The winter’s trail

A short winter break can put new life into your relationship. Sarah Marshall offers some suggestions.

The Black Swan, Helmsley

Feeling every inch like the setting for a Miss Marple novel, this sophisticated yet homely boutique hotel is perfect for a couple who like the finer things in life but never go on holiday without taking their hiking boots and a camera. Inside, there are open fireplaces, sumptuous sofas and soft lighting and outside there’s the pretty market town of Helmsley, with the ruins of 12th century Helmsley Castle and the town’s walled gardens around the corner. March offer – pay £150 per couple for any night Sunday to Friday and recieve a half bottle of chilled Champagne in room on arrival, enjoy fresh homemade scones, jam, clotted cream with tea/coffee in the tearoom, voted the Tea Guild’s Top Tea Place in the UK, and dinner in the two AA rosette Rutland Restaurant. Tel: 01439 770466,

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Coworth Park, Surrey

The Dorchester Collection’s latest opening, set in aristocratic Ascot. Already a hit with the country-loving jet set, this boutique bolt-hole has its own stables and a polo centre. If galloping across the 240-acre estate doesn’t appeal, take a dip in the eco-spa pool or enrol in a floristry class. Choose between two restaurants for dinner: The Barn offers dressed-down bistro dishes, Restaurant John Campbell is the fine dining option. Go searching for deer in the surrounding woodland; or just relax in your private roll top bath with a glass of champagne and toast your temporary five-star

Chester Grosvenor, Chester

Owned by the Duke of Westminster, and built in 1865, this five-star hotel treats all its guests like royalty. After a relaxing night’s sleep and breakfast in La Brasserie, go for a romantic stroll around the city’s Roman walls – some of the best in Britain – and along the River Dee. The cathedral, with its beautiful wood carvings, is worth exploring, as well as the city’s maze of cobbled streets. When you’ve had your fill of shopping in Chester’s famous two-tier boutique Tudor shops, head to the Grosvenor’s thermal suite and soak your tired feet in the foot spa. Round off your stay with a meal in Michelin-starred restaurant Simon Radley or the more casual – but equally outstanding – La Brasserie.

Wyck Hill House, Cotswolds Country manor in the Cotswolds within easy reach of public transport – the nearest rail station is Moreton-in-Marsh – but it feels a thousand miles from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The hotel dates back to the 1700s, and sits in 100 acres of rolling hills and fields. The area is popular with walkers and cyclists and there are a number of routes to explore. Alternatively, spend a few hours browsing the antique shops in Moreton-in-Marsh, working up an appetite for cream tea at the Marshmallow Restaurant and Tea Room. Or simply relax on the hotel’s terrace and admire the views before dinner.

The Varsity, Cambridge

Previous residents of this university city may have discovered gravity and split the atom, but they never quite cracked the boutique hotel – until now. Much like the city itself, this 48-room hotel is elegant, aspirational and beautifully-executed. It is ideally located for a weekend of romantic walks around the colleges and whimsical punting excursions. Every room takes full advantage of the magnificent skyline, with the top-end suites glassed from floor to ceiling. But while the views might be medieval, the hotel itself is utterly modern and luxurious. Each of the rooms is themed by college: the Homerton room has a picture of a couple dancing in front of Latin American-style buildings (former student Julie Covington scored a number one with the song Don’t Cry for Me Argentina). or call 01223 306 030 for more options.