The best places to stay in England, Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
Here you'll find what must be the greatest collection of historic accommodations in the world. Very few properties that made the Stay List this year were originally built as hotels. Most began as something else entirely—castle, crofter's cottage, mill house—yet through time evolved into unique lodgings, each with its own story to tell.
To find these places, our crew of local experts, hotel pundits, and globetrotting journalists offered up hundreds of nominees in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland—most rich in history. But sense of place is more about the present than the past. Making the final cut were those places fully engaged with their surroundings, tied to community, tuned to the environment—places brimming with spirit.
While some of our criteria—sustainability, recycling, "food miles" (how far the ingredients of your meal travel before reaching the table)—sound like modern concepts, they've actually been around for centuries, as these properties demonstrate. A 17th-century farmhouse, for example, speaks volumes about sustainability. And what better form of recycling than antiques, handed down through generations? As for waste management, you can't beat having leftovers converted into an energy source for guest rooms or composting them for the Victorian garden that supplies the produce that ends up on your plate—a food distance measured in meters, not kilometers.
In the end, the hotels on this list have a lot to teach us. Each will put you in close contact with the character and soul of these timeless countries. You'll become a part of their stories. Best of all, you'll take home a few of your own.—Charles Kulander