Hotels are like people: they are all terribly different. Like people, they have diverse charms and characteristics that appeal to some but not to others; like people, they are better at certain things and not so good at others; like people, they aim to please but don’t universally succeed.
We people choose our friends carefully, gravitating towards those we find attractive and with whom we have something in common – interests we can share, style we mutually admire. When it comes to choosing hotels, it’s the same: we are drawn towards some, uninterested in others – and looks, location, character, facilities and the youthfulness or otherwise of other guests all come into play. When planning a much-needed break, especially at this time of year when the nights draw in and our spirits need a lift, we want an ideal fit. In the chilly depths of winter, I dream of escaping to the perfect cosy hotel – perfect, that is, for me, which may not be perfect for you. This compilation aims at finding a good match for everyone.
I often marvel at just how subjective a hotel can be. In early 2021, I told a friend – a very chic and fashionable friend, to be sure – that I was off to the Nare in Cornwall for a much-anticipated staycation. Her mouth fell open with amazement and I could see that the esteem in which she had held me as a hotel critic had just crumbled to dust. “The Nare?” she gasped. “That terrible old-fashioned place where they insist on jacket and tie at dinner?”
“Yes, that traditional place on a beautiful beach,” I replied, defiantly, “full of warmth and kindness and run by people who are experts at looking after multi-generational families.”
Ask yourself what you want most from your winter break, whether it’s a log fire in your bedroom or interiors that cosset you, pampering face and body treatments or bracing walks along a deserted beach. Perhaps your main requirement is for the children to be taken care of; dressing up to the nines and sashaying into a glamorous candlelit dining room; a dog-friendly place that will pamper your pooch as much as you; an eyrie in the trees… Whatever it is, you will find a warm refuge from the winter that is just right for you.
The perfect pint
The Ram Inn, Firle, East Sussex
At the foot of the South Downs Way, where the Bloomsbury Group gathered during the wars, the snoozy village of Firle is easy to miss. The 500-year-old Ram Inn is a corker – the kind of local everyone wishes they had. At the bar, friendly staff pull pints brewed on the doorstep, including artisan ales by Firle brewery Burning Sky and Long Man in Litlington, and there are craft ciders and wines from Sussex’s increasingly good vineyards. In dining rooms aglow from log fires, inventive dishes feature partridge, pheasant and Dexter beef from 8th Viscount Gage’s Firle Estate. Then it’s upstairs to bed in one of six muted-palette rooms.
Book it: Doubles from £130 including breakfast (01273 858222; raminn.co.uk). Read the full review here.