Romantic Hideaways - UK
You and your beloved need to get away. You’ve just
eloped, you’re having an illicit affair and need to escape jealous
partners or perhaps you simply need to withdraw to an enchanting, sleepy
hideaway where even the combined forces of Sherlock Holmes and Inspector
Morse would have difficulty tracking you down. You need somewhere that’s
intimate, idyllically picturesque, totally secluded and, above all, oh so
romantic. You’ll be hard pushed to beat any of the following.
Altnaharrie Inn, nr Ullapool, Wester Ross
If somebody suggested opening an exclusive haute cuisine
restaurant hotel on the far shore of an isolated Scottish loch which could
only be reached by boat, you might think they were mad. But this is
exactly what Fred Brown and Gunn Eriksen did when they opened Altnaharrie
Inn in 1976. And the Inn hasn’t only been successful, it’s become
something of a legend.
Altnaharrie Inn dates back hundreds of years and has
impeccable hideaway credentials. Located on the southern shore of Loch
Broom on Scotland’s north-western coast, there is no proper road access.
Instead, you leave your car in Ullapool and travel across the loch by
private motor launch. As you approach the Inn’s small wooden jetty, the
white building crowned by several chimney stacks appears, partially hidden
by tall trees and climbing blooms. Behind the Inn, the heather-clad
peninsula rises sharply and a stream gushes down the steep slope. You pass
two grass-thatched outbuildings, enter through a wooden gate and follow a
short path overhung by trees to reach the entrance to the Inn.
There are only eight rooms of which five are in the main
house and three are in separate cottages. Flowers decorate the rooms and
there are no televisions, radios or telephones. The sense of tranquility
and seclusion is overwhelming. The nearest neighbor is miles away and the
only sound is the gentle lapping of the loch against the pebbly shore. Its
isolation requires the Inn to have its own generator which is turned off
when guests have gone to bed (bedside torches are provided). After power
down, all that remains are the faint beads of light from Ullapool’s
Altnaharrie is very popular with newly-weds and has
often had several honeymoon couples staying at the same time. Yet despite
its wonderfully romantic setting, many guests visit the Inn more for the
two Michelin star cooking. The menu is largely fixed although individual
dislikes are catered for and you will not have the same course on more
than one night of your stay (although you might wish to). Fresh local game
and seafood caught from the loch that morning feature strongly at dinner
and there is a liberal use of truffles, fungi and foie gras. You can
choose from over 200 wines and the cheese list is one of the longest you
will encounter. You are then encouraged to try all three of the dessert
Gunn, the chef, works alone in the kitchen. Given the
intricacy of the meals she creates, tables are not served together but one
after another. It might be an idea to ask to be served last so as to allow
the expectation and aromas of the meal to reach their most heightened
levels - you won’t be disappointed when it’s finally your turn.
Phone: 01854 633 230. Dinner, bed & breakfast £185
to £205 per person per night. Closed annually from early November to
If visiting Scotland from London and southern England, a
charming and time-efficient way to travel is by overnight ScotRail
sleeper. Depart London late in the evening and wake up to breakfast
against the spectacular backdrop of the Scottish highlands. Phone: 08457
550033, Internet: www.scotrail.co.uk.
Isle of Eriska, nr Oban, Argyll
Isle of Eriska is a 300 acre private island guarding the
mouth of the glacier-formed Loch Creran, the approach to which involves
crossing a causeway over the Atlantic ocean.
The outside of the house is a stern gray but the inside
is warmly welcoming. Log fires, wood-paneled rooms, deep sofas and large,
comfortable guest rooms named after nearby Hebridean islands induce calm
and relaxation. Eriska even offers aromatherapy and reflexology for the
intensely stressed. For maximum tranquility, ask for Glensanda, a
particularly quiet room high in the house and with a private turret.
Morning coffee and afternoon tea in the Hall are civilized touches evoking
more a country house party than a hotel.
Extensive reading material is available for those who
just want to curl up in front of a fire. For the active there is a modern
sports complex in an outlying building which offers swimming pool, gym,
spa, sauna and steam room. Light meals are also available here so that you
can "eat out". Tennis, clay pigeon shooting and a nine-hole golf
course are also available on the island.
To appreciate fully the secluded charm of Eriska, borrow
a pair of boots from the communal Wellie Rack and walk one of the
well-graded nature trails. Particularly rewarding is the trail through the
woods to the isolated beaches of the wild eastern side. You might
encounter all manner of wildlife including seals, otters, deer and sea
Dinner is a sumptuous affair and, rather incongruously
for a hotel which doesn’t feel like a hotel, there is round-the-clock
room service. One of Eriska’s unforgettable attractions takes place
nightly after dinner when badgers from a nearby set come to be fed on the
steps of the bar. These wild badgers are believed to be the third or
fourth generation of diners at the house and feed happily oblivious of the
spellbound guests only feet away.
The Buchanan-Smiths are charming hosts. Beppo, the
youthful General Manager, and his father "Mr B", who originally
bought the island, mingle easily amongst their guests. Another
unforgettable sight is Mr B rushing around the house to say his goodbyes
to departing guests. With hospitality like that, it’s not surprising
that humans and badgers return to this enchanting hideaway again and
Phone: 01631 720 371
Fax: 01631 720 531
Dinner, bed & breakfast £120 to £160 per person
Tarr Steps Hotel, nr Dulverton, Exmoor
The drive to the Tarr Steps Hotel is an extraordinary roller coaster
through deepest Exmoor. The narrow winding lane twists around occasionally
blind corners, rises and plunges down steep hills and is bound tightly by
overgrown hedges and overhanging trees. Miss the acute, uphill turning to
the hotel, just before a sign marked "Unsuitable for motor
vehicles", and you could end up in the River Barle, the river spanned
by Tarr Steps - a primitive dry stone clapper bridge resembling a
straightened out, low-level Stonehenge. First-time visitors would do best
to arrive before dark.
What do you find at the end of this white-knuckle ride?
Total seclusion in a conservationist’s paradise. Nestling in a beautiful
valley and surrounded by 500 acres of ancient broadleaved forest hides one
of the most tranquil and stunningly-situated hotels imaginable. Originally
a Georgian rectory, the 11-room hotel has the ambience of a hunting lodge.
The entrance hall is lined with old fishing rods. Hunting scenes hang from
many walls and numerous hunting trophies stare from the wood-paneled walls
of the cozy bar. Polished antiques adorn the individually-styled rooms,
some with four-poster beds, and wood fires crackle on cold days. The Aga
cooking is excellent.
Ask for a south-facing room or enjoy the same panorama
taking tea and cake in the comfortable drawing room. The scene across the
valley, particularly on a sunny afternoon, is breathtaking. Open heather
moor crowns a steep, wooded valley which plunges down to a grassy pasture
on which sheep graze on the banks of the River Barle - quintessential
Exmoor at its glorious best.
There are no televisions or radios in the rooms. Mobile
phones don’t work in the deep valley, which might be useful if you’re
trying to escape the office. Even the wildlife is respectfully quiet at
night when the only sound you’ll hear is the gentle babbling of the
The hotel offers six miles of fishing on the clean River
Barle which teems with wild brown trout (March to July) and in which 6
pound salmon are common (July to September). Exmoor is superb riding and
walking country and hunting and shooting are also available nearby.
Phone: 01643 851 293, Fax: 01643 851 218. Dinner, bed
& breakfast from £60 per person per night but ask about seasonal
offers. Closed annually for three weeks from end-January (re-opens for St
Island Hotel, Tresco, Isles of Scilly
You can travel to Tresco, the second largest of the
Isles of Scilly, by boat but the best way to arrive is by helicopter. Even
before you’ve landed, you’re confronted by the seemingly impossible
tropical greenery which flourishes in the mild, Gulf Stream-warmed
climate. The 30-seater Sikorsky has not only taken you the 28 miles from
Penzance but has also transported you back in time to a totally different
world where there is no crime, no police and where nobody bothers to lock
The hedonistic Island Hotel is a sumptuous hideaway
perched right above its own beach. There are no cars on Tresco and you get
to the hotel by open-sided trailer drawn by tractor through the island’s
narrow, palm-fringed lanes. The pace of life here is altogether sedate and
revolves around the daily movement of tides and boats. Sunday newspapers
arrive on Monday. Many famous guests, including Prince Charles and
Princess Diana, have found tranquility and relaxation here.
Many rooms offer uninterrupted sea views through large
glass doors and some even have private gardens. Rooms in detached
outbuildings offer even greater seclusion. The main restaurant also offers
panoramic seaviews and the window tables sometimes have to be re-set
several times so great is the demand from guests. Freshly caught crab and
lobster are restaurant specialties.
Borrow the hotel’s open-top (following an accident!)
golf buggy and explore the island. Then take a stroll amongst the densely
planted cactuses, palms, ferns, camellias and lilies of the famous Abbey
Gardens. Tresco has four miles of silver-sand coastline and, as the island
can only accommodate 400 visitors at any time, it’s relatively easy to
find one to yourself. Take a boat to a remote beach of one of the
uninhabited isles for the ultimate getaway.
The hotel is a much cherished secret and commands
extraordinary guest loyalty. You need to book early but the hotel is so
popular management won’t allow bookings more than one year in advance.
Phone: 01720 422 883
Fax: 01720 423 008
Dinner, bed & breakfast from £95 to £230 per
person per night. Closed annually from end October to early March.
Transfers from Penzance through Scotia Helicopter Services, Phone: 01736
363 871, Fax: 01736 332 253.
Amberley Castle, nr Arundel, West Sussex
Queen Elizabeth I once owned 12th Century Amberley
Castle, which nestles between the South Downs and the peaceful Amberley
Wildbrooks. The Castle stands proudly at the end of a long driveway
bordered by lakes. The location is quiet although not totally secluded but
the owners have made every effort to safeguard the peace and privacy of
their guests. A high curtain wall and massive gate house conceal the
delightful central courtyard and enclosed gardens. The huge oak portcullis
is lowered each day between midnight and 7am. Even the approach to the
Castle is deliberately not well sign-posted. A sign beside the approach
makes the point more directly: "Please do not enter Amberley Castle
or its grounds unless expected".
In one corner of the enclosed gardens stand the charming
courthouses. From the outside the Castle’s soft lights and candles
flicker enchantingly through narrow lattice windows. The lounges and
library are cozy and welcoming. There is copious reading material in the
lounges and bedrooms. Swords, crossbows, lances, cannons, suits of armour
and the presence of a benign ghost leave you in no doubt that this is a
There are 15 bedrooms in the Manor House and Tower House
(within the Castle walls) and five new Bishopric suites in the dry moat.
All rooms are individually and sumptuously designed to pamper and include
antiques, Jacuzzis, video players and, in the Bishopric, CD players.
Individual rooms feature massive four-poster beds, Jacuzzis you could
almost swim in, exposed beams, magnificent windows and direct access to
the battlements. Fresh fruit and home-made biscuits await you on arrival.
The barrel-vaulted Queen’s Room restaurant offers
impressive dining and a lengthy wine list ranging from first growth
clarets to wines from Israel and China. The window table, with its
romantic views over the curtain wall, needs to be booked in advance.
The Castle provides a romantic setting for civil
marriages. For a religious ceremony St Michael’s Church in Amberley
Village is just the other side of the Castle’s St Richard’s Gate.
Amberley is also popular for honeymoons, anniversaries and wedding
proposals. On request management can arrange arrival by helicopter or hot
Phone: 01798 831 992
Fax: 01798 831 998
From £73 to £150 per person per night, including
is a freelance travel and lifestyles writer based in London. Born in Hong
Kong, his family moved to London when he was three. After graduating from
Cambridge University with a degree in physics, Martin worked initially in
high level positions in
financial services and capital markets. Martin has published a
number of books and articles and his topics frequent include his parchment for
hideaways destinations, adventure trips, and sports travel. (More
about this author).
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