Country Houses

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No matter whether you've been pining for a stay in an Italian farmhouse between the green valleys and vineyards of Umbria, a handsome Portuguese mansion in the shadow of mystical Sintra, a regal English home on the undulating hills of the Cotswolds, or some other sort of escape from the city, it's likely that a country house will have precisely what you're after. This charming, niche accommodation type is the go-to for discerning folk who aren't just interested in ticking off the sights and leaving. Usually coming with sweeping views, elegant vernacular architecture and just a handful of suites and rooms, they are great spots for getting the romance flowing, enjoying a little local culture and perfecting the art of slow travel.

Italy, France, Portugal and the UK are all real hotspots for the country house. You can find them nestled in the Loire and Dordogne, close to historic bastide towns and charming French villages. You can find country houses in Sintra, close to UNESCO World Heritage buildings and oak-clad mountains that drop straight into the roaring Atlantic Ocean. Other popular country houses in Assisi come with unforgettable views that reveal the majestic basilicas and church towers of central Italy's beautiful medieval settlements. And there are even more peppering the surrounds of the Boot's iconic Renaissance jewel, with country houses in Florence offering a mixture of Tuscan Arcadia and rich European art.

Most of these sorts of stays come with just a couple of rooms and suites. That opens the door to a truly personalised service, with breakfast spreads that can be tailor-made to individual tastes – think crispy croissants or sunny-side eggs as you like them – and serene surroundings where there are never too many bodies crowding the pool. Talking of pools, many country houses also crank up the luxury offering, with spa facilities and outdoor swimming the norm, almost always bolstered by beautiful views over the nearby hills or valleys.

Prime examples of these sorts of stays include the beautiful Quinta Verde in Portugal, where a glistening pool emerges from palm-topped gardens in the shadow of the royal palaces of Sintra town. Meanwhile, in Italy, there's the Castello di Petrata, with its natural spa facility cut into the Umbrian hills and its al fresco terraces gazing out across the wide plains of Perugia.