Whether it’s a romantic rendezvous or an erotic escape, book a Valentine’s getaway in the UK, says Sarah Marshall.
SOPHISTICATED COUPLES : Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucestershire
Overlooking Cheltenham Racecourse in glorious Glosters, Ellenborough Park is the former 19th century home of the Earl of Ellenborough, Governor General of India.
Refurbished by the present owners in 2011, interior designer Nina Campbell’s divine decor is east meets west and marries exotic silks and textiles with English chintz to create an opulent vibe... and restore this 62-room country house hotel to its former glory.
With fairytale turrets, stone arches, open fireplaces, exposed wooden beams and original features dating back to the 1500s, this romantic hideaway certainly has character.
In the evening, cocktails are served in The Great Hall, but don’t expect a harpist to pull at the heart strings - the medieval musical instrument is purely for decoration.
Instead, climb the scrubbed stone steps to The Snug, a cosy hideaway in one of the towers where you can sip on a Lady Ellenborough champagne cocktail and enjoy complimentary canapes before heading to The Beaufort Dining Room.
A Valentine’s package is available February 14-16 and costs from £345 per room, including champagne and chocolates on arrival, canapes and four-course dinner, breakfast and use of spa. Visit www.ellenboroughpark. com or call 01242 807 713.
PASSIONATE PAIRS Drakes Hotel, Brighton
Seaside towns have a reputation for arcade peepshows and bawdy postcards, but Brighton is a coastal retreat with far more sophistication. Forget dirty weekends and cheap titillation - this bustling beach town is the perfect setting for far sexier sojourns.
Drakes boutique hotel is the top choice for decadent pleasure seekers, and one of their circular, sea-facing rooms is the ultimate indulgence. An enormous free-standing bath takes centre stage in a sweeping bay window, overlooking the Regency Mile and Brighton’s famous pier.
Seize the rare opportunity to be waited on without dipping into your purse for the privilege, as room service is offered at no extra cost.
Take a trip down lovers’ lane... or Ship Street Gardens in this case, one of Brighton’s tiny twittens (Sussex-speak for a short cut or alleyway).
Burlesque-inspired garments and golden Zorro-style masks bring a whole new dimension to dressing up! Love hampers, containing all you need for a naughty night in, are available from £35 or can be custom-made according to budget.
For a gift you’ll never forget, visit Brighton Body Casting, just a few steps across the twitten. Fine artist and sculptor Jamie McCartney will cast a lasting impression of lovers’ clasped hands, lips or whatever you dare to bare.
The Ultimate Seduction package includes overnight stay for two, bottle of Bollinger Champagne, rose petals, chocolates, Love Box from She Said, three-course dinner for two and breakfast. From £460 per couple. Visit www.drakesofbrighton.com or call 01273 696 934.
NATURE LOVERS : Ynyshir Hall, Machynlleth, Wales
There’s a point on the train from Birmingham to Machynlleth when houses and streets give way to hills and sheep, and you feel like you're entering another realm.
It’s hard not to feel relaxed and a little romantic when you're surrounded by such striking countryside, but just wait until you arrive at Ynyshir Hall. (main pic)
On Cardigan Bay, and set in a beautifully landscaped garden, the 17th century former country lodge of Queen Victoria is hidden among giant redwoods, rhododendron and a Persian ironwood which the Queen planted herself.
With just eight rooms, it’s boutique with a capital B and owner Joan Reen, along with her cuddly Bernese Mountain dog Theo, personally ensures each visitor receives a warm welcome.
After a careful refurbishment, each room - from the bright airy drawing room to the cosy bar - has its own signature style and the walls are adorned with colourful oil paintings done by Joan’s husband Rob.
Treat yourself to afternoon tea and scones, curled up in front of the fire, or head out to explore nearby Artists’ Valley, just off the main road to Aberystwyth, for breathtaking views over the bay.
Don't miss the opportunity to wander hand-in-hand around Ynys-hir RSPB reserve, just a stone's throw from the Hall, where they film hit BBC nature show Springwatch. Presenter Chris Packham even stayed with Joan for the first series.
Doubles from £275, including breakfast. Visit www.ynyshirhall.co.uk or call 01654 781 209.
PLAYFUL ROMANTICS : Bovey Castle, Devon
Enjoy a romantic break with a playful difference at Bovey Castle, a luxury countryside retreat in Devon. (above)
The hotel mixes old world charm with quirky extras, making this the perfect stay for those still in touch with their inner child.
An owl called Archimedes greets guests at the reception of this former stately home, which is also home to one of England’s finest golf courses. And the touches of humour don’t end there...
If you think red roses and chocolates are too predictable for Valentine’s Day, take advantage of the hotel’s Lego Room Service where a choice of Lego sets can be loaned (for free) for the duration of your stay.
OK, the novel service is aimed at children but no eyebrows are raised when grown-ups choose a construction set from the expansive menu.
While it would be tempting to stay indoors, playing with Lego or sitting next to the crackling fires, it would be a shame to miss out on the hotel’s beautiful surroundings.
Take a romantic stroll through Dartmoor National Park.
The Valentine’s package costs from £450 per room, including five-course dinner, champagne, spa treatments and breakfast. Visit www.boveycastle.com or call 0844 474 0077.