Fans of Winnie the Pooh may feel they know the sprawling grounds and woodland that surrounds Ashdown Park Hotel in rural Sussex. According to author AA Milne, the forest was the inspiration for his creation the 100 Acre Wood and it's not hard to see why. The 6,400 acres of ancient woodland at your disposal is criss-crossed by footpaths and bridleways edged by spotless lawns, with lakes, secret gardens and woodland trails you'd expect Eeyore to inhabit. Follow the wildlife trails through the estate (you may stumble across the herds of wild deer that call Ashdown home) or go mountain biking along the hotel's own bike paths. But don't forget to make it back for afternoon tea – for some honey sandwiches perhaps?
Well I would choose this one, wouldn't I? (That's a little Mandy Rice-Davies joke there.) For those over a certain age, Cliveden will forever be associated with the Profumo scandal, the key events of which unfurled at this grand historic mansion in Taplow, Berks, in the 1960s. These days Cliveden's ultra chic clientele get their thrills from the superb 376-acres of National Trust grounds including the chi-chi walled garden where the romantic dalliances between respectable cabinet ministers and rather young good time girls allegedly started. Expect naked Italianate nymphs and fountains, impeccable lawns, secluded paths and trails and endless bucolic views across the Berkshire countryside. No wonder those politicians got carried away…
Take your seat in the orangery at the 17th century country mansion that is the Headlam Hall hotel in the Durham Dales and just look outside. In front of you are the stunning gardens of which this hotel is so rightly proud. One of the loveliest features is the four-acre walled garden, its main lawn's herbaceous borders a riot of colour in season with ancient yew and beech hedges providing a leafy, tranquil backdrop. We also love the pretty ornamental canal that snakes through this idyllic spot and the quintessentially English rose garden that dazzles in June. But this garden's not just about the looks – its soil yields many of the items you'll find on your dinner table while at Headlam including soft fruits, plumptious veggies and fresh-as-a-daisy herbs.
A visit on Easter Day with young children meant an egg hunt was always going to be on the cards but it provided a perfect excuse to depart from the comforts of this sleek upmarket hotel to explore the parklands and woodlands that surround it. When the Cornwall was built on this 43 acre estate, the owners were careful to preserve a medieval wayside cross that they discovered plus a Victorian vinery, a walled garden and a quirky little wine cellar, all of which you will stumble across as you stride through the oaks, sycamores, beeches, poplars and chestnuts in the grounds. You'll also encounter a bat hotel (oh yes) and some resident woodpeckers, ducks and geese.
The gardens are so spectacular at 17th century Bodysgallen Hall overlooking the pretty seaside town of Llandudno that they actually do guided tours of them. And little wonder. A symphony of box hedges, rose gardens, lily ponds, parterres and limestone outcrops, this 200-acre spot is a gardener's paradise. The hotel also hosts regular floristry demonstrations and you can even volunteer to help the head gardener out during your stay, planting trees and shrubs and establishing borders, should you feel the need to get involved. Finish off a day with a spot of traditional afternoon tea, served in silver pots with a dazzling array of cakes, on the terrace overlooking Snowdonia. Delicious.
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