Escape to the countryside with HF Holidays: 7 Great British escapes

Nowhere oozes more bucolic charm than the British countryside and a UK break in a HF Holidays country house will fully immerse you in its leafy corners. Here are seven of the best...

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Nowhere oozes more bucolic charm than the British countryside and a UK break in a HF Holidays country house will fully immerse you in its leafy corners. Travel with HF Holidays and you can be sure that your visit will be about more than just a beautiful rural stay. As well as owning and managing 16 UK country houses, HF Holidays has a wealth of thoughtfully-curated walking tours, so you can be sure that you will be getting out into the national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty right on each houses’ doorstep. Whether you choose to explore alone on a self-guided walk (making the most of the HF Holidays' Discovery Point, stocked with maps and walks directions, for exploring the local area) or head out with experienced leaders who know the destination best, you’ll have the freedom to get out in the fresh air and feel good in the countryside. Here’s where your HF Holidays break could be taking you...

1. Nether Grange, Northumberland

A former 18th-century granary overlooking the Northumberland coast, Nether Grange is a country house nestled among the pastel-hued cottages of Alnmouth. With its sea panoramas, butterscotch beach and historic interiors, Nether Grange’s location would be idyllic enough for most people. But with Northumberland National Park just 40 minutes away in the car, walkers will be itching to dust the mud off their boots and explore its rugged hills and riverine valleys. You'll be staying here on HF Holidays’ Northumberland Guided Walking Holiday where you’ll tread a whole lot more of the county, from coastal hikes to tracing ancient trails. On your walks you’ll also stroll among history, for Northumberland’s countryside is pocked with medieval castles like Hogwarts stand-in Alnwick and the crumbling towers of Dunstanburgh. HF Holidays’ St Oswald’s Way Guided Trail Holiday is also based at Nether Grange. On this tour you’ll join an experienced HF Holidays Leader on a walk from Holy Island to Warkworth alongside the sparkling coastline before heading inland towards Hadrian’s Wall.

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2. Freshwater Bay House, Isle of Wight

With English Channel vistas and chalky white cliffs, few settings blow you away quite like Freshwater Bay House in the Isle of Wight which is the base for numerous HF Holidays breaks. The house itself dates back to the 18th century and counts Lewis Carroll, George Bernard Shaw and Lord Tennyson among its former guests. Beyond the well-landscaped gardens you’re never far from several of the Isle of Wight’s big-ticket sights like the Needles, Stag and Mermaid rocks, the Jurassic remnants lying in Compton Bay and the diverse greenery of Ventnor Botanic Garden. Being on the island’s fringes, a stay at Freshwater Bay House means it’s easy to hop on its coastal path and on HF Holidays’ Isle of Wight Coast Path Guided Trail Holiday, you’re accompanied by an experienced HF Holidays Leader as you navigate all 111km of its picturesque perimeter. Or why not opt for the seven-night Isle of Wight Guided Walking Holiday? On this tour you will enjoy five days of guided walks with experienced HF Holidays Leaders to experience some of the 85 miles of coastline, the dramatic cliffs, enchanting villages and wildlife – all at a relaxed pace in the company of like-minded, sociable walkers. 

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3. Newfield Hall, Yorkshire Dales

Be a Yorkshire baron for the weekend (or longer) at Newfield Hall. Sitting grandly on the southern tip of Yorkshire Dales National Park, this mansion thrusts you back 150 years with its inch-perfect preserved décor, while the softly rolling countryside (two acres of which the hall counts as private grounds) unfurls before you like a rippling emerald carpet has changed little since it sparked a sonnet out of Wordsworth. With HF Holidays, you'll have plenty of opportunity to gulp down that fresh air right on the doorstep. On the Southern Yorkshire Dales Gentle Guided Walking Holiday, you can experience this beautiful natural park at a slower pace, taking time to soak up the surroundings such as the green valleys, waterfalls, heather moorland and quaint villages. With the help of an HF Holidays Leader, you’ll able to get off the beaten track to explore some of the areas most hidden corners. And HF Holidays will ensure you see the highlights, too, including the gushing Janet’s Foss, the craggy gorge of Gordale Scar, glacial Malham Tarn and Malham Cove.

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4. Derwent Bank, Lake District

The Lake District is a patch of wilderness that never fails to conjure visions of hulking mountains, glassy lakes and lush meadows. The understated whitewashed grace of Derwent Bank has an access-all-areas pass to this pristine scenery, with its manicured grounds plunging into the inky stillness of Derwentwater. Not only that, look west and you’ll spy the grassy ridge of Catbells and steer your eyes eastward for further fell views of Walla Crag and Latrigg. Some of the Lake District’s most iconic landmarks are within a half-hour’s drive, including the challenging ascent of Helvellyn and the unmistakable saddleback shape of Blencathra. Derwent Bank will be your base on HF Holidays' Cumbria Way Guided Trail, which will take you on a grand journey through the heart of the Lake District from Carlisle to Ulverston. Or for a festive itinerary, opt for the Northern Lake District Christmas And New Year Guided Walking Holiday to enjoy a variety of walks with the experienced HF Holidays Leader past Lakeland fells, lakes and tumbling waterfalls, before heading back to the house for a party atmosphere.

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5. Larpool Hall, North York Moors

A Georgian mansion proudly overlooking the wild waves of the North Sea, Larpool Hall occupies a sliver of Yorkshire coastline that has been enjoyed since the Normans. Drenched in period grandeur and located in the former fishing town of Whitby, it makes the perfect location for a walking holiday. The nearby North York Moors can be explored on the North York Moors Guided Walking Holiday where you can make the most of up to three guided walks each day to see the windswept headlands and smugglers haunts of the Yorkshire coast. Climb the 199 steps to the ruins of Whitby Abbey while listening to your experienced HF Holidays Leader bring the storied past of this historic setting to life. Or why not lace up your boots for an independent adventure here? HF Holidays' North York Moors Self-Guided Walking Tour makes it easy for you to explore the local area alone with its Discovery Point (available at all properties and all tours) packed with maps and directions. 

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6. Harrington House, Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of those places you leave wanting to live there permanently. Harrington House is your opportunity to feel like you actually do, its caramel-coloured façade an iconic staple of this rural region. This mansion doesn’t just look the part on the outside, its mix of Tudor, Georgian and Palladium architecture embodies the quintessentially English countryside retreat. It’s also just a honey-hued stone’s throw from Bourton-on-the-Water, the Cotswolds’ pin-up with its quaint tearooms and low-arch stone bridges, as well as being a short drive away from some of the area’s chocolate-box villages like Broadway and Bilbury. The Cotswolds’ hamlets might dominate tourism brochures but hikers will equally find joy treading among its leafy countryside. HF Holidays’ 7-night Cotswolds Guided Walking Holiday offers a series of emerald-coated walks accompanied by your own expert, whether it’s seeking out the source of the Thames to following the Gloucestershire Way. Alternatively, opt for the Thames Path Guided Trail which also has Harrington House as its base and takes you on a ramble from Oxford’s spires to Cotswold’s villages, with views of the tumbling Thames to keep you company along the way.

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7. Nythfa House, Brecon Beacons

With its lofty mountain plateaus and glacial-carved rippling valleys, not many places in the British Isles can match Brecon Beacons National Park for natural drama. And it feels like Nythfa House is right among it all, its quiet elegance in the Welsh market town of Brecon starkly juxtaposing its wild surrounds. You have colossal neighbours for company in the shape of the brooding Black Mountains and Pen-y-Fan (886m; the highest point in the Brecon Beacons), but the Brecons aren’t all about summit-topping hikes. HF Holidays’ guided breaks offer more leisurely options from Nythfa House like winding through the River Usk Valley or tracing historic railway lines, the latter of which are a clue that not all of the Brecon Beacons’ treasures lie in plain sight. Some are hidden underground like the Big Pit National Coal Museum, an invaluable glimpse of life in coal mines operated for 100 years, and the grandiose caverns of the National Showcaves Centre for Wales.

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 About the experts 

HF Holidays like to do things differently. This friendly co-operative society has been operating since 1913 and ever since the beginning, it has only ever been about friendship, fellowship, fun and fresh air. The not-for-profit is all about giving back and will put you first. They will ensure you enjoy the pace of the holiday, whether that means socialising in a bar in the evenings, discussing the day’s events over an evening meal with the group or slowing down and walking at a pace that suits you. At HF Holidays, its all about choice which is why the company offers more than 260 guided and self-guided tours in nearly 40 countries spanning six continents. And on each tour, you can choose between easier, medium or harder walks with experienced HF Holidays Leaders. 

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