Britain has a vast range of hotels, from affordable options to one’s that’ll blow your budget. There are also places that’ll quite simply blow your mind thanks to their eccentric uniqueness.
A historic lighthouse B&B perched on the white cliffs of Beachy Head on England’s south coast, the Bell Tout Lighthouse offers many original features plus breathtaking 360-degree views. Built in 1832 and decommissioned in 1902, it’s since been a teashop and a victim of enemy fire when it was damaged during World War II. It’s now beautifully restored. The most unusual of its 6 bedrooms is the “Keepers Loft” – the old Lighthouse Keeper’s bunk room, with the original ladder leading up to a double loft bed.
On England’s south coast, 2hr 20mins south of London by car.
Britain’s first 21st century cave house, The Rockhouse Retreat is a unique sculptured home handcarved from a sandstone escarpment. Hidden amidst picturesque woodland in Worcestershire, it’s believed to have been occupied for over 750 years, but has lay abandoned since 1962. In preparation to transform the cave into a cavernous oasis, over 70 tonnes of rock had to be excavated. Now with luxuries including a range oven in the kitchen and a rainforest shower in the bathroom, this rock-carved retreat has featured in numerous British TV programmes and newspapers.
In Worcestershire, 45mins west of Birmingham by car.
The repatriated military building
An old RAF control tower built in 1943 on a former airfield in North Norfolk, the Control Tower has been lovingly restored as a B&B with 4 guestroom. Retaining period art deco features, and furnished with original art deco furniture, it’s bursting with history. Having made the transformation from military life to a new civilian role, guests can enjoy a delicious vegetarian breakfast while listening to a retro-style Roberts Radio – but there are no TV’s or other high tech gizmos. Located just south of the seaside town Wells-next-the-Sea, it offers a rare opportunity to stay somewhere that has unique historical significance.
In North Norfolk, 3hrs north east of London by car.
The safari treehouse
For an unbelievable British safari, why not stay in a treehouse above a nature reserve? Port Lympne in Kent, south east England, is a wildlife sanctuary working in conjunction with a renowned animal conservation charity, to protect endangered wildlife and eventually return them to the wild. Hidden in the tree canopy above the reserve is award-winning treehouse accommodation. These luxury self-catering treehouse suites provide incredible views – the 600 acre reserve is home to over 80 species of animals, including tigers, bears and giraffe, so there’s plenty to look out for! Guests are given their very own golf buggy to explore the park, as well as enjoying access to the park outside of official opening hours.
In Kent, 90mins south east of London by train.
The deluxe treehouse
Another luxury treetop option is found in the trees surrounding Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, a 5-star country house hotel in the New Forest in southern England. Positioned high in a verdant forest canopy are luxury hotel suites with amenities such as private deck with hot tub and bespoke marble bathrooms – all suspended 35 feet above ground. Guests staying in these opulent treehouses enjoy indulgencies such as a breakfast hamper delivered daily, whilst being just a minute’s walk from the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, spa and cookery school.
In south-west England, 2h 15min south-west of London by car.
The Dutch barge
Now a unique floating hotel, Hotel Barge Waternimf started life in 1906 carrying cargo around the Dutch waterways. Following a full renovation, she is back to work providing cosy ship-shape accommodation in the historic city of Ely, Cambridgeshire. Moored on the town’s riverside, there are 5 cabins with port holes and nautical décor, skylights flood the dining area with natural light, and the barge’s wide decks are perfect for sitting outdoors on a summer evening.
In Ely, Cambridgeshire, 70mins north of London by train.
The former prison
The Malmaison hotel group are adept at transforming quirky British buildings into smart boutique style hotels, but none are more quirky than its property in Oxford. Housed in what was Oxford Prison until it closed in 1996 for redevelopment, Malmaison Oxford has 95 richly appointed rooms and suites in what were once prison cells. Today, inmates enjoy super-comfy beds, powerful drench showers, digital TV and super-fast Wi-Fi – so doing time in this hotel is certainly no hardship.
In Oxford, 1hr west of London by train.
Built in the early 19th-century, Cley Windmill on England’s North Norfolk coast began a new phase of life in 1983 when it was converted into a guesthouse. Now run on a non-profit basis, all profit generated at the windmill goes directly into its maintenance – and unlike an average hotel or guesthouse, the windmill needs constant love and attention! There are nine B&B rooms, including the “Wheel Room”, a newly converted space at the windmill’s very top – accessed via a steep ladder, its four window offer the most spectacular panoramic views.
Cley is on the North Norfolk coast, 3hr 15min north east of London by car.
The distinctive Rye Windmill in Rye on the Sussex coast of south east England, has provided inspiration for countless artists and photographers over the centuries. This Grade II Listed mill first became a B&B guesthouse in 1984. There are 8 guestrooms situated in the old bakery, and 2 in the historic windmill, including the “Windmill Suite” which extends over two floors and provides access to a large wrap-around balcony.
Rye is in Sussex, south east England, 80mins south east of London by train.
The private island
An exclusive private island that’s just a short hop from London, Osea Island is located in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex. Accessed via an ancient causeway, the island has a variety of self-catering accommodation, including a grand Edwardian manor house sleeping up to 20 guests, as well as nine charming period cottages for couples and smaller groups. Although properties can be hired individually, it’s a brilliant place to rent in its entirety for weddings or large parties. This private retreat even boasts great pop music credentials – the island has its own recording studio, which has been used by British pop stars Jessie J, Tinnie Tempah and McFly.
Near Maldon in Essex, 90mins north east of London by car.