Spring has well and truly sprung. So pack up the car, round up the family and choose from these gloriously British self-catering staycations
Chalet Saunton, Saunton Sands, Devon
Best for… minimalism (with a view)
The low-down: Come rain or shine, the beach views from all seven of the apartments in this ultra-chic aparthotel are wondrous. Inside, the décor is crisp and minimal (with scented candles, marble bathrooms and a wine-cooler fridges) and the space vast, making it ideal for groups. Children can go free-range with direct access to the beach via a rugged path, plus there are local eateries and ice cream stalls nearby to satisfy post-sandcastle-building hunger. The kitchen was stocked with everything we needed for a fry-up – locally made bread, salty butter, eggs, bacon, mushrooms and avocados (of course).
Out and about: There’s world-class surfing on your doorstep – Walking on Waves shop and surf school caters to all levels and its staff are great with children. For a cheeky round of golf, visit Saunton Sands Hotel next door. The nearby village of Braunton is good for a potter – while you’re there, pop into Wanderlust Life jewellery studio, which has beautifully crafted pieces. Those craving Michelin-starred fare must book a table at The Olive Room in Ilfracombe (home to Damien Hirst’s Verity sculpture).
Stella loves:The views from the floor-to-ceiling windows – miles of golden beach, edged by dunes and wild flowers.
From £400 a night in a three-bedroom apartment. Sleeps six. Call 01271 890514 or visit chaletsaunton.com
The Mint in Rye, Rye, Sussex
Best for… historic charm
The low-down: This beautifully restored 15th-century Tudor building is perfectly positioned in the centre of ancient Rye, a few feet from a good pub (The Standard Inn) and a minute’s walk along the cobbled streets to tea rooms and antique emporiums. Inside the house, which sleeps six, there is a huge inglenook fireplace, exposed beams aplenty, plus paintings and books to satisfy history buffs – and fluffy white bathrobes to cosy up in after soaking in the free-standing tub.
Out and about: History lovers should visit Ypres Tower, which was built in the early 14th century to help defend the town against French invasion. Now it’s a museum with spectacular views towards Camber Sands – two miles of sandy beach and grassy dunes. Foodies should head to The George in Rye for a Mediterranean-inspired dinner – unbeatable.
Stella loves: The thoughtful welcome hamper, with fresh apple juice, Chapel Down wine, Kent crisps and traditional treats from Britcher and Rivers sweet shop down the road.
From £684 for three nights or £913 for seven nights in a three-bedroom apartment. Sleeps six (not suitable for children under four). Call 01227 464 958 or visit mulberrycottages.com
Landlubber at Merchants Manor, Falmouth, Cornwall
Best for… design buffs
The low-down: Originally named Garras, Cornish for ‘the house on the hill’, the grand Merchants Manor hotel lives up to its name – as does its ‘Landlubber’ self-catering apartment, which has the air of a secluded private beach cabin, albeit a highly stylish one, masterminded by interior designers Bert & May. The vibe is eclectic (with rustic reclaimed-timber walls alongside retro artisan tiles), and the 30m-long private garden is the icing on the cake – while the Jacuzzi hot tub is the cherry on top of that. A private chef can be arranged, or venture out to the hotel’s award-winning Rastella restaurant, which serves exquisite Cornish cheeses, lamb and game.
Out and about: Falmouth’s quirky taverns and galleries are a 15-minute stroll away, as is the pretty harbour. Make a pit stop for a crab sandwich at the Pier Cafe or fish and chips at Harbour Lights.
Stella loves:The hotel’s Linen Rooms spa, which self-catering guests can also use. Treatments are given in peaceful private rooms in the main house. Book in for the Detoxifying Massage.
From £250 to £400 a night in a two-bedroom apartment. Sleeps four. Call 01326 312 734 or visit merchantsmanor.com
Read the full review: Merchants Manor Hotel, Falmouth
Chaplain’s Lodge, Wraxall, Somerset
Best for… countryside nesting
The low-down: Surrounded by beautiful countryside and perched on the edge of the National Trust’s Tyntesfield Estate, this former butler’s lodge, which was once home to a gatekeeper, has been elegantly restored while retaining its historic charm (it still has service bells outside the kitchen). It also has the biggest back garden your children could hope for. Wake up early and explore the estate before tourists arrive – it’s home to a striking Victorian Gothic Revival house and has gardens and parkland aplenty.
Out and about: Bristol is only a 25-minute drive away and has much to entertain the family, including Bristol Zoo, which originally opened its doors in 1836. Keeping with the Victorian theme, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain is very well set up to entertain and educate the whole family. From £303 for two nights or £552 for seven nights in a three-bedroom lodge. Sleeps five. Call 0344 800 2070 or visit nationaltrust.org.uk
Stella loves: Exploring the woodland walk first thing in the morning, looking out for the newts, badgers, hares and other wildlife.
Edited by Laura Powell. Reviews by Anna Murfet, Chrissy Amer, Naomi McMullen, Mark Neil