Who wants to wake up in a hotel room when there are so many more unusual places to stay in the UK? These days you can glamp in a castle, sleep in a shipping container and overnight in the original bus from the Spice World movie!
Now that more of us are booking staycations it makes sense to choose a holiday home with a difference. Fortunately, Britain is home to some very cool accommodation options. There are log cabins and water towers, award-winning shepherd huts and Grade II listed buildings, eco-friendly cottages and more. Here are some of the most original places to unpack your case.
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When you’re planning your next family trip, why not stay in a treehouse instead? Or a converted gypsy caravan? Or even a restored railway carriage? If these sound like your kind of holiday properties then take a look at this list of some of the most quirky accommodation options in the UK.
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Go to sleep in one of these unusual holiday homes
Spice up your life in the Spice Bus
If what you really, really want is a throwback to the Spice Girls heyday then you’re in luck! You can now stay overnight in the original Spice Bus that featured in the movie Spice World.
The exterior of the bus looks exactly the same in the film with its iconic Union Jack exterior. The interiors have been given a makeover and now features plenty of Spice Girl references from disco balls to the Girl Power art work.
The bus is located overlooking the marina in the Isle of Wight. It sleeps three in one double bed and one single day bed. There’s a seating area with three Union Jack cinema-style chairs, a TV and an old school CD player.
A yurt in Glastonbury
Glamping in Somerset is the ideal UK getaway with kids. Somerest Yurts are based in the countryside in West Monkton, with beautiful views of the rolling Somerset hills. Situated next to a dairy farm, it was of much delight to our toddler to gaze at the cows just over the fence.
The campsite is a safe space for little ones to roam free, we enjoyed a family BBQ just before sunset and toasted marshmallows. The yurts are homely and cosy, with plenty of space to play games indoors too.
Being only a thirty minutes from Glastonbury meant we had lots of exploring to do. There are so many legends surrounding Glastonbury. In the centre of the town is the ruined abbey, claimed to be the gravesite of the legendary Kind Arthur and the temporary home of the ‘Holy Grail’. Glastonbury is home to many mystical places, Glastonbury Tor, the Chalice Well and the beautiful Goddess Temple.
Glastonbury itself has lots of interesting alleyways, nooks and crannies to discover. The town is full of independent stores and restaurants and lots of kid friendly cafes to kick back in. It is a charming, quintessential English town but with an alternative, magical twist.
Contributed by Gillian Edwards, Travel Mad Mum
The Island in Cornwall
If you really want to escape the crowds head to this unusual beach house, perched on top of its very own island and accessed by a private suspension bridge. Its position offers stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean. Towan Beach in Newquay sits below.
There are three bedrooms; a stylish master bedroom and two further bedrooms both with garden views. The living areas are beautifully decorated and the house even has its own flag and flag pole so you can signal to the kids playing on the beach when dinner is ready.
The beach house comes with an excellent kitchen but if you won’t feel like cooking on holiday then there are plenty of local dining options. The Fish House and Bush Pepper are just two restaurants worth trying.
The Island can be booked through Boutique Retreats.
This post has more ideas on things to do in Cornwall with kids.
A Shipping Container at the Eden Project
Did you know you can stay at The Eden Project overnight? Snoozebox and YHA have collaborated to transform old shipping containers into unique overnight accommodation.
Sleeping up to four people, the pods are super compact yet contain everything you need for a cosy night’s stay. From comfortable beds and your own shower to TV, air conditioning, plug sockets and WiFi. There’s also a community bar/cafe/kitchen on site where you can grab a bite to eat/drink and play board games.
Find out more about sleeping at the Eden Project here.
Contributed by Sam, North East Family Fun
A former train station in Staffordshire
Once upon a time the platforms at Alton Station welcomed trainloads of visitors who came from neighbouring pottery towns to visit the famous gardens at Alton Towers.
These days, however, the station welcomes a different kind of guest. The former station buildings are now open to overnight visitors. Guests sleep in what was once the ticket office or in the Stationmaster’s house. The former ladies’ waiting groom is now a kitchen and the porter’s room is a shower room.
There’s a wonderful sense of history here, not least the location on the old railway line. All surviving original features remain including Minton tiles on the floor and the brackets for fire buckets and oil lamps outside.
The property sleeps eight people and boasts all the mod cons you could ask for including a dishwasher and a washing machine.
Alton Station is managed by The Landmark Trust.
Leeds Castle Knight Glamping
Leeds Castle Knight Glamping is set in the 500-acre grounds of Leeds Castle, which King Henry VIII often used as his base in Kent.
Today, eight striped tents, just like the ones used by Henry VIII’s convoy, are available for hire in the warmer months of the year. Unlike Henry’s knights, however, we slept in a double four-poster bed, with fresh, crisp linen, and warm, snuggly blankets.
Along with a few basics, like packets of tea and coffee, small bottles of water and a flask for hot water, the tent was equipped with two dressing gowns, a log burner, and plenty of towels for all four of us.
One of the nicest things about Leeds Castle Knights Glamping, was having the grounds all to ourselves when the day visitors had left. The children enjoyed a pre-bedtime romp in the playgrounds as the sun went down. Glamping guests can do the same in the morning before the day visitors arrive at 10.30am.
After we’d finished playing, we grilled sausages and halloumi cheese on the glamping site’s barbecues, before snuggling down in our knightly beds for the evening. Find out more about glamping at Leeds Castle here.
Contributed by Nell, Pigeon Pair and Me
Meadow Keeper’s Cottage in Sussex
This “higgledy piggledy cottage on wheels” is a truly unique place to stay. It was hand-crafted by a local joiner with locally sourced timber and looks like something you would find in the story Hansel & Gretel.
This whimsical cottage can sleep two adults and two children with a double bed and benches that double up as single beds (with a dining table between them). There’s an indoor cooking area (alhtough you’ll have to collect your water from outside), a small wardrobe and a log burner for when the nights are cold. You’ll find your log fired shower outside.
The property is entirely off-grid so you can put away all electronics and get back to nature instead. The surrounding area is full of activities from bird-watching and walking to watersports and horseriding. Bodiam Castle is also nearby.
You’ll find the house on Swallowtail Hill Farm, sat between two wildflower meadows. The farm is located near the hilltop town of Rye (itself a great day trip from London by train) and just 1hr 45mins from central London.
A Tree Lodge in North Yorkshire
A stay in a tree lodge at Swinton Bivouac in North Yorkshire gives you the change to unplug, relax and unwind in comfort.
The six tree lodges as located on the Swinton Estate, near to a Druid’s Temple replica built in the 1880’s. There is no electricity to the loges but they are warm and cozy with a wood burning stove, kitchenette and on suite flushing loo and hot shower. Kids love the triple decked sleeping areas!
Read more about Swinton Bivouac tree lodge on their website.
Chosen by Erin, Yorkshire Tots
Safari Lodges in the Slate Caverns
Situated in the heart of Snowdonia National Park on the outskirts of Blaenau Ffestiniog, you will find Llechwedd Slate Caverns.
There are six safari lodges, four of which sleep five people and two that sleep four people. The lodges are positioned high up on the hillside offering spectacular views of the rugged landscape.
The lodges are absolutely beautiful, fully equipped with a wood burning stove, wooden floors, soft furnishings and a bathroom. Outside there is a decked area with a table and chairs and bbq.
There are some great activities onsite too and you can choose from a number of tours including the the LLechwedd Deep Mine Tour, The Quarry Explorer, and the Zip world. There is a lovely gift shop and great choices for food and drink on site – you can eat at the Quarryman’s Tavern, The Emporium, and the Slate Cavern Cafe.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns offer an ideal base for exploring North Wales.
Contributed by Katy, Otis and Us
Glamping at Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle is well-known for its fascinating history spanning the centuries throughout Medieval England. It’s an absolutely brilliant day out jam-packed full of interesting attractions and fun things to do for all the family.
But did you know that Warwick Castle also offers the unique opportunity to stay overnight in the Castle Grounds? The Avenue Of Kings in the Knight’s Village boasts a selection of luxury glamping tents that are perfect for families looking for an adventure of a different kind.
Set in a woodland clearing overlooking the River Avon, each tent is equipped with everything you need for a comfy night’s stay – full-size beds for everyone (including a four-poster double), extra blankets, towels, plug sockets, lights, a comfy chair and a wooden trunk for storing belongings.
You can dine on a three-course meal at the Medieval Banquet Hall, which is also where a feast of a breakfast is provided in the morning. Entrance to the Castle is included in the price of an overnight stay and you get to use your own private entrance, bypassing the queues!
We loved our luxury glamping experience at one of the oldest castles in Britain. Find out more about sleeping overnight at Warwick Castle here.
Chosen by Chloe, Picture Taker Memory Maker
A 1961 Bluebird Senator Caravan
Family travel blogger Penny Alexander moved to the Peak District to put down country roots and open two holiday lets. Mayfield Hideaway consists of a character barn and a long lost 1961 Bluebird Senator static caravan. The caravan has been lovingly up-cycled into a calming, cosy Scandi retreat in the trees.
The caravan sleeps four and has postcard quality Peak District views from bed, or you can watch the sun rise and set over Dovedale from the large deck or hammock.
Watch nature in the large pond, play ball games on the old tennis court or play hide and seek and make dens in the gardens. The perfect place for family time, only two miles from Ashbourne.
The site is located just 10 minutes from National Trust places Ilam Hall and Sudbury Museum of Childhood where kids can experience life as a chimney sweep. It’s three miles to Dovedale with it’s pretty valleys, caves, money trees and stepping stones that kids will love, and for daredevils, under 10 miles from Alton Towers theme park.
Contributed by Penny, Parentshaped
Railway carriages in York
The Old Station at Allerston offers three self catering railway carriages which are perfect for families. They have been fully restored, and each carriage is equipped with central heating, oven, hob, microwave, fridge, TV, DVD, radio and a bath with shower attachment.
There are two- and three-bedroom carriages available. Cots and highchairs can be provided at no extra cost.
Outside, there are two acres of grounds for children to play in and a little play area with swings and a slide. Each carriage has its own picnic table and BBQs are available. The platform is great for riding bikes and scooters up and down, and there is a selection of toys and games to borrow during your stay.
The carriages are located near Pickering, 30 minutes from the seaside and are close to the Dalby Forest and York. Read more about the railway carriages at the Old Station at Allerston here.
Chosen by Jo, Kiddie Holidays
Higgledy Tree House
The family-friendly tree house sleeps up to four adults, or two adults and two children. There’s a double bed, a loft bed inspired by a bird’s nest, a cool shower room in the turret (very Rapunzel-esque) and a fully-equipped kitchen.
If you’re staying in the winter then there’s a wood burning stove. Outside is a terrace with seating for al fresco dining. But if a tree house is not quite your thing then Blackberry Wood also offers sleeping options in a helicopter, double-decker bus, 1960s caravan, gypsy wagon and a wooden ‘curvy cabin’.
Glamping in Somerset
If you’re not a fan of camping, like myself, then perhaps luxury glamping is a good alternative? The key word that sold it to me was ‘luxury’ – and after staying in a fully equipped tent which had a flushing toilet, shower, and comfortable beds, I’d happily go glamping again…
We spent a delightful long weekend with Lantern & Larks in a pretty hamlet of Somerset. Not only was the surrounding countryside idyllic, but because we were also on a working farm, the kids enjoyed being able to interact with the animals and collect fresh eggs.
We also loved being able to use the fire pit for a twilight BBQ, exploring with our torch lights and getting ready for bed together in the dark. It really did feel like a home away from home.
Sure there were a few creepy crawlies in the tent, but it was romantic and cosy spending our evenings watching the flames dancing and the wood crackling in the burner; actually having a conversation instead of watching the TV or checking our devices; and a real sense of adventure for the children, too.
Contributed by Ting, My Travel Monkey
Gypsy Caravans at Fisherton Farm
Located in Umberleigh in Devon, Fisherton Farm is an off-grid farm stay home to a trio of restored traditional Bowtop Gypsy Caravans. These caravans have been beautifully restored to create wonderful, quirky places to stay for families in the great outdoors.
There is also a converted farm trailer, which is as cosy and welcoming as the Vintage Vardos. In total they can sleep up to 14 people and are the perfect place to come with a group of friends as the wagons can not be hired individually.
The unique accommodation sits in a secluded meadow next to a wood and stream, there’s a sheltered woodland living room with a large fire pit, an honesty shop filled with fresh farm produce, piping hot outdoor shower and a rope swing. There’s also a shack, Tinny, filled with games in case it rains.
Looking for an alternative place to stay? Try one of these five family-friendly holiday cottages in South Devon.
Belle Tout Lighthouse
This unusual place to stay is for those over the age of 14 only owing to factor including steep steps and a cliff top. However, it’s worth waiting until your offspring are old engouh as it’s not every day you get to sleep in a light house.
Belle Tout Lighthouse is perched at the far end of East Sussex’s Beachy Head, with no immediate neighbours, and incredible sea views rom the beautiful old light room (now lounge) at the top.
Built in 1832, this lighthouse has quite a history – from being used as target practice by the Canadian Air force during the second world war, to being the setting for the BBC’s Life and Times of a She Devil (if you can remember that far back!).
Today it’s owned by a family who fell in love with it, saved its life, and now kindly share it with others.
Book a room as you would in any guest house (there are six to choose from), or book far in advance and enjoy the entire place as the best venue for a reunion (as we did).
Belle Tout isn’t self catering – it comes with a lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse keeper keeps everything running, cooks wonderful breakfasts and makes the meanest sun downer.
Belle Tout makes an unusual AND memorable stay for all the right reasons.
Contributed by Emma, Bavarian Sojourn
Camping is not something that fills me with much joy but glamping? Yep, luxury camping I can do especially if it’s at The Glamping Orchard. Belle is a lovely bell tent that has been beautifully decorated and that can sleep up to five people.
Located in heart of the Severn Vale and surrounded by the Cotswolds, this is the place to come to completely relax and unwind (without having to lug all your camping gear with you!).
There’s a double bed, two single futon beds and an extra bed can be added if you have a third small person in your party like we do. There are rugs, cushions, lighting and even a wood burning stove. There is a kitchen hut but The Clamping Orchard can also provide breakfast, BBQ meals and picnic hampers.
If you’re visiting with friends then The Clamping Orchard offers another very cool place to stay, the Warwick Knight Caravan, a 1950s caravan that has been restored and transformed into a fun and unique accommodation.
Unique Holiday Cottages at Puzzlewood
If you stay at the cottages at Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, you get free out-of-hour access to the private forest.
The forest has hosted film and TV locations shoots ranging from Merlin to Star Wars. It’s an easy walk, filled with a spooky light and atmosphere, even on a bright day. And when you get it to yourself late evening or early morning it seems to become enchanted.
If you want to extend your walking, the Forest of Dean sculpture Trail offers surprises and delights along the four and half mile footpath. And if the sun’s feeling too bright for you then go 200 metres underground at the Clearwell Caves in one of their Deep Level Experiences.
There’s loads of outdoor things to do in this Gloucestershire region; checkout The Family Adventure Project’s Forest of Dean Adventures post for more inspiration and details about the cottages at Puzzlewood.
Contributed by Kirstie, Family Adventure Project
The House of Correction
It really was incredibly good fun staying in a prison! The House of Correction is located in the small village of Folkingham, Lincolnshire.
It was, as its name suggests, once a place where people went to be “corrected”, having done wrong and committed minor misdemeanours. It’s now available to tourists, via the Landmark Trust, and is a gorgeous little place. It comes complete with some fun historic touches, such as handcuffs and leg irons – and a terrific garden to run around in.
The House of Correction is built on the site of an old medieval castle and you can see still the moat which surrounded that building – not the kind of thing you view in every day life.
The building itself is also very unusual, having a magnificent entrance, which brings you into a tiny house, containing a living room, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms.
Contributed by Sarah, Family travel Times
The Big Green Bus
Possibly one of the coolest places to stay in the UK has to be the Big Green Bus. More specifically, it’s a 1982 West Midlands metro bus that’s been converted into family-friendly accommodation that can sleep six people.
Set in a private woodland in the Sussex countryside, the bus was bought and converted by its owner, Adam, who, as a carpenter, carried out all the work himself.
Downstairs there’s a kitchen and lounge/dining area with a log burner as well as a toilet and wet room. Upstairs are three bedrooms; two double bedrooms and one bunk bed room. There’s also an area at the front of the bus where you can just relax filled with books and board games.
A lot of the original bus features remain, including two of the original bus seats in the upstairs living space. There’s also a hot tub. The Big Green Bus is in Lewes. If you can’t stay overnight then Lewes is an easy day trip from London by train.
I’ve had two experiences of staying in a yurt. The first was on an off-season trip to inner Mongolia many moons ago where some friends and I stayed in a rather damp and cold yurt for several days. The second was when my sister organised for my hen night to be held in a yurt in a garden in central London.
Both were wonderful experiences but I’m not sure they could match a stay at Caalm Camp, a family-run rural retreat and wonderfully quirky place to stay in Dorset.
Here, glamping accommodation is offered in six traditional Mongolian yurts. Each yurt can sleep up to six people (in beds!) and comes with its own private shower room and toilet, located separately.
There’s a fully equipped kitchen, a communal fire pit and an outdoor pizza oven to use. Kids can play on the playground, see fantastic starry night skies and generally just get back to being in nature.