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Our little black book of enchanting places

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How to have your own Downton experience by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O' Sullivan

Downton Abbey returns to our screens for its final series on Sunday and if it inspires you to seek out your own real-life Downton experience (strictly upstairs, of course), how about a stay at one of our grander country house hotels? Our friends at Pride of Britain Hotels have selected five that fit the bill. 

Eastwell Manor, Kent

Eastwell Manor’s origins date back to the Norman Conquest though much of what you see today was built in the late 18th century for the 9th Earl of Winchilsea. In the late 19th century, Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, moved in and stayed for more than 20 years. Take afternoon tea in front of the fire in the panelled drawing room, stroll through the formal rose gardens or indulge in some modern-day pampering in the spa. B&B from £160 per night. Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire

This Grade I-listed, 17th-century stately home set in 90 acres of gardens and parkland was once home to Louis XVIII, the exiled King of France. Like many stately homes, it has been put to many uses over the years, including a training ground for British and American forces during the Second World War, a finishing school and a secretarial college. These days it’s a sumptuous five-star hotel whose recent guests include Downton Abbey’s creator, Julian Fellowes, no less. B&B from £230 per night. Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa, Bedfordshire

Luton Hoo was once the seat of the 3rd Earl of Bute who as Prime Minister to George III was rather more important than the fictional Earl of Grantham. Now a lavish hotel, this 18th-century, Grade I listed mansion boasts Capability Brown-designed grounds, a 50-acre lake, tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course and a spa. Inside, the bedrooms are beautifully furnished, as are the impressive state suites, some with four-poster beds, lavish drapes and fabrics, opulent furniture and magnificent chandeliers. B&B from £280 per night.Middlethorpe Hall, York

Middlethorpe Hall and Spa is a beautifully restored William III country house just outside York. Now owned by the National Trust, it overlooks 20 acres of manicured gardens and is magical at this time of year with its roaring log fires and candlelit rooms filled with antiques and fine paintings. The spa is particularly well designed, with an indoor pool, spa bath, steam room, sauna and several beauty salons as well as a gym. B&B from £199 per night.Bovey Castle, Devon

Bovey Castle might look Jacobean but it was actually built in 1907 for the second Viscount Hambledon. An ambitious refurbishment has recently transformed the hotel’s two restaurants: The Great Western fine dining restaurant is named in tribute to the railway company which opened Bovey Castle as a hotel in 1930, while Smith’s Brasserie is named after the second Viscount’s father, politician and businessman W H Smith. Bovey Castle has 63 luxurious bedrooms and 22 self-catering lodges, plus an Art Deco-inspired spa and an 18-hole golf course. From £160 per night, room only. 

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