Great British Boltholes: Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Kelly Preedy gears up for Christmas with some shopping and skating in this elegant Georgian town

Kelly Preedy gears up for Christmas with some shopping and skating in this elegant Georgian town

Why go? For an easy and romantic getaway. This year the Hotel du Vin collection is celebrating its 20th anniversary and this charming Grade II-listed property, which was the second to open in 1997, is just a stone’s throw from the town centre.

French class: the Bistro at Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells

Best for: Grown-up city folk who fancy living the country town dream for a night or two. Royal Tunbridge Wells is an affable mix of chic boutiques, pretty cafes and parks with plenty of folk in Barbours and Hunters walking their dogs. It also boasts a free historical museum (tunbridgewellsmuseum.org), a 75 year-old theatre with a diverse programme that includes ballet, opera, pop and well-known TV comics (assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk), monthly farmers’ markets and a steam railway (spavalleyrailway.co.uk).

Get your skates on: the ice rink at Calverley Grounds

The look: There’s a dark wood, candlelit, Jane Austen-vibe to this Hotel du Vin, with lots of nooks & crannies, creaky stairs and a feeling that Mr Darcy might be right around the corner. Set in a sandstone Georgian house remodelled by Decimus Burton and originally built as a private residence in 1762, the building is an important local landmark. The 34 rooms and suites are comfy and welcoming and range from a standard with shower to a spacious principal with freestanding roll-top bath, They are all named after French wine producers and some look out over the nearby gardens and parks. The upper floors give the best view but stay away from the ancient, noisy lift if you can.

Nice and simple: a bedroom at Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells

I’m hungry… Bistro du Vin serves hearty French fare with a wide choice of wines in a classic, wood-floored setting with fireplaces and and a cosy feel. Dishes range from Shetland scallops (£12.95) and steak tartare (£7.95) to a mighty Chateaubriand steak (£65 for two) – but save space for the yummy desserts (£7.95). The cooked breakfast (£16.95) is equally satisfying.

While you’re there… Take a walk down to the famous Pantiles (a colonnaded walkway from Georgian times) and the Chalybeate Spring – the town grew up around these waters in the 18th century when the rich and fashionable of London would journey down for its beneficial effects. There are Christmas markets (pantilestraders.co.uk) here every Saturday and Sunday, or head for Fenwick department store for luxury gifts (fenwick.co.uk). You can also get into the festive spirit with a spin around the Calverley Grounds outdoor ice rink (tunbridgewellsatchristmas.com) which is open until 4 January 2015. Further afield, take a winter stroll in the wonderful parkland at Penshurst Place (penshurstplace.com), visit the deer park at Knole (nationaltrust.org.uk) or tour Hever Castle (hevercastle.co.uk), open until 1 January 2015.

Oh come all ye shoppers: the Christmas market at Royal Tunbridge Wells

Dress code: Country town with a chic and relaxed mood that’s much less try-hard than London. Pack cosy knits and leather boots for strolling the Pantiles.

Book now: Hotel Du Vin, Crescent Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 2LY (0844 748 9266; hotelduvin.com). Standard rooms start at £99 per night, see the website for various offers including a Christmas shopping package including breakfast, mulled wine and a £20 food voucher. Wi-Fi is complimentary. The hotel is a short walk from Tunbridge Wells rail station, a few parking spaces are available at no charge.

Info: Kent, Sussex and Surrey (£12.99; Rough Guides) covers the area; useful websites are visittunbridgewells.com and visitkent.co.uk.

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