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Staying in Britain? Here’s a list of some great hotels

SHARE Staying in Britain? Here’s a list of some great hotels

These represent our pick of the most luxurious hotels in the UK, just the place for that special stay where no expense is spared. They tend to attract a wealthy international clientele, but some are surprisingly unstuffy, and in low season are almost affordable.

When you book, you should check what the rates involve: VAT and breakfast are often extra. (The prices listed are per person, per night for dinner, bed and breakfast unless otherwise specified.)- Royal Crescent Hotel, Royal Crescent, Bath, southwest England. (011-44 1225 739955). Discreetly luxurious hotel composed of carefully restored Georgian houses in the center of a glorious crescent. Peaceful garden. Thirty-two bedrooms. $208-$624.

- Mallory Court Bishop's Tachbrook, Warwickshire, central England (011-44 1926 330214). A 1920s mansion. Ten acres of garden: swimming pool, tennis, squash, croquet. Ten bedrooms. $192-$396.

- Gidleigh Park Chagford, Devon, southwest England (011-44 1647 432367). Paul and Kay Henderson's mock-Tudor hotel in a remote setting on the edge of Dartmoor. Forty-five acres of grounds: River Teign, water garden, tennis, croquet. Children welcomed. Fourteen bedrooms. $240-$576.

- Summer Lodge Evershot, Dorset (011-44 1935 83424). Dower house, run with a warm personal touch by Nigel and Margaret Corbett. It was featured as "Highbury" in the film "Emma." Garden with tennis and swimming; deer park close by. Seventeen bedrooms. $180-$240.

Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Rutland, central England (011-44 1572 756991). Grand Victorian mansion. Magnificent setting in 17-acre grounds on a peninsula in Rutland Water: swimming pool, tennis, water sports. Licensed for weddings. Fifteen bedrooms. $188-$334.

- The Connaught Carlos Place, London W1 (011-44 171 499 7070). Grand and discreet institution that celebrated its centenary this year. Michelin-starred meals served in elegant restaurant and intimate green-walled Grill Room. Children welcomed. Ninety bedrooms. $350-$654.

- Ston Easton Park, Ston Easton, Somerset, southwest England (011-44 1761 241631). Beautiful Palladian mansion between Bath and Wells. In 28-acre park with Repton-designed gardens, river (fishing), tennis. Twenty-two bedrooms. $217-$349.

- Sharrow Bay Ullswater, Cumbria, northwest England (011-44 1768 486301). The progenitor of country-house hotels, founded 50 years ago by Francis Coulson and Brian Sack, in 12-acre grounds on eastern shore of Ullswater. Opulent decor; lavish breakfasts. Twenty-eight bedrooms. $133-$272.

- Kinnaird Dunkeld, Perthshire and Kinross, Scotland. (011-44 1796 482440). Luxurious yet unstuffy 18th century house owned by Constance Ward. In 9,000-acre estate: tennis, croquet, shooting, walking, birdwatching, three trout lochs, excellent fishing in River Tay. Nine bedrooms. $180-$415.

- Inverlochy Castle, Fort William, Highland, Scotland (011-44 1397 702177). Splendid 19th-century Scottish baronial house on huge estate amid Highland scenery. Classic cookery, featuring local fish and game; outstanding wine list. Twenty-two bedrooms. $296-$420.

Sleep with windows open

It is deeply depressing to drive for hours to the country and end up in a hotel bedroom overlooking a busy road, making sleep possible only behind double-glazed windows. The following hotels, in peaceful rural settings, offer comfort and good food in less grand style than above.

- Lovelady Shield Alston, Cumbria, northwest England (011-44 1434 381203). Kenneth and Margaret Lyons's 19th-century house in remote setting in the High Pennines. Two-and-a-half acres of grounds on the River Nent. Twelve bedrooms. $125-$142.

- Callow Hall Ashbourne, Derbyshire, northern England (011-44 1335 343403). Large Victorian house in 42-acre grounds at the southern edge of the Peak District. Open views; fishing nearby. Children welcomed. Sixteen bedrooms. $144-$212.

- Holne Chase Ashburton, Devon, southwest England (011-44 1364 631471). Sebastian and Philippa Hughes's former hunting lodge, set in 70-acres of wooded grounds on the River Dart. Fishing, riding, shooting. Eighteen bedrooms. $105-$168.

- Castleman Chettle, Dorset, southwest England (011-44 1258 830096). Former dower house. Unfussy hotel with restaurant serving good food and wine at reasonable prices. Eight bedrooms. $75-$88.

- Ashwick House, Dulverton, Somerset, southwest England (011-44 1398 323868). Edwardian house on Exmoor overlooking the Barle Valley in six acres of mature gardens. Host, Richard Sherwood, provides everything from teddy-bear, hot-water bottles to speak-your-weight bathroom scales. Six bedrooms. $88-$132.

- The Cottage in the Wood Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, western England (011-44 1684 575859). Georgian dower house in seven acres, high on slopes of the Malvern Hills. Stunning views over the Severn Valley; excellent walking. Twenty bedrooms. $83-$163.

- Stone House, Rushlake Green, East Sussex, southeast England (011-44 1435 830553). Fifteenth-century Georgian house on 1,000-acre estate, with tennis, croquet, shooting, ballooning, lake and fishing. Seven bedrooms. $119.50-$154.

- Woodhayes Whimple, Devon, southwest England (011-44 1404 822237). Large, white Georgian house in peaceful cider-apple village. Tea and coffee, newspapers and light laundry included in rates. Generous dinners. Six bedrooms. $112-$144.

- Gliffaes Crickhowell, Powys, Wales (011-44 1874 730371). Imposing Italianate mansion. Comfortable rather than smart. Thirty-four acre grounds, with tennis, above the Usk Valley; good fishing. Twenty-two bedrooms. $94-$123.

- Tyddyn Llan Llandrillo, Denbighshire, Wales (011-44 1490 440264). Georgian house in three-acre grounds, in the Vale of Edeyrnion. Charming decor; interesting paintings. Excellent food in pretty restaurant. Good walking in the Berwyn mountains. Ten bedrooms. $104-$156.

Count the pennies

The following establishments offer excellent value for money. Some are not strictly speaking hotels, and some offer b&b only.

- Frog Street Farm, Beercrocombe, Somerset, southwest England (011-44 1823 480430). Fifteenth-century house on a working farm, with trout stream, a swimming pool surrounded by cherry trees and a jolly hostess whose husband is a noted horse trainer. No smoking. Three bedrooms. $68.80.

- Casterbridge Hotel, Dorchester, Dorset, southwest England (011-44 1305 264043). Charming Georgian house in town center. Period decor. Exemplary breakfasts in a conservatory with a fountain. Family accommodation. Fifteen bedrooms. B&B. $44.80-$72).

- Tregildry Gillan, Cornwall, southwest England (011-44 1326 231378). Small hotel in a lovely setting above a small cove. Original decor and cooking. Four-acre grounds. Ten bedrooms. $88-$96.

- The Old Rectory, Hopesay, Shropshire, western England (011-44 1588 660245). Seventeenth-century rectory in landscaped gardens above the Clun Valley. Aga-cooked dinners served en famille. No smoking. Three bedrooms. $80.

- Cotswold House, 363 Banbury Road, Oxford, southern England (011-44 1865 310558). Double-fronted Cotswold stone house in leafy north Oxford. No smoking. Five bedrooms. B&B. $45.50-$65.

- The Grey Cottage, Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire, western England (011-44 1453 822515). Andrew and Rosemary Reeves's carefully restored 1807 cottage near Stroud. Charming decor. Home-cooked dinner by arrangement. Three bedrooms. $62-$80.

- Lydgate House, Postbridge, Devon, southwest England (011-44 1822 880209). A "magical place," with the River Dart running through its 37-acre grounds. Excellent walking. Eight bedrooms. $70-$75.

- Parrock Head, Slaidburn, Lancashire, northern England (011-44 1200 446614). Terry and Kath Hesketh's 17th-century farmhouse in one-acre grounds. Remote setting in the forest of Bowland, near the Hodder Valley; good walking, bird watching. Country-style cooking in restaurant (open to nonresidents). Nine bedrooms. $72-$110.

- Upper Green Farm, Tower-sey, Oxfordshire, southern England (011-44 1844 212496). Euan and Marjorie Aitken's idyll on the edge of a peaceful village near Oxford. Ten pretty bedrooms in a cottage, a barn and a milking shed. Seven-acre grounds: garden, pond with ducks and skiff. No smoking. Ten bedrooms. B&B. $36-$96.

- Carlton House, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales (011-44 1591 610248). Alan and Mary Ann Gilchrist's "restaurant with rooms" in this spa town at the foot of the Cambrian Mountains. Stylish decor, excellent food. Seven bedrooms. $57.60-$88.

Bring the children

These hotels offer a warm welcome to children of all ages, but you should discuss your particular requirements when booking.

- The Blakeney Hotel, Blakeney, Norfolk, eastern England (011-44 1263 740797). Traditional hotel on the quay of this yachting village, which is in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Fine estuary views; plenty of wildlife. Indoor pool, games room, garden. Disabled guests welcomed. Sixty bedrooms. $91-$150).

- Woolley Grange, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, southern England (011-44 1225 864705). Nigel and Heather Chapman's Jacobean country house is set in 14 acres of grounds and caters to children of all ages. It has a creche, a nanny, a playroom and a games room. Twenty-two bedrooms. $104-$190).

- Crantock Bay Crantock, Cornwall (011-44 1637 830229). Brenda and David Eyles's hotel on the secluded West Pentire headland, which faces the Atlantic and has a huge, sandy beach. Tennis court; indoor pool, exercise room. Thirty-four bedrooms. $82-$102).

- The Evesham Hotel, Evesham, Worcestershire, western England (011-44 1386 765566). The Jenkinson family's hotel in two-and-a-half-acre grounds, with play area near the center of a market town. Jokey style (funny menus; huge wine list without French and German vintages; toy ducks and boats in baths), but highly professional. Thirty-eight bedrooms. $78-$137).

- The Old Bell Malmesbury, Wiltshire, southern England (011-44 1666 822344). Historic inn, well modernized in a charming town. Run by Nicholas Dickinson on the same lines as its sister, Woolley Grange (above). Good modern British cooking. Thirty-one bedrooms. $97-$153).

- Polurrian Mullion, Cornwall, southwest England (011-44 1326 240421). Big, white Edwardian building on the cliffs and set amid glorious National Trust scenery. Excellent facilities for adults and children of all ages. Twelve-acre grounds; small private beach. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis, squash. Thirty-nine bedrooms. $72-$232).

- Calcot Manor near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, southwest England (011-44 1666 890391). Cotswold manor run in a relaxed style by Richard Ball. The nine acres of grounds have a play area, a swimming pool, a tennis court and a croquet lawn. Good family suites; Gumstool Inn for casual meals; international cooking in res-tau-rant/conservatory. Twenty-five bedrooms. $100-$177.

- The Nare Veryan, Cornwall (011-44 1872 501279). Traditional hotel on National Trust land on the Roseland peninsula. Country-house decor, sub-tropical gardens, swimming pool, tennis, safe, sandy beach, indoor pool, whirlpool spa, gym. Choice of formal or light meals. Thirty-six bedrooms.$137-$240.

- Bishopstrow House, Warminster, Wiltshire, southern England (011-44 1985 212312). This Georgian country house stands in 28-acre grounds. Excellent leisure facilities, including a spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a tennis court. Eclectic cooking with accent on healthy eating. Thirty-one bedrooms.$146-$195).

- Porth Tocyn Abersoch, Gwynedd, Wales (011-44 1758 713303). Run by the Fletcher-Brewer family for the past 50 years. A peaceful setting in large grounds (with swimming pool) above a yachting village; glorious views of Cardigan Bay and Snowdonia. Excellent food. Seventeen bedrooms. $81-$123).

All the hotels mentioned above are in the "Good Hotel Guide 1998," edited by Hilary Rubinstein and Caroline Raphael, which covers the UK and Ireland, published in the UK by Ebury Press, price 12.99 pounds (about $20). A separate volume covering Europe will be published in February 1998, price 14.99 pounds (about $24).