Julie Vuong

Back to Inspirations
The traditional month of love has now been earmarked for the nearest and dearest friends in your life. An antidote to Valentine’s Day; Palentine’s or Galentine’s Day (for the ladies), is an excuse to finally break out of your WhatsApp groups, put your phones away and meet up in person. Think of an activity-filled microbreak with your mates, a trip to a relaxing spa with your best buds or a chilled out trip with your closest pals with or without the kids. Ready to get the gang together? Here’s our roundup to get you all inspired. 

When all you want is a home away from home, where you can huddle around the cosy log fire on deep sofas and set the world to rights, Cambridge House Reeth is just the ticket. No distractions here; well apart from scenic walks from the doorstep, cycling rides through the Yorkshire hills and superb views across Swaledale from your south-facing bedroom windows. Set within Herriot country, Robert and Shelia Mitchell’s home is like a huge warm hug, and the couple is intent on making your stay as relaxing as possible. They’ll whip up homecooked meals (don’t miss the award-wining breakfasts) and send you off with a packed lunch before you head outdoors. 

Want to really push the boat out (excuse the pun)? Escape dry land and live like the rich and famous with your own super slick yacht. Welcome to the kind of private playground most of us can only dream of. Absolute Pleasure is a stylish boat moored in the lively area of West India Quay on the River Thames. Round up your friends and lap up the luxury on offer: five-star dinners on deck under the stars and cocktails in the palatial lounge with a view across the Capital’s waters. There are five bedrooms and bathrooms, sun balconies, a large roof terrace and a lounge for up to 15 guests. As you would expect it’s kitted out with all the top mod-cons, including a Bose surround system which is crying out for a lively party or two. 

If there’s a big blow out trip due with no expense spared, put on your gladrags and head to Cliveden House. Ladies and gents, this is a Grade 1-listed stately home with all the trimmings including impeccable gardens and the River Thames on your doorstep. Plus there’s all the outdoor spoils to keep you all entertained: go ailing, shooting, horse-riding or improve your tennis serve. Cliveden is famous for its connections to aristocracy and its starring role in the Profumo Affair. But the biggest draw? For many it’s the award-winning spa. As glorious as the house, the hidden gem should be your first stop. Enjoy lounging around the pool, soaking up the steam and sauna rooms and getting some much-needed ‘me-time’ together. 

If there was ever a place designed to tap into your inner child, the wondrous Treehouses at West Lexham guarantee to take you down memory lane. Get swept away into the towering canopies and reminisce about the good times among the twinkling fairy lights, warmth of the log fires and enchanting soundtrack of songbirds. This is about getting close to nature; no work, phones or modern-day distractions. Go adventuring instead and brave wild swimming in the local lake, or stay dry and glide out on the two boats available. When night falls hunker down by the campfire and regale your favourite stories. Magical.

When convenience such as cost and location takes priority, head to London town and book into the Nadler Soho. Wherever in the UK you and your friends are, transport to London will generally be more accessible. What’s more, you couldn’t wish for a closer abode to all the city’s hotspots. Bang in the centre of London, you’ll find yourselves surrounded by the bright lights of Soho and the West End theatres, along with an enviable choice of restaurants and bars. If it’s a slower pace you’re after, take a stroll in one of the Royal Parks and while the day away with a refreshing afternoon tea. Let’s not forget the hotel itself, which features contemporary rooms fitted out with everything you need, including a handy kitchenette – all at a purse-friendly price. 

Let’s face it, getting all the gang together is sometimes easier to manage with kids and furry friends in tow – no childcare or pet-sitters to arrange. So pack everyone and everything into the car and whisk them away to the glorious surroundings of Loch Lomond. These self-catering lodges and chalets are designed for families and friends bunking in together, while the scenic outdoors set among the woodland and nature reserves provide activities for all ages. It’s close to the village of Balmaha when you need to restock on supplies or just fancy inserting yourselves back into the real world. 

If your ideal Palentine’s break involves everyone crowding around a large table laden with delicious food and drink before waddling off to bed for the night, consider this exceptional pub with rooms. Set at the foot of the South Downs National Park, the White Horse Graffham is not your average boozer with a bed. Every room and the restaurant benefits from beautiful views of the surrounding open fields, while the food itself, created by chef and owner Ryan Coller, is locally-inspired. If you’re there at the weekend, try the Sunday roasts, which are attractions in themselves (go for the 21 day dry aged beef). There are six bedrooms, and twins are available when requested. 

Carbon footprint weighing heavy on your minds? Go away with a clear conscience and step into the five futuristic pods on offer at Great Field Farm in Kent, which are all powered by solar energy and clever water and heating sources. Depending on numbers, you might want to check out Bumble, an eco-barn with open plan sitting/dining rooms and kitchen, three bedrooms, infrared underfloor heating and triple glazing. Or for more intimate groups there’s Apple Barn, which features two en-suite rooms and ticks the same green boxes. Set among abundant flora and fauna, there are superb walks from your pod and the historic city of Canterbury is a quick journey away. 

Even those put off by the idea of camping will love staying at this glamping village. Hencote offers 10 stunning safari lodges situated at the highest point of a private estate overlooking the River Severn. Each place promises all the luxury trappings, from rolltop baths and walk-in showers to heated floors and hot tubs on your terrace. And what a view you’ll get with your warming soak – Hencote sits high in the Welsh hills with unforgettable vistas of Shropshire. It’s called a village for a reason too: the site is fenced off for complete seclusion (great if you rent the whole village out!) and there’s the draw of the main house, which features a restaurant that cooks on an open charcoal fire, and a wine and cocktail bar using grapes from their new 18-acre vineyard. 

For those bonded by creative and bohemian sensibilities, the Artist Residence in Penzance will serve as your natural home. Wonderfully designed, featuring upcycled and reclaimed furniture, its quirk and character will please the most eccentric of you. Modern style minimalism gives way to Anglepoise lamps and colourful Roberts radios, alongside original prints by local artists and lazy hammocks in the lounge. There are 22 bedrooms available or get away from the crowds and book out the 3-bedroom cottage, a beautiful renovated Georgian pile. Either way the glorious beach is within easy reach, as well as everything Penzance has to offer. 

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