If outdoor adventure is what draws you to rural England, then venture five hours north from London to the Yorkshire Dales. While there are myriad hiking trails, explore on horseback at Stonetrail Riding Centre in Kirkby Stephen. Try trout fishing on the river Eden and be sure to spend an evening stargazing in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is so deep in the forest that not a single road or residential light will disturb the view.
Check in to Brownber Hall, an eight-bedroom Victorian guest house overlooking the Cumbrian hills known as Howgill Fells. Rent bicycles from the hotel and explore the area further, then hunker down on-site with meals of locally-sourced ingredients. “We walk down to the farm to get eggs and milk and we grow our own vegetables,” explains Amanda Jacques-Walker, who owns and operates the hotel with her husband, Peter. “I make the marmalade myself.”
Nestled at the bottom of the country about five hours from London, Cornwall is the region to visit if sea air is your preferred antidote to frenetic urban life. St Ives is a small, picturesque town located right on the coast. Take classes at St Ives Surf School on Porthmeor Beach—if you're going in November, January, or February, book a private lesson and be sure to bring a drysuit to combat the chill. Famed London museum The Tate also has an outpost in town where you can attend events and exhibitions while looking out over the Atlantic.
Stay at Coxswain's Cottage, a six-person boutique accommodation with direct access to the beach. Exposed stone walls, wooden doors, and a large country-style dining table set the tone for this space, which is both elevated and rustic. After a cold dip in the ocean, retreat to the in-house steam room.
Oxfordshire is a prime destination for those keen to experience calm while staying in easy distance of a city (just in case cabin fever hits). Reside in the quiet village of South Leigh, a two-hour drive west of London. From the town, wander an hour on foot in one direction (around 5.5 miles) and you'll come across the serene Ducklington Lake; walk the same distance the opposite way and you'll reach Wytham Woods, owned and operated by Oxford University. The woods' 1,000 acres include more than 500 plant species and over 800 varieties of butterflies and moths. Drive 15 minutes to see Blenheim Palace, one of the U.K.'s most iconic historical landmarks.
For the full countryside experience, book at the Artist Residence hotel. The property, which dates from the 16th century, exudes pastoral coziness, with a thatched roof and dark wood panelling. Bikes are available to borrow from here, too, and will cut each of the aforementioned hour-long excursions in half if you’re keen to get back to the comfort of a cup of tea (or glass of wine) by the fireplace.
This enormous National Park in the south of England is a manageable two-hour drive from London and home to deer, free-roaming ponies, and numerous other wildlife. Follow one of the designated walking tours from the village of Lyndhurst. If the day is clear, hire bicycles at The Woods Cyclery and embark on an eight-mile ride to Hatchet Pond for a picnic.
Lime Wood Hotel & Spa offers a holistic approach to hospitality. Practice yoga in the rooftop herb garden and take a wellness workshop on-site with a nutritional therapist. Consider a cooking class, where themes include fish and shellfish, seasonal eating, simple suppers, and a Wellington workshop. Book the lake cabin which is surrounded by water on three sides and includes a private pathway.
For a break that's both restorative and active, consider heading two and a half hours northwest of London to Southwold. Adrenaline seekers will be in their element: There’s the high-speed Coastal Voyager boat tour that zips around historic Sole Bay and nearby Beccles Airfield, where guests can book skydives and enjoy the view from 13,000 feet above ground. Kitesurfing, open-water swimming, kayaking, and canoeing on Kessingland Beach are also popular choices among warm-weather vacationers.
The Swan is home to modern accommodations that reflect the beachside surroundings with chic, nautical accents. You'll be mere steps from the Adnams brewery and distillery, where you can take a tour or sample their artisanal beer and gin. For an indulgent afternoon activity, enjoy high tea at the hotel.