The 40-room, luxury Lodge at Sea Island is on the site of a former cotton plantation, accessed via an avenue of historic antebellum oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Outside, the lodge resembles an English manor; inside, it feels like a 1920s-style golf clubhouse or hunting lodge, with personal butlers who deliver milk and cookies to guest rooms at bedtime. Golfers will be in heaven, but there are plenty of non-golf-centric activities, too. Rooms are huge and packed with amenities -- some havebalconies with beautiful views of the St. Simons Sound. Listen for the nightly bagpiper who performs at sunset. Guests should note that some features -- such as the beach, spa, and swimming pool -- are located at the sister property, The Cloister, which is too far to walk to; however, there's a free regular shuttle there and back.
Often referred to as the USA's best small hotel, this 20-suite Relais & Châteaux property - with cottages and outbuildings anchored by a 1795 New England farmhouse - sits in 300 acres of breathtaking wildflower meadows, pine forests, lakes and orchards. Its sophisticated style is the result of a long and fruitful relationship with the cream of NYC's interior-design world. In the 1990s, the original owner, Hawaiian newspaperman Thurston Twigg-Smith, commissioned designer and one-time Warhol apostle Jed Johnson to work his magic on the first 15 rooms. Cue chinoiserie toile pelmets, hand-carved ravens atop barley-twist bedposts and a trompe-l'oeil tented ceiling. Johnson's rooms are still marvellous, but when Twin Farms added another five bedrooms in 2005, plus spa treatment rooms, architect Peter Bohlin (known for his Apple stores) and interior designer Thad Hayes were called in. Their suites - such as The Aviary, with its Douglas-fir panelling, shag rug and buttoned-leather headboard, all in orange - are as luxurious as Johnson's, though less zesty. As delightful as the rooms are, the farm-raised, seasonal food (veal with butternut-squash purée in winter, grilled halibut and prawn gnocchi in summer) from chef Ted Ask and pastry honcho Christopher Wilson possibly tops it all. There's also access to deserted hiking trails, private ski slopes, fly-fishing, the Out of the Woods Spa and a 20,000-bottle wine cellar.
The Lowell is conveniently situated near Fifth Avenue and Central Park on the Upper East Side. Offering 74 rooms and suites with cashmere throws, king-sized beds and pantries or kitchenettes stocked with Dean & DeLuca snacks, this boutique property also features an array of drinking and dining venues, including the elegant Majorelle, the oak-paneled Jacques Bar and the cozy Club Room. And no visit to the No. 2 Best Hotel in New York City would be complete without sitting for afternoon tea in the Pembroke Room. (Courtesy of The Lowell Hotel New York)
Every so often a game changer comes along. Six years later than scheduled, this country-house hotel finally opened in September 2018, an 18th-century manor whose estate is vital to its very core. The land has been enthusiastically pressed back into service – albeit with a new, biodynamic twist – both as bountiful supplier and as a playground for anyone staying here. A river and arboretum planted by 19th-century head gardener William Wildsmith unfold beyond the Georgian pleasure garden, rolling into crop fields and farm pastures which guests are encouraged to explore. There is further acreage inside: a private dining room, drawing and morning rooms, a leather-clad screening room. Designer Ben Thompson’s layering of soft colours, texture and assiduously polished antiques with contemporary craftsmanship has created a refined earthy feel. Of the 45 bedrooms, six are suites, including the bold Ochre Room with its chocolate marble bathroom, the sleek off-white Panelled Room, and the Long Room, with a log fire and its own terrace. Skye Gyngell, formerly of café-turned-Michelin-star-sensation Petersham Nurseries, heads up its two restaurants: Marle and casual, brick-clad Hearth. She brings the farm-to-fork ethos in evidence at her London restaurant Spring but here in her rural domain, the ingredients (peach leaves, perhaps, for subtly flavoured ice cream) can be plucked to order from a walled orchard yards, not counties, away. In the absence of your own stately pile, this estate’s return to authentic, productive life is the closest you can get to lording it up. By Sally Shalam
DH Lawrence penned a love letter about it, Mussolini held court during the war, Churchill was moved to get out his watercolours and his memory lives on in the ancient resident cat of the same name that slinks around picking up titbits of the Michelin-starred food. This peachy-pink palazzo on the still waters of Lake Garda has been stealing hearts since the 1890s, and at the turn of the millennium, it was opened as a hotel, the loveliest in all of Italy. But what makes it so special are all the non-hotel bits: the exquisite antiques everywhere, the silver photo frames filled with black-and-white family shots, the engraved tumblers of fresh roses, the deep bath tubs, and the circus-striped umbrellas by the charcoal-grey slick of swimming pool. Helicopters land on the pristinely manicured croquet lawn and return guests arrive to a fanfare of hugs and kisses, pats on backs. They come here to feast like kings at night on plates of tortellini carbonara, spend the day lolling fatly by the pool watching the ducks and the windsurfers pootle past, and sleep outrageously well under frescoed ceilings in beds made up with crisp, scallop-edged Frette linen. Steep mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the garden, and early mornings are particularly magic, the silvery pale ethereal light drifting across the lake. The feel of the place is old-school, spick and span, timeless, a bit matronly – and for anyone who likes a bit of Great Gatsby-style cosseting, it’s a dreamy retreat. By Issy von Simson
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