10 Unusual UK Hotels

If the idea of lording it in a real castle, snuggling up in a converted railway carriage, or staying in a windmill by the sea appeals, these unusual UK hotels are for you. Dotted across the country, they also include former newspaper offices, an ex-prison and an eco hotel.

Unusual UK Hotels by the Seaside

If you want to get away to the coast but fancy staying somewhere a little bit different, try one of these unsual UK hotels.

Our first choice would have to be Cley Windmill in Norfolk. You'd be hard pushed to find somewhere more romantic than a windmill to lay your head, and this has to be one of the finest. This 18th century example has been well restored and now houses an upmarket B&B, with self catering options in the old stables and boat houses. An excellent chef provides dinners on request.

For those who prefer the west country, try The Scarlet in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall. This purpose built eco friendly establishment overlooks the beach and is the perfect grown up retreat (no children allowed at all!)

Luxury comes as standard here; most of the rooms have balconies or terraces and the infinity pool appears to stretch right into the sea. For complete pampering chill out in the spa with some Ayurvedic treatments.

Slightly further afield, in the Scilly Isles, you'll find the Star Castle Hotel. This family run property has been created from a fantastic 16th century star shaped castle on St Marys. The owner's two great passions are lobster fishing and wine and luckily you can experience both here!

  • Cley Windmill

    Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

    Characterful windmill B&B overlooking marshes of Cley, a pretty village near shingle coast where locals swim. Good birdwatching nearby.

    9 rooms from $250
    Views  -  Panoramic views over the salt marshes
    Birdwatching  -  Good birding near the hotel.
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
    Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
    Recommended by  -  Sawdays
  • The Scarlet

    Mawgan Porth, Cornwall

    Relaxing, purpose-designed eco-friendly hotel overlooking Mawgan Porth beach, for fabulous sunsets. No children.

    37 rooms from $299
    Spa  -  Ayurvedic treatments
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor and Indoor Pool
    Restrictions on children  -  Not under 16
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
  • Star Castle Hotel

    St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

    Delightful family-run hotel set in a star-shaped castle on St Marys.

    38 rooms from $302
    Exclusive offer  -  October Offer
    Swimming Pool  -  Heated indoor pool
    Views  -  Some of the best views on the island.
    Birdwatching  -  Good birding near the hotel.
    Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays

Unusual UK Hotels - Castles

Many a hotel has been created from a drafty old castle. Our two choices prove how good these can be when you get it right.

First up is Augill Castle near Kirby Stephen in Cumbria. This place is stuffed with antiques, four poster beds and roll top baths, but it is the ambience that really gets you.

More like a home from home, children and dogs are welcome (they run a kids cookery school), and dinner is taken round a huge communal oak table.

Swinton Park in Yorkshire is a more traditional affair, though it too boasts a cookery school (for adults this time). Family owned and run, it is set in 200 acres complete with lakes and walled garden.

The focus here is on luxury without the pretentions. Food is award winning and the spa is perfect for relaxation after a day exploring the moorland Dales.

  • Augill Castle

    nr Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

    Eccentric, fabulous family castle hotel stuffed with antiques and four posters in pretty rural setting midway between the Lake District and the Dales. Good base for expeditions if you have a car. Excellent for children and families.

    14 rooms from $252
    Child friendly  -  Lots to do for children, including cookery classes
    Full of character  -  Antiques, four posters, curios - a real castle
    Cooking classes  -  Cookery school for kids
    Four poster beds  -  For romantics.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
  • Swinton Park Hotel

    Ripon, Yorkshire

    Impressive castle hotel with a relaxed atmosphere and award-winning cuisine and cookery school. Set in a 200 acre park, ideal for families, packed with activities, plus a spa.

    31 rooms from $307
    Child friendly  -  Plenty of activities including kites to borrow, boules pitch, and nature trails
    Cooking classes  -  Variety of courses run throughout the year
    Garden  -  200 acres of parkland
    Great walks  -  Trekking up to the moorland Dales
    Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide, Frommers

Unusual UK Hotels with a Theme

The idea of a themed hotel usually conjures up nightmare scenarios, where tastelessness predominates. Our selection of unusual UK hotels with a theme would beg to differ.

The Scotsman has been created from the offices of said newspaper in the heart of Edinburgh. The hotel maintains the newspaper theme (you can even spend the night in the Editor's office), but effortlessly combines old and new - think Victorian oak panelling along side ultra modern glass and steel and you'll get the picture. In addition it has fabulous food (Michelin starred), great health club, spa and private cinema.

The Avaitor at Farnborough airport is another highly successful example of a theme hotel. With top end design throughout it is an unusual getaway for urbanites not wanting to stray too far from the big smoke! A must is the Sky Bar where you can watch the planes with a glass of something bubbly in your hand.

If railways are more your thing, then we can suggest the Old Railway Station in West Sussex. Situated just outside Petworth, this is as close as you'll get in a B&B to the Orient Express! Book a room in one of the carriages or the old station for the full effect.

  • The Scotsman Hotel


    Former HQ for the Scotsman newspaper, large-ish on North Bridge road. Come for Michelin star restaurant, close promiximty to Princes St and a world-class gym. Chic interiors in traditional rooms.

    59 rooms from $307
    Swimming Pool  -  State of the art stainless steel indoor pool
    Views  -  Good city views.
    Sights nearby  -  Well located for major sights.
    Recommended by  -  Fodors, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide
  • Aviator

    Farnborough, Hampshire

    Designer hotel at Farnborough airfield, booked full during the Air Show. Sleek and opulent, it's an unusual luxury getaway for urbanites, as well as an impressive conference location.

    169 rooms from $220
    Views  -  View of planes landing and taking off from the best rooms.
    Designer  -  Uniquely designed interiors.
    Sights nearby  -  Well located for major sights.
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, Johansens
  • The Old Railway Station

    West Sussex

    As close as you’ll get, in a b&b, to the romance of the Orient Express. Quirky property for train lovers, just outside Petworth. Book a room on the old station or in a carriage.

    10 rooms from $145
    Sights nearby  -  Great for Goodwood, Festival of Speed or Cowdray Park.
    Restrictions on children  -  No children under 10 years old
    Romantic  -  Good for couples.
    Quirky  -  An experience!
    Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide

Unusual UK Hotels - Oxfordshire

While most of our unusual hotels have been scattered across the country, we managed to find a couple in Oxforshire.

The first is in Oxford itself. The Malmaison has been created from what was originally the prison. Imaginatively transformed this is now a quirky, yet luxurious hotel in the centre of town.

Converted cells are now modern bedrooms with original doors and window bars still in evidence! The Exercise Yard has become an attractive outside space and you can enjoy pre dinner drinks in what was once the Visitors' room. An experience to say the least!

Our other selection here is the Crazy Bear Hotel in Stadhampton. This eccentric creation was originally an old coaching inn.

Now the reception is a double decker bus, champagne flows from a tap in the bar, there are pink padded walls and leopard print carpet in the restaurant and bedrooms are quirky to say the least. It is a must see, if you like things slightly out of the ordinary!

  • Malmaison Oxford

    Oxford (3 New Road)

    Spectacular central atrium in this classic Malmaison, a castle and former prison. Sleep in converted cells, ultra modern with some original fittings. Good brasserie food.

    95 rooms from $181
    Quirky  -  An experience!
    Recommended by  -  Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Kiwi Collection
  • Crazy Bear Hotel

    Stadhampton, Oxfordshire

    Padded pink walls and leopard print carpet. Eclectic, eccentric – a one off converted coaching inn just outside Oxford, for wacky weekends away.

    17 rooms from $236
    Quirky  -  An experience!
    Full of character

Not found an unusual UK hotel that takes your fancy? Check out our Ultimate Guide to the best Party Hotels instead!

Written by  Sarah Empson, posted Monday, 22nd February 2010
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