If you’ve been one of those frustratingly regular couples, you might have booked that V-Day getaway in December. But you’re not and guess what? It’s not a big problem.
There are still (at the time of writing) plenty of great places to take a faint break during Valentine’s week, and they’re all within a two-hour drive or train ride from the capital. Just make a quick reservation…
Damselfly Treehouse, Hampshire
Step away from the deux for a moment in the leaves at this lofty tree house cradled by a sycamore raising the edge of a vineyard. Just an hour and 45 minutes’ drive from central London, it’s made for intimate love and utterly stylish. The atmosphere between the wood stove, the outdoors copper tub and the minimalist-chic interiors is more Wallpaper* magazine than kids’ playpad.
Out and about: Must have wine tasting; You are looking at the vines of the award-winning Black Chalk Wine. But as Test Valley, the hiking is also top-notch. Try a cheek-frying two-hour loop from nearby Chilbolton Cow Common.
To come… adult tree house charm
From £730 for two nights, canopyandstars.co.uk
Cabu by the Sea, Kent
Steps from the Kentish waterfront in the seaside town of St Mary’s Bay, Cabu’s collection of stylish cottages offers you a sweet middle home between hotel and kitchen. Book one of the two-person cabins complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, stylish beachfront design and wood burning stoves and cook up a storm in the cozy kitchen; or just return to the treats from the shop and cafe filled with snacks. To really warm up, book the jacuzzi for sunset; The staff will even bring you drinks.
Out and about: Use the house bikes to cycle south along the beach to the plain Dungeness headland, to the all-flat tile and clapboard huts. If it’s the weekend, grab a fish roll at cult fish shack Dungeness Snack Shack.
To come… Assertive seaside coolness
From £410 for two nights, vacation.cabu.co.uk
Great York, York
Change London to the north – York may sound far away, but high-speed trains from King’s Cross can get you there in less than two hours. Grand York is a glamorous five-star inn on the city’s River Ouse, with high ceilings, polished wood paneling, and a bar that reinvigorates classic martinis. They have prepared a special ‘Escape Together’ package for V-Day, which includes afternoon tea, breakfast, spa access and welcome chocolates from £269 per room.
Out and about: History gushes out of this city; the medieval Barley Hall, the treasure-filled Yorkshire Museum, and the ornate York Minster with its dazzling stained glass. Outstanding food will be enjoyed at Fish and Forest, where the menu is changed daily and written on a blackboard, or splashed out on the 8-course tasting menu at The Rattle Owl a few doors down the road.
To come… Classic splendor in an urban setting
From £290, thegrandyork.co.uk
Kingham Saban, Oxfordshire
This accommodation provides the perfect Cotswolds country pub fantasy, all on a direct line from London Paddington, with beamed ceilings, a roaring fire and perfectly poured pints from the nearby Hook Norton Brewery. Meanwhile, the six cozy rooms are outfitted with homemade biscuits, rows of books and fluffy duvets, creating a high bar worthy of V-Day, above the usual ‘pub with room’ standards.
Out and about: Get away from the roaring fire for a countryside walk to nearby Daylesford Organic, where you can spend the day pampered at the Bamford spa. Or walk the other way for another fabulous pub lunch at The Kings Head Inn in Bledington.
To come… Homely pub vibe with Cotswolds charm
£145 from Bed and Breakfast, thekinghamplough.co.uk
Olea, West Sussex
To listen? The sound of pure, happy serenity. Located in the beautiful village of Amberley in the South Downs, this thatched cottage allows you and your other half to experience a V-Day of idyllic bliss. Or should it be other halves; The Olea sleeps up to four via a second mezzanine bedroom, so you can get away with friends, kids, or as a group (if that’s your thing). Even the dog is invited to enjoy the open stone living room with wood burning stove or the antiques-filled kitchen.
Out and about: No need to go far; Amberley is a welcome pocket for humble exploration (and connects directly to London Victoria by train). Drop by the museum, try the tea rooms, hide in the local bar… just relax.
To come… Thatched band romance (or just to spread out as a duo)
From £789 for a long weekend, boutique-retreats.co.uk
Pennyhill Park, Surrey
Literally evaporate this V-Day at this Surrey hotel’s stunning spa, equipped with enough thermal facilities to fill a weekend. The highlight is the Mud Experience for two, where you cover each other in skin-softening mud (insert ‘get dirty’ joke here), then steam it in a private room to let it work its magic. Then, indulge in a six-course tasting menu at Michelin-starred The Latymer, before retiring to one of the luxurious, classic-style bedrooms; The Granary comes with a copper tub in the center for a permanent (private) spa.
Out and about: Feeling lucky? Ascot is just 12 minutes’ drive away and there are races on February 18.
To come… suffocating spa
From £445, privileged.co.uk
Back to Analoge, Essex
There will be no Instagram distractions or the tyranny of emails when you log into this eco-hut in the Essex fields. Part of the deal is for your host to lock your phones (you’re given a retro Nokia for basic communication with the outside world) and a manual camera to document your stay for two. And you’ll want to do it, because this off-the-grid spot is really beautiful: sharp minimalist lines, natural woods, and plenty of hot water for showers.
Out and about: Nature matters, so go for a walk – your host will provide you with paper maps and a compass so you can find your way home.
To come… Netflix-and-chill minus Netflix
From £157 per night, plumguide.com
Just a 20-minute train ride from Euston, The Grove provides a full-service cottage outfit – this is the former home of the Earls of Clarendon – but in a convenient location. Its rambling grounds include many activities such as golf, clay pigeon shooting, and ax throwing, as well as a spa if you just want to relax. A special Valentine’s Day Couples Retreat includes breakfast, dinner, spa access and a bottle of champagne on arrival from £612.
Out and about: Nearly half a millennium year old, the surrounding Whippendell Wood is great to explore if you can’t really sit still.
To come… Reconnect with your plus one with plenty of activity
From £370, thegrove.com.tr
Filly’s Island, Gloucestershire
Throw yourself on a private island in the Cotswolds. Located between a mill stream and the River Church and accessed via a humpback bridge, 18pearl Century-redesigned cottage, Filly Island, feels just over three miles from Cirencester. Cozy interiors draw the line between old world and new, combining free-standing tubs and A-frame ceilings with splashing Union Jack linens. You won’t believe you’re sitting in the cozy garden, but there are markets and restaurants just around the corner.
Out and about: It’s all about water! You’re right next to the Cotswolds Waterpark, where you can do canoeing, horseback riding or archery.
To come… Private island exclusivity without the Maldives price tag
From £795 for a short break, uniquehomestays.com
Hand and Flowers, Buckinghamshire
Nothing says “I love you” better than surprising your foodie jammer with the world’s best bar food. Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge’s two-star pub in Marlow is a place every self-respecting gourmet should experience at least once, especially considering it’s only an hour’s drive or train ride from London. Check out one of the handful of bedrooms scattered throughout the city still available for V-Day week, then get ready to dine on a menu that includes 30 days of dry-aged beef with pork tenderloin with licorice or potato buttermilk pancakes.
Out and about: You’re here for the food, right? So stop by Kerridge’s other star pub, The Coach, or take a taxi to the nearby three-Michelin-starred The Waterside Inn to grab one of the last tables available for Valentine’s week.
To come… Blow-out feast
from £350, thehandandflowers.co.uk