From woodland shepherd’s huts to country-chic boutique hotels, the latest UK openings look towards the natural world to give guests a much-needed restorative stay. We find the best soul-stirring moments

Words: Angelina Villa-Clarke

In the countryside

The Harper, north Norfolk

Carved out of a former glass-blowing factory in the pretty village of Langham, new boutique hotel the Harper brings a breath of fresh air in more ways than one. While you can quietly kick back in the streamlined bedrooms – which offer a refreshingly unstuffy take on countryside-chic – days are best spent exploring the great outdoors.

Order a Harper Hamper filled with locally-made goodies such as sourdough from Pastonacre bakery and Baron Bigod cheese from the Cheese Truckle, then head off to trample across the Stiffkey Saltmarshes. You’ll weave through muddy creeks carpeted with samphire, crossing wooden bridges to draw in the salty air. Or why not arrange to go seal-spotting at one of the many wide and unspoilt beaches along the heritage coastline? The hotel also has bikes for hire, so you can peddle around nearby beauty spots, including Holkham or Blakeney.

Back at the hotel, Norfolk’s coastal-countryside charm exudes from every part. Bedrooms have a supply of real coffee from Norfolk roasters Grey Seal and bathrooms are stocked with locally made, seaweed-infused beauty treats, while relaxed indoor and outdoor dining celebrates the abundance of artisan produce found nearby – crab and mussels from fishermen Andy and Martin Frary; pork from Swannington Farm to Fork; crisp leaves and pea shoots from Johnny Cupitt, a young farmer from Blakeney; and marmalade by Simon’s Table, an artisan food producer in Norfolk. How very satisfying.

In the woods

Lympstone Manor, Devon

Set in 28 acres of immaculate grounds, chef Michael Caines’ Lympstone Manor has been a champion of laid-back, rural living since it opened in 2017. New for 2021, and placing guests in the heart of the estate, amid woodland, ponds and fields of wildflowers, is a collection of artfully designed shepherd’s huts.

Boasting views of the Exe Estuary and the hotel’s vineyard, each little outpost has been named after a different wildlife resident of the hotel – Hare’s Rest, Otter Holt and Hedgehog Row, for instance. The new additions have been expertly and uniquely designed by Blackdown Shepherd Huts – with features such as outdoor bathtubs, damson-red kitchenettes and wood-fired ‘Hikki’ hot tubs. Artist Rachel Toll has painted whimsical floral murals behind the beds, which are piled with bright, botanical-print pillows and faux-fur bed-throws, and there are eco soaps and creams by Natural Spa Factory. At night, you can stargaze through the ‘sky windows’ above the bed, while morning brings breakfast courtesy of a special Michael Caines hamper, stocked with freshly-baked breads, pastries and honey made by the resident bees.

Days can be spent exploring the Jurassic Coast, or foraging with a local expert in search of berries, wild garlic and nettles found in the hedgerows and Devon banks. As the sun dips, order a sundowner from the bar and head to your decked terrace – look up to see kingfishers and avocets swoop over the estuary – and revel in your very own sanctuary.

On the beach

Three Mile Beach, Cornwall

Tucked behind the reeds and sand dunes on Gwithian Beach, the new Three Mile Beach collection – made up of 15 Hamptons-style beach houses – offers the ultimate in barefoot living. The white clapboard interiors are brightened with candy coloured accents – think mint-green stools at the kitchen bar, baby-pink bedspreads, pastel-blue sofas and silvery zinc bathtubs. Wood-burners warm the homes in cooler months, while wrap-around terraces, complete with sunken cedar hot tubs, barrel saunas and barbecue grills, mean you can make the most of long summer nights in St Ives Bay.

Elevating the concept of self-catering, there are private chefs on-tap for lavish meals, or you can nip to the street-food truck for a quick, wholesome bite to eat. Alternatively, home cooks can pick their own produce at the nearby Trevaskis Farm, or – for something different – you can head down to Gwithian Beach for a summer ‘cookout’ event by foodie collective Hungry Horsebox (ideal after a day spent surfing).

Nearby is the Southwest Coast Path, the longest National Trail in the UK, peppered with heritage sites and unique geology. Or why not head to Godrevy Point, where high cliffs shelter sandy beaches below, for the ideal place to blow away the cobwebs?

On the farm

Fforest’s The Albion, Wales

You may have already heard of Fforest, the hip camping project created on a 200-acre farm, by the River Teifi Gorge near Cardigan in Wales. Described as a hybrid of Welsh farm and Japanese forest retreat, the cool ‘glamping’ brand is now elevating its offering with the opening of its first hotel.

Carved out of two historic warehouses, The Albion celebrates the area’s maritime history, with many original details preserved, such as the 19th-century pencil sketches of tall ships found on some of the interior lime-washed walls. Rooms are warm and cosy, with natural wood features, traditional slate fireplaces and colourful woven Welsh textiles.

Guests can tap into the foraging, bushcraft activities, coasteering and canoeing on offer at Fforest. In the summer months, there are mini festivals and creative retreats taking place, or you can explore the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve that borders the farm. What’s more, after you’ve worked up an appetite, there are stone-baked pizzas to enjoy at Pizzatipi, seafood served at the Boy Ashore beach shack, and natural wine at the mini pub, Y Bwthyn. Drink it all in.

On the sea

Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

With its plush luxury bedrooms and fine dining, the Relais & Chateaux hotel that is Glenapp Castle may not seem, at first, to be the most obvious place to embrace nature. In fact, it is renowned for its abundance of activities found across its 110 acres, such as falconry, fishing and archery. One of its most thrilling offerings, however, is the Hebridean Sea Safari, which sees guests take to the seas to explore the wild Scottish coastline on the castle’s rib boat.

As well as sailing to uninhabited islands, ancient ruins and coastal inns, skipper Roddy Leitch navigates the waters to find the best spots to see basking sharks, dolphins and minke whales. As a former harbour master and the longest serving RNLI Cox (lifeboatman) at Glenapp’s home port of Girvan, Roddy knows the coastline inside out and will take you to many secret spots. One of the stop-offs includes Ailsa Craig, a wildlife sanctuary and home to over 40,000 birds, including puffins and razorbills.

Two nights are spent on land in a luxury tepee – which is pitched ahead of your arrival and comes complete with tartan rugs, hot showers and beds laden with thick duvets. The ‘moving’ camp is placed in remote locations, chosen according to the season, to make the most of Scottish sunsets and wildlife-spotting, so you never know quite what to expect – although a dram or two of whisky is an essential part of the itinerary.