Top Ten beautiful houses
The British country house hotel was born in 1949, brought to us in the pink and frilly shape of Sharrow Bay, overlooking Ullswater in the Lake District. Presided over by a splendid couple, Francis Coulson and his partner Brian Sack, it came complete with a gargantuan afternoon tea, and Sack’s famous Icky Sticky Toffee Pudding and Coulson’s bedtime poems on the pillow. People adored it. There had been leisure hotels in Britain before, of course, but this was the first where you could be assured of being personally pampered in beautiful rural surroundings, with a committed owner at the helm offering a warm welcome, decent food, peace and quiet.
Hundreds of characterful country house hotels have followed, and today there’s a bewildering amount from which to choose. Here we present the cream of the crop, and autumn, when you want to be cossetted but it’s still clement enough to enjoy the great outdoors, is the perfect time to enjoy them. While some continue to offer no more than the pleasures of a beautiful old house, a roaring fire and a cup of tea, others cater to our increased demands: for spas, cookery courses and activities such as foraging for mushrooms, a perfect autumnal outing. All these hotels share in common comfort, excellent food and the joys of the English countryside, resplendent in its red and gold autumn livery.