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Our little black book of enchanting places



Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O'Sullivan

Gravetye Manor 

Distance from Gatwick Airport 20 min (20km) 
Distance from Central London 90 min (86km)

Gravetye Manor has it all. Beautiful 16th-century house filled with antique furniture and rich furnishings. Superb restaurant presided over by chef George Blogg. And all set in exquisite gardens designed by the ‘Father of the English Flower Garden’ William Robinson. Recent extensive refurbishment has brought It up to date but it’s lost none of the grace and charm regular guests – and there are lots of them – hold dear. The fact that maids still wear the traditional outfit of black dress and white apron, we think, says it all.

Further information, Gravetye Manor, Vowels Lane, West Hoathly, Sussex RH19 4LJ; 01342 810567; Gravetye ManorStoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel 

Distance from Heathrow Airport 20 min (19km
Distance from Central London 35 min (38.5km)

You can see Stoke Park two ways. As a Grade I Palladian house designed by James Wyatt, with landscaping by Humphrey Repton. Or as a country club with spa, 13 tennis courts and 27-hole championship golf course. If you stay in the former you can expect all the trappings of a luxurious country house hotel; if you stay in the latter, you will have a much more contemporary experience. But both are thoroughly spoiling with excellent service, good food and a friendly, buzzy atmosphere.

Further information, Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4PG. 01753 717172; Stoke Park Country ClubFour Seasons Canary Wharf 

Distance from City Airport 15 min (6km)
Distance from Central London 20 min (16km)

We love a Four Seasons (see our recent review of Four Seasons des Bergues, Geneva). But this is no typical Louis Philippe-style Four Seasons. Designed by Philippe Stark, this buzzy hotel is as modern as the booming financial district in which it is located. Most of the rooms have views over The Thames, as does the 20m infinity pool, above right, while the restaurant has a lovely garden terrace for warmer months. Fabulous though this hotel is, we must admit that Canary Wharf wouldn’t normally be our first choice in the capital. However, its proximity to City Airport means this Four Seasons is perfect when we’re New York-bound.

Further information, Four Seasons Canary Wharf, 46 Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E14 8RS; 020 7510 1999; Four Seasons Canary WharfLuton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa

Distance from Luton Airport 8 min (5.5km)
Distance from Central London 60 min (53km)

Historic Luton Hoo is one of the country’s grandest hotels. Set in a ‘Capability’ Brown formal gardens, surrounded by parkland, meadows, lakes and rivers, even an 18-hole championship golf course, this Grade II-listed building makes Downton Abbey look shabby. It even has a fleet of London taxis to transport some guests between the main building and their rooms. Given all that, Luton Hoo is not at all stuffy, perhaps because of its long association with the movie industry (Four Weddings and a Funeral was shot here). Furniture and furnishings are not quite as grand as the building itself, though luxurious nonetheless.

Further information, Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, The Mansion House, Luton, Bedfordshire LU1 3TQ. O1582 698888; Luton Hoo

Boundary Restaurant, Rooms & Rooftop 

Distance from Stansted Airport 45 min (51km)
Distance from Central London 20 min (6km)

The area around Stansted Airport is not blessed with luxury hotels, so best advice is to stay on the London’s northeastern flank, which has the best access to the M11. Boundary, in London’s hip Shoreditch district, fits the bill perfectly. Housed in a Victorian warehouse, each of the 12 rooms has been inspired by a different iconic designer or design movement, from Charles and Ray Eames and Mies van der Rohe to Bauhaus and Shaker. That said, this hotel is all about its restaurant which serves modern French cuisine: think pigeon, poulet noir and Périgord truffles. There’s also a less formal bar and grill on the rooftop.

Further information, Boundary Restaurant, Rooms & Rooftop, 2-4 Boundary St, London E2 7DD; 020 7729 1051; The Boundary

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