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Whether you’re into high-octane water sports, hill walking, sustainability or spa luxury, Sophie Dening has found the perfect place for you to stay.
© image: Ben Rowe
A paragon among British beach hotels – cool, comfortable and affordable – this north Cornwall favourite has just opened its new spa and treatment rooms, and a completely redesigned 25m infinity pool with sun deck and boardwalk down to the beach. The hotel was ace before, especially for surfers (it’s set on its own sandy strand and incorporates an adrenalin-sports school), but now there’s more scope for relaxing. The best rooms have sea views and free-standing baths; all are stylish and have a DVD/MP3 dock and free broadband. Breakfast is designed for active types, from the full English to grilled steak with patatas bravas or toasted banana bread with butter and maple syrup, and is served in the Living Space, one of the hotel’s revamped communal areas. Children (and dogs) are welcome.
With the Brecon Beacons 25 miles to the south, Hay-on-Wye a hop to the east, and the coast only an hour away, the old market town of Builth Wells makes a good pitstop on a Wales jaunt. The Drawing Room, a 10-minute drive from the centre, is a weeny restaurant-with-rooms (just three doubles) in a handsome Georgian house, run by chefs Colin and Melanie Dawson. This is very much a foodie stay – dinner is part of the deal – and the cooked breakfast is as good as it gets, with homemade muesli, scrambled eggs with cured salmon and caviar, duck egg with wild mushrooms, as well as the full Welsh.
This town-centre eco hotel isn’t merely paying lip service to green principles. Rather, the directors set out to prove they could create a boutique hotel combining comfort and style with sustainability. So it’s not only your poached eggs that are locally sourced: carpets are from Wilton in Salisbury, while the understated wall paint is from Dorset’s Farrow & Ball. Rooms have Hypnos eco beds, goose-down duvets, organic bed linen, Bose sound docks and flat-screen TVs, with walk-in showers and natural stone basins. The master suites have reclaimed Victorian roll-top baths. The restaurant serves seasonal food, innovative tasting menus and thoroughly vetted wines and beers.
Truly English, truly Elizabethan – with the creaks and antiques to prove it – Ockenden Manor has 22 rooms, all different, some with oak panelling or an original staircase, others with a stone fireplace or four-poster bed. The modern bits are good, too: a new spa in the estate’s walled garden opened in January this year, with swimming pool, outdoor hot tub and indoor spa bath, all fed by the hotel’s own spring. Six new rooftop spa suites have French windows, giving gorgeous views over the South Downs. Ockenden’s Michelin-starred restaurant features stained-glass windows, polished wood and old-school table linen, and serves refined British food using local game from the Balcombe Estate, Carlingford oysters and south-coast cod.
This feature was published in the summer issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.