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From the north of Scotland to England’s southernmost county, we’ve chosen five coastal hotels perfect for a relaxing summer break.
FOR STARTERS: This much-lauded restaurant with rooms is tucked into spectacular scenery: moody peaks, misty burns and wild-flowered glens one way; mysterious coves and golden sands the other. The charming premises – conjoined crofters’ cottages – barely hint at the temptations within.
MAINS & MORE: Foodie pilgrims venerate Michael Smith’s cuisine (tough New York Times critic Frank Bruni puts it in his top five favourite restaurants). This is bravura cooking, ingredient-led, saluting the magnificent locale. A seven-course degustation menu might include Loch Dunvegan langoustines, Loch Bracadale crab ‘Flory’ with Mull truckle, and Lochalsh venison with salsify.
SIDES: Tap into Celtic culture (enjoy a ceilidh); clamber about clan castles, go whale watching or island hopping by boat; be dazzled by summer’s midnight sun or winter’s aurora borealis.
BILL, PLEASE: Double B&B from £295 per night.
FOR STARTERS: Wind farms? Groan. Windmills? Great! Particularly those as intact as Cley’s, the centrepiece of a delightfully idiosyncratic hotel with commanding views of picturesque marshland and inviting paths to the county’s north shore.
MAINS & MORE: Outside it’s all weathered timber and flintstone, inside it’s whitewashed plaster, beams and open fires. Meals, often candlelit, feature tasty English country fare, and in summer they serve pre-dinner drinks on the lawn. Rooms are cosily furnished with rustic antiques and gingham accents. Bag one of the round suites in the windmill itself and be lulled to sleep by gently turning sails. There are three charming self-catering cottages, too.
SIDES: Mooch around Cley village; trek across the salt marshes to nature reserves and Britain’s best bird sanctuary; amble breezy coastlines to Blakeney and its dinky harbour.
BILL, PLEASE: Double B&B from £139 per night.
FOR STARTERS: This Georgian jewel, set in six acres on the Northumbrian coast, glories in heavenly views across Budle Bay towards the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, the font of English Christianity. Not religious? No matter.
MAINS & MORE: Unashamed English country-house territory, this place is chocker with antiques, period ornaments and paintings, and curios (note the Victorian doll collection). The dining room shines with crystal and starched napery. Classics on offer include chicken-liver truffle parfait, Northumbria beef fillet, and marmalade pudding. What’s more, there are 200 wines.
SIDES: Crossing the bay’s sandy dunes to Lindisfarne is a must; on the nearby Farne Islands, comical puffins and rare terns perform rare turns. Don’t miss Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle’s gardens and fountains, and Berwick’s Tudor wall (walk on it, not by it).
BILL, PLEASE: Double B&B from £125 per night.
FOR STARTERS: Despite its elegant buildings, Brighton once meant dirty weekends, shonky B&Bs and kiss-me-quick tat. Times have certainly changed. Behind a seafront Regency facade, Drakes’ ultra-smart modernism represents the quintessential boutique hotel.
MAINS & MORE: An imposing staircase leads to sleek, individually designed rooms – some with free-standing baths, others with monsoon wet rooms. The Channel-facing circular suite is particularly striking. The snazzy cocktail bar is the precursor to Andrew Mackenzie’s pan-European cuisine. Salivate over wild-mushroom ravioli, saddle of rabbit stuffed with black pudding, and elderflower soufflé.
SIDES: Stroll the revamped promenade and pier; play water sports or take a heli-ride; discover villagey Kemp Town; be dazzled by the fantastical Brighton Pavilion. Buffed? Hit the nudist beach!
BILL, PLEASE: Double from £155 per night.
FOR STARTERS: Five-star seaside hotels were pretty blah until Olga Polizzi (of Forte fame) unveiled Hotel Tresanton 10 years ago. Her sleek, designer sizzle – think Nantucket meets the Med – has just been spruced up and looks better than ever.
MAINS & MORE: Polizzi has conjured a contemporary Cornish Riviera lifestyle, where airy reception rooms and bedrooms embrace a palette of creams, soft greens and duck-egg blue. Verandas and terraces boast ‘almost-touch’ sea vistas. Dining is smart-casual: the top-notch menu includes just-caught seafood, such as rock oysters, black bream and griddled squid. Book into the new annexe with its fabulous ‘crow’s nest’ terrace.
SIDES: There’s a spa, small cinema and private yacht for skippered cruising. Or pop into St Mawes, one of the county’s prettiest villages. Find your way to the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project.
BILL, PLEASE: Double B&B from £260 per night.
This feature was published in the summer 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.