Deal, Kent

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of The Rose Deal

The Turner Contemporary and revamped Dreamland mean Margate gets all the attention on Kent's east coast, but a little further south, Deal offers seaside charm, pastel-fronted Georgian townhouses and indie boutiques without the crowds.

What to do

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of Visit Kent

Walk along the shingle from Deal to Walmer, stopping at the Deal Pier Kitchen, perched dramatically over the ocean inside a RIBA-award winning building. Inside, dine on shakshuka at tables set under buoy-shaped lighting. Also on the way to Walmer is Deal Castle, built by Henry VIII as an artillery fort in 1539. For supper, order oysters at French bistro Frog and Scot, or devour fish and chips from Sea View on Beach Street.

Where to shop

At tropic-cool Hoxton Store you’ll find cockatoo-shaped brass dishes from India, Mantas Ezcaray mohair rugs as well as Frida Kahlo prints. Visit dinky deli No Name Shop for Brie de Meaux and spelt and sprouted rye sourdough. For leather porter chairs visit G&B Antiques, a father-daughter run treasure trove on the High Street, while Will and Yates has paintings and covetable ceramics selected by an interiors stylist and artist with on-point taste.

Where to stay

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of The Rose Deal

Husband-and-wife duo Christopher Hicks and Alex Bagner have transformed a Victorian inn - more recently a spit-and-sawdust pub - into Deal’s first boutique hotel, The Rose Deal, and what a beauty it is. The vibe at the eight-room property is serious retro-chic. Interiors whizzes Nicola Harding of Harding & Read (behind Beaverbrook’s Garden House) and Michelle Kelly have created a colour-popping wonderland; a Vitrine3 fringed armchair in a leafy lounge with wood-burning stove, geometric Pakistani rugs, and walls in a rainbow of Little Greene shades. Each unique bedroom allows the imagination to run wild; one, with record player, could be the room of an off-duty Agatha Christie detective, another - with vintage bathtub and velvet curtains - a showgirl's dressing room. Beds, all custom-made by Naturalmat (other than a gorgeous antique number in room 1) have jazzily-patterned headboards and fabrics by the likes of Liberty. On the ground floor there’s a restaurant helmed by Rachel O’Sullivan (ex-Polpo) where comfort food - think mac’n’cheese followed by a steamed marmalade pudding - is served, surrounded by original 1950s panelling and artwork sourced from all over the world.
Rooms from £100 a night, B&B; therosedeal.com

How to get there

Deal is 90 minutes by train from St Pancras International
visitkent.co.uk

The Cotswolds

When most people think of the Cotswolds, well-known spots like Chipping Norton or Daylesford spring to mind. However, the Cotswolds cover six counties, and Crudwell in Wiltshire is a lovely, lesser-known base for low-key countryside exploration.

What to do

Escapes from London | House & Garden

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Drive (about half an hour) to Westonbirt Arboretum, a tree haven home to over 15,000 specimens. Wander through cherry glades, past towering Douglas fir trees and along thrilling canopy walkways. Next, head to Tetbury (15 minutes away in Gloucestershire), to explore its winding streets and antiques stores. Finally, make a stop at Chavenage, an Elizabethan country house better known as Poldark’s Trenwith.

Where to shop

Tetbury is an antiques-lovers’ dream; find botanical drawings at Trilogie, and curiosities at Top Banana Antiques. There’s also Bay Gallery which shines a light on Aboriginal art, and Indian-maharaja-feel shop Artique.

Where to stay

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of The Rectory

Set in Crudwell, a pretty village which dates back to the Domesday book, the 18-room Rectory is a Georgian country pile which could have been plucked straight from the pages of an Austen novel - complete with a manicured garden, al-fresco pool and lounges with log fires. Rooms have Roberts Radios with Classic FM playing on arrival, and are decorated in calming colours such as duck-egg blue, navy and pink. Ramping up the luxe factor are freestanding claw-foot bathtubs or rainforest showers (some have both) and beds dressed in Egyptian cotton sheets. Downstairs, grab a classic cocktail at the sultry bar before dining on grilled octopus with pork and romesco sauce, and roast cauliflower with tahini at the restaurant. Food here, and at The Potting Shed, the pub over the riad, is overseen by Alan Gleeson. It’s the perfect spot for Sunday lunch feasts (the double-baked cheese souffle is heaven), and when you’ve finished, nab the fireside table, order the treacle tart and relax into a Scrabble marathon.
Rooms from £120 per night on a B&B basis, therectoryhotel.com.

How to get there

Kemble is 70 minutes by train from Paddington.

Rye, East Sussex

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Slawek Staszczuk/REX/Shutterstock

This Cinque Ports Town, all cobbled streets and half-timbered Georgian and Tudor houses, is one of the best-preserved and prettiest medieval towns in England.

What to do

At St Mary’s Church, admire its stained glass windows before clambering up the clock tower for vistas of Rye’s moss-covered rooftops. Afterwards, step back in time at smuggler’s hotspot The Mermaid Inn. Its oak-panelled rooms hide secret passageways, and it’s apparently one of the most haunted places in Britain. You can find it on Mermaid Street, a fairytale street lined with higgledy-piggledy half-timbered houses. To learn more about the town’s smuggling history, visit the 14th-century Ypres Tower. For a hit of nature, nearly five miles of sand dunes roll at Camber Sands, a ten-minute drive away or there’s Rye Nature Reserve, where you can spot lapwings and plovers in the marshland.

Where to shop

As well as antiques and bric-a-brac shops along Strand Quay, the town centre has lots of boutiques. Every exquisite piece at Rye Pottery undergoes ten hand processes and two kiln firings. Rye Art Gallery showcases contemporary art, and there’s Ethel Loves Me for one-off arty gifts, and last but not least, bars of cactus-print-wrapped Himalayan sea salt chocolate at Rye Chocolate.

Where to stay

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of The George

The smartest spot in town is The George in Rye. A heritage building dating from 1575, the interiors have been transformed by owners Alex and Katie Clarke (a hotel whizz and set designer respectively). While all 34 rooms are stylish, the decor varies wildly, ranging from elegant through to eclectic; in one room there are raindrop-like glass chandeliers, in another William Morris textiles, as well as a pair (the Hayloft rooms) which channel a pared-back Scandi cabin. At the other end of the spectrum is a ritzy split-level room with an extravagant circular bed covered in a snow-white fluffy Helen Moore throw, alongside spiked glass pendant lamps and a vast nickel William Holland bathtub. Like what you see? At The Shop Next Door, everything from the Farrow and Ball paint and Frette linens you’ll find in the rooms is available to buy. There’s an olive-filled courtyard (glorious in summer), and bustling bar, The George Tap. The George Grill restaurant is a forest-hued hangout with oceanic design touches - a giant mosaic fish leaps across one wall - reclaimed wooden flooring, and delicious British cuisine (expect Rye Bay Scallops and moreish rhubarb crumble with crème anglaise).
Rooms from £125 on a B&B basis; thegeorgeinrye.com

How to get there

Rye is 70 mins by train from St Pancras.

Hastings, East Sussex

Escapes from London | House & Garden

UIG via Getty Images

Another charming Cinque Ports town, famed for the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which shifted England from the Anglo-Saxon to the Norman era. Set between hills, there’s a fetching fishing quarter, timber-framed Tudor houses in the old town and masses of artsy shops in buzzy America Ground and the new town.

What to do

Start at the seafront, admire wooden net huts and weatherworn boats by the Shipwreck Museum before popping to the contemporary Jerwood Gallery. For lunch, the best fish’n’chips are found at Maggie’s. Pootle up the East Hill Lift - the UK’s steepest funicular railway - which chugs along to the grassy Hastings County Park, or head to the Hastings Museum, home to the astonishing Durbar Hall, an Indian palace built in 1886. Admire the RIBA-winning pier (currently shut) on a seafront stroll to St Leonards-on-Sea, then dine at Farmyard where Ben and Kate O’Norum (an ex-food critic and wine expert) serve dish after innovative dish; think panko-crumbed artichoke with cauliflower fondue and truffled mushroom strudel alongside excellent natural wines.

Where to shop

Visit Irth Designs where artist Olivia Bishop curates artisan goods from Egypt. We challenge you not to covet every item from feather dusters to enamelware at Victorian-feel A.G. Hendy run by creative genius Alastair Hendy. Plant lovers will adore leafy Reste.

Where to stay

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of The Old Rectory

The Old Rectory is a nine-room B&B with a grand lounge and roaring fire. From the moment you check in it has the feel of staying at a stylish pal’s seaside house. It’s co-owned by interiors guru Lionel Copley (ex-design director at Katherine Hamnett) and his considerable design know-how shines through in rooms which channel an English manor house with a touch of Alice-in-Wonderland eccentricity. Some have claw-footed bathtubs, others, rainfall showers. Some walls are adorned with pretty Deborah Bowness wallpapers, another has photocopied prints of old portraits. There’s a sense of fun here too, a very Game of Thrones antler-and-hide chair sits in reception, and in the Crown bedroom, a faux-bookshelf door hides the loo. Mornings are for feasting on honey granola pots and kippers with parsley butter in the dainty blue and white breakfast room, sunny afternoons for relaxing in the flower-filled walled garden or dinky spa, and at night-time pop down the road to The Cinque Ports, a teeny Tudor pub with brilliant ales.
Rooms from £110 on a B&B basis, theoldrectoryhastings.co.uk.

How to get there

Hastings is 90 minutes by train from St Pancras.

visit1066rectory.com

Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Geoffrey Swaine/REX/Shutterstock

Life pootles along at a slow pace in picturesque Goring-on-Thames; on the doorstep are riverside strolls, but it’s also a great base for longer day hikes through the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs, where red kites with forked tails can often be spotted swooping through the air.

What to do

For easy walking, make for the Thames Path; a highlight is Goring Gap where weeping willows line the riverside (it’s said to have inspired Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows). For a longer ramble, drive to quaint village Turville, recently featured in Killing Eve, start with a drink at the Bull and Butcher, admire St Mary’s Church (made famous by the Vicar of Dibley) before taking a woodland ramble to Hambledon.

Where to shop

Rummage for retro gems at Barbara’s Antique and Bric-A-Brac Shop on Station Road, pick up blooms to take home at Ferry Lane Florist and drink devilishly good hot chocolate at the Chocolate Cafe’s patioside tables, each cup is made from melted-down Belgian chocolate buttons, and they come in an array of flavours from peanut butter to peppermint.

Where to stay

Escapes from London | House & Garden

In the heart of the village you'll find The Miller of Mansfield, a charming 18th-century coaching inn with just 13 rooms and a tasteful mix of original whitewashed wooden floors and antique beds, as well as contemporary marble bathrooms, bright Cole & Son wallpaper and REN toiletries. It’s not only the best place to snooze, but also a foodie hotspot as it’s home to a cosy gastropub overseen by Nick Galer (formerly of The Fat Duck). Expect generous portions of contemporary British cuisine (like poached Cornish cod and Jerusalem artichoke gnocchi) and excellent Sunday roasts. Then you can snuggle down in leather chairs by the roaring fire.
Rooms from £99 on a B&B basis, i-escape.com

How to get there

Goring is 80-minutes by train from Paddington

York, North Yorkshire

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Mark Sunderland/Robert Harding/REX/Shutterstock

Few places in Britain have as storied a history as York, a medieval walled city where architecture from the Roman, Viking, Norman, Tudor and Victorian times rubs up against cosy pubs hidden on narrow ginnels, and independent boutiques, bars and restaurants on Walmgate and Fossgate (‘gate’ here means street).

What to do

By the far the best introduction to the city’s history are the daily free walking tours run by local enthusiasts who’ll show you the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and the Shambles, the street which inspired J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. York Minster Cathedral is a Gothic wonder; inside there’s a fascinating undercroft museum and a winding climb up its central tower. Stop for afternoon tea at iconic tearoom Betty’s, and dine on dinky scones and sandwiches in the art-deco Belmont Room. Another foodie highlight is Roots the latest opening from acclaimed chef Tommy Banks (of the Black Swan in Oldstead), where flavour-bending farm-to-fork sharing plates (think kale in sheep’s yoghurt with cured egg yolk, and sour crown prince falafel with spouts and carrot tiramisu) are served in laid-back surroundings.

Where to shop

For terrariums, textiles and kooky ceramics head to Imaginarium, which has the feel of a Victorian curiosity shop. Next door is the heavenly-scented Yorkshire Soap where smellies come disguised as cakes. Afterwards, sit on a barrel and sip on Belgian beer at the taxidermy-filled top floor of quirky pub, The House of Trembling Madness.

Where to stay

Escapes from London | House & Garden

Courtesy of The Parisi

Family-run boutique B&B The Parisi is a low-key but lovely place to retreat to at the end of bustling Fossgate, run by by siblings Sophie and Maria Scott. Eleven rooms sit inside a converted Victorian rectory, and are kitted out with bright fabric lampshades by local artists such as Mark Hearld, snuggly Urbanara throws and vintage furniture. The walls of the light-and-cacti-filled breakfast room are covered with patterned paper prints by the owners’ father (he also makes the zingy marmalade served at breakfast) and there’s a welcoming library with Graham and Green armchairs sprinkled with a riot of patterned cushions (Christian Lacroix, Liberty), and a Charnwood wood-burning stove to hunker down by. Staff are sweetness and light, arranging taxis at the drop of a hat, and forever proffering helpful city tips.
Rooms from £99 on a B&B basis, theparisi.com

How to get there

York is 110 minutes by train from King’s Cross.
visityork.com

For more weekend break inspiration see visitengland.com