Love nests - where to stay on Valentine's Day
Keen to whisk your loved one off for a weekend to remember but unsure where to start? Worry not, Rhiannon Batten has scoured the UK to find a dozen of the most romantic retreats around
Full hearts, empty pockets
If you want to show how deep your love is without breaking the bank, this cute Cornish Shepherd’s Hut might be the solution. Originally used as a shelter during the long nights of the lambing season it has been restyled as a cosy, self-catering bolthole, complete with king-sized bed, cooker and wood burning stove (basic bathroom facilities are provided a few metres away). Sleeping just two, it’s set in romantic seclusion near Polzeath. There’s also a fire pit/barbecue area or, if you get tired of gazing into each other’s eyes, the ferry to Padstow (home to Rick Stein and co if you’re in the market for a decadent fish supper) is only five minutes away.
What’s the damage? From £40 per night for two.
Booking 01208 862331, www.moylesfarm.co.uk
An opulent, family-owned Lake District hotel, Gilpin Lodge has a Michelin-starred restaurant, expert on-call massage therapists and immaculate five-star service. Decadent and comfortingly trad, if you really want to spark some passion, book one of its stylish new garden suites and take the plunge in your private, cedar-wrapped outdoor hot tub, before heading down for pre-dinner champagne and canapés by the lounge’s open fire.
What’s the damage? Garden suite rates start at £180 per person, including a five-course dinner and lavish breakfast.
Booking 01539 488818, www.gilpinlodge.co.uk
Gay-friendly and glamorous
Being gay doesn’t mean you have to put up with rhinestone-festooned, showtune-playing hotels. The sophisticated Beechwood Hotel in the Norfolk town of North Walsham proves it. Decidedly gay friendly (though much of the clientele is straight) the emphasis here is on the finer things in life, with luxury bedding, Molton Brown toiletries and a menu that is sourced, where possible, within a ten-mile radius of the hotel (including local oysters). Good days out can be had exploring the Broads, strolling along beaches or browsing north Norfolk’s chi-chi boutiques.
What’s the damage? Double rooms cost from £90 per night, B&B.
Booking 01692 403231, www.beechwood-hotel.co.uk
Escaping the kids
Northern Ireland was widely tipped as one of the must-visit destinations of 2007 but, if you haven’t got there yet, don’t panic. It will still have plenty of street cred among 2008’s travellers. To see what all the fuss is about for yourself, leave the kids at home and check into the Merchant hotel, in Belfast, for some seriously grown-up glamour. The former headquarters of the Ulster Bank, this recent addition to the city’s luxury hotel scene is bold, buzzing and bursting with atmosphere. Home to several stylish bars and a restaurant, it’s the perfect place to party à deux.
What’s the damage? Doubles cost from £220 per night, B&B.
Booking 028 9023 4888, www.themerchanthotel.com
If you’re planning to propose on Valentine’s Day, the pressure is on to find somewhere suitably different to do it. Help is at hand in the shape of Frogg Manor’s Lady Guinevere suite. A tree house set in the grounds of an eccentric Cheshire hotel, it features a king-size bed, en-suite bathroom and views over the Welsh mountains. The owner’s large collection of ornamental frogs and enthusiasm for after-dinner dancing won’t be to all tastes but a stay here will certainly be memorable.
What’s the damage? From £260 per night, B&B.
Booking 01829 782629, www.froggmanorhotel.co.uk
If you’ve suddenly come into a fortune and need some help redistributing it, consider booking Auchtermuchty’s most palatial pad for the night. With nine bedrooms to choose from, the five-star, 16th century Myres Castle is normally rented out to larger groups, but on Valentine’s Day you can book it for two. Not that you’ll be alone; rental comes with a staff of ten, who are ready to serve you afternoon tea, champagne in the castle’s turret, a picnic on the beach, a candlelit dinner or whatever else your heart’s desire. Those of a sensitive disposition should be warned that breakfast in bed is served to the sound of pipes.
What’s the damage? Rate £2,000 per night, all-inclusive.
Booking 01337 828350, www.myrescastle.com
You can have your own sweet love-in if you rent a Romany caravan in West Wales. Sleeping two, the gypsy caravan is set in an acre of riverside meadow, with bathroom and kitchen facilities in a separate cabin, just a few steps away. It’s rented out by ethical cottage rental agency, Under The Thatch, which specialises in renovating derelict buildings using traditional methods and drops its prices substantially in winter, to generate year-round custom for local businesses. They’re as caring and sharing when it comes to their customers, too. Guests are even given hot water bottles.
What’s the damage? From £115 for two nights, self-catering.
Booking 01239 851410; www.underthethatch.co.uk
For anyone who has recently caught the lovebug, this is the perfect place to seal the deal. Nothing says ‘love me’ like whisking your would-be amour to a cosy Scottish love-nest and Low Shore, 20 steps from the sea, is just the place for the job. Set in the coastal village of Whitehills, outside Banff, it may be a traditional fisherman’s cottage from the outside but there’s nothing conventional about its recently refurbished interior. Sleeping two, it features a bright, attic bedroom, a stylish living and dining room and a contemporary kitchen and bathroom.
What’s the damage? From £350 per week, self-catering.
Booking 07930 433764, www.19lowshore.com
Perthshire’s Monachyle Mhor hotel boasts some of the most heart-stopping views in Scotland. There won’t be much time for gazing out at the neighbouring mountains and loch if you book into room 11, though. One of the hotel’s most decadent rooms, its vast and very stylish bathroom comes with his’n’hers slipper baths. Just don’t soak too long, or you’ll miss out on a pre-dinner drink at the bar. The hotel’s eccentric chef/owner, Tom Lewis, skilfully steers conversation along so you’ll end up chatting away to other guests rather than sit on your own in lonely Valentine’s coupledom.
What’s the damage? Double rooms start from £95 per night, B&B. Room 11 costs from £235 per night, B&B.
Booking 01877 384622, www.monachylemhor.com
Want to make sure you get Valentine’s Day off on the right track? Then consider booking a berth just for two on the Caledonian sleeper. Climb on board at Inverness, Aberdeen, Fort William, Glasgow, Edinburgh or various other destinations en route, head down to the Lounge Car bar for a celebratory drink as you start rolling south, then snuggle up in your bunks for a night on the rails before waking up to a (basic) breakfast in bed before you arrive at London Euston fresh for a day out in the big smoke. If you really want to do things in style, book to travel back the same way that night.
What’s the damage? Various tickets and fares are available but standard apex sleeper fares cost from £99 return from Edinburgh to London.
Booking 08457 550033, www.firstgroup.com
The High Cabin, in Wales, is possibly the country’s most elaborately decorated cabin. Mod cons here include satellite TV, a DVD library, a hi-tech kitchen and even an outdoor hot tub but the real appeal is the setting. Directions are given on a need-to-know basis but it’s no secret that the cabin looks out over some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery, tucked high on a wooded ridge above the Conwy Valley. It’s owned and managed by the nearby Groes Inn, so there’s also plenty of scope for a cosy pre-dinner pint.
What’s the damage? From £195 per night (minimum two nights) for two, with some food included.
Booking 01492 650545, www.groesinn.com
This pint-sized cottage sleeps just two and comes complete with a cream-coloured Rayburn, wood-burning stove and cosy attic bedroom (reached via a ladder). As green as it is pretty, it’s set on a working organic farm by the Galloway coast and gets its electricity from a small wind turbine. This does mean there’s no TV or other power-guzzling gadgets, but who needs those when you can set off along the neighbouring beach for romantic hand-in-hand walks or polish off the delicious homemade cakes the owner leaves for guests?
What’s the damage? From £150 for three nights, self-catering.
Booking 01988 600694, www.gallowayhouseestate.co.uk
Rhiannon Batten is the author of Higher Ground: How To Travel Responsibly Without Roughing It (Virgin, £12.99).