Top 10 country inns
Characterful beams, four poster beds and award-winning food
Dating back to the 15th century, this charming country inn stands on the site of the original gatehouse to Dalton Park, still the residence of Lord Hotham – it was here that his guests used to stay. Today, anyone is welcome to bed down in one of the inn's two cosy double bedrooms, Sage and Thyme, both beautifully decorated with plush en suites and underfloor heating. Down in the bar/restaurant you can recline on plump Chesterfield leather sofas in front of the woodburning fire and feast on hearty dishes made from local, seasonal produce.
This fabulously-named inn, located in the heart of the Lake District, is the cream of Cumbria's crop. It offers luxurious inn accommodation in 17 double rooms, all elegantly and individually styled; while one boasts French windows opening out onto a balcony overlooking the garden and tarn, another has ancient cross-beams and is filled with antiques. The inn is famous for its food and beer (notice the old framed Guinness and Murphy's posters in the restaurant) – after a romp through the fells, re-fuel on dishes like pork with black pudding, and gnocchi with wild mushrooms and truffle oil. Scrumptious.
This characterful stone and timber country inn was originally built in the 14th century to house the stonemasons that built St. James’ church and was later used to store the peal of eight bells that were hung in the church tower – hence its name. All of its seven en suite bedrooms (five doubles, one single, one sleeping up to four) are beautifully decorated, with wrought-iron beds, homely cushions and striking modern artwork. Sup a local ale in the terraced garden overlooking the Almshouses and church, before settling in front of the open fire in the dining room for excellent, locally sourced dishes.
Situated in the picturesque Georgian town of Marlow, this country inn has four stunning double suites, each one different. While one boasts an ornate chandelier hanging from an old cross-beamed ceiling and copper bath with a “star gazer skylight” above, another has cool, contemporary furnishings and its own outdoor hot tub. The Michelin-starred restaurant is equally as impressive – make sure you try its Sunday lunch with all the trimmings and one of its lip-smacking desserts (the apricot soufflé with apricot sauce and yogurt sorbet is a firm favourite).
This legendary coaching house, immortalised in Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name, has stood high on Bodmin Moor for over four centuries. It even has its own museum, showcasing one of the finest collections of smuggling artefacts in the country. As well as serving hearty, homemade food in its two bars, Smugglers Bar and Peddlars Bar, it has 15 simple but cosy en suite double/twin bedrooms, some with four poster beds and views of Bodmin Moor. Don't worry if you hear something go bump in the night – it's just one of the inn's resident ghosts.
This 14th century country inn is perched on the banks of the River Hodder with spectacular views of the surrounding fells. It has 23 double/twin bedrooms, combining designer fabrics and elegant antiques with lovely pictures and prints, many of which have glorious Victorian bathing machines, four poster beds, peat fires and riverside views. Hungry? Choose from the low-key bar, which serves real ales, and the more formal restaurant – both serve excellent dishes whipped up by the talented kitchen team who bake the breads daily, and bottle chutneys, jams and marmalades for guests to take home.
Located on the fringes of the Cotswolds, this stone built, Grade II listed coaching inn dates from 1567 and is full of character. After supper in either its smart dining room, in front of the woodburning fire in the cosy lounge bar or in its secluded courtyard garden, scale the stairs to its 10 bedrooms. There are a mix of twins, doubles and triples, many of which boast original features such as old fireplaces, crooked walls and creaky floorboards – as well as superb views across the Cotswold countryside.
This 19th century inn, located in the quiet, affluent area of St John's Wood in north London, makes for a great base for exploring the city, with London Zoo and Lords Cricket Ground right on its doorstep. Inside, you'll find five simple but homely rooms (three doubles, two twins), as well as a buzzing bar – popular with locals – serving an excellent selection of Thai and English cuisine, fine English ales, international beers and wines – just the ticket for unwinding after a busy day's sightseeing.
For anyone looking to go on a castle tour of Northumberland, this family-run, family-friendly country inn makes for a great base, just a hop, skip and a jump from Alnwick Castle. It has five comfortably furnished bedrooms (two doubles, two twins, one single), each with a colour TV, complimentary tea and coffee and en suite bathroom. Though the pièce de résistance has to be the food served in its traditional dining room, all of which is made with seasonal local produce. Try the house specialities like roast duckling and homemade steak pie.
The people behind this classic coaching inn aimed to combine “that 17th century feel with a modern ambience”, and they've succeeded. The old Cowdray barns have been converted into six gorgeous double rooms where deep beds, leather chairs, plasma screens and PlayStations "for the boys" sit alongside low hanging beams and rustic brickwork. The food is also a refreshing mix of traditional and modern, with menus that change seasonally. Nab a table by the open fire, or if you're blessed with sunshine, on the sheltered patio.