We’re the first to admit that London isn’t the most relaxing place in the universe. Between the smog and equally choking crowds, a simple escape to the countryside is an exquisite relief – a breath of fresh air, both literally and metaphorically. At any of these decidedly British country house hotels you can relax, indulge and explore without a care in the world. Returning to the urban sprawl afterwards, however, is another matter entirely…

Whatley Manor (Cotswolds)

Whatley Manor
Whatley Manor boasts 26 distinctive gardens to discover at your leisure © Jo Hansford Photography

Nestled near one of Britain’s oldest boroughs – Malmesbury Town – Whatley Manor is the very image of a picturesque escape in the beautiful Cotswolds. Originally built in 19th century as part of a larger estate, in 2003 the manor opened its doors as part of Relais & Châteaux and the exceptional hospitality that entails. The 12 acres of grounds are home to 26 distinctive gardens, plenty of spa and leisure facilities and two restaurants – the relaxed Grey’s Brasserie and the stunning, two Michelin star Dining Room. If that doesn’t keep you busy, the hiking, shooting and golfing nearby will; www.whatleymanor.com

Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat ’Saisons (Oxfordshire)

Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat ’Saisons

Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat ’Saisons

Situated in the quaint Oxfordshire village of Great Milton, Raymond Blanc’s culinary escape is a site of pilgrimage for epicureans with a taste for beautiful British produce. Le Manoir’s cookery school is legendary and has turned out more than its fair share of phenomenal chefs; take a course and you just might be able to join them. Maybe. It’s not only the food that’s exceptional of course; the suites are old-world sumptuous and the gardens – both kitchen and scenic – are breathtaking. Where better to relax over a Michelin star meal? Especially if you helped make it… www.belmond.com

Lime Wood (New Forest)

Lime Wood Estate

Lime Wood Estate

Lime Wood in the New Forest is the antithesis of a traditional country house hotel. Where most would suit a Georgian lord, this particular estate is a getaway where a superfood smoothie is as likely as afternoon tea. Light, spacious modernity is the key here, the kind of feeling you get from a luxury health retreat. The food is all local, whether it’s the house-smoked meat and fish or the raw and cured menu, all of which you can digest over a spot of yoga on the rooftop garden. If you need a revitalising escape from the Big Smoke, Lime Wood may well be it; www.limewoodhotel.co.uk

Chewton Glen (Hampshire)

Chewton Glen (West Hampshire)

Chewton Glen West Hampshire

Just two hours away from London, in west Hampshire, sits the archetype of English country hospitality that is Chewton Glen. From the outside, the house looks idyllic verging on quaint, but it has all the facilities of a grand estate – from the spa with its 12 treatment rooms to the 1,800-bottle cellar and phenomenal Dining Room restaurant. Get in touch with nature through the 130 acres of woodland and gardens extending all around the house. Plus, you can even stay in a luxury treehouse. Enough said; www.chewtonglen.com

Manor House Hotel (Cotswolds)

Manor House Hotel

Manor House Hotel

Castle Combe is a beautiful Cotswold village and at the centre of the 14th century settlement lies the Manor House Hotel. With its vine-covered, bay-windowed façade and 365 acres of pristine British countryside, it also serves as one of the most scenic golf clubs in England. The 18-hole Manor House championship course is a true golfing gem. Immaculate fairways lined with beech trees, the River Bybrook meandering through as a natural water hazard, it’s a course fit for all handicaps. Even if you don’t play, it’s a spectacular walk in the park; www.exclusive.co.uk/the-manor-house