There’s far more to these hotels than comfy beds and tasty breakfasts. From living alongside nuns to staying in places favoured by exiled royalty and record-breaking mountain climbers, The Good Hotel Guide has selected 8 unusual hotels across Britain that deliver a far more memorable experience than you might expect…
Chug back to the golden age of rail at The Old Railway Station, Sussex
Built in 1892 and used by the soon-to-be King Edward VII when he travelled to the fashionable Goodwood racing venue, Petworth was often called Britain’s most beautiful railway station. Nowadays it’s a quirky, super-comfy B&B styled with plenty of colonial flair; think wood panelling, iron bedsteads and black-and-white photos. Check in at the ticket window, take afternoon tea in the old waiting room and sleep in the old station house or in a refurbished Pullman carriage, now sitting stationary on the disused railway track.
Turn your eyes to the skies at Battlesteads, Northumberland
Yes, there are plenty of luxury and eco-friendly touches and a scrumptious tasting menu at this characterful historic coaching inn, but it’s the dark-sky observatory that really sets it apart. Just steps from your room, the Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory has drop-in sessions, talks, astro courses and stargazing aplenty. It’s located in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, so there’s plenty of overhead activity to watch.
Romp like royalty at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire
If it was good enough for a king of France, this stately country mansion is good enough for us! Hartwell House was home to Louis XVIII when he was in exile in the 19th century, and it’s just as sumptuous and extravagant today as it was then. A number of the public rooms are open to everyone, but the fabulous decorative plasterwork, panelling and antiques extend to the hotel’s bedrooms too. For a truly regal experience, book one of the Royal Four Poster Rooms.
Keep watch from Belle Tout Lighthouse, Sussex
As well as 360-degree views of starry skies, the English Channel and the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, there’s a fascinating story to this decommissioned lighthouse. It kept ships safe from the perilous coastline from 1832 to 1902, was part-destroyed in the Second World War but carefully restored in the 1950s and lovingly renovated once again when it was moved due to cliff erosion in 1999. Choose the round Keepers Loft room to sleep in the lighthouse itself – you’ll climb a ladder to get into bed – or opt for one of the light and spacious rooms in the extension.
Find fairies at the bottom of the garden at Talland Bay Hotel, Cornwall
There’s a surreal sense of humour at play in this romantic and remote coastal escape. Sea views, artwork and New England-style décor are mixed with a generous smattering of quirks. Take a wander through the subtropical coastal gardens and stumble upon witty and wonderful statuary and figures, including gauzy fairies, a goblin, a pig and a giant teapot (of course)!
Join the congregation at The Bar Convent, York
England’s oldest living convent also houses some great-value guest accommodation. The Bar Convent is home to members of the Congregation of Jesus, as well as simple, comfortable and peaceful rooms. There’s nothing spartan about the breakfasts either – they’ve won a VisitEngland Breakfast Award. Check out the glass-roofed hall, 18th-century domed chapel, library full of antique Catholic texts, award-winning café and the multimedia history of the convent in the living heritage centre while you’re there.
Follow mountaineering pioneers to Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, Snowdonia
Anyone with an interest in mountaineering and climbing should pilgrimage to this eccentric hotel. It hosted Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as they trained to become the first people to climb Everest. Not a lot has changed here since then – but that’s a good thing. Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel retains the spirit of a mountaineers’ hostel with hearty food, roaring fires, Everest memorabilia and Victorian bath tubs to soak your aching limbs.
Watch Scottish history unfold at Kilcamb Lodge, Highlands
As one of the oldest stone houses on the west coast of Scotland, it’s fair to say that Kilcamb Lodge has seen more than its fair share of history. It dates back to the 1700s and was used as a camp by troops loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie later that century. They would have been familiar with the loch and mountain views as well as the red deer, otters, eagles, pine martens and red squirrels that still visit the Lodge today – although the food, rooms and hospitality have improved considerably since then!
Find more amazing hotels recommended by The Good Hotel Guide, the impartial guide to hotels and B&Bs in the UK.