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BLISSFUL BREAKS AT BRITAIN’S BOUTIQUE HOTELS

After a long day of shopping or sightseeing there are few greater pleasures than wrapping up in a downy bathrobe and sipping a blissful cup of tea, or indulging yourself in a long soaking bath before a cozy meal a short walk from your bedroom. In Britain, city-based holidays have taken on a new look and feel, since the conversion of Regency and Edwardian period townhouses into boutique hotels. At these upscale accomodations, the emphasis is on style, comfort and slick service that’s so relaxed you feels you are staying in a friend’s home.

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ENGLISH TOWN HOUSE HOTELS

The vogue in townhouse hotels in the UK was started with two names: Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, specializing in affordable style in central town locations. The Southern England city of Winchester – one time the country’s capital - was the location for the first Hotel du Vin (four stars, tel. +44 (0)19 62 841414, www.hotelduvin.com); and the elegant Georgian building is still popular; coolly stylish bedrooms in muted browns and creams, cosy champagne bar and buzzy restaurant. Bon viveurs will find themselves truly at home at the Hotel du Vin, where there is an apparently unending wine list, cocktails to die for and a mind-boggling array of cigars. There is also a Hotel du Vin for a London getaway in Harrogate.

Malmaison Hotels offer a similarly sleek style; in Yorkshire the three-star Malmaison Leeds (+44 (0)113 398 1000, www.malmaison.com) is ideally situated for those who indulge in the city’s favorite pastime – shopping. The bar is filled with cushy leather couches – perfect for a post-shopping slump. The rooms are sensuous – dark wood, lush velvet and suede drapes.

If you’re looking to discover England’s exciting northern cities, don’t miss Liverpool (2008's City of Culture) and home of the Beatles history (see Liverpool - Beatles Town Forever). Hope Street Hotel (www.hopestreethotel.co.uk) is the city’s first boutique offering, ideally located in the cultural quarter, surrounded by theatres, restaurants and the renowned concert hall. The hotel makes the most of its impressive architecture – the building is designed in the style of a Venetian palazzo – with exposed brick walls and picture windows offering wonderful views.

Equally worth a visit is York, with narrow, cobbled streets bustling with shoppers and traditional tea shops on almost every corner (see Exploring York Walls). Four High Petergate (with four diamonds, tel. +44 (0)1904 658516, www.fourhighpetergate.co.uk) is in the heart of the city, close to York Minster, with an elegant bistro, rooms that overlook the busy street below or the hotel’s own charming walled garden and a history dating back to AD71 when the city was a Roman stronghold (see also Lendal Tower York Luxury).

Head north into Scotland for another of the UK’s best townhouse hotels, One Devonshire Gardens – Glasgow’s best-loved address (four red stars, tel. +44 (0)141 339 2001, www.onedevonshiregardens.com). Everyone from George Clooney to Robbie Williams has walked through the elegant doors, to a softly-spoken world of roaring fires, lush velvet sofas and hand-made shortbread biscuits for tea. One Devonshire offers great value; even standard rooms provide plenty of space, and for pounds less than you would pay in London.

The capital, Edinburgh, just 40 minutes away, has
The Bonham
(four stars, tel. +44 (0)131 274 7400, www.thebonham.com), a superbly furnished hotel with the added bonus of a permanent contemporary art collection, with 30 works by local artists adorning the walls and spaces. Bedrooms continue the arty theme, with bold colours; deep purple drapes, warm orange carpets and soft, fluffy cushions piled high on the beds.

At the other end of the country, Brighton, on England’s south coast, has seen several elegant townhouse hotels spring up on its Regency squares and streets over the past couple of years. Among the best is the four-star Drakes (+44 (0)1273 696934, www.drakesofbrighton.com), a townhouse overlooking the sea, where sleekly elegant rooms and a top-notch restaurant, the Gingerman, combine to give a feeling of laid-back luxury.

If you prefer something more traditional, the Georgian city of Bath has a charm all of its own; cobbled streets and colonnaded buildings, an array of boutiques and gift shops, plus the ancient abbey and even older Roman Baths. The Ayrlington (five diamonds, tel. +44 (0)1225 425495, www.ayrlington.com) is just five minutes stroll from the centre, and behind the impressive Victorian architecture lies an intriguing mix of English design and Asian touches – roaring fires, antique furniture and Indian artwork and statues.

The picturesque village of Woodstock has been a royal romantic hidewaway for famous love stories from King Henry II and Rosamund to Burton and Taylor. The Bear Hotel (MacDonalds Bear Hotel)offers easy vist to the Costwold region and Blenheim Palace is a stroll away through the Oxfordshire countryside.

Cheltenham has an equally impressive history and is an ideal location for exploring the Cotswold Hills, with its villages of honey-coloured stone. The four-star Alias Hotel Kandinsky (www.aliashotels.com) has a slightly eccentric feel; a sultry, dimly-lit cocktail bar – Ubahn – hides away in the basement, while the lounges and conservatory are perfect for easy Sunday mornings with coffee and the newspapers. The accent here is on informality; staff wear jeans and t-shirts, but service is top-notch.

Food is often an important feature of a townhouse hotel stay, but when the hotel has the backing of a two-Michelin-starred chef, you know you’re in for a real gourmet experience. The Royal Clarence in Exeter, Devon (+44 (0)1392 319955, www.abodehotels.co.uk) is the co-creation of chef Michael Caines, and offers several eating options; a pub meal in the Well House, a light lunch in the Café Bar or a sumptuous supper in the Michael Caines Restaurant. Rooms are seriously luxurious, with hand-built beds, enamel baths and bespoke toiletries. For lovers of mystery and suspense, Sherlock Holmes’s Dartmoor and Agatha Christie’s Torquay are within easy reach.

Browns in London (+44 (0)20-7493 6020, www.brownshotel.com); re-opened after a £19 million refurbishment. Browns has played host to everyone from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to Alexander Graham Bell – who made the world’s first telephone call from the hotel. Located in the heart of Mayfair, the hotel offers a sophisticated mix of traditional English hospitality – afternoon tea should not be missed – with chic, pared-down style.

However, you don’t have to stay in a city to experience the charm of a townhouse hotel. Hidden away on the glorious coast of Mid Wales, in the seaside village of Aberdyfi, lies the four-star Llety Bodfor (+44 (0)1654 767475, www.lletybodfor.co.uk) an eight-bedroom boutique hotel, with cool bedrooms in muted colours with wonderful views across Cardigan Bay. There is no restaurant for evening meals, but breakfasts are a feast of local organic produce, and there are comfy sofas to lounge on with a drink from the honesty bar. In the always surprising UK, townhouse boutique hotels can even come without the town attached.

You can search for hotels all over Britain using the website www.visitbritain.com. All accommodation featured here, and on the website, has been inspected for quality and assessed under the nationally agreed star-rating scheme.

Find the best travel and hotel deals in Britain at TripAdvisor

Article Courtesy Visit Britain

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