Luxury UK waterside retreats

Words by Keven Amfo

23 November 2023


Tap into the healing power of water with a visit to one of these diverse properties across the UK.

The optimal time to start planning summer holidays is nearly upon us, so we thought we'd chime in and recommend our pick of where to luxuriate near a body of water without having to leave the UK. Summer aside, though, we like to frequent these destinations year-round, as chilly walks near the sea and lakeside bonfires are equally vital in their own way.

Said to calm nerves and reduce anxiety, time spent by the sea – or a lake, river, or stream – can help put you at ease, and we can attest to that. Here's our pick of where to visit without leaving the country.

Hotel Endsleigh, Devon 

Located between Devon and Cornwall, Hotel Endsleigh is the former summer home of Georgiana, Duchess of Bedford. Part of the Polizzi Collection, the stately home really does feel as such, with a cosy library, a boot room with wellies for walks, and two drawing rooms ideal for fireside evening lounging.

Surrounding the house are beautiful gardens – imported by request of the Duchess, who wanted to emulate a Scottish landscape – leading to the River Tamar, where you reach a pretty dell with little bridges crossing streams and huge Gunnera leaves. If you're visiting in the summer, this is the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon with a riverside picnic. 

Warm, inviting fire place on a brick wall beside a high table and chairs
Cosy house with a thatched roof in a field of green shrubbery
Hotel Endsleigh, Milton Abbot, Tavistock PL19 0PQ

Fife Arms, Braemar, Scotland

If adventures on the water are what you're after, Fife Arms in Scotland is the ideal destination: the River Dee runs just past the hotel. Famous for delicious salmon and fly fishing, enthusiasts can book a session with the in-house experts to try catching their own. The salmon fishing season runs from February to October, so we recommend visiting then for the best chance at catching a good one.

The cosy and characterful rooms offer the perfect retreat after a long day in the river; Balmoral Castle is just down the road, so don't miss the opportunity to visit. Although the onsite art collection is nearly as impressive – make sure to book a tour.

Grand wooden double bed with a wood headboard in a hotel room with red wallpaper and a green rug
Mar Rd, Braemar, Ballater AB35 5YN

Lime Wood, New Forest 

Host to an incredible spa, Lime Wood is a cosy stay in the New Forest. Featuring indulgent rooms (many with fireplaces) and ultra-comfy beds, this is one of our picks for visiting during the cooler months. Delicious dining, therapeutic spa treatments with products by Bamford, and stunning nature surrounding the property are all reasons to plan a trip year-round.

To really make the most of it, though, stay in The Lake Cabin, a hideaway nestled away on the far side of the estate's private lake. Completely secluded with no other rooms around, it is reminiscent of being on your own private island. Pared-back interiors put the focus on what's happening outside: verdant nature and serene waters. Cuddle up by the fire and enjoy.

Beautiful white sandstone manor house with a long drive and blue sky Beautiful white sandstone manor house with a long drive and blue sky
Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst SO43 7FZ

Cliveden House, Berkshire

A world away but just 40 minutes from London, Cliveden House is the Duke of Buckingham's property from 1666. The elegant hotel features excellent food, a luxe spa, and hundreds of acres of beautifully manicured gardens, but the Thames-side location truly sets it apart.

For the best experience, book the Spring Cottage – a separate residence on the property. Featuring two bedrooms and a full kitchen, plus a lounge with a fireplace, it's the ideal accommodation when travelling with a group. Perched just above the river, it's a great base from which to take one of the hotel's vintage launch boats down the Thames for a champagne picnic or to Bray for lunch at The Waterside Inn.

Thatched houses on a canal front with a river boat outside Thatched houses on a canal front with a river boat outside

The Gallivant, Rye 

A small luxury hotel in Rye, The Gallivant offers perfect proximity to the sea: just over the dunes is Camber Sands, the biggest sandy beach in southeast England. Camber Sands is one of the best places in the country for learning to kitesurf and windsurf, with a vast expanse of waist-deep water extending for about a mile into the sea and a consistent shore breeze.

Post-beach adventure, the hotel's mini Bamford spa provides respite for tired muscles. Don't miss oyster happy hour in the bright restaurant – from 5:30 to 6:30pm daily, hyper-fresh molluscs are just £1 each.

People wrapped in warm coats walking on to a beach at sunset
Plates of oysters with a red dip in the middle
New Lydd Rd, Camber, Rye TN31 7RB

The Fish, Cotswolds 

A collection of individual accommodations in the Cotswolds, The Fish makes the most of the surrounding 500 acres of nature. From treehouses to small huts with outdoor bathtubs, this is an excellent destination if you want to get away from it all.

Boaty McBoatface, one of The Fish's 'Hideway Huts' has a clawfoot bathtub and wood-burning stove and is located on its own private lake with a paddle boat. The waterside romance doesn't stop there: row to a secluded island across the private lake to enjoy a romantic evening for two.

Cabin in the woods
Beautiful metallic free standing bath in middle of bathroom
Farncombe House, Campden Ln, Farncombe, Broadway WR12 7LH

Wilderness Reserve, Suffolk 

A bucolic 8,000-acre estate, Wilderness Reserve features a collection of homes for rent, each encompassing the romanticism of the English countryside. Accommodating groups of all sizes, from couples to large families, several of the stately homes are lakeside. 

We're partial to Doxie (if you're travelling as a couple), a charming thatched-roof cottage sitting directly on a private swimming pond. Take on a wild swim, if you're brave enough, then warm up around your own fire pit or pop into your own jacuzzi with a hot toddy in hand and a ranger cooking you a bacon bap.

Couch and outdoor seat overlooking greenery and lake
Birdseye view of lake and house lakeside
Yoxford Rd, Saxmundham IP17 2LY

Linthwaite House, Lake District 

Surrounded by beautiful private grounds, Windermere's Linthwaite House is perched on a hilltop with excellent views. Home to Simon Rogan's Michelin-starred Henrock restaurant – the ideal destination for a leisurely three-course dinner following a day spent exploring – the hotel is a perfect blend of luxury and home comforts.

Embark on a guided hike with local guide Steve Watts (author of the striking Lakeland photography book  A Year Like No Other) through the fells and along the shores of Lake Windermere. The lake-view hot tub suite features an enclosed veranda with a private hot tub, gazing west across Lake Windermere.

Restaurant table and chairs against a art worked wall
Misty water landscape against mountainous backdrop
Crook Ln, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 3JA

Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland 

A luxury property in Scotland, Glenapp Castle was built in 1870 and maintains much of its original charm. Panelled in oak, the Victorian interiors offer a glimpse into another era with a sense of grandeur and elegance.

Board the Glenapp boat to explore the Hebridean Islands, navigated by a professional crew to optimize visits to remote islands, coastal castles and distant inns. Enjoy lunch at one of the many seafood restaurants before arriving at an island beach to spend a night luxury glamping in the wild, with dinner cooked by a private chef under the stars.

Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland 
Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland 
Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Girvan KA26 0NZ

Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. Our global network of dedicated travel specialists plans one-of-a-kind, tailor-made travel experiences to make every trip your best yet. Find out more about Quintessentially Travel here.

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