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UK stays that feel like far-flung breaks

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There may be a long journey ahead until we can hop on a plane for overseas adventures, but there are more dimensions to domestic getaways than you might think. The UK’s best hotels are built by well-travelled sorts who have taken inspiration from exotic trips and brought a little globetrotting magic back home with them. Here are the stays that’ll make you feel like you’ve clocked up more air miles.

If you’re missing France…

Meet madame Henrietta, a delightful coquette in Covent Garden given some oh-là-là by the beloved French Experimental Group. Paris-based designer Dorothée Meilichzon has taken the porticos and grand arches of Covent Garden’s historic masonry, and laid on some Gallic sauce, with scrawled calligraphic signs, strokable velvets, glints of brushed bronze and midnight-blue and powder-puff-pink walls. An eloquent menu nods to France’s trendier tastes, with mimolette-topped burgers and burrata with freeze-dried strawberries, but the drinks menu calls us back to the Rive Gauche: order a few elderflower- and gin-splashed Saint Germain des Prés and slip into a Seine-side reverie. Or, get acquainted with monsieur L’oscar, a louche London stay given a makeover that rivals Versailles’ maximalism by designer Jacques Garcia.

If you’re missing Italy…

Set out on a road trip to Kent. The hinterland is lushly green enough in stretches to trick you into Tuscan reveries, but things feel more authentic at boutique stay Amano in picturesque West Malling. The hotel’s built around a talent-packed trattoria, where the kitchen is worked by a team of passionate paisans, who ship high-quality produce from the motherland. The considered edit of pizzas and pastas are bolstered by arancini, fritto misto, burrata and other Euro cravings, and you can wash it all down with the sort of bellinis, spritzes, grappas and limoncellos you might order in St Mark’s piazza. And, for a more cosmopolitan Italian romance, stay at the dazzling Franklin hotel in a well-heeled enclave of West London, which is known for its glamorous Venetian styling.

If you’re missing Greece…

Pack your floaty dresses and flip-flops, hotel designer extraordinaire Anoushka Hempel has got you covered with her elegant Corfu Suite in the rarefied confines of South Ken’s Blakes Hotel. It’s one of the most romantic rooms in the house – honeymooners take note – with its white-veiled four-poster bed, furnishings that sparkle with mother of pearl, driftwood statement pieces, trompe-l’œil columns and white floorboards that evoke memories of disembarking a boat onto the dock of a dreamy petite isle. Perfectly private, the suite has its own front door leading out into a leafy courtyard. To round off the experience, the restaurant’s menu has a Med-worthy haul of fresh seafood, with lobster paccheri, king-crab salad and chargrilled octopus, reminiscent of lazy evenings spent dining alfresco by the Aegean.

If you’re missing Denmark…

Fly (figuratively) to Falmouth, to cosy up at well-feathered nest the Sandy Duck, a harbourside boutique stay that’s nailed Copenhagen’s style. Coastal blues and whites have been eschewed for Farrow & Ball Peignoir and Hague Blue, and perfectly formed furnishings (some custom-made) of the Danish school are jazzed up with graphic printed pillows and throws – a tireless revamp by owner Freyja with the help of Scandi-style experts House Doctor. It’s elegant in its simplicity and unique for a Cornish stay, but Egyptian-cotton-dressed beds, welcome cookies in rooms and breakfasts bursting with local produce make it equally style-setting and cosy. Plus, with boats bobbing along on sparkling waters, you may just feel you’re wandering along Nyhavn’s waterfront.

If you’re missing South Africa…

Admittedly, Kent is a little light on lions, giraffes and other members of the Big Five, but you can simulate a safari of sorts at Elmley Nature Reserve, whose 3,300-acre estate is home to an impressive number of Brit critters. Barn owls swoop majestically over meadows, hares and marsh frogs skip through the wetlands and shaggy grasses, and diverse flocks of birds (lapwings, peewits, wagtails and swales…) draw eyes up to the skies. And, you won’t miss a moment as you’ll be camped out in a cosy-as-can-be shepherd’s hut or glass-walled cabin smack bang in the middle of the action. And if you want some more toothsome animal shots, take the pleasant countryside drive to Port Lympne wildlife park to see Africa’s finest.

If you’re missing New York…

Then hit one of London’s coolest ‘hotels and check in at the Chiltern Firehouse an A-list hideout in Marylebone. Housed in a handsome historic redbrick are Deco detailed rooms with hipster swagger (check out the handpicked artwork and vintage trinkets), a cult restaurant styled like a Victorian factory and conceived by star chef Nuno Mendes (the crab doughnuts have achieved iconic status), and a bar where DJs with some coveted vinyl take to the decks till late and celebs let loose – there’s a strict privacy policy, so watch those cheeky Insta snaps. And the Ladder Shed Bar has a hip, mod-apothecary feel, as mixologists ticker with homemade fixings and their drinks toolkits to craft unique libations.

If you’re missing California…

Then look to a ravishingly beautiful Cali import to scratch that SoCal itch. The Standard, London takes inspiration from its up-and-coming King’s Cross ‘hood, with Tube-upholstery-inspired colour schemes and double-decker-aping external lift. However, upper-tier rooms, decked out in natural woods and breezy neutrals, sport alfresco bath tubs and are infused with LA’s sense of fun. Look no further for the after-party when you’ve downed a few Piscos and dined very finely at head-turning Cali-Mex eatery Decimo. With Seventies-style wood-panelling, decorative rattan and flagstone flooring; a coterie of staff giving good face in custom-made shifts; and panoramic city views from the bathroom, it feels like the kind of hush-hush, celeb-packed eatery you’ll find tucked away in Beverly Hills. And for a little of Napa on home turf, pull up at former motel the Gallivant, which lies just steps from Camber Sands’ curvaceous dunes amid England’s fertile wine region.

If you’re missing India…

Go to Yorkshire – no, seriously. The Malabar is a Grade-II-listed cattle barn turned boutique hotel with lashings of Anglo-rustic charm; however, co-owner Graham comes from an Indian tea-plantation dynasty and worked in Mumbai, so he’s injected a little of this former life into the decor. Rooms – most named after significant Indian places – are swathed in sari-style textiles, with pops of sizzling colour, and furnishings have been shipped over from the subcontinent. Tea stations outside rooms run to the fragrant and lassis are served at breakfast, and yoga retreats are often held here. Plus, the undulating green scenery could perhaps, with a squint, rival the Aravallis.

If you’re missing Japan…

It turns out Tokyo’s a 10-minute walk from Marble Arch… Say konichiwa to the Prince Akatoki, a luxurious stay that deftly sidesteps feeling overly themed thanks to its Japanese roots. In the Malt Lounge & Bar, locked cabinets glow amber with backlit bottles of serious Japanese whiskies, sake flights run strong, and cocktails are laced with yuzu, wasabi and umeshu. After a few rounds in here and a sushi and wagyu-beef binge in the Tokii restaurant, you’ll welcome the soothingly bergamot-scented halls leading to meditative rooms which have covetable statement furnishings, trad tea sets and delicately painted byōbu screens. And we’ve found some eastern influence in the Surrey Hills too: grand manse Beaverbrook is classically British on the outside, but within you’ll find a sushi bar and decadent kaiseki meals.



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