01 Sep 3 Top British Weekend Breaks
The Crown at Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Fancy a weekend away but can’t be arsed to actually go anywhere? Just at the very end of the Metropolitan Line, only 45 minutes from central London, there is the pretty market town of Amersham. And in this slightly touristy but in no way theme-parky place there is a lovely modern inn called the Crown. It’s a gorgeous combination of old beamed buildings and immense comfort. Designed by Ilse Crawford (the genius behind Soho House New York), this is not one of those cramped country hotels where you have to climb over the bed to get to the bathroom – the human-friendly design is simultaneously stupidly comfortable and modern and fresh. Most excitingly, the Elizabethan Suite was the scene of Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell’s famous skulk in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the reception is where George, the whisky-soaked boor, is convinced, ‘I think I’m in there…’
The Swan Inn at Swinbrook, Oxfordshire
This is bucolic Britain at its best, a wisteria-covered inn sitting beside the meandering River Windrush, facing a verdant cricket pitch – you’d almost expect a Mitford sister to come stalking past. Inside its all oak beams, log fires, flagstone floors and Mitford memorabilia. The five swish new rooms in Riverside Cottage (like the six in the stable block) are simple, pared back and tasteful. A velvet headboard, a rolltop bath, a private terrace and cushions you’ll want to squeeze into your case. You mustn’t. Instead, we give you permission to nick the delicious Bantam bath products. The food made a lasting post-summit impression on Cameron and Hollande when they lunched here last year – shredded-venison confit, haricots blancs and black pudding. This is quite possibley the poshest pub there is.
Barnsley House, Gloucestershire
Country-house hotels can be a bit of a bore – all overheated, with over-plumped sofas and fussy cream teas. But if you’re a contemporary sybarite who likes the Cotswolds, there are one or two places that won’t make you grind your teeth in irritation. One is Barnsley House, originally famous as the home and, more importantly, garden of Rosemary Verey. Guests still come to marvel at her creation, including the knot gardens, the Laburnum Walk and the ornamental fruit and vegetable garden. The hotel has 18 rooms, all decorated in a sleekly modern yet exceedingly comfortable style – the bathrooms are particularly lovely, with their vast baths and waterfall showers. It also has a neat private cinema, a snazzy spa and, cutely, a gin of the week. And the food is properly marvellous – from the Potager restaurant to the Village Pub (which is part of the hotel and a delightful two-minute walk away), you won’t find better. That’s a promise.