Booking a staycation can be a process fraught with questions and complications: boutique city stay or jaunt to a country pile? High-end glamour or low-key luxury? This season, take your cue from the royals, who know a thing or two about the finest British hotels – whether in the capital and beyond. From garden-view rooms at The Goring to a private, coastal retreat in Cornwall, there’s an option for every taste in our selection, inspired by the family’s favourites over the years. Dine at exquisite restaurants and indulge at top-of-the-range spas at The Firm’s best-loved British boltholes – and sleep soundly, knowing you might just be resting your head on the same pillow as a princess…
The Duchess of Sussex and her mother, Doria Ragland, stayed at this stately country-house hotel the night before Meghan’s wedding to Prince Harry, but she was by no means the first royal to grace the corridors of this 17th-century mansion. Frederick, Prince of Wales lived at Cliveden with his family in the 18th century and, later, it became a favourite haunt of Queen Victoria, who spent time there with her friend, the Duchess of Sutherland. Cliveden also hosted a young Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on one of their earliest royal engagements in 1938, to visit the Kennedys, who were houseguests of the then-owners, the glamorous Astors.
Cliveden became famous for rather different reasons in the 1960s, when John Profumo laid eyes on Christine Keeler basking beside the pool (pictured above) in the walled garden. These days, you can swim there yourself as a guest, and stay in one of the 47 rooms, each named after the illustrious personalities who have formed the manor’s history. There’s an excellent spa (think Sarah Chapman facials) and an even better restaurant and bar, which serves up signature champagne cocktails.
From £580 per night.
The Goring, London
This classic, central London hotel has perhaps the most impressive royal history of all. Sitting on a leafy street in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, The Goring has been a favourite of the royal family since it first opened its doors in 1910. Queen Elizabeth II was believed to hold her annual Christmas lunch here – in the Michelin-starred dining room designed by her nephew, Viscount Linley – while her mother was also a regular, ordering her usual every time: Eggs Drumkilbo, a lobster and egg concoction that you can still find on the menu today.
Kate, Princess of Wales chose The Goring for the night before her wedding to Prince William, and has returned several times since with her husband; she loves the hotel so much, she’s even responsible for hand-painting part of a mural on the ground floor. It’s fitting, therefore, that the hotel should have been given a Royal Warrant in 2013 – the only hotel to have been granted one for hospitality services. Stay here for a tucked away, best-of-British experience in the heart of the city. If you can, book a room that looks out onto the private gardens, which are some of London’s largest and most exquisite.
From £680 per night.
Coworth Park, Berkshire
Just 15 miles from Cliveden lies Coworth Park, the sister property to The Dorchester, where Prince Harry spent his last night before marrying Meghan. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the polo-playing prince chose Coworth: it’s the only British hotel to have its own polo field (on which Princes William and Harry have both played), which was created by former owner Galen Weston, the one-time owner of Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.
The hotel’s royal connections extend far beyond Prince Harry, however. In 1066, Edward the Confessor gave the land on which the hotel now stands to Westminster Abbey; it was later repossessed by William the Conqueror for the crown. The then-Prince and Princess of Wales – the future Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – stayed at Coworth in the late 1800s when they attended the races at nearby Ascot and, in 2010, the house became a hotel. These days, you can swap chukkas for champagne at the artsy bar, dine at one of the three acclaimed restaurants and sample a wide range of treatments at the eco-savvy spa.
From £600 per night.
Mandarin Oriental, London
Another favourite of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who held their pre-wedding party in the ballroom, the Mandarin Oriental beside Hyde Park has been frequented by royals for generations. When it was the Hyde Park Hotel, Edward VII, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret were fans, and the Duke of Edinburgh would hold his polo cocktail parties here. And it’s not just royalty who have favourited this spot: Margaret Thatcher chose to hold her 80th birthday party at the hotel.
These days, you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy the hotel’s three restaurants (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, pictured above, is a particular favourite) but we strongly suggest you book in to one of the 181 rooms if you can. The interiors have been meticulously restored after a serious fire in 2018 and are as opulent as you can imagine: marble as far as the eye can see, gilded pillars and a sleek spa. When it comes to the rooms, they’re pure luxury and full of thoughtful details, from plug sockets hidden in bedside tables to Diptyque soaps in every bathroom.
From £965 per night.
Ruthin Castle, Denbighshire
When it comes to truly ancient grandeur, you can’t do much better than Ruthin Castle in North Wales, which has a long and established relationship with the various Princes of Wales throughout history. The medieval castle was built on a red, sandstone ridge overlooking the Vale of Clwyd in the 13th century and, though much of the castle was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, its walls remain a notable feature of the building to this day.
Albert Edward (who went on to become King Edward VII) frequented the building where, it was said, he was conducting an affair with the owner’s wife. Another Prince of Wales to-be, Prince Charles, stayed here the night before his investiture in 1969. Set within acres of immaculate gardens and sprawling woodland, the building – a hotel since the 1960s – is a short drive from Snowdonia National Park and the blustery beaches of Llandudno. Bertie’s Restaurant – affectionately named after the former king – serves a menu of whisky and fresh sea bass beneath sparkling chandeliers, while the rooms and suites (each named after famous guests) are spacious and wonderfully traditional.
From £75 per night.
One of London’s most famous hotels, Claridge’s has the honour of hosting not just the British royal family, but royals from all over the world. During the Second World War, the hotel became a haven for exiled royalty and heads of state, with the Kings of Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia all staying there for the duration. After the war in 1947, just before the wedding of the then-Princess Elizabeth, a harassed diplomat was said to have telephoned Claridge’s and asked to speak to the King. “Certainly Sir,” was the response, “but which one?”
British royals from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II have visited Claridge’s since the hotel opened its doors in the late 1800s, hob-nobbing with fashionable names including Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant. A brand new spa – a first for the hotel – has recently been installed by designer André Fu, acting as a modern counterpart to the rest of the classic building, which heroes English tradition. Take tea in the lobby (practically a rite of passage) and try to take a peek at the Royal Suite (pictured above), the decoration of which was inspired by Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
From £840 per night.
Penolva, St Mawes
If you’re looking for a little more privacy, consider booking the most secluded royal retreat of all: Penolva, a private, four-bedroom house on the Cornish coast. The Queen Mother loved this picturesque spot, which was built by her close friend, Dick Wilkins, in the 1960s. Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret have also enjoyed getaways here and Diana, the former Princess of Wales, used to visit with Princes William and Harry for seaside holidays.
Penolva is one of the few homes in St Mawes with a private waterfront and enjoys some of the best views around. It’s been refurbished by its current owners in light, bright style, with roll-top tubs looking out over the bay and squishy armchairs arranged around the open fireplace. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace with its expansive vistas, go kayaking from your own private jetty or walk into the village for a quiet bite at The Watch House, a bistro that serves everything from burgers to fresh oysters.
From £4,500 per week.