Written by Lizzie Pook
From country houses crammed with Old Masters to city boltholes awash with contemporary abstracts, these are the best hotels for an arty staycation.
Whether it’s a Tracey Emin in the bathroom or a Picasso hanging casually above the fireplace, good art can take the hotel experience from mundane to magnificent. Plus, when you have art on your very own walls, there’s no need to jostle your way through a busy gallery to get your art fix.
Fortunately, the UK is heaving with hotels that put on a fantastically arty show, from country houses brimming with their own private collections, to central London spots at the forefront of the digital scene.
Here’s our pick of the best UK hotels to rival art galleries.
The London EDITION, London
This edgy Fitzrovia hotel lives and breathes all things art. And that’s no surprise, given the building’s illustrious history hosting famously well-heeled guests from King Edward VII to Carl Fabergé. The building itself is magnificently imposing – all variegated marble and intricately carved ceilings – but it’s what’s hanging on the walls that really makes this an aesthete’s dream. For its most recent incarnation as an EDITION hotel, British YBA Mat Collishaw was commissioned to create an exclusive 3D digital work which is still on show in the sumptuous reception, and you’ll find a curated collection of art smattered throughout each of the 173 guest bedrooms, with original pieces from Tracey Emin, artist collective AES+F, Jenny Holzer, Jacco Olivier and more (that’s not to mention the outré Salvador Dali-inspired floor lamps). On-site restaurant Berner’s Tavern is just as much of a work of art – the magnificent baroque dining room holds two huge chandeliers designed in homage to New York’s Grand Central Station, and is covered almost floor-to-ceiling with a stunning collection of photographic portraits, landscape paintings and still life.
From £330 per night; editionhotels.com
The Gunton Arms, Norfolk
At first glance, you might think this is merely a humble, wood-panelled country pub. But look closer and you’ll see The Gunton Arms is a real stalwart of art and design, created by royal decorator Robert Kime. Set slap bang in the middle of a one-thousand-acre deer park and within reach of the beautiful beaches of Holkham, everything from the art on the walls to the marble bathrooms – found by Kime in derelict mansions in Egypt – have been carefully curated. You’ll also find pieces from Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst scattered about the restaurant, which serves up sensational food, such as Gunton venison sausages and fresh Cromer crab.
From £95 per night; theguntonarms.co.uk
Heckfield Place, Hampshire
The original structure of this exquisite Georgian house hotel dates back to 1790, but after its most recent renovation – overseen by Ben Thompson, a protégé of celebrated British designer Ilse Crawford – things look a little sleeker. That said, you’ll still find original fireplaces, Persian rugs and furniture made by the finest British craftsmen, and the walls hang with works of art from owner Gerald Chan’s private collection, including pieces by Elsbeth Juda, David Spiller, Mary Fedden and Alberto Morrocco. You can spend your time here exploring the surrounding ancient woodlands, paying a visit to the biodynamic on-site farm or tucking into food courtesy of Skye Gyngell, or there’s a brilliant collection of art-led activities to get stuck into, including talks, walks, tours and more.
From £350 per night; heckfieldplace.com
The Fife Arms, Braemar, Scotland
This maximalist Scottish gem simply brims with contemporary art and antiques. In fact, you’ll see some 14,000 pieces scattered throughout the sought-after Highlands hotel. Simply stroll around the cosy corridors here and you’ll feel as if you’re walking through an edgy little gallery, with work on show from all the greats, from Martin Creed and Louise Bourgeois to Man Ray and Lucian Freud. But as well as being wonderfully OTT (the Picasso in the drawing room is pretty hard to miss), there are plenty of arty little treasures that can be unearthed here too, including a delicate watercolour of a stag’s head painted by Queen Victoria herself, which hangs on the tartan walls in reception. To top it all off, each room here is unique and exquisitely designed, inspired by its own cultural movement, from astronomy to botany.
From £250 per night; thefifearms.com
Hotel Indigo, Bath
Set in a honey-coloured Georgian terrace, this Grade I-listed, 18th century building has hosted famous historical figures including Sir Walter Scott, William Wilberforce and the Duke of York. It’s now home to the newly-opened boutique Hotel Indigo, which certainly takes its design cue from the surrounding area. Décor here firmly tips a hat to Bath’s culture and architecture, from its 18th century Underground Vault rooms (complete with sultry black timber and vaulted bath stone ceilings), to its rooms inspired by the city’s debutant season, where grand evenings of gambling and frivolity gave way to afternoon tea and whispers of romantic promises. You’ll find quirky little design touches all over the place here, from collages made from books by Bath’s illustrious authors, to cute little card tables and bold murals on the garden room walls.
From £177 per night; hotelindigo.com
Crockers Henley, Henley-on-Thames
Housed in a Grade II listed building in Henley’s pretty Market Place mews, this converted townhouse has seven boutique bedrooms, a truly superlative food offering (including two 16-seater chef’s tables serving up best-of-British and Pan Asian cuisine) and serious arty credentials. The restaurant with rooms partners with local Informality Gallery, who loan out contemporary art pieces which are all available to buy. Meaning you could find anything from an Anthony Hodgkinson hanging above you as you soak in the bath, to a vibrant Chen Ping greeting you when you wake up in your vast, comfy bed in the morning.
From £150 per night; crockershenley.co.uk
The Mandrake, London
The moody-looking Mandrake is the brainchild of Beirut-born Londoner Rami Fustok, who cut his teeth on the capital’s thriving street art scene. A Fashion Week favourite, this Fitzrovia spot is well known for its opulent interiors and arty décor, and you’ll find a wealth of quirky antiques and artworks on show – with pieces by Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Jonas Burget – all collected by Fustok on his travels around the globe. There’s also a jungly on-site greenhouse bursting with exotic plants, and an ongoing Artist in Residence programme which puts work from emerging and established creatives firmly into the spotlight.
From £315 per night; themandrake.com
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