The Best New Hotels in London—and Beyond—to Book This Summer
(Bloomberg) -- If Brexit split the United Kingdom from the rest of Europe, so, too, has Covid-19. Paris and Rome have begun to reenergize their critical tourism markets, but London remains largely shut down.
But it doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds. Across the U.K., new hotels are offering respite to the Covid-weary, with a range of experiences you’d think would require crisscrossing the globe. They include gorgeous estates attached to wineries, a collection of seaside cottages, grand golf and wilderness resorts, and renovated town houses in London that make you feel as if you’re sleeping in a prince’s private apartment.
Whether you’re looking to plan a trip as soon as quarantine requirements lift or are homebound within the U.K. and itching to get away, you can take advantage of these notable openings this summer.
Updated Countryside Classics
These four spots are completely distinct from one another, highlighting the vast variety of experiences that can be had in the U.K. What they do have in common, though, is an emphasis on the outdoors—and enough space for all the social distancing you might require.
The Farmyard at the Newt, Somerset
It was right before the pandemic that Karen Roos and her husband, the billionaire and South African telecom giant Koos Bekker, opened the doors to their long-anticipated second hotel, the Newt in Somerset. As owners of the farm-to-table restaurant and hotel complex Babylonstoren in South Africa, the duo went with a similar agrarian-gone-luxe vibe for the Newt.
Now the pair has not only reopened the Newt but also expanded it with a more family-friendly annex, the Farmyard, with 17 rooms on a former dairy farm adjacent to the Newt’s main Georgian estate. The lodgings themselves are less formal but equally stylish with massive wood beams and steam showers. Several suites have two bedrooms to accommodate both parents and kids. There’s also grazing livestock, a restaurant for all-day dining, and a fabulous pool. Make time to visit the on-site cider press, which uses heirloom apples found all across Somerset, and to traverse “the viper,” a snaking, 40-foot-tall elevated walkway that cuts through an oak forest teeming with butterflies. Rooms from $1,400
The Pig in the South Downs, Sussex
It’s hard to believe you’re fewer than 50 miles away from London when you arrive at the Pig in the South Downs, the eighth outpost from the porcine brand known for its intimate yet impeccably styled countryside retreats, each attached to an equally lauded restaurant. The property itself is an old Regency house that has only a handful of rich-toned rooms (plus a few suites in converted, standalone field wagons), but the experience is really about what’s beyond the walls: 4,000 vines of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier, and a two-acre farm to supply the chefs. Beyond that is a tangle of medieval hamlets, some with stellar markets and castles to explore, as well as the yachting capital of Chichester, with its many enticing boutiques. Rooms from $470
Three Mile Beach, Cornwall
The creators of this idyllic seaside enclave, with 15 cheery cottages that look like candy dots along the shore, know a thing or two about what luxury travelers want: They run one of the U.K.’s most widely respected bespoke travel companies, Audley. Here they blend the best of a private home rental (hot tubs on the decks, barbecues) with five-star amenities such as surfboard rentals that show up on your doorstep. A collection of food trucks, staffed by a rotating selection of the area’s best chefs, is right there on the sand. All of it faces a three-mile-long beach—hence the name—in sunny, scenic Cornwall, where you can see dolphins bobbing and gray seals sunbathing. And when you’re all topped up on “Vitamin Sea,” there are the many cafes and pubs of St. Ives Bay to explore, plus a number of coastal walks so beautiful they’ve been designated National Trails. Rooms from $600
If Scotland is a golfer’s nirvana, Ardfin’s championship style course meets the country’s exceedingly high standards. But that would be selling the place short: Built over a decade by an Australian hedge fund trader as a roughly $28 million bet on the wild Inner Hebridean isle of Jura, its 13-room estate house is a cornucopia of sumptuous colors and patterns, with access to a glimmering indoor pool and 12,000 pastoral acres for whale watching, fishing, and deer stalking.
Its proximity to Islay makes for easy distillery hopping, and Jura’s natural bounty shows up at the restaurant in the formed of grilled lobster and charred venison. Golf or no, it’s a destination unto itself. Rooms from $1,875
The Urban Game Changers
Whether you’re looking to celebrate the great city of London or find a highly upgraded version of sheltering in place, you can enjoy these three new options that will remain relevant beyond this summer.
The first international version of New York’s Nomad brand of hotels occupies the former Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station, a grade II-listed building of historic significance opposite the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. To some it’s known as the place where luminaries such as Oscar Wilde and Vivienne Westwood once stood trial.
Now its 91 rooms fill old jail cells and magistrates’ offices, reconfigured by the design masterminds Roman and Williams to offer significantly more comfortable layouts than those historical figures endured. The gilded clawfoot bathtubs and downstairs restaurant—in an airy atrium somewhat reminiscent of the Manhattan location—may not bear any resemblance to the building’s past life, but the Victoriana décor, remaining cell doors, and dramatic entryway, sized to accommodate horse-drawn carriages, are reminders of the stories these walls could tell. Rooms from $445
What is a “super boutique” hotel? It’s hard to define, but the Londoner invented the category and aims to be the first one of its kind when it opens next month, with 350 rooms in a 16-story tower off centrally located Leicester Square, a few minutes’ walk from the National Gallery. That’s relatively large by the typical conventions of boutique hotels, but it’s hardly worth building a reputation around.
More impressive is the cool, residential styling that directs your eye toward entire walls of windows overlooking the city—the feeling of being lofted in a glassy oasis that’s both separated from the hustle and bustle and yet still connected to it. That same ethos extends to the indoor pool, where cabanas look like cocoons with sand-toned walls, and to the Whisky room, a mirrored jewel box with only 14 seats hidden behind a secret passageway. It’s the perfect way to ease yourself back into city life, knowing that you have a sanctuary to return to the minute it’s all too much. Rooms from $567
The best hotels tell a story—and Henry’s Townhouse tells that of an old tenant, Henry Austen, brother to famed writer Jane. Thanks to their close bond, his home is where she did some of her best-known writing, including parts of Sense and Sensibility. Now the pretty Marylebone townhouse is in the hands of a new creative duo, film director Steven Collins and his wife, the antiques dealer-turned-boutique owner whose first name is also Jane. Each of the house’s seven rooms is named for and inspired by Henry’s real-life relatives and packed with so many Georgian antiques you may be surprised to find Dyson hair dryers in the bathrooms and Bollinger Champagne in the minibar.
Henry’s room is a predictable standout, with a double four-poster bed and portraits in gilded frames. Rounding out the accommodations is a simple selection of dining spaces, including a homey dining room, where breakfast is served around a refectory table, and the library-like sitting room named for Jane Austen herself. Currently it’s available only for buyouts, but the owners plan to run it as a traditional hotel—with nightly room rentals—as soon as Covid-19 restrictions lift. Buyouts from $6,700; room prices to be made available as restrictions lift
Worth the Wait
If you’re not ready to gamble on a trip to the U.K. given the current quarantine requirements, which require 10 days of confinement from Americans and travelers from other “amber” countries, there’s another good reason to wait. Next year a series of exciting new hotel projects is set to unveil across the capital city, with entries from several titans of luxury that are currently missing from London’s landscapes. Some are the result of more than a decade’s worth of location scouting, searching for the perfect historic building with bones worthy of a six-star brand.
Take the Raffles, due to open in Winston Churchill’s Old War Office building, an Edwardian Baroque masterpiece of architecture sandwiched between Trafalgar Square and the Palace of Westminster. The company bought it from the Ministry of Defense for £350 million ($486 million) in 2014 and has been working with designer Thierry Despont on the interiors ever since. If all goes according to plan, its 125 rooms and 85 apartments will become available in 2022.
There’s also Admiralty Arch, built in 1910 as a national memorial to Queen Victoria and where the government’s intelligence division operated during the two World Wars. Maybe even more significant, it’s the departure point for many James Bond sagas, and its arches form a key point in annual royal processions. Since 2015 it’s been under renovation by Waldorf Astoria, which is working with British artisans to fill it with 100 hotel rooms and four residences. It’s also scheduled to open next year.
Add to those a forthcoming entry from Peninsula London in Knightsbridge—details on that one are scant—and you’ve got plenty of light at the end of the tunnel for this beloved capital of culture.
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