From castles to country manors that once hosted nobility, the team at ‘The Good Hotel Guide’ select the country’s top properties with stories to tell
Swinton Park Hotel and Spa, North Yorkshire
Begun in 1695 by Sir Abstrupus Danby, the seat of the Earl of Swinton would, over generations, take on the aspect of a Gothic castle, fronted by an outsized, castellated tower. Mark and Felicity Cunliffe-Lister run their stately home in an unfussy, welcoming style. Interiors are furnished with antiques and family portraits adorn the walls. Bedrooms come with views of parkland and the surrounding countryside, as well as complimentary sloe gin.
Doubles from £195, B&B (swintonpark.com)
Hartwell House Hotel and Spa, Buckinghamshire
Louis XVIII lived with his French court in exile at this Jacobean house cum Georgian mansion surrounded by pleasure grounds with a lake, follies and a Gothic-revival church. The interiors include a grand 17th-century staircase, and a Great Hall redesigned by James Gibbs in a baroque style, with plasterwork by Italian masters. Dine by candlelight; sleep in a four-poster room furnished with antiques and hung with paintings. The property is is owned by the National Trust.
Doubles from from £200, B&B (hartwell-house.com)
Gravetye Manor, West Sussex
The initials R and K above the door recall Richard Infield and his bride, Katharine Compton, for whom he built this manor house in 1598. It was more recently home to Victorian gardener and botanist William Robinson, pioneer of the naturalistic style, who created the gardens that are still lovingly tended today. Within, you find dark panelling, antiques, log fires, freshly cut flowers – and Michelin-starred cooking. Each bedroom is named after a tree species found on the estate.
Doubles from £260, B&B (gravetyemanor.co.uk)
Star Castle, St Mary’s, Isle of Scilly
Spanish visitors can be sure of a welcome at this Elizabethan house with late-17th-century alterations – despite the fact the surrounding star-shaped fortress walls were built to repel their ancestors. The seaside garrison has been a hotel since 1933; interiors are comfortable and traditional, including chalets in the grounds. Dine in the atmospheric restaurant – the original officers’ mess – and enjoy a pint of real ale in the Dungeon Bar, formerly the prison in which Cromwell crony Sir John Ireton languished.
Doubles from £150, B&B (star-castle.co.uk)
Lewtrenchard Manor, Devon
When he was not penning hymns such as Onward Christian Soldiers, for 30 years, from 1881, the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould devoted himself to remodelling “Lew House”, a relatively modest manor dating back to 1626. Here you’ll find a Jacobean ceiling, where Renaissance woodwork blends with Victorian craftsmanship. In 1928 Walter Sarel laid out the gardens with help from Gertrude Jeckyll. Owners Sue and James Murray have filled the rooms with antiques, while the cooking is fresh and modern.
Doubles from £180, B&B (lewtrenchard.co.uk)
Plumber Manor, Dorset
Plumber Manor (pronounce the ‘b’) has been in the Prideaux-Brune family since the 1600s, and became a hotel in 1972. It has the comfortable, lived-in ambiance of an ancestral home, with antiques, portraits, open fires and snoozing labradors. Richard Prideaux-Brune is an entertaining host. Shooting parties are welcome, and game in season features on Brian Prideaux-Brune’s daily changing menus. The River Divelish flows through the grounds.
Doubles from £160, B&B (plumbermanor.com)
Bodysgallen Hall and Spa, Conwy
At its ancient heart a 13th-century tower, this house was built by Robert Wynne in 1620 and extended over the centuries; today it’s owned by the National Trust. Behind a Tudor doorway lies the original entrance hall; in the first-floor drawing room above it, a fireplace bears the Mostyn family motto. Bedrooms in the main house and in cottages are traditionally styled, while public rooms are homely, with open fires, oil paintings and oak panelling.
Doubles from £180, B&B (bodysgallen.com)
Llangoed Hall, Powys
You’ll find Edwardian country-house luxury, open fires and Augustus John in the drawing room of this Jacobean mansion. Made over in 1913 for a London bowler-hat maker, it had fallen into neglect in 1990 when it was rescued by a new owner, Bernard Ashley. Although no longer Mr Ashley’s property, the hotel still displays his collection of paintings, sculptures and antiques. Individually styled bedrooms have a four-poster bed and valley views. One retains original Laura Ashley wallpaper. The landscaped gardens border the River Wye.
Doubles from £145, B&B (llangoedhall.co.uk)
Coul House, Ross-shire
A single-track road leads to this Georgian house, built in 1821 for the 7th Baronet of Coul and now run as a hotel. In the entrance hall a stag’s head adorns the wall above an open fireplace, while in the showpiece octagonal dining room, under an ornate ceiling, a painting depicts a visit by Queen Victoria in 1888. A Douglas fir planted by botanist David Douglas himself in 1827 still stands in the grounds. Bedrooms are traditionally styled, with antiques and paintings; ask for a mountain view.
Doubles from £175, B&B (coulhousehotel.com)