How our country house stays have adapted after lockdown

What to expect when visting an HF Country House in the Covid era

As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, our country house stays have been organised a little differently; since we returned to action, extra steps have been taken to keep our guests and house teams safe. Some beloved staples of the HF Holidays experience have had to be parked temporarily and new protocols introduced to ensure that guests and house team members feel safe and protected. The certification below though is the official UK mark to signal that HF Holidays has worked hard to follow Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines and has a process in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. Here are some of the ways in which our country house stays have adapted and, if you read to the foot of the page, there's a short film shot at one of our country houses, where you can walk through the house to see the new measures in place.

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Holidays running

In light of the government guidance, we have changed the way we normally run our holidays. We have reintroduced Guided Walking Holidays at almost all country houses, albeit with some adaptations,so that guests can walk directly from the house and won't be required to use transport to access the trailheads. Guided walks have been adapted to have a ratio of 1 leader to 14 guests, to comply with government guidelines. We can continue to take groups walking as we conform to government guidance on organised outdoor activities and are exempt from the ‘rule of 6’. We have stringent plans in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 and follow the British Mountaineering Council guidelines for groups of hill walkers. In our country houses we have adapted things to ensure that we comply to all indoor ‘rule of 6’ regulations. Boot rooms are open as usual, with social distancing measures in place. Due to the current government guidelines around public speaking, it is not possible to hold our regular pre-dinner evening walks presentations. We have updated the HF website with information around the walks available each day and the leaders will be available throughout your stay for further information.

We are also offering Self-Guided Walking Holidays. Within each house, guests will be able to use our Discovery Points for route information, inspiration, and ideas as to where to explore, and we will be providing guests complimentary access to the Ordnance Survey App during their stay. In addition, Walk Leaders will be available to provide information on the walks in the local area.

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Our country Houses

Currently, we have reduced the overall number of guests staying at each house in line with government requirements. This will ensure that we can meet the social distancing guidelines in our public areas within each house.

We’re thrilled to have welcomed so many of our guests back, but we’re still keen we keep our distance. We have taken the necessary steps to space out furniture and seating in public areas. In addition, we may need to put in place a one-way system around the house. Adequate signage is displayed to support the direction of travel to be followed by guests and staff. We ask that our guests please adhere to the social distancing measures we have introduced, to keep our guests and house teams safe.

In England, you must currently wear a face covering by law on public transport and in certain public and communal settings, including public areas in hotels. In line with government guidance, this is currently mandatory for guests at our country houses. Face coverings are not required in restaurants with table service or bars though. You may remove a face covering to eat and drink in an area specifically for this purpose.

There are some circumstances for health, age, or equality reasons where people are not expected to wear face coverings. Those who have a legitimate reason for not wearing a face covering can create an exemption card or badge to display this fact. For more information visit the governement website.

We ask that our guests please adhere to the social distancing measures we have introduced in line with the law around the 'Rule of Six', to keep our guests, leaders and teams safe.

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Cleanliness at our country houses

We have always rated country house cleanliness highly but will be even more aware of it going forward. To ensure the highest standards of cleanliness are met across all areas of our houses, we have adopted new enhanced cleaning protocols. Prior to opening, our teams will be fully trained on these new cleaning protocols and measures needed to keep themselves and our guests safe.

To ensure the safety of guests and the house teams, as a temporary measure, we will not be servicing rooms during a stay. Extra tea, coffee, milk, and toiletries will be made available on request for all guests. It is recommended that guests bring their own toiletries for the duration of their stay. Clean towels will be available on request. Where possible, the allocation of rooms will be rotated to provide a 'rest period' before new guests arrive. We will though be increasing the frequency of cleaning in our public areas providing particular attention to frequently touched items including door handles and handrails.

As well as thorough cleaning from our house keeping teams, guests are encouraged to use the hand sanitisers and antibacterial soap provided. Hand sanitiser stations will be made available in frequently used public areas for guests and staff use. We will also ensure that there is ample PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) where required for our house teams and these will be worn where necessary while on duty. Chefs will wear facemasks while in the kitchen preparing meals.

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Check-in & welcome

To allow for additional cleaning of the bedrooms in between guest stays, we will be delaying the check-in time at our country houses until 4pm for all guests.

During check-in, guests will be allocated meal times. Different sittings may be required, and this may vary by house.

Information about the house and the holiday will be made available in each bedroom. This personal pack of information will detail what to expect during the stay in the house and will include the guest registration form for completion. We have removed all non-essential and reusable items from our rooms for the meantime including cushions, hairdryers, bathrobes, bed throws, and printed materials to reduce the number of items that need to be disinfected. Hairdryers will be available on request.

Guests will need to settle their bill before departure and payments will only be available by card. Check out time will be 10am for all guests.

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Dining at the country houses

We are renowned for the quality of our country house meals but have reviewed the way that our dining experience is offered throughout. Alas, while we all adore the breakfast buffet and picnic tuck room, we have adapted our food offering to remove all buffets and open food items for now. Where menus are required, they will be single use. Different sittings may be required for breakfast and dinner due to the occupancy and size of the house. In light of the latest government guidance, we have reorganised our dining room at Nether Grange in Northumberland, and tables here will now accommodate a maximum of 2 guests per table. During check-in, guests will be allocated their mealtime for the duration of their stay. Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to take any special requests for preferred mealtime sittings. Chefs will wear facemasks while in the kitchen preparing meals. Cutlery will be available on the table for each meal and condiments will be wrapped and single use.

Breakfast will be a table service and will include a choice of yogurts, cereals, and fruit all individually served. Tea, coffee, and toast will be delivered to the table and a cooked breakfast will also be available to order.

Picnic lunches will be available, and these will need to be pre-ordered each evening during a stay. A picnic lunch order form will be available in each room for completion each day. Picnic lunches will be delivered to the guest’s tables at breakfast.

Evening meals will be a table service. A dinner order sheet will be available in each room for completion each evening, with an earlier completion required on the day of arrival.

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Leisure time in the country houses

Relaxing with fellow guests, swapping stories, and enjoying the sociability of our country houses are mainstays of any HF break, but new protocols will have to be followed as we re-open. To comply with social distancing and the law around the 'Rule of Six', we have taken the necessary steps to space out furniture and seating in public areas, so guests can interact but safely. The bar in each country house will be open, and we will be offering a table service for drinks. Payments for goods consumed from the bar will only be accepted by card though. The bar will close at 10pm in accordance with new government law. At this time there is no, or only a very limited evening social programme available; details of what's happening at each country house will be provided on arrival.

Our outdoor pools, as normal, are closed between October and April. Indoor swimming pools will remain closed during this time.

How some of these changes look in practice

To see some of the new changes we've introduced in place, watch our short film, shot at Derwent Bank in the Northern Lake District, to see some of the measures the team there have put in place to ensure guest safety, including one-way systems throughout, new signage, social distancing measures and new seating patterns.

Click to play and take a walk through Derwent Bank >

In your words: guest feedback from houses newly re-opened

"The staff did a wonderful job providing as normal an experience as was possible and with the same excellent attention to detail. I had a lovely week.'

(Guest at Derwent Bank, Northern Lake District)

"We really appreciated the efforts all the staff were making to ensure we had a relaxing holiday despite the restrictions. We could see a lot of thought had been put into taking measures to achieve adherence to Covid rules and guidelines. It felt safe and proportionate. Well done for achieving so much, quickly and properly, in bringing back your staff and reopening your houses."

(Guest at Longmynd House, Church Stretton)