What better way to experience a vacation to the British Isles than a stay at one of the handful of hotels that flex serious royal connections? The Royal Family has some of the United Kingdom and Ireland’s most lavish hotels on speed dial. These properties are steeped in history with top-notch suites, extravagant afternoon teas, world-class cocktail bars, and manicured gardens. But you don’t need to be a monarch to enjoy five-star treatment, from sprawling country estates to chic city retreats in the heart of London, you too can stay at one of the Royal Family’s favorite hotels across the British Isles.
Six of the Royal Family’s Favorite Hotels in the British Isles
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The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Before you set foot in The Mandarin Oriental, it’s hard to imagine the late Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret throwing shapes in its ballroom back in the 1930s, or the royal families from every nation from Spain to Serbia reveling here for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s pre-wedding gala. But once you arrive, greeted by the hotel’s glorious rouge-brick facade and the top hat-tipping, red-tailed doorman who invites you into the lobby, it all makes perfect sense.
Formerly named Hyde Park, the hotel has continued in the beloved grande dame hotel’s opulent traditions, retaining all the grandeur while stylishly bringing it into the modern day courtesy of a recent refurb by designer Joyce Wang. In signature Mandarin Oriental style, Wang’s design draws inspiration from the locale — loving nods to Hyde Park’s flora and fauna can be seen in the upper lobby’s crystal chandelier, shaped like a flowering bud, and in leaf-pattern carpets and feather-fringed artworks.
The floral theme continues into Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant, which boasts two Michelin Stars and Hyde Park views. On any weekday, grab a window side table here for breakfast and you’ll catch the King’s Life Guard as they ride past, swords drawn and red-plumed helmets gleaming. There’s also the award-winning Aubrey, a dimly lit izakaya-style drinking den where signature shochu cocktails are paired with Japanese sharing dishes such as sushi and charcoal-charred chicken from the robata grill.
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park: 66 Knightsbridge, London, England, SW1X 7LA
Price per night: $1,088
What left is there to say about Claridge’s? A fabled institution in the heart of Mayfair, Claridge’s relationship with royalty runs so deep that it’s been called “the annex of Buckingham Palace” since Queen Victoria began the enduring trend of royal visits back in 1860. Heads of state and celebrities from Hollywood’s Golden Age have since signed the guestbook, including Audrey Hepburn and double-Oscar-winner Spencer Tracy, who famously quipped “When I die, I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s.”
Glittering crystal chandeliers, gilded paintings, and whimsical Art Deco touches such as the checkboard floor set the tone for timeless elegance in the lobby. Afternoon tea in Claridge’s glorious Reading Room is bucket list in London, but if this quintessentially English ritual isn’t your cup of tea you can always sip on vintage champagne or a crafted cocktail in the tucked-away Fumoir bar.
Claridge’s: Brook Street, Mayfair, London, England, W1K 4HR
Price per night: $974
Is The Goring the Royal Family’s favorite London hotel? It’s certainly true that every reigning monarch since 1910 has walked through the doors of the capital’s last remaining family-run luxury hotel. It’s also where Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife to the future King, stayed the night before her royal wedding to Prince William, a privilege among others that have earned The Goring the Royal Warrant for services to the monarchy — the only London hotel to be bestowed the honor.
It helps that Buckingham Palace is just across the road, but lodgings at the Goring are superior, if one is to believe the Norwegian Crown Prince who stayed here in 1937 for King George VI’s coronation. “At Buckingham Palace, I have to share a bath with five people. Here I have one to myself”, he famously declared. He joins a raft of royalty to have frequented The Goring, including the Queen Mother, who would drop in at the Michelin-starred Dining Room for Eggs Drumkilbo (a Scottish appetizer made with eggs and lobster). Afternoon tea overlooking the private garden is a must: their Goring blend of Assam and second flush Darjeeling perfectly complements those pillowy scones with clotted cream and jams.
The Goring: Beeston Place, London, England, SW1W 0JW
Price per night: $926
The Stafford London
A favorite of the Queen’s granddaughter and equestrian extraordinaire Zara Phillips, The Stafford London has always been well-connected with the royal family — quite literally if the rumors of a secret tunnel from St. James’s Palace to the hotel’s 17th century Wine Cellar are to be believed. Expert sommeliers still host private wine tastings and wine-pairing dinners here, and in the Game Bird, executive chef Jozef Rogulski’s wonderfully classic restaurant in the Main House. I plumped for the pigeon pie followed by Crêpes Suzette, wheeled out on a cart, and flamed tableside with serious panache.
Rooms at The Stafford London span three unique buildings. Suites in the modern Mews building are spacious with a contemporary palette of creams, beiges, and browns, but for a sense of Victorian grandeur opt for a room in the historic Main House. Better yet, stay in the Carriage House: this 380-year-old former royal stable has been gloriously repurposed into lavish guestrooms that overlook a cobbled courtyard. It’s a quaint spot to enjoy a drink from The Stafford’s iconic American Bar — just take it from Prince William, who has been known to call by for a casual pint. Royalty have always been welcomed at here.
The Stafford London: 16-18 St James’s Place, London, England, SW1A 1NJ
Price per night: $633
The Lygon Arms
Royal history is baked into the honey-hued walls of the 600-year-old Lygon Arms. This was the inn where, nearly 400 years ago, Oliver Cromwell rallied his army to destroy the tyrant King Charles I, and a letter was written (in the corner of what is now called the Cromwell Suite) declaring the abolition of England’s monarchy and the formation of a new republic.
The monarchy endured, and royal visitors to the Lygon Arms have since included Edward VIII (the Playboy Prince who renounced the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson) and the late Prince Phillip. It’s easy to see why this hotel in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside — an area known for its rolling hills and charming English villages — enjoys the royal seal of approval. Creaking floorboards, roaring fireplaces, and period furnishings transport guests to the times of Kings and Queens of old, but the modern spa facilities and fifteen acres of private gardens certainly help them connect to the present moment.
Chef James Martin’s Grill Restaurant serves up traditional English fare, so expect spring lamb shank and oak-smoked salmon from John Ross, the official supplier to His Majesty the King. The Tavern next door is the place for craft ales in a cozy pub setting, but the Grill’s signature cocktail is another nod to former guests of (Hollywood) royalty status. The Taylor/Burton Affair is a suitably scandalous tipple named after Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who stayed at the hotel at the height of their whirlwind romance.
The Lygon Arms: High Street, Broadway, England, WR12 7DU
Price per night: $331
Standing proud among 80 acres of the Irish countryside and landscaped gardens, Ballyvolane House in Cork is a grand country manor which, for all its historic charm and antique-luxury décor, delivers a home-away-from-home experience like nowhere quite else on this list. King Charles III and Queen Camilla (then the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) found this out for themselves on their 2018 tour of Ireland — a real feather in the cap for consummate hosts Jenny and Justin, whose family has owned Ballyvolane since 1953.
It’s the little touches that combine to achieve this homely effect, like the rain boots on the front porch that guests can borrow for a jaunt in the woodlands or the well-stocked honesty bar in the hall. The pick of the spirits is Bertha’s Revenge, a genuinely delicious “milk gin” made using whey alcohol from local dairy farmers and locally sourced botanicals. Named after the world’s oldest cow, who was 48 when she died in neighboring County Kerry, Bertha’s Revenge is cooked up in a barn at Ballyvolane which Justin loves to show off to his guests.
There are only six bedrooms at Ballyvolane to keep things intimate, and dinner is a decidedly communal affair. Guests gather first by the roaring hearth in the drawing room for a Hedgerow Martini (made with Berta’s Revenge, naturally) before taking their seats around the single mahogany table in the dining room. Ballyvolane’s seasonal menu changes daily so along with home-cooked vegetables from the walled garden you might be served freshly caught salmon from the nearby River Blackwater or beef hand-reared on the farm. Whatever’s on the menu, you can guarantee it will be field-to-fork food fit for a king or queen.
Ballyvolane House: Castlelyons, Kilcor, Cork (county), P61 FP70
Price per night: $304