Luxury travel in the UK might include a 5 star hotel with food to match... housed in a modernized medieval
castle or an Edinburgh row house. Thirsty travelers might quench their thirst from wine lists with vintages culled from every corner of the old world and the new... or locally brewed beers, stouts and ales.
Haute cuisine, chilled
champagne, a bubbling Jacuzzi, a four-poster bed draped in the
finest white linen and traditional teas with scones all blend into the wealth of travel experiences available throughout Britain. Perhaps you would rather have a sumptuous banquet fit for royalty in establishments that have served nobles and monarchs. If your idea of travel entails cruising along country lanes in a vintage Rolls-Royce
or gliding across the English Channel on a gleaming yacht the British Isles are your dream get away.
A luxury break
can mean many different things in Britain. You may be playing 18 holes of golf at the world renowned St. Andrew's in Scotland, sipping single malt Scotch on a whiskey distillery tour, holed up in a gorgeous
hotel room in the heart of London Town, yachting around the Isles off the coast, shopping on Bond Street, or enjoying some retro-glamour
on an Agatha Christie-style train journey – anything as
long as it's wildly extravagant and extremely indulgent.
Indulgence has always been part of the British experience, but it is reaching new heights in the UK
right now. Stylish new boutique hotels have redefined
country-house chic. Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds, Cowley Manor
in Gloucestershire and The Grove in Hertfordshire have joined
Seaham Hall and Babington House in a new wave of hotel design. The fuss and frippery of Downton Abbey are long gone, replaced with muted colors,
clean lines and relaxed attitudes. Diners may opt to have breakfast at 4pm and
dinner at midnight if they wish.
Indulgent massages and treatments at
top-notch spas can be enjoyed in every
corner of the UK. From thalasso treatments at St David's Hotel
in Cardiff to oriental massages at OneSpa in Edinburgh, relaxation is the goal and the result.
hotels increasingly offer bespoke packages for top-end travellers
– the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park can organise helicopter
tours over the city, private boat tours along the Thames, or a
shopping day at Harvey Nichols (situated just across the road)
with a personal shopper.
Combine a night at The Royal Opera House
(opt for the Grand Tier box, seats 4, at £170pp) with supper
at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, where the approx cost of £150
for two ensures you are hanging out with London’s hippest
crowd. A limousine is the only way to cruise London by night (book
through Valliant Chauffeur Drive) but by day, take a private tour
in a Black Taxi, with an authentic 'cabby' as your guide, from
£75 for two hours.
If you want to explore in style, then simply hop on the train.
Not just any train; take in the peaks and lochs of Scotland
on the Royal Scotsman – all polished mahogany, shining silverware
and views to die for. Or discover English towns such as Bath or
Brighton on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express British Pullman,
which offers day and evening excursions in carriages which date
back to the 1920's, with original brasswork, mosaic floors and
the driest of dry martinis. For the ultimate ride, the Northern
Belle can be hired exclusively, and you decide the train’s
itinerary, with champagne all the way.
So when is the best time to come for an indulgent few days? If
you’re in the market for serious glamour, the months from
April to August - traditionally known as the 'season' - are the
glitziest in the social calendar. Kicking off with the Grand National
at Aintree, and taking in the Chelsea
Flower Show, Wimbledon,
Henley Regatta and the ‘Proms’ concerts,
some serious dressing up is required, so head to Burberry or Stella
McCartney’s new flagship store, both on New Bond Street,
Harvey Nicks in Leeds, or the brand new Bullring centre in Birmingham
for a touch of quintessential British style. All of the events
offer top-notch hospitality; opt for a box at Royal Ascot, or
book tickets to the Courtyard Enclosure at Henley and a picnic
hamper to go with it.
The summer months are also the best time for exploring the seas
around Britain, from the Irish Sea in the north to the English
Channel in the south. Hebridean Island Cruises offer the chance
to visit some of the most far-flung islands, on small boats that
offer gorgeous cabins – all tartan fabrics and marble bathrooms,
with plenty of local whisky on hand if the wind gets up. If you
fancy just a day cruise, the Masterbuilders Hotel in Lymington
offers a day sailing on its private yacht, the Master George,
over to the Isle of Wight for lunch at its sister hotel, the George
in Yarmouth. The luxury self serve cottages and castles by the seaside are an option worth exploring for added privacy.
Cooler months are perfect for exploring Britain's castles and
country houses. Forget walking boots and windbreakers and dress
up for jazz luncheons or wine tasting evenings at Castle Ashby
in Northamptonshire, or even a traditional English houseparty
weekend, with the chance to try clay-pigeon shooting, falconry
and carriage ride.
Leeds Castle, in Kent, hosts open-air concerts
and firework spectaculars, but you can also hire out a private
room for 12 people or more, for a right royal feast. For the ultimate
in privacy, hire your own country hideaway - Rural Retreats have
a huge selection of chocolate-box cottages throughout the country,
including Rectory Cottage in Wiltshire, which boasts an Aga, open
fire, beautiful bedrooms with fluffy towels and white linen, gorgeous
views and an idyllic courtyard garden.
But whatever you do, and wherever you stay, there is one indulgent
tradition that shouldn't be missed. Whether it’s hand-cut
sandwiches, fresh pastries and a glass of champagne at the Lanesborough
or Landmark hotels in London, a luxury Fortnums hamper opened
on a lazy afternoon, or toasted teacakes at Bettys Team Rooms
in Harrogate, Yorkshire, open since 1919, make sure that at sometime,
somewhere, you remember to stop for an authentic British tea.