Think “road trip” and you might think crisscrossing the US on Route 66, or driving through south America. Well, in this topsy-turvy year, both of those are off the cards – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your kicks closer to home.
If anything, the new staycation trend has encouraged some of us to look again at what the UK has to offer – and for Londoners, there is plenty on the doorstep.
Setting off from Victoria in our Avis-hired Renault Clio, City A.M. headed out for a three-day spin to the west of London; starting with an hour’s drive to Windsor and the Castle Hotel, one of the jewels in the crown of the MGallery group of properties.
Situated bang in the centre of the historic town, within a not-recommended stone’s throw of the famous castle, the hotel delivers just the right mix of 21st century functionality with the sort of charm you want in a town like Windsor.
And there’s never been a better time to visit: with many tourists staying away, the occasionally chocka-block streets are enjoyably easy to explore.
A gentle stroll along the Long Walk and within five minutes you’ll forget you’re only an hour from London – and combine that with a pint at the wonderful Two Brewers and you’ve got yourself a country retreat. The hotel’s Marco Pierre White steakhouse ensures you won’t go hungry.
City A.M. took off from Windsor towards the beautiful Mendip Hills, a wildly underrated patch of unspoilt natural beauty that in the sun bears something of a resemblance to the Umbrian hills.
After a hearty lunch in the Jack Russell pub in beautiful Faccombe, it was onwards to Bath – where another of MGallery’s portfolio provides true luxury.
The Francis Hotel sits on the historic Queen’s Square in this picturesque city, a short walk from both the Royal Crescent and the pubs along the River Avon.
The property has recently refurbished some of its rooms, and you can see it: every touch is close on perfect, from the palatial bathroom to the locally relevant artworks dotting the suites.
Superb service is matched by its wonderful location, a brief walk from one of the UK’s most remarkable restaurants, Circus. City A.M. recommends a drink in the hotel’s cocktail bar before strolling up to the small, perfectly formed eatery – and don’t miss the seared duck with pomegranate seeds.
And lest you overindulge on the wine, the hotel’s breakfast combined with a coffee from the adjacent, award-winning Colonna & Small’s will see you right for the day ahead.
Suitably reinvigorated, it’s a short drive to the Queens Hotel in Cheltenham, perfectly situated as a gateway to the Cotswolds. There are precious few drives in the UK which offer quite the combination of stunning scenery and twisting country lines, and even City A.M.’s Clio had plenty of fun.
The Queens’ in-house restaurant, with a menu of hearty, locally-sourced British dishes provides a welcome meal after an exhilarating day.
All of MGallery’s properties are taking their responsibilities seriously with regards to government regulations on social distancing, and the overriding experience is of one that is different from what we knew before – but still wonderfully enjoyable.
Masks need to be worn in communal areas but not (obviously) in rooms or in the restaurants, and the rooms themselves are extensively cleaned after each guest departs.
So even in these strange times, some of Britain’s prettiest scenery and most charming cities await: these three hotels provide a wonderful way to see it.