8 Romantic Weekend Breaks to Take in the U.K.
After the end-of-summer rush, it pays to break out of your go-go-to routine and get away. Here, eight romantic weekend escapes in the U.K. that will get you and your partner back on track.
The Cotswolds, England
The Cotswolds are the definition of quintessential English country retreat—a six-county collective of idyllic rolling meadows and tiny villages lined with stone cottages and old-world churches that have inspired writers, poets, and painters for centuries. The romanticism lies as much in what is here as what is not: no big-name hotels, no car-clogged main streets, no throngs of tourists vying for space at that hot new restaurant or big-ticket museum exhibit. Instead, days are best spent enjoying the company of each other during hikes on surrounding trails, popping into local tea and chocolate shops, and making visits to nearby castles—Sudeley Castle, where Henry VIII’s last wife lived, is a favorite for its gardens—and medieval market towns like Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Make your base just an hour south at Ellenborough Park, a 90-acre estate in Cheltenham home to a 15th-century manor house decorated by British designer Nina Campbell, who added custom-made four-poster beds, bold patterned wallpaper, and Penhaligon’s amenities to the 62 rooms.
What could be more romantic than days and nights on the town in one of the best cities in the world? Nowhere in London lets you live that high-roller fantasy quite like Claridge’s, a ritzy Mayfair sleep whose next-level service, luxuriously spacious rooms and suites, and beautiful Art Deco décor take you back to the ‘20s. High tea is a must (as is a treatment at the spa) but there’s lots more to discover here beyond your digs. Lighten your wallet on Oxford Street, picnic in Hyde Park, then book yourself a table at Sketch—an IG-ready restaurant complex comprising a Michelin-starred restaurant and gastro-brasserie—before toasting to love with drinks (and the city's best view) at the Aqua Shard.
Those who heed the siren call of the sea need not feel trapped by the countryside. A three-hour drive from London will drop you by the English Channel in Dorset—a scenic, windswept region known for its miles of beaches, moorlands, and a sunny, temperate climate. Its most famous landmark is found—where else?—by the sea: the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, is one of Britain’s most stunning natural wonders, with chalk cliffs, secluded coves, and a natural limestone arch found at Durdle Door beach. The place to stay here is The Pig on the Beach, an aristocratic manor turned boutique hotel that charms with its country-style guest rooms, restaurant (which sources much of its ingredients from the property’s own garden), and clifftop views of the Isle of Wight.
Bath may be best known for its natural thermal springs, where Celts and Romans bathed more than two millenniums ago, but the town itself is just as enchanting—lanes lined with cute restaurants, ancient churches, and 18th-century Georgian residences built from honey-colored Bath stone. The famous Roman Baths, first built in 75 B.C. and one of the best-preserved, of its kind, are still open to the public. After a muscle-melting, 115-degree dip, retreat to the luxurious Gainsborough Bath Spa, a former 1800s hospital reinvigorated by Champalimaud Design with elegant guest rooms, a destination restaurant, and a sky-lit thermal bath of its own.
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Despite being Scotland’s capital, both politically and culturally, Edinburgh still feels like a blast from the past. You might forget what era you’re in while walking through medieval Old Town’s narrow, cobbled lanes, centuries-old bookstores and townhouses lived in by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Alexander Fleming, and imposing hilltop castle. Nearby, New Town’s Georgian architecture, charming squares, and newer boutiques retain a charm all their own. Stays at The Balmoral embrace everything there is to love about Scottish history and culture—think kilted doormen at the entryway, afternoon tea in the Palm Court, guest rooms dressed up in plaids and botanical paintings. Continue the theme at The Witchery, a gothic, candlestick-lit dining room that wouldn’t look out of place in Harry Potter, where diners have chowed down on fine Scottish cuisine (Isle of Mull scallops with ginger and lemongrass; wild mushroom-and-chicken-mousse-stuffed lamb Wellington) since 1979. JS Tip: skip dessert and take the six-minute walk to Mary’s Milk Bar, whose hot chocolate ice cream floats have become legendary.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
There’s arguably no landscape more inherently cinematic than the Scottish Highlands, where Outlander, Skyfall, and Harry Potter have all set their most visually arresting shots. The best way to take it all in is slowly, either by car up the A6 or by train. The West Highland Railway can take you from Glasgow over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig, where you can (and should) continue on to the Isle of Skye. Every island in the Inner Hebrides is broodingly beautiful—think basalt crags, glistening lochs, and sweeping valleys—but Skye is one of the best. Here, you can take in the peaceful harbor town of Portree, explore the picturesque hills of Cuillin and the Storr cliffs, and hike by waterfalls and fairy pools before resting your feet at the Three Chimneys restaurant and inn, known for its Nordic takes on Scottish cuisine (think Skye red deer with chanterelle mushrooms and quinoa and slow-cooked Wester Ross salmon with Dunvegan crab in a wasabi and pea purée).
Ballantrae, Scottish Lowlands
Is there anything more romantic than sleeping in a real-life castle? Fairytale fortresses are a dime a dozen in Scotland, but the baronial Glenapp Castle, on a dramatic coastline overlooking the Irish Sea, manages that impossible feat of being both stately and grand yet also charmingly intimate. Behind the turreted façade, interiors are heavy on period furniture and heavier on atmosphere—think Austrian wood paneling, chesterfield sofas, and just 17 guest rooms with high ceilings, canopy beds, and fireplaces. The Michelin-starred restaurant is reason enough to never want to leave (multi-course dinners feature Scottish staples like rabbit terrine, roast lamb, and smoked haddock) but outdoor pursuits are as much of an adventure. Across the estate’s 36 acres of formal gardens and redwood forests, you’ll find tennis courts, a croquet lawn, and chances to experience falconry and salmon and trout fishing. And when the weather turns gray? Wellington boots and rain jackets are waiting for you in the parlor. How very Downton Abbey of them.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
King Arthur’s lost sword, Excaliber, is said to be hidden somewhere in the misty mountainscape of Snowdonia National Park, a snowy, glacial region in northern Wales. Even if the rumor is never confirmed, the magic surrounding this primeval corner of the world, which has inspired many a Welsh folktale, is still very much alive. Nature lovers can revel in hikes past rushing waterfalls, though thick forests, and up Mount Snowdon before laying their heads in Palé Hall—a restored 1871 Victorian mansion whose guest rooms (today, all chrome tubs, antique four-poster beds, and Dee Valley views) have hosted the likes of Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill.
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