As the cold weather sets in, wind begins to howl, and ice takes its steely grip, our thoughts turn to warmth: log fires and hearty food served in cosy, characterful, atmospheric surroundings. We dream of squashy sofas and oak beams, home-baked cakes and crumpets for tea; and warm, inviting bedrooms with deep, comfortable, snuggly beds. Some hotels really come into their own at this time of year, offering the chance to escape the worst excesses of the weather. Here are some of our favourites.
No 38 The Park, Cheltenham
Somewhere between a hotel, a B&B and a private members' club for creatives - it's contemporary, cool and cosy; the balance is spot-on. Treat it like your own Georgian townhouse: kick back in the art-filled sitting room or courtyard garden, with a local Bobby Beer or a Hendrick's and Fever-Tree from the honesty bar (which puts many full-blown bars to shame), and don't even think about checking out on a Sunday morning - this is the sort of place to spend a lazy afternoon reading the weekend papers.
Lord Poulett Arms, Somerset
A stylishly restored 17th-century inn set in a pretty Somerset village of golden stone and thatched roofs. This is a pub-with-rooms rather than a hotel. The four bedrooms are small but comfortable, and decorated in a quirky style that somehow suits the building's great age. There are Roberts radios but no TVs. The restaurant is packed with locals - always a good sign in my book. Weekend visitors tend to be child-free Londoners, but this isn't the Cotswolds, and no one is checking the brand of your wellies.
The Pig Near Bath, Somerset
The third, and perhaps the grandest of the "Pig" country retreats, The Pig Near Bath is housed by Georgian mansion built in 1820 out of honey-hued Bath stone; there’s a lot of history here. You’ll find portraits of former residents on the walls and pieces of period furniture dotted around the lounges. Painted in muted greeny-greys, the restaurant is part dining room and part greenhouse, with tiny pots of carefully labelled herbs on every available surface. The 25-mile-radius menu has a map of local producers, and every plate has something from the garden on it. Fans of the original Pigs will recognise the 'Piggy bits'. We love the attitude at this place - the air is fresh inside and out. Staff are positive, attentive and make you feel at home instantly.
The Wild Rabbit, Oxfordshire
This is a restaurant-and-pub-with-rooms where the feel is more like French kitchen meets Californian organic deli than anything particularly British, although the ethos is, of course, local and artisanal. The restaurant is worth driving for. The atmosphere is glowing, helped hugely by a super-cool glass chimney and an open kitchen with dangling copper pans. The menu is rustic and may not be for everybody, but it is wholesome and inventive.
Weeke Barton Hotel, Dartmoore
This rustic-cool hideaway with wonky beams, modern art and photography on the walls, is a 500-year-old whitewashed longhouse on a hillside in Dartmoor National Park. Dinners are very sociable: the set menu is eaten with other guests at a three-metre-long, polished-slate table by a wood-burning stove. Breakfast is wholesome and hearty: homemade granola and local apple juice, or a Full English for those who can manage it.
Foxhill Manor, Worcestershire
A gorgeous Arts & Crafts house in the Cotswolds dating back to 1909, that feels like your very own country pad. The vibe is laid-back, staff is friendly. The house has a contemporary, cosy feel with a log fire and purple velvet armchairs in the living room, reading nooks on the landing and beanbags in the television room. There are stunning views over the Vale of Evesham from the terrace. Guests talk through dinner plans with the chef and pick from two four-course menus; special requests are possible. Breakfast is available any time, and there's an all-day menu.
Practical and stylish - our AVA check cape
is a winter weekend must-pack.