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UK: Seven Boutique British Boltholes in the South

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Repurposed farmhouses, ancient inns and character-packed premises offering accommodation for the night are dotted across the UK. These personality-laden places define the true meaning of hospitality. Here are seven southern stays with the wow factor.

Artist Residence is a 24-bedroom townhouse hotel in Brighton that is part of a small group of five hotels. Sitting at the top of Regency Square, looking towards the mast and glass dome of the British Airways i360, the hotel has a bohemian vibe and eclectic décor, as to be expected from the name. Inspired by the Brighton art scene, artists were invited to decorate each of the rooms in the hotel in return for board, and the result is a delightful mix of creative influence. Each of the rooms is different - the sea-view room I stayed in featured reclaimed-wood panelling, limited-edition prints, retro furnishing and a claw-footed bathtub in an open, tiled nook. The leather lounge chair screamed comfort, looking like it belongs in a gentleman’s library. It’s worth popping downstairs and pulling up a stool at the in-house Cocktail Shack, too, where the cocktails are named after celebrities – Jimmy Kummel, Banana del Wray and Tequila Kunis, to name a few.

Pretty villages abound in the Cotswolds. The trick is to find one of those rare gems that is off the tourist route. The small market town of Shipston-on-Stour in South Warwickshire is a mere eight miles from the bustle of Stratford-upon-Avon, which it seems is just far enough to escape the masses. The Bower House is on a corner of the High Street. The restaurant with rooms is set inside a beautifully restored Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse, originally built in 1731. Once a purveyor of women’s clothes, The Bower House is now a restaurant, with five individually designed marked with period features, like wooden beams, crooked doorways and antique window frames. My room featured dusky pink walls, an enormous white, wrought-iron bed, wooden floorboards and a large bathroom with a freestanding roll top bath. It’s one of those places where every room has a definite personality and lives up to the name – a bower is defined as an attractive dwelling or retreat. It certainly is.

If you want to arrive at the Eastbury Hotel in Dorset in style, book a transfer in the hotel’s nostalgia-inducing 1964 Beardsmore Paramount MK7 London taxi, which turns heads wherever it rumbles. The Eastbury itself is also somewhat of a stylish classic. The boutique Georgian-period listed townhouse dates from 1740 and the de Savary’s have stamped their own brand of panache onto the establishment. I stayed in Yew, the Superior Four Poster Garden Suite, which features a private walled garden, along with a spectacular four-poster bed from the 1700s. The bed may be old, but naturally, the mattress and bedding are new, and oh so comfortable. Dotted throughout what feels like our front yard, there are metal wildlife sculptures: two owls guard our garden; a heron gazes at the main hotel building; a falcon with wings stretched wide looks to have just landed on the restaurant roof; and two deer hide amongst the trees.

Once a 1970s motel, The Gallivant in Camber Sands, just outside the medieval town of Rye in Sussex, is now a chic, Californian-style beach hang-out. The Gallivant follows a coastal chic décor scheme throughout, from the light and airy restaurant with bi-folding doors that open onto a decked terrace to the Beach Hut mini spa and the rooms. I stayed in a luxury garden room, which features a freestanding bathtub that is open to the room or can be closed off for privacy, and a monsoon shower. Think wood panelling and floorboards and a colour palette of white, blue and sand. Beyond the enormous bed, double doors open onto a semi-private deck with a table and chairs that leads directly to the beautiful coastal garden. The Gallivant has won awards for both its food and its sustainable local sourcing, so it’s worth dining here, too.

The Merry Harriers Inn, sitting on a country lane in Hambledon in Surrey, is a traditional village inn dating back to the 16th century. I will admit, the primary drawcard for my stay was the opportunity to try llama trekking. Yes, llamas. In Surrey. Aside from the magic of a half-day wander with these hilarious, shaggy beasts, the inn has four Inn Rooms, six Garden Rooms and five deluxed Shepherd’s Huts by a pond across the road. The huts are larger than usual with plenty of room for a generously proportioned bed, small kitchenette space, and full-sized shower. The décor is country cosy with llama-festooned cushions, several ceramic llamas and fluffy fur-covered chairs and footstools (not llama – we checked). The huts are super cosy with underfloor heating as well as an incredibly effective wood heater, but there are also hot water bottles if extra comfort is needed. Bring marshmallows for toasting over the fire pit outside.

Tucked in the folds of the Mendip Hills vaguely near Bath, down a scenically winding road that carves through picturesque Somerset countryside sits THE PIG – near Bath, a 29-bedroom country house. It’s sister hotel, THE PIG in the New Forest built a reputation around its walled garden, while THE PIG – on the beach is making waves in Studland Bay, Dorset. Then there’s THE PIG in the wall, set within Southampton’s historic medieval walls. In fact, there are now eight PIGS in the pen – and whichever porcine accommodation you choose, you’ll find something just that little bit different. The rooms show distinctive character and flair, shabby chic, with a slightly rustic air paired with chic comfort. I spent the night in one of the garden rooms, fronted by a well-tended cottage garden opening up to the perfectly manicured lawns. It’s a bit like staying on a small farm, with a large kitchen garden, a smokehouse, quail coop, pig pen and a paddock with deer. THE PIG is quick to dodge the hotel moniker, considering itself a restaurant with rooms, which tells you something about the quality of the food.

Tudor Farmhouse is in the village of Clearwell in Gloucestershire, near the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley. It’s also one of those places that sticks in your mind long after you’ve left. As the name suggests, Tudor Farmhouse is a former working farm, converted into a stylish boutique hotel with 20 characterful rooms, cottages and suites. As the name suggests, Tudor Farmhouse is a former working farm, converted into a stylish boutique hotel with 20 characterful rooms, cottages and suites. It’s been lauded by the likes of Conde Nast Traveller and Tatler and it’s easy to see why – it’s the definition of laidback luxury. I stayed in one of the suites, which features a skylight-style window in the timber-beamed A-frame ceiling and a duo of doors at the end of the room leading to a claw-footed bathtub next to a monsoon shower. It’s all about the little touches here – the bronze chicken on the windowsill, the Bramley bath products; the art prints on the walls. It’s not only the accommodation that punches above its weight either – the food is superb.

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