A childhood spent holidaying under canvas was intended to awaken in me an unflinching love of the great outdoors, a thirst for the intrepid and a healthy disregard for material possessions. Surprisingly, midnight floods and cold baked beans for breakfast had the opposite effect, leaving me fascinated by accommodation with lockable doors, non-collapsible floors and pillows not made of socks. And so, as soon as I was old enough to choose my own holidays, I started seeking out the most stylish hotels the world has to offer. In the process, these fine establishments have helped me forget about a bad day at the office, pretend I’m a princess, and rekindle that first-date flame. Because when it comes to escaping reality, there’s nothing like a truly gorgeous hotel.
Here’s my selection of those super-stylish hotels, home and abroad, that’ll help you live your dream, whatever it may be…
Best for: A Wee Dram in Style
Dowans Hotel, Aberlour
The Dowans is pure indulgence, down to the last booze-based detail, thanks to a recent overhaul of this Highlands hotel by Glasgow-based interior design company Chelsea Mclaine. Now the hotel, built in 1888 for the owner of a nearby whisky distillery, is all richly-hued velvets, wools and tweeds, reflecting the stunning Speyside views you take in from its hilltop location. In-keeping with its whisky heritage, the Dowan’s bar is stocked with more than 160 single malt whiskies, including a 70-year-old Macallan and a 1953 Glengrant. Snuggle in, and drink up.
Best for: Material Girls
Knightsbridge Hotel, Knightsbridge
Make like Madonna and book yourself a long, indulgent weekend in this truly stunning townhouse - Firmdale Hotels, with their interiors designed by the genius Kit Kemp, take luxury to the next level. Here at their Knightsbridge outpost, you can get seriously materialistic in both senses – revel in material girl Kemp’s ability to mix and match fabric colours and patterns over Afternoon Tea in the hotel’s vibrant library, then grab your purse and head next door to Harrods for the shopping spree of a lifetime.
Best for: A Naughty Weekend
The Witchery, Edinburgh
Forget the Castle, The Witchery next door is where the REAL romance happens in Edinburgh, and not just because kids are banned from the bedrooms. Following a meal in their famously fabulous restaurant, disappear up the stone turret staircase and continue your evening a deux with a bottle of champagne in an oversized silver roll-top bath, while admiring the bathroom’s leather-lined walls. Then it’s time for an early bed – and why wouldn’t you when your red-and-gold bedroom sports a lavishly draped and embroidered four poster? And after that? I’d rather not know…
Best for: Behaving like a Billionaire
London EDITION, Soho
Ever fancied seeing your name on the Rich List? Well, just one night at the five star London EDITION design hotel and you’ll feel like you’ve piled on the pounds in the best possible way. Each bedroom has that private yacht feel, with wood-panelled walls in dark walnut or light oak, luxurious linens and gold-framed art. Manor house libraries and 19th-century private members clubs inspire the reservations-only bar, Punch Room, where you can drink boozy tea-based cocktails inspired by the tea drinking traditions of London’s elite society. Your inner lady-of-the-manor will feel perfectly at home.
Best for: Getting Engaged
The Grove, Hertfordshire
The Grove was one of the first country house hotels to eschew chintz in favour of fabulous – its combination of irreverent luxe and 300 acres of beautiful countryside makes it ideal for couples looking to have some seriously indulgent fun. So he can relax in the award-winning spa while you play on the championship golf course (or, you know, the other way around). Then you can sprawl on the library’s funky sofas, drink champagne in the sparkly Blue Lounge, eat your body-weight in steak at the restaurant, and get proposed to overlooking the heart hedge. Well, that’s what I did, anyway.
Best for: Dream Home Inspo
Monachyle Mhor, Perthshire
It may be pink on the outside, but that’s not the (only) reason this loch-side hotel is the stuff of home-design dreams. Monachyle Mhor might once have been a farmhouse and stables, but its now a temple to cosy, contemporary style. No bed of straw or water trough here – instead, enjoy the sheep-free luxuries of a private spa-size steam room, underfloor heating and an Italian stone bath tub. Rustic-luxe touches are added with open fires, antler chandeliers and exposed brick, but the overall effect is still more urban chic than country life. Your Pinterest board will thank you for it.
Best for: Sex and the City Addicts
The Refinery Hotel, New York
If you’re as sad as me, thoughts of New York instantly conjure up images of Carrie Bradshaw and Samantha. And if Carrie was to stay at a hotel today, chances are she’d head straight for The Refinery, in the heart of Manhattan’s Fashion District. The guest rooms combine chic décor and industrial accents that hark back to the building’s 100-year-old function as a home to milliners and hat factories - even the desk has been designed to resemble a vintage sewing machine. Step outside the hotel and you’re in amongst the couture houses and showrooms of emerging designers. Don’t forget to order a Cosmopolitan at the Refinery Rooftop bar, with its stunning skyline views, while listening to Samantha’s latest Tinder exploits.
Best for: Budget Cool
Mama Shelter, Paris
If you’re in Paris and serious about getting your hipster on, you need to head directly to achingly cool and surprisingly inexpensive Mama Shelter as fast as your Acne boots will carry you. This hotel is, of course, fashioned from a concrete multi-storey car park in an insalubrious part of Paris. Don’t worry though – there’s cutting edge design and home comforts aplenty: interior design is courtesy of Philippe Starck, there’s a pizzeria, a restaurant and a rooftop bar, and your room is packed full of tech gadgets. And of course, no hipster hotel worth its beard is complete without a calendar of DJ sets.
Best for: Shipwrecked Luxury
Amanyara, Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean
If you ever fancied taking part in Shipwrecked, but couldn’t stomach the lack of food/shelter/champagne, then Amanyara is for you. Here. you are stranded on a Caribbean island far from civilisation on your own private beach, surrounded by tropical fish, turtles and humpback whales. Thankfully, the edge is taken off your isolation with a 6,000ft state-of-the-art spa; delicious Caribbean, Asian and Mediterranean fusion cuisine; a 50m infinity pool carved out of volcanic rock; and a circular teak bar, for sunset cocktails. The flatscreen TV, Aman bath products and free Wifi in your luxury pavilion might help a bit too.