood Hall was built in the eighteenth century as a retreat for the Vavasour family who were Catholic courtiers in the time of Elizabeth I. Their line came to an end in 1826 when the last baronet died without children. The hall then became a school and a Carmelite monastery was built in the grounds.
Now Wood Hall is a hotel and very keen to get its guests out enjoying this tranquil spot. They even provide walking leaflets in the lobby. The 40-minute Riverside Walk takes the picturesque River Wharfe while the Limekiln Woods Walk runs as far at the nearby village of Sicklinghall, which has an ideal pub for lunch. The hotel's concierge knows these routes very well and often sets walkers a challenge. If they can find what he describes while out walking they'll get a sweet from him on their return.
Airds is a small but extremely cozy hotel on the west coast of Scotland overlooking the ferry crossing to Lismore Island. A decanter of Whisky Mac (a traditional cocktail of whisky and ginger wine) awaits every guest and there are always drinks and canapés in the two drawing rooms Airds' famous seven-course gourmet dinner in the modern restaurant extension.
The next morning you'll feel in need of a stroll, particularly after a generous helping of breakfast. Follow the road down to Port Appin, the tiny whitewashed dock from which a ferry still runs across to Lismore. From here you can continue all the way out to the headland of the small peninsula on which Port Appin sits before turning inland in the direction of Cliff Cottage and arriving at the back of the hotel through the woods. It's a two-mile walk that has wonderful views across Loch Linhe. Be sure to take your camera.
Dartmoor National Park is a superb place for country walks with impressive views from its 160 outcrops known as tors. Once the railways made Devon more accessible in the nineteenth century, a number of fine country houses were constricted in this isolated rural landscape. One of the most impressive of these is Bovey Castle, built for second Viscount Hambleden in 1907 and turned into a hotel operated by Great Western Railways in 1930.
Today this mock-Jacobean mansion offers guests the best of both worlds – country walks and fine dining or, as the hotel itself put it, “Hunter wellies at 8am and Manolo Blahniks for dinner”.
There's a lovely walk from Bovey Castle to Castle Drogo, a very different kind of country seat. This one, now owned by the National Trust, was the last stately home to be built in England. It was completed in 1930 to a radical design in granite by Sir Edwin Lutyens. From Bovey take Adley Lane north past Cleave Wood and through Easton before climbing up to Castle Drogo. It's a beautiful two-hour walk with a National Trust Café when you arrive. Then on the way back think about dinner in Bovey Castle's recently reopened and newly-renamed Great Western Restaurant.
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