I am frequently asked what my favourite hotel/B&B/chalet is, but the ‘disadvantage’ of staying in so many wonderful places is that it makes it incredibly difficult to narrow it down to a single favourite. So, rather than attempt the impossible, I have selected my Top Ten, which I update with the seasons, and pick out my current favourite property every couple of months.
MY CURRENT FAVOURITE PROPERTY
The Pig in the Wall, Southampton
If you live in England, you can't have escaped The Pig Phenomenon. The latest venture from Robin Hutson of Limewood in the New Forest and Portetta in Courchevel, the Pig hotels perfectly encapsulate the shabby chic, restaurant with rooms desire of the moment. At first there was one: the Pig, a grand old country manor near Brockenhurst in the New Forest. Southampton's Pig in the Wall was the second property followed by Pig on the Beach (Studland, Dorset) and then the Pig near Bath. Hutson's wife, Judy, ensures that each Pig boasts similarly gorgeous interiors: muted, earthy colours and quirky tiles complement country house bedrooms, the restaurants are airy greenhouses dotted with potted herbs and mismatched Pols Potten glasses, and the public rooms include cosy fire-warmed libraries and intimate bars serving killer G&Ts. The Pig in the Wall has just 12 rooms and is my current favourite property for the imminent cruise season: if you're starting or ending a cruise in Southampton, there is quite simply no better place to stay than this boutique hotel.
MY TOP TEN PROPERTIES, SPRING 2015
COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali
Set in 22 acres of lush Balinese jungle near the boho town of Ubud, the air of COMO Shambhala Estate is thick with the scent of frangipani, magnolia, tuberose and gardenias. The local birds sing just loud enough to compete with the sound of water playing in the pools and fountains that dot the hilltop estate and the roar of the Ayung river in the valley below. There are only 25 rooms and suites, spread across five "residences", which are built around pools and designed with different elements as a focus (Clear Water, Sound of Fire, House of the Earth, Forest in the Mist and Windsong). The food served in the Estate's two restaurant's is, quite simply, some of the finest I have ever eaten, in addition to being fantastically healthy and nutritious, and can be served in your residence, on your private terrace or on the shores of the Ayung river.
Chalet Pelerin, Le Miroir
A chalet isn't just for Christmas or even winter: many Alpine chalets can be rented during the summer, when you can enjoy magical days out biking, climbing, hiking in fields of wildflowers or simply soaking up the mountain views from your sunny balcony. Perched at the top of the sleepy hamlet of Le Miroir, Chalet Pelerin is just a 10-minute drive from Ste-Foy (and 20 minutes from Val d'Isère) but offers a real sense of blissful isolation. While the chalet has all the bells & whistles we've come to expect from ultra luxury chalets (outdoor hot tub, indoor pool, private chef, sumptuous bedrooms), Le Miroir is a genuine time warp blessed with cows, sheep, elderly farmers and one of my favourite Alpine restaurants, Chez Merie.
Carlton Hotel, St Moritz
First built in 1913 (allegedly as a summer palace for a Russian tsar), the Carlton Hotel closed for 18 months in 2006/07 for a drastic renovation. It emerged resplendent, transformed from a 113-room property into St Moritz's first luxury boutique hotel with just 60 palatial suites, each one with uninterrupted views of the St Moritz lake. The sumptuous interiors are designed by the flamboyant Carlo Rampazzi, the Marmite of interior design, and there's also a three-storey spa, three restaurants and a bar. Best of all, however, is the hotel's inimitable sense of privacy and, despite the heinous price tag, its lack of pretension.
The Pig near Bath, Bath
It's impossible not to fall under the spell of the Pig properties: that informal country house vibe, the (seemingly) casually thrown-together interiors and the hearty, earthy food… Staying at a Pig is about spending time in the beautiful, homely bubble you aspire to live in. The Pig near Bath was the first Pig I visited and, possibly for that reason, it remains my favourite. The country home feels lived in and loved, large but not too grand. You can potter in the kitchen gardens, play scrabble by the fire, enjoy fabulous spa treatments in the rustic potting sheds and immerse yourself in Piggy Romance in the divine stand-alone Apple Store and The Hide rooms.
Saga Hotel, Oslo
This chic little hotel is located a stone's throw from Oslo's Royal Palace and a short stroll from the smart shops and restaurants of Bogstadveien. With its plush but minimalist contemporary interiors - a predominantly black and white colour scheme punctuated by vibrant pieces of modern art - Saga represents the best of Scandinavian design. Complimentary tea, coffee and cakes are served throughout the afternoon in the fire-warmed library and a slap-up breakfast is included in the very reasonable room rates.
Haus Alpina, Klosters
When the power couple behind The White Company and Charles Tyrwhitt shirts (Chrissie Rucker and Nicholas Wheeler) created a winter home in Klosters, they didn't mess around. Knocking together four flats on the top two floors of a smart apartment block, they created a stunning six-bedroom duplex penthouse for holidays with their four "ski-mad" children. Open to the public since January 2015, Haus Alpina offers guests a true mountain sanctuary: with over 60 White Company candles scenting the air, similar numbers of White Company lotions & potions in the bathrooms, and soothing interiors of white and natural materials, it's one of the most serene chalets I've set foot in.