Great British Boltholes: Hotel Felix, Cambridge

Martha Hayes takes a summer break in this leafy university city

Martha Hayes takes a summer break in this leafy university city

Why go? For such a picturesque and historically fascinating city, Cambridge is disappointingly lacking in decent hotels. Providing a welcome haven just 1.5 miles away from the cluster of chains in the city centre, Hotel Felix is a no-brainer. A Victorian villa dating back to 1852 that was renovated and converted into Cambridge’s first four-star boutique hotel in 2002, it has restored many of its original period features whilst being brought bang up-to-date with some very colourful interior design. Not to mention the art – both classic and contemporary with many works available to buy – that adorns the walls. Yep, it’s quirky all right: but most importantly, welcoming – and super comfy.

Wise move: Hotel Felix is named after St Felix, who founded the University of Cambridge

Best for: A quiet weekend, either for a relaxing catch-up with friends or a break with the other half. The Felix is unpretentious and chilled rather than buzzy and hip so probably not quite right for a raucous hen-do, but they do cater for weddings and it would be a great choice if you were attending an event nearby. With luxurious rooms, spacious gardens (including an outdoor terrace and gazebo) and beauty treatments, it’s the kind of place you don’t really need to leave. There’s no spa but they have a cosy arrangement with local hair and beauty salon Finn Jordan (finnjordan.co.uk) – cue a divine in-room pre-dinner facial (£66). Bliss. With no expectations of a big night, we were pleasantly surprised by the pitch-perfect cocktail menu, finishing the evening with espresso Martinis (£9.95) out on the gazebo, with a view of the villa’s architecture lit up in all its glory.

Cambridge cool: a premier bedroom at Hotel Felix

The look: Each of the hotel’s 52 bedrooms have luxurious king-size beds with duck down duvets and pillows covered in Egyptian cotton bed linen, so it’s safe to say you’ll have the best night’s sleep. Subtle but important little touches like fluffy bathrobes, The White Company toiletries and fresh milk in the fridge add to the charm. If original features (think sash windows and high ceilings) float your boat stay in the Victorian mansion part of the hotel rather than the modern wings. And if a slate-lined en-suite bathroom with walk-in monsoon shower as well as bath seems a bit too good to be true, it is; let’s just say we definitely made a splash!

Dine in style: the Graffiti Restaurant at Hotel Felix

I’m hungry: The Graffiti Restaurant (they really like their art here) overlooks the terrace and gardens so request a window seat (or even sit outside) in summer, or near the open fire in the winter. The seasonal menu, best described as modern Mediterranean, is full of classics and rich in inventive ingredients. Dishes change frequently but the Jerusalem artichoke soup with crispy garlic and black pepper tuile (£5.95) is a brilliant opening act for the slow-cooked belly of pork with shallot purée and wilted chard (£17.95). Save room for the cheeseboard (£10.50) too.

Go green: King’s College, Cambridge © VisitEngland/Iain Lewis

While you’re there: The best thing about being a mile and a half away from the city centre is making the journey there on foot, meandering along until you get to the famous cobbled streets and green college lawns. Do go punting (the hotel offers a discount), and definitely embrace Cambridge’s vibrant shopping scene – a hybrid of famous brands and local treasure troves. We came across the perfect lamp at home goodies store Ark (arkcambridge.co.uk), and it’s hard to leave the Cambridge University Press Bookshop (cambridge.org) empty-handed. Check out what’s on at the free-entry Fitzwilliam Museum (fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk), and the presence of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking can be felt throughout the exquisite university buildings. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch The Theory of Everything before you visit and you’ll be enthralled.

Book now: Hotel Felix, Whitehouse Lane, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0LX (01223 277977, hotelfelix.co.uk). Double rooms cost from £215 including breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi with special offers often available. Hotel Felix is a five-minute taxi ride from Cambridge train station. For more information see visitcambridge.org.

Lead image: Clare College Bridge, River Cam © VisitEngland/Iain Lewis

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