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See Britain in Style
UK Luxury Travel

british teaLuxury 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.

also see in Travel -> Scotland's 5-Star Luxury Hotels

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.

In London, 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.

royal ascotSo 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, and Royal Ascot,

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.

Source: By Annabelle Thorpe for VisitBritain:

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