There’s a lot to be said for boutique hotels when it comes to selecting the perfect love nest. But for that truly special getaway you can’t go wrong with a bit of grandeur. And The Midland has that in crystal-studded spades.
The Midland has been welcoming guests to Manchester for over 100 years and some very famous names have enjoyed the hospitality here. The place oozes history and there are many great stories attached to this Grade II listed building. It was famously the venue for the handshake between Charles Rolls and Frederick Royce when they formed Rolls Royce, and the recently rejuvenated French Restaurant knocked back The Beatles for being too scruffy.
While the dress code is less formal now, this is without question a place to pull on those gladrags. You don’t have to go far to enjoy a superb romantic dinner. The French is a sumptuous space with huge, sparkling light fittings and a grand salon feel. The food is a nod back to classic Gallic fare with plenty of contemporary features and is prepared by a team trained by Simon Rogan, the Michelin-starred chef charged with returning the restaurant to its former glories.
The menus here are priced to almost match the world-class quality of the food, so make sure you warn your partner if you intend to split the bill. The £65 six-course menu features seasonal and inventive specials. The sample menu includes delights such as suckling lamb and macerated strawberries. If you’re confident you can keep the conversation going long enough, for £85 you can go for the ten-course option.
Mr Cooper’s House and Garden offers a more grounded dining experience in the hotel with a botanical feel and no let up in quality. The bar here boasts one of the most enticing cocktail lists outside of a James Bond movie, and it’s a great place to make eyes at your guest, if can can peel them away from the expert mixology.
The hotel’s rooms range from a far-from-standard standard up to the palatial Midland Suites and, as you’d expect from a romantic haven in the city, there’s a gym and spa to help you unwind. Billing itself as the most luxurious spa in Manchester, the space includes a relaxation zone and two double rooms for couples treatments. The Midland is a hotel experience worth splashing out on.
While Teesside has much to commend, it’s hardly known for its stunning country retreats, yet close to Yarm Station lies Judges Country House Hotel.
Situated on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, this country pile was built in 1881 as a family home and was used for decades as a lodging house for circuit court judges. Now restored to its Victorian splendour, the hotel also boasts stunning gardens, a walled kitchen garden and nearby woodland walkways.
Yarm is a beautiful market town with dozens of little boutiques - and plenty of pubs and restaurants in case you need to refuel. With the Dales and Yorkshire Moors nearby - not to mention the unspoiled north-east coast and Whitby - it’s a perfect base for exploring the area.
It’s not all about location however. Judges is an AA Inspector’s Choice four-Red Star Hotel, while the restaurant has been awarded three AA rosettes and a recommendation from Michelin.
There are 21 en-suite rooms - some are equipped with four-posters or sleigh beds and all are stocked with designer toiletries and boast iPod docks, satellite television and lovely touches such as homemade biscuits. There are plenty of options, with deals on B&B and dinner, whether you’re after a base or an indulgent weekend.
Dine in the fine surroundings of the conservatory or even the private Dom Perignon room and enjoy locally sourced seasonal food that boasts three AA rosettes. Judges chef John Schwarz personally sources local game, fish and prime cuts of meats for the seasonal menu, so it’s something you won’t want to miss. The Panel Room offers more informal dining, while Yarm is packed with highly rated restaurants.
Throughout February, there are Bubbly Bygone Breaks with accommodation plus dinner and plenty of extras. Alternatively, be a chef for the day, working in the restaurant with your own personal mentor to guide you in the ways of the kitchen.
Over Valentine’s weekend, you can book an overnight stay with dinner and breakfast that includes a five-course candlelit dinner of canapés, starter, main course and dessert followed by coffee and petit four. With a glass of bubbly on arrival and a rose for the lady, naturally.
You want more? How about the hotel’s fitness centre and beauty clinic, offering a range of treatments, including luxury mud wraps? After all the sumptuous food and drink, you might need a pick-me-up. We doubt you’ll want to leave, but when you do it’s reassuring to know Yarm station is a very short walk away.
If you want to spoil your partner rotten then we have just the place to do it. And then some. Applegarth Villa may be nestled in the heart of the traditionalist’s paradise that is the Lake District, but the hotel is resplendent with all mod cons and rooms that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bel Air mansion.
This is romance meets relaxation and pure indulgence. Take the aptly named Ultimate Luxury Suite 2, for instance. It’s the biggest room in the hotel, with an 8-foot round bed right at the centre. And there’s more. Way more. Even the double-size spa bath has a wall-mounted flatscreen TV to keep it company. Not that you’ll be watching much TV in a setting as beautiful as the Lakes. Ultimate Luxury Suite 1 is hardly pokey. It’s built for padding around in your bare feet with underfloor heating throughout and - for budding Romeos - it’s own private terrace.
You can still sample the joys of the perfect getaway location in a range of more modest rooms. Or you can plump for one of seven suites with their own hot tubs, newly opened just two months ago.
It’s little wonder this hotel was rated among the top romantic places to stay in the 2015 Tripadvisor reader awards. Arguably the best time to eat here is at breakfast, which Applegarth treats as the most important meal of the day and has turned into something or an art form.
The villa’s bar features an outstanding whisky menu. Or if you fancy a tipple back in your room, you can always make use of the complimentary in-house butler service.
But, as always in this neck of the woods, it’s the Lakes that are the main attraction. Windermere is a glittering backdrop to romantic walks and is best seen on a boat trip - although if you fancy something racier, you can always take part in a range of watersports.
Windermere village is home to plenty of pubs and restaurants and a great base for exploring the Lakes. That’s if you manage to leave the hot tub, of course. If you do, you’ll glide rather than walk thanks to one of the most relaxing hotel experiences imaginable.