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Consider The Gold List the answer to the question our editors get asked more than any other: what are your favourite places to stay? Our annual collection, passionately selected by our international team, reveals which seaside retreat we return to every August and the city hotel that gets everything right. Now all you have to do is pick the experience that’s right for you – and get travelling. Cargo Lift Elevator
“The Red Lift, aka the ascending room – London’s first-ever electric elevator – is a Savoy (above) legend! And it continues to make a bold statement with its gold-fronted doors, red lacquer interiors, and leather bench for two. In fact, I may have ridden it a few times more than needed.” Arati Menon
This heritage property on the Andalusian coast has been synonymous with unassuming luxury since it began life as a hangout for Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe’s friends in the 1950s. Over time it has evolved from a string of Californian-motel-inspired lodges into a rarefied village anchored by the beach. Yet despite its growth, it has maintained the intimacy of a members’ club. Post-pandemic additions such as El Patio restaurant draw upmarket locals to sip pressed juices after yoga classes or crisp rosés later on. The recent reincarnation of the iconic Beach Club, once erring on the side of silver service, has an artisanal, eclectic feel, with vibrant corals, Art Deco-style umbrellas, and hand-painted tiles. It’s this rare combination of bohemian charm and specificity of service that is MC’s interstellar dust. It’s what brings smart young couples to lounge together under the citrus trees. It’s why families gather poolside for languorous lunches. But the kids’ club is the greatest triumph. There are exhaustive activities, gorgeous free-flow creative spaces, and engaging, energetic staff who work subtle magic. I’ve “encouraged” my own children into countless kids’ clubs over the years, but this is the only one that I have had to bribe them back out of. And happy children mean harmonious holidays: time to slink into the sea-gazing Thalasso spa, try some Kundalini yoga or a little paddle surfing; perhaps even a zingy Zoco cocktail by the pool. Life is all about balance, after all. Doubles from about £377. Lydia Gard
Recently, the upper end of Madrid’s hotel scene has erupted in a welter of blue-chip international brands – but three decades before the current boom, Santo Mauro was already offering its discreet brand of noble luxe. Built between 1860 and 1902 as the private palacio of the Dukes of Santo Mauro, the 49-room hotel, now owned by Antonio Catalán, occupies an affluent corner of the Chamberí neighbourhood where the ebullience of downtown Madrid gives way to a patrician quietude. The high-ceilinged public rooms seem to compete with one another in fin de siècle grandeur, but thanks to design doyen Lorenzo Castillo, who recently undertook a major refresh of the hotel’s interiors, what might once have been suffocatingly opulent now has a certain lightness and chic. Expansive, expensive fabrics adorn the walls and windows; restored parquet floors creak authentically as you pad across them; ceiling mouldings are subtly under-lit. The 93-member staff, smiling and as impeccably turned out as the surroundings, make you believe you’re a friend of the duke, simply hanging out for a night or two in your regular Madrid bolt-hole. Meanwhile in the French-style formal garden, deliciously re-imagined by landscaper Fernando Valero as a maze of box hedges and trickling fountains, the gravel crunches underfoot. From beyond a line of towering horse chestnut trees and a high fence hung with ivy comes the murmur of what may just be, right now, Spain’s most exciting city. Hard though it is to tear yourself away from this well-upholstered bubble of gorgeousness, it must be done. From about £509. Paul Richardson
I’ve been coming to Barcelona since just before the 1992 Olympics, that watershed moment when the city picked up the baton and ran with it. Since then I have always been swayed by the new: staying in Hotel Arts Barcelona when it rose up on the beachfront or making for The Hoxton’s rooftop taqueria. However, El Palace, like the Eixample district it sits in, is never ruffled by arrivistes. Locals still call it “El Ritz” – it was César Ritz’s last grand project – and while it officially lost the name decades ago, it clung to the theatrical pomp. The lobby’s basalt-black columns are the definition of mausoleum chic, as if ready to stage a production of Salome. Like all grandes dames, it gives good gossip and drops a few names. Everyone knows that Dalí lived here and once asked the staff to bring a giant stuffed horse that he’d bought up the stairs to his room, but there’s also a wild rumour that Trotsky’s murderer, Ramón Mercader, was once maître d’ here. I returned to Barcelona earlier this year, the first time since lockdown, to find it almost completely awake once more, and El Palace full of renewed zip. A new name has set up home here: Rafa Zafra, the topknotted former head chef at El Bulli, in Amar, a midnight-blue restaurant with ponzu oysters, caviar, and spider-crab cannelloni on the menu. And the rooftop pool terrace has been reclaimed by summer DJ sets and cocktail-fuelled art lessons. I even danced the merengue – seasoned boulevardiers can learn new moves too. From about £283. Rick Jordan
The journey is as important as the arrival, they say, and when applied to the home and garden of earthly delights that is the Belmond Cipriani, it means something. A vintage motor launch in varnished cedar, the last word in 1970s Venetian nautical chic, awaits to whisk you from the terminal or the crowds of St. Mark’s Square to the hotel, where the charming Roberto, who has been here forever, greets guests with a personal flourish. Unlike Venice’s other luxury hotels that have been poured into existing historic palaces, fighting against a corset of strict regulations, the Cipriani was custom-built in 1958 with plenty of elbow room, on three acres of land of the Giudecca, then owned by Guinness nobility. The daughters, Honor and Brigid, were fans of Harry’s Bar, a small panelled den in the heart of Venice, and invited its owner, Giuseppe Cipriani, to think big and create a hotel in partnership with them. The result is a place that is still unrivalled for that spirit of urbane hedonism; for generous and attentive service that never genuflects; for an easy atmosphere of peace and sanctuary alongside a sense of clubhouse discretion and rarefied exclusivity.
In the summer, when the canals in Venice get stinkier, the Cipriani offers more than a breath of fresh air. The grounds are large enough for tennis courts, a kitchen garden, a vineyard, and a spa within the orange blossom-scented Casanova gardens, where the eponymous lady-killer wooed the neighbouring nunnery. They are a haven for birds and Roberta the tortoise, who, unfortunately, hasn’t been seen since a recent acqua alta. Meanwhile, around the showpiece Olympic-size pool, the beating heart of the hotel (and a happy accident of scale, because the architect got his meters and feet mixed up), sunbathing is raised to the level of theatre, with endless opportunities for people-watching around the travertine-marble terrace. Here, Hollywood moguls cement film deals in loud voices while Venetian aristocrats settle into cabanas for the day, spraying complimentary Evian like Chanel No 5 and addressing the staff as extensions of their family. Sadly, the barman Walter Bolzonella, famous for the Buonanotte cocktail he dreamed up with George Clooney, is retired. The capable Riccardo Semeria has stepped into his shoes, while Riccardo Canella, multi-Michelin superstar chef of Noma fame, takes the culinary helm. He understands that the essence of Italian style is to keep things simple, natural, and familiar, yet still fresh and inventive. This is the hallmark of the Cipriani. Others have tried to emulate its timeless Italian chic. But glamour is an atmosphere, something harder to bottle than an Acqua di Parma scent. It is synonymous with this hotel, with its to-die-for view of the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s, sequestered on the edge of an insignificant island on a lagoon lapping the Adriatic Sea. From about £1,105. Catherine Fairweather
The first time my family went to Caruso, which is an 11th-century estate in Ravello at a summit in the Lattari Mountains that overlooks a 1,000-foot-plus plunge to the Tyrrhenian Sea, my son Henry was almost six months old. It was late April, and Amalfi’s lemon trees were blossoming. The hotel, an austerely beautiful, scrubbed limestone palace clinging to the side of a hill, was an appealingly easy escape. We carried cups of rich, not-too-sweet Sfusato Amalfitano lemonade into the grounds. Gardens arranged with lawns, rose borders, half-concealed hammocks, and citrus trees fanned beneath the palace like giant steps. Wisteria vines dropped petals from the pergolas, outshone by the punch-pink, first-bloom bougainvillea. We slept in the hotel’s Villa Margherita, designed by Eric Egan. I imagine artists who travelled to Ravello in the early 20th century staying here as they waited for inspiration to strike. One of us opened a set of floor-to-ceiling windows, exposing a clear sweep from the coastal slopes of Maiori to Minori, with the chapel-dotted uplands of the Lattaris rising in both directions, and the improbably empty Mediterranean filling in the horizon. It is a view nothing can prepare you for. Last May, my husband, Andrew, and I went back to the same villa with the cowrie-shell chandelier. We aren’t in the habit of repeating trips, but we both kept bringing up that lemonade. I was seven months pregnant with our second son, and if I had to be benched somewhere with a pack of antacids – well, what a place. We mooched around the pool, an adults-only place in spirit if not by decree, edged on three sides by green hills and by the coastline to the south. Shallow terra-cotta bowls, full of pansies, sat alongside huge white umbrellas, wide enough to shade two sun loungers on the patio or, even better, on the soft lawn dented with ice buckets. On some days we never went farther than the poolside restaurant, where we ordered scrape-the-plate paccheri with burst cherry tomatoes, and eggplant Parmesan that came in a puddle of bright passata. Food – and the leisurely eating of it – was the tentpole of our return to Caruso. We hovered over breakfast for an hour each morning, scooping up rosemary omelettes and fried tomatoes with soldiers of focaccia, tart rounds of caprese al limone, and sfogliatelle santarosa, my favourite, a shell-shaped pastry filled with raspberries and cream. In the afternoons we would walk into town past the duomo for hazelnut and pistachio cones from Baffone Gelateria Artigianale, and in the evenings we stayed at the hotel – a choice that usually would have smacked of laziness to me, but instead felt decadently unambitious. As I’m writing this, the baby is due in a couple of weeks, and I hope our second trip ends up being the start of something. I hope we’ll return to Caruso as a family of four, and open the windows in that villa, and remember why we keep coming back. From about £814. Jo Rodgers
In an increasingly rapacious Italian hotel scene, some iconic family-owned properties retain that made-in-Italy, one-of-a-kind elixir that the bigger players can only dream of. The decadent Grand Hotel Tremezzo is decidedly one of these: It has been in family hands since opening in 1910 and comes with Grand Tour charm in spades. Sitting a little back from Lake Como, looking out onto Bellagio, the Liberty-style building conjures a Grand Budapest Hotel set, an impression that grows when you enter the formal lobby with its sweeping red-carpet staircase, antique gilt-framed mirrors, and marble-encased bathrooms. I also love the flowers in abundance all over the property. But the hotel still manages to feel intimate thanks to its smaller cosy spaces: a cocooning spa with a heated swim-in, swim-out pool and Santa Maria Novella products; an outdoor pool surrounded by a forest of trees and blooming flowers; and tucked-away bars and corner banquettes in the restaurant (be sure to try the gold-leaf risotto). The hotel effortlessly pulls multiple punches, with a covetable shop stocking brands like Bric’s Milano, Borsalino, and Chez Dede, and a beautiful vintage wooden boat for lake excursions and to avoid road traffic. But the true pièce de résistance is the floating pool sitting on the lake – cinematic grandeur incarnate with a Lido-like beachfront, bright orange and white umbrellas, and chic custom loungers. From about £637. Ondine Cohane
This graceful estate is such a sharp contrast to wild Palermo that once you arrive you feel as though you have travelled to the other side of Sicily, not simply 10 minutes from the city centre. Villa Igiea is a legacy resort in the area, bought as a private estate by the Florios, once one of Italy’s wealthiest families, but then converted in the early 1900s into a wellness retreat that was popular with royalty. Decades later, it had lost its lustre until hotel magnate Rocco Forte brought it back to life in 2021. Now its pool, bars, and breezy guest rooms feel like a glitzy clubhouse of sorts for European dynasty families, who congregate for aperitivo hour in dresses and loafers on the outdoor terrace overlooking the bay, a dapper pianist tickling the ivories in the corner. You will want to order that third ice-cold martini just to muster up the courage to chat with the multilingual family – from Sweden? England? – at the table next to you (but eavesdropping is a fine runner-up). Inside, Art Nouveau touches include whimsical frescoes and grand staircases; while no two suites are alike (mine was done in tidy navy and white with beautifully colourful tiled bathrooms), they feel like a modern extension of what still is very much a classic seaside resort. Even in this newest iteration, Villa Igiea feels like a hotel with its own orbit, and one that creates a micro universe of characters rollicking against the most fanciful backdrop. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? From about £472. Erin Florio
A morning saunter through this 2,000-acre estate in Portugal’s Alentejo is a sensory journey back in time. Paths carve through the montado landscape, where wildflower meadows are punctuated by cork, oak, and olive trees. Lusitano wild horses mingle with cattle; the medieval hilltop town of Monsaraz looms in the distance, and granite dolmens give a glimpse of the region’s pagan past. Although it’s just 90 minutes from Lisbon, it’s conceivable that these views haven’t changed in centuries. The same cannot be said for São Lourenço’s luxurious lodgings. Balancing the rustic and the refined, the agricultural and the artful, is where this elegant 40-room hotel and organic working farm excels. Humble, whitewashed farm buildings have been sensitively transformed into sophisticated suites centred on a geranium-lined courtyard. The guest activities – beekeeping lessons, foraging, and stargazing (the region is a Dark Sky Reserve) – are almost as old as the surrounding hills. Two centuries of winemaking heritage make São Lourenço a key stop-off on Alentejo’s rota dos vinhos, which winds through the region’s best wineries. Here, robust native varietals have been skilfully tempered down and pair beautifully with polished takes on traditional dishes – gazpacho, migas, and cozido stews – that are as nourishing as late nights by the firepit. Effortlessly stylish yet wholly unpretentious, this rural retreat provides a compelling case for swapping Portugal’s coast for its countryside. Doubles from about £352. Ben Olsen
Known by locals simply as Le Crillon, it’s the kind of spot celebrities roll up to with the intent of blending in and mere mortals show up to with the hopes of standing out. First opened as a hotel in 1909 and owned by dukes and counts prior to the Revolution, the palace – which this summer celebrated nine years since its $300 million makeover – is Paris’s most magnificent in both reputation and design. Precious stones, elaborate floral arrangements, and so…much…marble – it’s all there in extravagant droves. As a local, I’ve popped in several times over the years, but the most memorable visit was in 2021 when the city was still closed to foreigners and the hotel rearranged the Leonard Bernstein suite, and its wrap-around balcony, into a bar for Parisians to sip cocktails and snack on tartines while overlooking the Place de la Concorde. The suite has been returned to its grand apartment glory, but at least we still have Les Ambassadeurs bar, which has a David Bowie–Labyrinth vibe that – thanks to a sky mural on the ceiling where crystal chandeliers are draped in chains – is dark, moody, and ultra-ethereal. Perhaps the hotel’s only snafu is that it’s so “fit” for royalty, its bathrobes are Napoleon-sized. (A “large” was short and snug, even for this five-foot-one Madame!) Still, comfort and class are key, from fresh hydrangeas in the room and toiletries by French apothecary Officine Universelle Buly to a charging cord appearing minutes after requesting it and an on-call butler service accessible via WhatsApp. And mon dieu, that bed! It’s like sleeping on a giant cream puff: soft, pillowy, and oh-so-sweet. In all, you come to Le Crillon for heritage with a splash of modern swank and savoir faire. From about £1,573. Sara Leiberman
Talking point: would Paris hotels be quite so palatial had la Révolution never happened? The Louis XIV vibe – gold leaf and satinate sheen, baroque chairs and chandeliers – has been so mimicked and dulled by repetition, it’s easy to forget how showstopping it can be. Le Meurice is a reset: Callas at La Scala compared to The Phantom of the Opera of certain other grandes dames whose scenery wobbles a little. A piece of immersive theatre where all the details – the greyhound emblem stamped on the butter, the fold of the maître d’s silk scarf, the trompe l’oeil fruit by pastry chef Cédric Grolet – are scrupulously choreographed. And yet, for all the marble-lined grandeur, surprisingly cosy and contemporary. Sit amid the Versailles pomp of the Ducasse dining room and you can idly swivel on your Eero Saarinen Tulip chair while waiting for your truffled eggs. On my last stay here, I joined one of the hotel’s private art tours, following in the footsteps of Monet and up to the Belle Étoile penthouse for a view almost identical to the painter’s 1876 study of the Tuileries. Because unlike many of the city’s palace hotels, this isn’t tucked away in a posh enclave but is right in the heart of proper Paris: the Jardins right in front, the main museums spread around. When Art Basel debuted in Paris in October, Le Meurice was the obvious choice for collectors – it’s a fully authenticated masterpiece. From about £800. Rick Jordan
Back in 1854, when Napoleon III bought a beachfront property in sleepy Biarritz and built a palatial holiday home for his wife, Empress Eugénie, little did he imagine that the crowned heads of Europe would follow suit and turn the city into a buzzy resort with a casino. Now, after a massive four-year renovation, the former Villa Eugenie, transformed into the stately fin de siècle grande dame Hôtel du Palais in 1892, is ready for her close-up. Talk about imperial presence: Everything from the fairy-tale frescoed ballroom to the plush Napoléon III Bar, crowned with a 900-pound crystal chandelier, calls for a lighthearted waltz, flute of vintage Bollinger in hand. Add to that the impressive antique-reviving craftsmanship: armchairs, curtains, bedspreads, mouldings. But there’s nothing museum-like about the 142 rooms and suites – places to throw open the windows, breathe in the ocean air, and watch the spectacle (the beach below, La Grande Plage, is big-wave surfer territory). Nautical details, like the porthole windows on the upper floor, abound. The ocean-liner vibe continues at the panoramic, curved La Rotonde, where chef Aurélien Largeau whips up eight-course seafood menus; homestyle Basque cooking can be found at the informal Côté Maison next door. The emblematic high point is the 32,000-square foot Guerlain Imperial Spa (Guerlain invented a cologne in 1853 just for Eugénie) for its regal Black Orchid facial treatment. From about about £328. Lanie Goodman
It’s been more than five years since I last set foot on the grounds of the Swiss grande dame Beau-Rivage, presiding over Lake Geneva like some proud Belle Époque aristocrat. But the memory of my suite remains vivid – of my feet on the thick padded carpet, of the fairy-tale terrace where I’d watch the light hit the Alps at dusk, of pressing a single bedside button to bring up the blackout shades before I ordered a fresh carafe of coffee. The interiors were regal and restrained; the staff, many the product of the nearby École Hôtelière de Lausanne, were efficient and kind. I spent my days strolling the manicured waterfront gardens; at night, after dining on artful plates of sole meunière at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Anne-Sophie Pic, I’d retreat into the sleek darkness of the bar, cradling a glass of amaro while watching businessmen conduct negotiations beneath Old World tapestries. In some ways, it was all a distraction – a way to waste time until I could politely excuse myself and retire to my room, to step back into the fantasy. One I long to return to. From about £420. Betsy Blumenthal
Some places defy, or maybe transcend, the whole notion of what a hotel is. Deplar – a turf-roofed former farm on northern Iceland’s Troll Peninsula, where sheep outnumber people – is one of those. It lingers in the memory as a series of sensations: the shuddering tingle of the icy plunge pool after meditation in a 200-degree sauna; the sight of ephemeral sea spray against the pinkish morning light on a silent sea-kayak trip among the seals; the shimmering, blissful half-sleep of a sound bath, in a small candlelit room. This all might sound a touch woo-woo, but Deplar Farm – like its parent company, Eleven, owned by the skiing- and fishing-obsessed former Blackstone executive Chad Pike – is anything but. Though it almost looks like just another black timber farmstead on the drive up the valley, the 32-guest lodge is a lair of pure-grade hedonism.
Everywhere there are tactile invitations to play, like a shuffleboard table in a cosy alcove, with its hidden game consoles and movie projector. Grown-up comfort music – think Fleetwood Mac – plays gently at all times, creating an atmosphere where frazzled bigwigs can rediscover their inner children, aided by privacy and limit-pushing adventures, from heli-skiing in the surrounding mountains to fly-fishing for char in nearby Lake Miklavatn. At times, the luxury borders on the comical: like wafting from the indoor hot bath to the steaming outdoor one, when one of the team appears in the sunken swim-up bar, wondering if we’d like the same negronis as last night. The staff seem to be having a blast too. We are on horseback when Beda Mörgeli, a Swiss-born adventure guide, tells me, unprompted but very convincingly, “Fuck, I love my job.” My partner and I stop asking who has stayed here (a winking “No comment”) and how rich or demanding they were, and give into the power of the place. We drive away on the single-track road the same as they probably all do: like happy goose-bumped children, made small and fresh again by the cold, silent valley. From about £2,781. Toby Skinner
As a student in Amsterdam, I cycled past this clutch of mansions along the Herengracht canal hundreds of times – often wondering what would become of these stately gabled marvels that seemed to change their white-collar tenants every season. Waldorf Astoria had the answer in 2014, when the brand chose this canal-belt corner, a stone’s throw from the Museum Quarter and a carbon copy of an Old Masters painting, as the base for its Amsterdam outpost. It had its canvas cut out for the job: a row of six 17th- and 18th-century palaces, all stone-hewn festoons and swirling pilasters, that once housed the mayors and merchants I read about in history books.
After a top-to-toe renovation that restored many of the building’s period touches to their Golden Age glory, it now welcomes guests of a similar cachet (an Arab sheik and his entourage brushed past me in the lobby) and hits the sweet spot between the classic – but often stuffy – glitz of its historic hotel peers and the sophistication of its modish neighbours. An elegant mélange of navy and creams mellows out the Rococo riot of the coiling staircases, frilly plasterwork, and gilded chandeliers, while licks of marble and silk in the Cire Trudon–scented suites up the glam factor ever so slightly. There’s a high-tech Guerlain spa with all the bells and whistles, and at Spectrum, the hotel’s signature fine diner, chef Sidney Schutte transforms local produce into edible art. But what really makes it tick are the peekaboo surprises: the secret courtyard garden, a birdsong-filled refuge from the tourist throngs outside, or the angels peering down from the hand-painted (and masterfully preserved) wooden ceiling in the Backer Suite. As a long-time local, I took Amsterdam's history for granted – a stay at this storybook hotel rekindled my wonder for the city’s fascinating past. From about £750, including daily breakfast. Chris Schalkx
When I chose hotels for honeymooning in southern Greece, where my mom's family is from, it was important to me that I support Greek-owned hotels in the aftermath of the pandemic. I was ecstatic to discover that Santa Marina, the beloved five-star resort on Mykonos, remains owned by the same local family that opened it four decades ago. The only resort on the island with its own private stretch of sandy beach – and on calm and sought-after Ornos Bay, no less – Santa Marina includes 101 seaview rooms and suites with private plunge pools, plus a selection of 13 sprawling villas, a cove-nestled beach club shielded from the mighty Cycladic winds, and two infinity pools to mix up the lounging scenery. Two restaurants, including sushi spot Buddha-Bar Beach Mykonos and Mykonos Social by Jason Atherton, serve inventive plates ranging from Asian-inspired poke and ceviches led by the Mediterranean’s abundant fish, to taverna-style dishes: slow-cooked lamb, sun-dried grilled octopus, classic horiatiki, and bread baskets served with traditional dips like taramosalata (roe puree) and htipiti (spicy whipped feta). The on-site spa has a traditional hammam as well as aromatherapy massages, medical-grade facials, and a sauna that are well worth breaking from the sun and sand for an afternoon. But the real magic of Santa Marina is in the simple pleasures afforded by its fabled location – sipping assyrtiko from a shady cabana while the mega yachts go by, you’ll forget all about the island's hard-partying reputation. From about £382. Shannon McMahon
Down in deepest Mani, the middle tentacle of the Peloponnese, there’s nothing for miles save for the occasional road lined with shrines, or fields full of chest-high thistles; here and there, old stone towers stab the sky. In one such place, Gerolimenas, on the far southwestern shore, Kyrimai hotel has occupied a 19th-century tower house for some 20 years. Originally built by the family who runs the establishment, it’s perfect as far as conversions go: immaculate and indulgent, yet retaining the deep romance of a place so remote it might have been overgrown with brambles only a week ago. It’s a maze of arches and stairways, the rooms inside the thick stone walls often split on two levels, with beds wearing white linen tucked in the eaves. Yet nothing feels cavelike. Instead, sunshine spreads beyond the windows and shutters into the amber-coloured walls and along hefty wooden floors. A restaurant sits above clear water in which fish curl and loll toward the shadows. It’s impossible not to step off repeatedly for a swim. There’s usually someone doing laps around the bay, or the sound of a creaking boat resounding off thyme-scented cliffs. In spring, the high rocks can turn light blue with wild sage that also appears in the house cocktails. The food is the best in the region: sardines with black olives whose spicy freshness cuts through the fatty fish oil, and rock samphire that turns creamed feta from a salty Greek chore into something paradisiacal. From about £127. Antonia Quirke
For half a century, Kinloch Lodge – tiny, remote, eccentric – has been among the best-loved of Scottish hotels. Yet when it opened in the spring of 1972, its proprietors, Claire and Godfrey Macdonald, were far from sure it would still be a going concern by the autumn. A couple of years previously, Godfrey had inherited a roster of ancient titles along with a vast estate. He had also inherited colossal debts. Kinloch, a run-down, whitewashed shooting lodge on ravishingly pretty Loch na Dal, near the southern tip of Skye, was practically all he and Claire had left. They welcomed their first guests to a hotel that had no electricity, only two log fires for heating, and a single telephone under the stairs. Kinloch’s reputation grew, however. The sheer beauty of the place. The unstuffy charm of the owners and their four kids – each of whom became adept at taking bookings and making beds. Claire’s brilliant, ultra-local, entirely seasonal cooking, decades ahead of its time. In 2002, Godfrey and Claire retired, and their daughter Isabella took over as manager. She has revamped the 18 rooms with sensitivity, flair, and discreet contemporary flourishes. There’s still an heirloom-forward, country-house grandeur about it, but zero pomposity. Instead, a warmth and intimacy derive from the Macdonalds’ commitment to doing simple things very well and taking proper care of their guests. That sounds easy but isn’t. Kinloch Lodge is one of a kind. Doubles from about £348. Steve King
At university, I was in a doomed relationship with a girl and feeling extremely sorry for myself. Luckily I had a generous aunt who would say, “If you can stop moping and get to London by 6pm, I’ll meet you in the American Bar, and you can tell me all about it.” I’d jump on a train, then hoof it from King’s Cross to The Savoy. I’d gaze for a moment at the sign on the chrome-bright Strand-facing portico, spin past a top-hatted doorman, glide across the checkered-marble lobby floor, make a sharp left up carpeted steps, pad along a passage lined with photographs (“Hi, Frank! Hello, Ava! How do you do, Sir Winston!”) and enter – heart racing, spirits already lifting – the American Bar. There my aunt would be waiting, serenely seated at a table on the river side with a bottle of Champagne. That’s how I fell in love with The Savoy, but it’s by no means the only reason why, almost 30 years and goodness knows how many visits later, I still love it.
The Savoy is big and complicated, and its paradoxes are essential to its appeal. You can’t even see the Thames from the so-called Thames Foyer, yet there’s a riparian aspect to that stupendous space, with its palette of pale greens, the light filtered through a stained-glass dome, the staff eddying around the ornate winter-garden gazebo. The entire place, actually, is a gorgeous bundle of stylistic contradictions – high Victorian, plush Edwardian, flapper-tastic Art Deco – that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.
Like most of the hotels we refer to as “classic” or “an institution” and think of as monolithic and unchanging, The Savoy hasn’t stayed still. A short list of its innovations between its 1889 opening and 1926, when the godlike Harry Craddock took over the American Bar, would include the introduction of electric light in all rooms, hydraulic lifts (note the absence of a central staircase) and proper ventilation in the kitchens; the thé dansant; and at least a dozen of the finest cocktails to have befuddled the world. So it continues. In 2021, the Royal Suite was restyled with irresistible flair by Gucci. And last year, Restaurant 1890 by Gordon Ramsay – a lustrous jewel box – opened in a former private dining room above the legendary Savoy Grill. Before he returned to Florence to start his little luggage business, Guccio Gucci worked as a porter at The Savoy –another layer of charm. Plus the menu at 1890 is inspired by the recipes of the greatest chef who ever lived, Auguste Escoffier, who hit the big time at – guess where – The Savoy. Doubles from about £630. Steve King
The Goring is London to its very core. And unlike so many of its fellow luxury hotels with their slick, inoffensively international feel, it really couldn’t be anywhere else. From the scarlet-coated concierges to the antiques-filled rooms, proximity to Buckingham Palace, and a dining room that was a favourite of both Margaret Thatcher and the Queen Mother, this is a true icon of the capital’s hotel scene. But it’s very much traditional rather than old-fashioned, and under that classic hood purrs an exceptionally modern engine. Beds are supremely comfortable and towels lusciously thick, while the bathrooms have vast walk-in showers and tubs big enough to host your own regatta. Service is smiling but very professional. Discretion is everything: Who knows how many coups, plots, and leadership bids have been quietly hatched in The Goring Cocktail Bar, which happens to mix one of the finest Martinis in town? CEO Jeremy Goring is the fourth generation of his family to take the reins, and this avid surfer makes sure things never become too stuffy. In the summer a rum bar pops up in the garden, and things get very merry indeed. The Dining Room is a bastion of traditional British food: oeufs Drumkilbo, rack of Romney lamb, Longhorn beef Wellington, and the restaurant’s legendary lobster omelet. From £549. Tom Parker Bowles
To call The Newt a hotel is a bit like calling Buckingham Palace a house. With gardens worth a visit in their own right, an interactive museum, a corker of a spa, plus a gelateria and bakery, it’s so much more than 42 beautifully pitched rooms. It even offers bee safaris and honey tastings. You can see why there’s been a buzz about this place since its 2019 opening in a corner of Somerset whose cool credentials were already on the rise thanks to the nearby Hauser & Wirth gallery. Now a reimagined Roman villa with an accompanying museum has been added to the 800-acre estate. Owner and South African billionaire Koos Bekker and his wife, Karen Roos, have lavished no-expense-spared attention to detail on the villa. Roos calls her design “classical contemporary,” which includes some fun touches: tapestry wall trophies; a room in the colours of a croquet set; a Roman bust wearing a necklace of seashells. Bedrooms vary from contemporary country to Scandinavian simplicity. As at the couple’s South African hotel, Babylonstoren (see above), the gardens are the focal point, so it’s no surprise that the estate-to-plate food zings with freshness. More unexpected is the Story of Gardening museum, where you can visit gardens around the world by VR. The Newt makes its own cider – or “cyder,” as it calls it. A tad pretentious? You won’t think so when you taste the single varietal brew and see the 300 types of apple trees in the egg-shaped walled garden. From about £433. Jane Knight
An oasis of beachfront calm and elegance tucked just off Waikiki’s bustling main strip, Halekulani transports guests back to Hawaii’s golden era when honeymooners like Ernest Hemingway would come for sunset daiquiris at House Without A Key, the hotel’s restaurant and bar. For years, the grande dame was a little too stuck in the past, but the pandemic provided the opportunity to undertake an 18-month renovation that secured the property’s legacy as one of Hawaii’s most refined stays. All 453 rooms have been updated with expected modern conveniences, like Nespresso machines and complimentary high-speed Internet with higher bandwidth, plus high-tech touches like Toto toilets. Beloved traditions, like nightly mele (music) and hula beside the 135-year-old kiawe tree at the House Without A Key, continue. But the restaurant named for Charlie Chan’s first novel now has a new open-air bar from which to take in the show while you sip mai tais and nosh on ahi tataki. Attentive staff always at the ready with sunblock or another hula punch make it hard to pull yourself away from the sparkling pool (a photo favourite for its cattleya-orchid mosaic floor). But it’s worth leaving your lounger to take advantage of Halekulani’s For You, Everything program, which gives guests free access to some of Oahu’s top cultural venues, like the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design. If you can’t bring yourself to leave the tranquillity, at least take in the hotel’s renowned art collection, which has finally been formally curated for guests. From about £539. Jen Murphy
Public Escalator It’s hard to toss a lasso in Austin, Texas, without roping an entrepreneur, so it’s fitting that Commodore E.H. Perry, the man behind this 1928 estate turned Auberge Resort, was one of the city’s originals. The Commodore (a nickname he earned after his boat capsized on Lake Austin) built a cotton trading company with partners in Europe where, no doubt, he developed his taste for the landmark’s Mediterranean architecture – stucco facades, checkered tiled floors, carved stone fireplaces – all of which were preserved during the gated property’s multimillion build and restoration. Suites are individually designed with sumptuous wallpapers and antiques, and all of the 54 rooms have soaring ceilings, original art, and customised cocktail bars. Outside, rows of sycamores frame 10-plus acres of gardens as well as a pool surrounded by striped yellow umbrellas.