Milsoms – Denham, Essex
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Part of the local Milsom Group, this attractive ivy-covered country house hotel in Dedham Vale is all about kicking back. Designed by Geraldine Milsom, the 15 bedrooms each feel like a sanctuary, with contemporary textiles such as a groovy animal print bedhead or striped cushions on the beds. No dress code at the restaurant (wear shorts and sandals or a shirt and tie – anything goes) and no bookings mean you can spend as long as you like enjoying the meze board, superb 28-day dry aged steaks or scoops of homemade ice-cream for dessert. From March to late October, there’s a lovely sail-covered terrace (heated when it’s chilly) underneath a sequoia tree and overlooking the gardens for supping local ales and artisan cider; otherwise, head inside to the laidback bar or lounge. Private gatherings take place in The Library or Mr G’s, which has its own dedicated kitchen and private garden. The area is renowned for its walking trails but for those who don’t fancy exploring on foot, the hotel also has a bicycle and canoe hire service.
Doubles from £155, B&B
+44 (0) 1206 322795; milsomhotels.com