Enjoy a romantic retreat in the UK

Feature: Beat the snow - best luxury breaks close to home

Thursday, December 23, 2011 3:10 AM

Don’t let the snow ruin your festive plans. Flight cancellations, delays and road closures have forced many people to spend the holidays on home soil, so why not swap a trip abroad for a luxury break at one of the UK’s many fine retreats, from Scottish castles to a cosy cottage?! There’s definitely no reason to let the snow spoil your holiday spirit or to hibernate with the onset of the cold season. To make sure that we all forget about travel chaos and sub-zero temperatures, we at aspireholidays.co.uk have searched the country for the best high-end holiday escapes – for romantics, for spa lovers and for that cosy feeling.

Relax in front of crackling log fires, warm yourself on the cold winter nights with a dram or two of whisky and escape the seasonal blues with hearty food in beautiful surroundings. Sounds much better than trying to board an over-packed train or spending an icy night in an airport terminal, right?! You could even bring your Christmas presents and unwind and relax as you un-wrap your festive surprises in the comfort of one of the unique and intimate settings on offer throughout the country. You can sink into country living, explore the wild winter country or coastal landscapes. What’s stopping you? Well, the snow perhaps! Solution: choose a destination near you...

King of the Castle
There’s no doubt that a medieval Scottish castle makes for an atmospheric holiday home during the festive season. So, if you’ve always dreamed of being the king of your ‘own’ castle here’s your chance. Admittedly, many Scottish castles to rent often look like corny film sets – all tartan, antlers and pine four-posters. Yes, many of us have been there and done that...and are not planning on going back. But, luckily, there are also a number of Scottish castles that have steered away from Gothic ironmongery and knicker-ish ruffles. So, if the family getaway you had planned these holidays was ruined by icy tracks or snow-covered runways, why not bring the entire family to Scotland and celebrate Christmas in style. There’s plenty of room; it’s a castle after all.

Whether you decide to spend every waking hour in front of the log fire or to brave the elements and go for a brisk walk in the stunning countryside, there are plenty of activities to get you in a festive mood. Skiers can bring their skiing equipment and hit the rolling hills. Families can enjoy homely dinners in grand surroundings. Kids will have plenty of indoor and outdoor space to play in. And shopaholics can explore the local shops. And since vibrant towns, unspoiled beaches and the natural beauty of the snow-covered peaks of the Highlands have travellers coming back year after year, a Scottish castle could offer the perfect base for a family Christmas...and since you’re already there, why not stay on until New Year’s Eve.

There are many Scottish castles to choose from, including Borthwick Castle near Edinburgh, Birkhill Castle on the southern bank of the Firth of Tay and Blair Castle near Glasgow.

Spa lovers
If you are after a luxury winter break away from it all – and we mean away from it ALL – why not book a spa retreat over the holidays. No need to wear woollen sweaters and socks just because it's winter. A robe will do at the spa. And what better way to bring back memories of summer sun and holiday feelings. Admittedly, visiting a spa may not be every bloke’s cup of tea, but massages and facials are not only for women – and they justify some indulgent behaviour at this time of year.

Amid the rolling hills and honey-coloured villages in the Cotswold is a spa retreat. Hot on the heels of Babington House and its Cowshed spa is the rural-glam 17th century Barnsley House and its beautiful new spa. No, we didn’t expect to find it there, but it is there! Built within a sunken garden, the spa is equipped with all modern facilities and it offers all the treatments you could ever want from a luxury spa. But there are plenty of spa havens dotted across the country. So, get searching and find one near you.

That cosy feeling
It would be hard to imagine a more dramatic location for a holiday cottage than Dartmoor. Surrounded by moorland and in the shadow of the rocky outcrop from which it takes its name, Vixen Tor farmhouse offers groups and families the chance to immerse themselves in this harshly beautiful landscape. Dartmoor in winter can be wild and windswept but this house provides a retreat from the elements with wood burners and an oil-fired Rayburn.

In a different part of the country, the Suffolk coast is hard to beat for bracing walks and moody seascapes. Alde House is one of a handful of beach houses on Shingle Street, a lonely stretch of coastline near Aldeburgh. With two wood burners, an Aga and central heating, staying warm and snug in December is easy. No need for woollen socks or cashmere jumpers...well, not unless you venture outside.

For an environmentally-friendly retreat head to Powys in Wales, where Under the Thatch has set the benchmark for eco-sensitive but stylish self-catering with its portfolio of beautifully-restored Welsh cottages. And Fron Fraith, a traditional longhouse set in eight acres of hillside pasture with views to Snowdonia, is no exception. But there is a wealth of luxury cottages to choose from and many still have availability these holidays, making it difficult to decide where to go to escape the chaotic travel situation. For inspiration, Premier Cottages offers a selection of high-end holiday retreats across the UK.

Couple’s retreat
If the only thing you feel like doing is to snuggle up inside with your loved one, why not use the winter weather as an excuse? If you haven’t been able to get away these holidays, enjoying a romantic escape in a luxurious boutique hotel with your significant other could be the perfect way to celebrate the festive season. Forget about Paris, Rome and Prague, the British Isles offer a wide selection of luxury couple’s retreats. This Christmas could prove to be a special romantic celebration.  Let’s face it, Britain is beautiful this time of year. If candlelit dinners, couples spa treatments and breakfast in bed take your fancy, a boutique hotel stay offers a welcome break from talks of travel chaos and snow disruptions.

Many parts of the UK offer a beautiful setting for couples looking for some one-on-one time with each other. Big, boundless and packed with scenic attractions, the UK is home to several national parks, beautiful coastlines and historic sites. In York you’ll find Hotel du Vin with a lie-back-and-do-nothing atmosphere. In Wiltshire you can book a rasul or hammam treatment in Whatley Manor. And in Cornwall you can stay at The Scarlet, an art-filled eco beach pad. So, where will you take your loved one? We’re thinking of visiting all three.

No matter where you go, don’t forget to bring your coat, gloves and hat. It might be warm and cosy inside but it’s still winter outside. But if you decide to head to the country, enjoy a spa retreat or have a romantic break, why not stay until New Year and celebrate the arrival of 2013 in style?! We’re definitely tempted!
 

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