The four best hotels in England for a waterside staycation

From a romantic lakeside retreat to a glitzy yacht hotel in the capital, these four tranquil retreats will soothe you into the new year

Fowey Hall Hotel, Fowey, Cornwall

Best for… entertaining the kids

The view alone is worth the drive to this clifftop hotel, which overlooks the fishing village of Fowey and its pretty-as-a-postcard harbour. The Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame once stayed here and rumour has it that the iconic building was the inspiration for Toad Hall. Today it’s newly refurbished and brimming with family-friendly activities, including a fabulous outdoor children’s play area and library, which was opened by David Walliams. But the biggest draw is the beach, a leisurely 10-minute walk away. There’s a relaxing spa to retire to afterwards, and the extensive cocktail menu will keep parents happy too.

Stella loves: The crab linguine (so good we ate it for three consecutive evenings). The lobster (ordered with 24 hours notice) is pretty special too

Out and about: Fowey is a short but steep stroll away – be sure to pack sensible shoes. The hills are worth it as once there, you’ll find fudge shops and tea rooms aplenty for a Cornish cream tea ( The Eden Project is also worth a visit – just 17 minutes by car from the hotel (

Rooms from £249 a night, b&b;

Read the full expert review: Fowey Hall Hotel

Fowey Hall is a great option for families

• An insider guide to Cornwall

Cary Arms and Spa, Babbacombe, Devon

Best for… turquoise waters

This charming inn, located right over the turquoise waters of Babbacombe Beach, is as close as you’ll get to the Cote d’Azur in the UK (the region is not called the English Riviera for nothing). The hotel itself has clean white New England vibes. Pack your wetsuit and brave a bracing early-morning swim. The waters are so calm, it’s excellent for paddleboarding too. We stayed in a Beach Suite, a self-contained apartment with decking, a big living room and views of the sea from bed. The views are also best taken in from the hydrotherapy pool in the hotel’s small spa – the walls are floor-to-ceiling glass, allowing you to watch the ocean as you’re massaged by underwater jets. The cosy pub-style restaurant, decorated in fitting nautical fashion, serves an excellent Sunday roast with enormous Yorkshire puds, which are worth the trip alone. 

Stella loves: The treats box in the suite, full of biscuits, chocolate bars, savoury snacks and hot chocolate mixes for cosy afternoons in. Better still, it’s replenished daily.

Out and about: Right on the beautiful shingley Babbacombe Beach, it’s ideal for cold water swimming, paddleboarding and sailing. Scuba divers often frequent the area too ( Neighbouring Oddicombe Beach, with striking red sand, is less than a 10-minute stroll around the coast – stop off at the little cafe there, which serves a mean hot chocolate and is the perfect lookout point to watch the rolling waves and passing cruise liners. To really get your bearings, book a tour with English Riviera Walking Tours – local guide Graham was as informative as he was entertaining. Highly recommended is his  Agatha Christie walking tour in nearby Torquay, which is fascinating for fans of Miss Marple and Poirot (; tours £10 per person). 

Rooms from £269 a night, b&b;

Read the full expert review: Cary Arms & Spa

The Cary Arms has clean white New England vibes

• The best beaches in Devon

Sunborn London, Royal Victoria Dock, London

Best for… French Riviera glitz

It may be permanently moored on the River Thames, but once you step inside the Sunborn, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in St Tropez. With glamorous spiral staircases, mahogany panelled walls and a crystal chandelier centrepiece, it’s all fabulously glitzy – but with a befitting smattering of kitsch. Our smart suite came with a sundeck and mosaic-embellished bathroom, plus a gorgeous spa bath. But the USP is its Lands End restaurant, which gives guests a fresh perspective of London, with its vistas on to the water, Docklands and beyond – and an inspiring international menu to boot. 

Stella loves: Morning coffee on deck with a bustling Thames backdrop.

Out and about: It is a stone’s throw away from the Emirates Airline cable car, for unrivalled aerial views of London’s skyline – by day or night (tickets from £3.50, prebook at As you touch down on dry land across the river, you’ll find yourself next to the Emirates Sky Experience, with flight simulators and interactive airline exhibits. From there, hop on a water taxi and London is your oyster.

Rooms from £118 a night,

Read the full expert review: Sunborn London

Sunborn is a fabulously glitzy ‘boatel’ on the River Thames


• The best things to do in London

Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, Borrowdale, Lake District

Best for… lakeside romance

This 87-room hotel, which overlooks the majestic Derwentwater and the fells of Skiddaw and Catbells, appears imposing with its gabled and turreted Victorian slate, but behind the door there’s a warm welcome. There’s been a hotel at this picturesque spot for 150 years but in 2018 a Scandi-style spa was added – it sits seamlessly in the craggy Lakeland backdrop. Slip into the steaming outdoor infinity pool and soak up the landscape. For dinner, tuck into pan-Asian dishes at the stylish Mizu restaurant, or for more traditional fare try the Lake View restaurant.

Stella loves: Sipping pink gin under the stars in the infinity pool, while being massaged by underwater jets.

Out and about: Feast on an eight-course lunch and marvel at the culinary creativity at two-Michelin-starred L’Enclume – chef Simon Rogan serves organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers grown at the restaurant’s own farm. It’s worth the 90-minute drive from the hotel. The Cottage in the Wood restaurant is closer and also spectacular; book a table ahead ( Burn it off with a 3.5-mile Catbells hike. The views of Keswick, Derwentwater and Borrowdale are unrivalled on a clear day.

Rooms from £240 a night, full board;

Read the full expert review: Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa

Lodore Falls Hotel overlooks the majestic Derwentwater and the fells of Skiddaw and Catbells

Edited by Laura Powell. Reviews by Caroline Barrett-Haigh, Naomi Greenaway, Laura Powell and Emily Allen

Check local lockdown restrictions before travelling and keep up to date with hotel policies (include spa and restaurant rules) on individual hotel websites

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