It’s easy to sing autumn’s praises as the British Isles roll into November. Temperatures drop, fires are lit, and the countryside erupts into a scarlet symphony percussed by falling leaves. Retreating to a cosy bolthole thus feels well in order, even if just for one night. Below, travel journalist Ianthe Butt selects five of the best micro-escapes to hunker down in this autumn.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, A Belmond Hotel, Oxfordshire
Dreamt up by Raymond Blanc, this honey-hued sandstone manor house offers French refinement in the charming Oxfordshire countryside. Come autumn, its 27-acre gardens come alive, and – accordingly – its two Michelin-starred dining experience is a culinary symphony that celebrates nature’s bounty. Ingredients are plucked from the garden’s brimming vegetable plots, mushroom valley and orchard, creating dishes such as courgette flowers in umami-rich wild mushroom tea or compressed apple terrine with sharp apple sorbet. Travel-inspired bedrooms run the gamut, from Provencal-inspired affairs with lace embellishments to sultrier numbers with dark wood panels accented by lime green silk.
Ask for: a wine tasting at nearby Waddesdon Manor – built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild – before a five-course Le Manoir supper accompanied by Rothschild vintages.
The honey-hued Le Manoir is surrounded by fragrant herb and vegetable gardens
Gleneagles Townhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland
When a dame as grand as Gleneagles launches a little sister property, a visit is warranted. The 33-room newbie sits in the grand, columned former Bank of Scotland, and delivers glamour with a touch of city sass. Sweeping staircases, chandeliers, and roaring fires are present and correct, as are gilt-edged mirrors and beds trimmed with tasselled curtains. At its heart is The Spence restaurant, where walls are hung with France Lise McGurn artworks, wild mushroom tart is served under a glass-domed roof, and a roaming dessert trolley comes laden with gold leaf-topped lemon meringue tarts.
Ask for: a negroni at handsome rooftop bar, Lamplighters. It’s Edinburgh’s hippest spot as the sunset streaks the sky.
Negronis are the order of the day at the smart Lamplighters Bar
Elmley Nature Reserve, Kent
Come November, the skies above Elmley Nature Reserve on Sheppey Island swirl with life. Thousands of migrating birds arrive at the 3300-acre nature reserve, fluttering across its misty marshland and mudflats. Bespoke wildlife experiences can be arranged too; during thrilling private 4x4 safari drives, you can spot short-eared owls in flight, and – if you’re lucky – lapwing pursued by peregrine falcons. Ideal for getting the whole gang together, Elmley Cottage is a smart residence within the reserve which sleeps ten, with rustic-luxe interiors and a roaring fire to cluster round when night draws in.
Ask for: wine tastings, suppers whipped up by a private chef, or mindful birdwatching sessions; all of which can be arranged to make things extra special.
In November, Elmley Nature Reserve comes alive with the arrival of thousands of migrating birds
Lime Wood, The New Forest
Few places are as spectacular as The New Forest in leaf-peeping season. It’s a fiesta of golden-brown oak leaves and purple heathland where wild ponies and pigs – let loose to snack on acorns – roam. After a soul-lifting ramble, Lime Wood outside Lyndhurst offers unrivalled relaxation. Its Herb House Spa at the forest’s fringe has floor-to-ceiling windows which invite foliage-filled views from the sauna and hydro pool, alongside a lap and steamy outdoor pool. Deep tissue massages using seaweed-rich VOYA oils cannot fail to untangle tense muscles, and bedrooms, with woodland-inspired palettes, are calming sanctuaries.
Ask for: the new, relaxed private dining experience from Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder, which offers just 10 diners the chance to chat with the chefs whilst they whip up dishes featuring produce from small-scale artisan growers.
Foliage-filled views come as standard in Lime Wood’s triplet of pools
The Blonde Hedgehog, Alderney, Channel Islands
Picturesque Alderney is a wildlife haven. As well as champagne-coloured sands, punky-haired grebes scoot around rippling bays, whilst Pipistrelle bats whirr across the sky at dusk. Stay at The Blonde Hedgehog – named for another of the island’s spiked residents – which is an ultra-boutique hotel set on a cobbled street in quaint St Anne. Its clutch of rooms features deep Victorian bathtubs, Egyptian linens and flickering fireplaces – ideal for couples. Seasonal meals take centre stage at the restaurant, and a cinema room provides a cosy retreat after adventurous days spent touring the islands.
Ask for: the three-room farmhouse at The Blonde at La Frette, if travelling with your family.
Deep bathtubs and flickering fireplaces characterise The Blonde Hedgehog’s rooms
For more information, or to book an autumnal escape, please contact Quintessentially Travel.