Holidays

The quirkiest and most unusual places to stay in the UK for a winter staycation, from a lighthouse to a camper van

From luxury treehouses and private island huts, to teeny tiny castles and converted trucks, these are the best places for an unusual UK staycation.  

Sure, we all love a luxury hotel robe and a long, warm bath. But sometimes four white walls just won’t cut it. If you’re going to choose a UK staycation – and, let’s face it, that is what many of us are doing at the moment – I think we can all agree 2020 is about pushing the boundaries of the standard hotel experience. We want magnificent views and a bed to remember; we want walls made of something other than brick; we want a holiday that goes beyond what we’ve come to expect from the traditional B&B.

So, in the pursuit of something a little less ordinary, here’s Stylist’s pick of some of the UK’s quirky yet luxurious staycation spots.

As always, do check government guidance before you travel and make sure you adhere to local lockdown rules. 

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A truly luxurious treehouse 

Unusual UK staycations - luxury treehouse
Unusual UK staycations - Dabinett Treehouse

This kooky Somerset treetop abode may give off a Hobbit-like aesthetic from the outside, but inside it’s blissfully luxurious, brimming with design-led features, from the hammered copper kitchen sink to the cabin-style bed. 

Access to the treehouse is easy: guests receive a link to a digital guide which explains how to check yourself in, where to find your torch and wheelbarrow and then off you go. While climbing the wooden structure on which the treehouse rests, you’ll spot a ginormous outdoor bath which – with festoon lights twinkling in the branches above and views for miles – is every bit as romantic as you’d hope. Indoors, the bathroom comes with cosy underfloor heating, a rainforest shower and organic toiletries. 

Unusual UK staycations - luxury treehouse
The outdoor bath at Dabinett Treehouse

And it’s the little touches that make this spot really special. Great thought has gone into making guests here as comfortable as possible in every way, and sampling the local cheddar and cider courtesy of a welcome basket, enjoying a coffee from the Nespresso machine and loading up the log burner with a supply of pre-chopped wood, makes looking up at the stars from your private balcony all the sweeter.

From £200 per night; canopyandstars.co.uk 

Review by Megan Murray, digital writer 

The Clock Tower at Bamburgh Castle

Unusual UK staycations - Bamburg Clock Tower
Unusual UK staycations - Bamburgh Clock Tower

This beautiful medieval clock tower – part of Northumberland’s iconic 11th century Bamburgh Castle – has been lovingly ‘upcycled’ into a unique three-bedroom holiday apartment. Split across three floors and towering 150 above the churning Northumberland coastline, this tower and turret built into the castle walls is the place from which to watch your enemies approaching (as many Anglo-Saxon kings did in the past). 

Unusual UK staycations - Bamburg Clock Tower
The view from Bamburg Clock Tower

Views stretch east over Bamburgh beach – home to pristine sands, impressive surf breaks and some very rare insects, actually – up the coast to the tidal Holy Island and west across Bamburgh village, up to the Cheviot Hills. Inside, you’ll find things awash with opulence, from blood-red velvet to pretty antique chandeliers.

Sleeps up to five, from £993 for three-nights; crabtreeandcrabtree.com  

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Wigwams at Port Lympne Reserve 

Unusual UK staycations - wigwams at Port Lympne
Unusual UK staycations - wigwams at Port Lympne

Home to over 700 rare and endangered animals – from Western lowland gorillas to grey wolves – the 600-acre Port Lympne Reserve in Kent is owned by the Aspinall Foundation, who make great things happen in the wildlife conservation sphere. All accommodation profits go towards the foundation’s work that takes place around the world and there’s a whole host of options when it comes to resting your head, including treehouse rooms and safari-style lodges. 

Unusual UK staycations - wigwams at Port Lympne
Wigwams at Port Lympne

Their newest offering, Leopard Creek, will open on a tranquil corner of the reserve in April 2021, where guests will be able to soak up 24-hour views of their nosy neighbours – a pair of critically endangered Amur leopards and two white rhinos. There’ll be cosy just-for-two cub huts available as well as three chic larger cabins. But the real centerpiece will be two luxurious 7ft ‘wigwams’, which will sleep four and cost from a cool £699 a night.

Visit aspinallfoundation.org to book        

A monk’s tower in Cardigan   

Unusual UK staycations - A monk's tower in Cardigan
Unusual UK staycations - Twr Mynach in Cardigan

In the coastal town of Barmouth, where the mountains meet the sea between Snowdonia and Cardigan Bay, you’ll find Twr Mynach (meaning ‘Monk Tower’ in English). 

This beguiling little tower feels like a tiny castle, and dates all the way back to 1880.  The owners Henrietta and Pavlos fell in love with the structure, which once formed part of a school building, and have transformed it into a playful, eco-friendly retreat, decked out in a quirky arts-and-crafts style, with stained glass windows, two unique double bedrooms and plenty of vintage treasures dotted about, from taxidermy stags to shop dummies (we’re also a little bit obsessed with the pink-tiled bathroom). Each room comes with its own terrace complete with panoramic views (the tower overlooks the glistening Llyn Peninsula and the much-trudged Wales Coast Path) and you can lose hours here watching the sunk sink into the horizon as gulls skirl above the flinty grey waters.  

Unusual UK staycations - a monk's tower in Cardigan
The gallery at Twy Mynach

There’s much to do in the surrounding area, with the north Wales coastline and the dramatic Snowdonia National Park just a stone’s throw away, and it’s just a 10-minute skip to beautiful white sand beaches, or the network of National Heritage Walks that afford sweeping views over the sandy Mawddach Estuary.

Sleeps up to four, from £115 per night; hostunusual.com  

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A converted truck in the land of the lakes 

Unusual UK staycations
Unusual UK staycations - Hinterlandes

Think of the Lake District and you’re probably met with images of muddy wellies and vast, watery views. Maybe even a cosy hotel with a crackling fire and some nice little nibbles to finish off your day? Well, here’s another way to experience the great lakes, and it comes in the shape of a converted truck with a VW camper bedroom on the roof. 

This old school bus began its life in the US, but has since been remodelled into a truly unique place to sleep, with an Aga, a hot shower, a loo and even wifi. 

Unusual UK staycations - Hinterlandes in The Lake District
Inside the truck at Hinterlandes

This place is all about the setting though and from the bed you can wake to views of The Lake District through every window, with a firepit outside ideal for sunset drinks and a wood-fired hot tub which will have even the most stressed-out sorts relaxed in seconds. Further afield you are free to explore the bounty of the surrounding area, from wild swimming wherever you see the water, to hiking or simply holing up in local tea rooms for scones and cream.

From £100 per night; canopyandstars.co.uk  

A storied Scottish lighthouse 

On Shetland’s imposing sea cliffs overlooking the churning, flinty-grey ocean, sits Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. Built in the 1820s on the southernmost point of the mainland of Shetland – an archipelago of islands halfway between the UK and Norway – it’s the oldest lighthouse on the island and is surrounded by fascinating archeological sites and a thriving RSPB reserve. The keeper’s cottage here – which sleeps five in three bedrooms – has been beautifully modernised, but still maintains a number of original features. 

Spend your days like the lighthouse keepers of yore, watching squalling seabirds and passing pods of orca from the windows, cooking hearty meals on the Aga and then settling down with a tipple to watch the sun dip below the inky horizon. Heaven.

From £553 per week; hostunusual.com  

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A chic private island shack

Unusual UK staycations - private island shack
Unusual UK staycations - The Tabernacle

Fancy escaping from everything, hiding out on your own private island, with a little rowboat to mosey about in and no neighbours except for the birds? Yeah, doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

This fairytale shack in Suffolk delivers a taste of what life on the water’s all about. Accessible by its own little rope bridge, The Tabernacle is surrounded by 5,000 acres of nature and native woodland, where sheep and cattle graze and where you can lose yourself to the wilderness for a long weekend. 

Unusual UK staycations - The Tabernacle
Glam interiors at The Tabernacle

Inside, décor is cosy yet exquisite, with a loveseat next to the fire and a freestanding bath for mindless wallowing. There’s also a hot tub, wifi, Pashley bikes, wellies, a Smart TV, Hypnos beds and that all important Nespresso coffee machine. So really, the only thing that’ll make you feel castaway is the sound of the countryside burbling outside your window.

From £235 per night; fishandpips.co.uk 

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