Summer Lodge, Dorset
On the edge of the village of Evershot, in the heart of Thomas Hardy’s Dorset. Decoration and style is the personal province of Beatrice Tollman and she tends towards the feminine and the flouncy. Here at Summer Lodge there are fabric covered ceilings and padded fabric walls, pictures of dogs, plenty of cushions and so on but they add up, in general, to a feeling of spoiling indulgence and do not, mercifully, overwhelm. The drawing room, designed by Thomas Hardy himself, is admirably classic in style, now painted a pretty blue, and the bedrooms are divinely pretty and comfortable.
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Langar Hall, Nottinghamshire
Langar Hall stands in the Vale of Belvoir, next to the village church, surrounded by a mature garden and overlooking a series of medieval carp ponds. The gracious, charmingly decorated house still feels like a home, not least because of the number of guests who leap up in the dining room and greet their hostess, Imogen, who has a natural gift for conversation and putting people at their ease. The heart of the hotel is the restaurant, literally in the middle of the house, set back from the flagstone hall. Its reputation for unpretentious good food ("classic English with a twist") holds up.
Park House, West Sussex
Just outside Midhurst, with long views onto a lovely wooded section of the South Downs, with not another house in sight. Surrounding the house is a neat croquet lawn, a pair of lawn tennis courts, a testing pitch-and-putt golf course and an emerald putting green, all perfectly maintained. The happy sound of children and of china teacups clinking against saucers wafts up from below. Inside, the tranquility and atmosphere of a family home are all still intact.
Swinton Park, North Yorkshire
The core of the castle is late 17th century, but its bulk is high Victorian. The Danby family built it and aggrandised it, adding the 200 acres of parkland. In the late 19th century, mill magnate Samuel Cunliffe-Lister bought the estate and aggrandised it a great deal more. Decanters of whisky and gin sit on a tray (the first glass of each is complimentary), the bed is blissfully comfortable, the bath deep and the towels fluffy. The style is traditional and conventional, and the ground floor is splendid (the Georgian drawing room and Victorian dining room are nothing short of sensational). Some rooms look out on to the restored four-acre walled garden. It now produces all the hotel’s flowers, asparagus and much more besides.