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.

10 Unusual UK Hotels

Unusual UK Hotels by the Coast

Our first choice for unusual UK hotels by the seaside would have to be Cley Windmill in Norfolk: a romantically restored 18th Century windmill with beautiful views, which is now an upmarket B&B with access to an excellent chef. Those who prefer the west country could try The Scarlet in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, a purpose built eco friendly grown-up retreat overlooking the beach - no children allowed at all! Or slightly further afield, in the Scilly Isles, you'll find the Star Castle Hotel, created from a fantastic 16th century star shaped castle on St Marys. The owner's two great passions are lobster fishing and wine.

Unusual UK Hotels in Castles

Many an unusual UK hotel has been converted from a drafty old castle, but two of the best are Augill Castle, near Kirby Stephen in Cumbria, which is stuffed with antiques, four poster beds and roll top baths - children and dogs are welcome - and dinner is taken round a huge communal oak table.

And Swinton Park in Yorkshire, which is a more traditional, luxurious affair, set in 200 acres complete with lakes, walled garden and spa, and with an award winning menu.

Unusual UK Hotels with a Theme

Themed hotels are certainly unusual, but many seem to miss out some of the essential pleasures of a hotel stay. Our selection of themed unusual UK hotels is different, starting with The Scotsman, created from the offices of said newspaper in the heart of Edinburgh, which maintains the newspaper theme, but effortlessly combines old and new - think Victorian oak panelling along side ultra modern glass and steel. In addition it has Michelin starred food..

The Avaitor at Farnborough airport is another highly successful example of a theme hotel, with top end design throughout and great views of the airfield from its Sky Bar.

If railways are more your thing, then we can suggest the Old Railway Station, just outside Petworth, West Sussex, which offers rooms in both the old station or a converted train carriage.

Unusual UK Hotels in Unusual Conversions

The Malmaison in Oxford has been imaginatively converted from a prison. Converted cells are now modern bedrooms but the original doors and window bars remain! The Exercise Yard has become an attractive outside space and you can enjoy pre dinner drinks in what was once the Visitors’ room.

Unusual UK Hotels bordering Eccentric

There’s an element of eccentricity to all of our selection of unusual UK hotels, but the Crazy Bear Hotel in Stadhampton deserves special mention. This eccentric creation was originally an old coaching inn, but 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…

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

10 Unusual UK Hotels


  • Cley Windmill

    Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

    Characterful windmill B&B overlooking marshes of Cley, a pretty village near shingle coast where locals swim. Quaint rooms with comfortable beds and wonderful views. Good birdwatching nearby.

    9 rooms from $225
    Birdwatching  -  For keen ornithologist NWT Cley Marshes Nature Reserve is a wonderful area for spotting all manner of birds.
    Views  -  Panoramic views over the salt marshes
    Local markets  -  Just South of the mill are small shops, selling pottery, smoked fish and secondhand books.
    Fishing  -  Saltwater Fly Fishing is available nearby, ask the friendly staff for further details.
    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 $269
    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
  • Augill Castle

    Nr Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

    Standing between the Lake District and the Dales rests this eccentric castle welcoming all the family into the countryside and the Eden Valley. Four poster beds and antique furnishings make up the comfortable rooms. Restaurant is open on weekends. Great hideaway and local exploring to be done.

    14 rooms from $227
    Great walks  -  With national parks all around, this is the perfect spot to get on your walking boots.
    Cooking classes  -  Cookery school for children. Enquire upon arrival.
    Remote  -  Off the beaten track.
    Full of character
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
  • Swinton Park Hotel

    Ripon, Yorkshire

    Luxury castle in the Yorkshire Dales opens its doors and welcomes guests to revel in the grandeur of a English country house with a relaxed atmosphere and award-winning cuisine and cookery school. Large comfortable rooms ideal for families. Jam packed with activities and a spa, perfect for all.

    31 rooms from $276
    Cooking classes  -  Variety of courses run throughout the year at the on site cookery school.
    Garden  -  200 acres of parkland
    Great walks  -  Trekking up to the moorland Dales.
    Full of character
    Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide, Frommers
  • Star Castle Hotel

    St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

    Delightful family-run hotel set in a star-shaped castle on St Marys Island. The newly refurbished rooms are extremely comfortable and well decorated, with quaint details. Fresh, local, seasonal produce sets the tone for the on site restaurant. Totally charming!

    38 rooms from $272
    Views  -  Some of the best views on the island.
    Swimming Pool  -  Heated indoor pool
    Remote  -  Off the beaten track.
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
  • The Scotsman Hotel

    Edinburgh

    This historic hotel overlooking Edinburgh Castle, was formerly the HQ for the Scotsman newspaper. Come for Michelin star restaurant, close promiximty to Princes St and a world-class gym. Chic interiors in traditional rooms.

    59 rooms from $276
    Swimming Pool  -  State of the art stainless steel indoor pool
    Great walks  -  Calton Hill, is just a short stroll from the hotel, enjoy 360 views of the city at the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    Sights nearby  -  Overlooking Edinburgh Castle.
    Views  -  Good city views.
    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 $198
    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 $130
    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
  • 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 $163
    Quirky  -  An experience!
    Recommended by  -  Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Kiwi Collection
  • Crazy Bear Hotel

    Stadhampton, Oxfordshire

    Eclectic, eccentric – a one off converted coaching inn. Think padded leather walls, silver beds, copper free standing baths. A London red bus sits decoratively in the garden. The two restaurants serve traditional British or Thai food. Best for wacky weekends away.

    17 rooms from $212
    Quirky  -  An experience!
    Fishing  -  Fly fishing is organised by the hotel both for events or just a day out
    Romantic  -  Good for couples.
    Spa

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