Adrian Mourby

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The big transition from one year to the next is essentially an arbitrary matter. One day we are in this year and the next day we're in another but they're still just two 24 hour days. Nevertheless New Year carries huge significance, it is also an opportunity to take stock, to see what has passed, to see what is new and what is heading towards us in the twelve months ahead.

And this is just as true in the world of hotels as it is in other aspects of our life. That said, most hotels tend to stagger past new year in a euphoria of full occupancy and then either shut up shop or go into a hyperdrive of refurbishment before Burns Night and Valentine's day starts the whole heady cycle of hospitality all over again.

However our transition from one year to the next is played - whether it's big deal or small - it remains an opportunity to look around and see what is going to be different in the years to come.

So down below I've looked at ten excellent British hotels that will not be the same in the coming year. Check these out - when you have recovered from your own new year's eve celebrations, big or small.
Cliveden House

If there is one single hotel swimming pool in Britain which can lay claim to the much over-used adjective “iconic”, it is the long pool at Cliveden. It was built in 1953 by Lord “Bill” Astor at the time when Cliveden was still his family's home.

Bill – grandson of the famous newspaper magnate William Waldorf Astor – had just won a lot of money betting on the Oaks at Epsom. He used this small fortune to build what seemed an extraordinary extravagance in ration-hit Britain: a swimming pool in the old walled garden at the family seat of Cliveden.

Now let's fast-forward to an evening in July 1961 when Britain's Secretary of State for War, John Profumo MP walked through what is now known as the “Christine Keeler Door” at Cliveden. Profumo was a dinner guest and in the company of Bill Astor. Here by the pool he encountered Miss Keeler – also a Cliveden visitor - topless. Soon afterwards the couple began a brief, illicit affair. This would have been unremarkable for its time were it not for the fact that Christine Keeler was also involved at the same time in a relationship with a Russian naval attaché.

Two years later – in 1963 - when John Profumo lied about his relationship with a woman who had also been the bedfellow of an enemy agent, he was forced to resign. That same year the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan was voted out of office. (These events were recorded in the 1989 film Scandal with Ian McKellen as Profumo, Leslie Philips as Lord Astor and Joanne Whalley as Christine Keeler.)

The Astor family gave up Cliveden after Bill's death and this truly beautiful country house is now a hotel. It has preserved that infamous pool – one of the few listed swimming pools in Britain.It's also preserved the old wooden "Christine Keeler Door" but in 2017 the walled garden was turned into a spa-restaurant area, primarily catering for hotel guests. A new entrance that circumvents the infamous door is now housed beneath an ornate water tower disguised as a campanile. This tower was built as memorial to Duke of Sutherland, one of the previous owners of Cliveden. Inside the spa there is a new excellent healthy restaurant which, I'm glad to say, serves some excellent very healthy wines. Meanwhile sun loungers occupy the old croquet lawn of Bill Astor' s 1960s pleasure dome.

In 2017 extra treatment rooms and a solarium were added as well as hot tubs which should be fully functional by 2018.

If you swim in just one hotel pool in the new year, this is the one.

Artist Residence Oxfordshire

Artist Residence is a fun young company that specialises in taking over old buildings and transforming them in a cozy, bright, eclectic style with lots of neon. The mini-chain was named by its founder, Justin Salisbury who had brought in artist friends to help decorate his first B&B. Up until now the company has been essentially urban, starting in Brighton and expanding to Penzance and London but in 2017 Artist Residence took over The Mason Arms, a picture-perfect thatch-roofed pub in South Leigh, Oxfordshire.

This, the company's latest Artist Residence, opened in May and proved a big success with couples who wanted a romantic getaway in one of its five colourful, slightly crazy bedrooms. Having a lovely traditional pub - with a massive open fire and traditional quiz nights - downstairs certainly helped, as did the dinner menu which mahors of locally sourced meat.

In 2018 Artist Residence Oxfordshire will be adding two more stable-block suites behind the pub and a further six rooms beyond that. Business is booming. In fact Artist Residence is hoping to open up in an old Bristol boot factory soon. Definitely a company to watch.

Bovey Castle

Bovey castle was built in 1907 by Frederick Smith, the son of newsagent W H Smith who has amassed a fortune from his retail chain selling books and newspapers on railway station platforms. This massive, modern Dartmoor castle was sold by the Smith family after the death of Frederick in 1928. In 1930 it became a hotel operated by Great Western Railways. Since 2014 Bovey Castle has been part of Sir Peter Rigby's Eden Collection. A great deal of money has been poured into refurbishment and into raising the culinary reputation of this resort. In 2017 Bovey Castle was awarded five Red Stars by the AA, its highest possible accolade. Moreover Bovey's flagship restaurant, the Great Western, has been awarded three AA rosettes under chef Mark Budd.

There is a lot of change going on to the fabric of Bovey too. In 2018 the hotel will finish refurbishing 22 lodges in its extensive grounds The biggest development by far, however, is recreational. In recent years the hotel has offered country pursuits like falconry, cider-making and off-road driving, and in 2018 a new flight experience will be added. Visitors will be taken to nearby Newton Abbott to board a 737-800 jet simulator. Once strapped in, guests will be able to “fly” a specially prepared route over Dartmoor the Devon coast and Bovey Castle itself.

Now that's unusual.

The Witchery by the Castle

The Witchery is without a doubt the most remarkable hotel in Edinburgh. Created over the last four decades by the splendiferous James Thomson, this hotel and restaurant nestling against Edinburgh castle offers a remarkable visual experience. Each room is an OTT treat, a Victorian extravaganza of colours and fabrics. The last suite that Thomson created was the Turret, which opened four years ago on the third floor of the original sixteenth-century building. Now a new suite is underway which will be situated above the Turret on the fourth floor of The Witchery. Opening in 2018, the new suite will offer extraordinarily good views north and south of the city as well as east down the Royal Mile and westwards up towards the Castle. This will be the hotel's largest suite to date and the first with its own roof terrace.

At the moment Mr Thomson is scouring auctions in Britain and abroad to find the right items of furniture and decoration to incorporate into what will be another unique and arresting design. The Witchery is also greeting 2018 with a new Afternoon Tea which will include scones, haggis bonbons and sandwiches of Edinburgh Gin-cured salmon, a snip at £30 or £40 with champagne.

The Lygon Arms Hotel

Since being taken over by Iconic Luxury Hotels two years ago the Lygon Arms in Broadway has undergone a massive refurbishment. It's taken 18 months and what looks like a lot of money to transform a favourite but somewhat tired-looking coaching inn into a very special rural hotel.

The final touches to the new cocktail bar are being added at the moment and by 2018 the hotel will deserve to be on everyone's Cotswold wishlist.

The lovely small parlour rooms of the original Tudor coaching inn still stand either side of the Lygon's main entrance and that glorious 1930s dining room has retained is majestic curved ceiling, but the colour scheme is radically different. Gone are the bland pastel walls and instead in comes a dramatic new grey/blue palette that gives a richness and depth to the hotel's many rooms. A very stylish touch is a new picture wall in the restaurant, featuring over 30 of the hotel's old paintings. Instead of one portrait or landscape per room, there is now an explosion of colour and gilt frames reaching to the high ceiling.

At the far end of the dining room the Lygon Arms has created a new cocktail bar from rooms that had not been used for decades. Elsewhere the hotel's cozy-chic lounges carry through the dramatic new colour scheme and the staff are now dressed casually in tweed jackets and open-collared blue shirts, rather like the clientele.

Tuddenham Mill

In the summer of 2017 Suffolk's serene Tuddenham Mill opened its new accommodation, a set of five unusual rooms known as Meadow Nooks. A short walk away from the mill itself, Meadow Nooks look like upturned wooden boats and their curved roofs guarantee cosiness within. In fact for those who have been to Santorini there is something rather familiar about those curved ceilings. Set apart from the rest of the hotel, the nooks offer romantic, rustic indulgence. Their underfloor heating will make you feel loved and happy in the mornings and one nook even has its own wood-fired al fresco hot tub.

Eighteenth-century Tuddenham Mill was a working mill, grinding floor up until 1954 using power from its mill pond and stream. Its conversion into a successful hotel has been aided in recent years by local chef Lee Bye who has won a number of awards for the Mill and now risen to the post of chef patron. In 2018 Lee is excited to be supplying the hotel's kitchen with its first batches of asparagus, salad, radishes and raspberries from a new allotment that he has created.

Barnett Hill Hotel

Barnett Hill is the latest hotel aquisition by the stylish south east England Alexander Group. The hotel is housed inside an Grade II-listed building in the “Carolean” (King Charles) style by eminent Edwardian architect, Arnold Bidlake Mitchell.

Reopened by Alexander in 2017, Barnett Hill Hotel received four AA stars for its Oak Room Restaurant. Subsequently eighteen newly-renovated bedrooms in the main house were unveiled, including two master suites and two suites with in-room bath tubs from which you can enjoy sensuous views of the Surrey Hills.

In 2018 Barnett Hill will complete work on its courtyard bedrooms and the extravagant Utopia Spa which is a feature of all Alexander hotels.

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