20 Unusual UK Hotels

Cley Windmill

Staying in one of our Guru’s top unusual UK hotels will take your break from memorable to unforgettable. We love a fun and fantastic conversion, and have discovered a breathtaking windmill by the sea, a charming hotel in an old newspaper office and even a converted prison! Or, for an unusual luxury hotel try staying in your own castle, tower or folly. Our list of the most unusual hotels in the UK are dotted around the country, but we have got a couple of great options by the coast, some remote rural escapes and one of the most unusual hotels in London on the list too. This is really just the tip of the unusual iceberg though, and there are plenty more where these come from if you’re looking for something special…

The Hotel Maketh the Holiday

  • Are you perchance interested in the work of Agatha Christie? Or in Art Deco design? Or the golden age of glamour? If you’re even remotely interested in any of these topics then Burgh Island off Bigbruy-on-Sea in Devon will Blow Your Mind. Time has stood still since the 1930s on this small tidal island, and guests are expected to dress for dinner and enjoy pre-war cocktails as an aperitif. You reach the island via amphibious vehicle and once the tide is in you’re on the island to stay.
  • Fingal is another one of those destination hotels. Once a retired lighthouse tender, now turned luxury hotel, and anchored in the hip area of Leith (Edinburgh). Expect luxurious design, a glamorous ballroom (ideal for a party), and there's a fabulous little restaurant too.

Unusual UK Escapes

Bar Convent Guesthouse

  • What could be more of an escape than staying in a working convent? Which is exactly what you can do if you’re in York. The Bar Convent Guesthouse is certainly a memorable UK hotel: an 18 room guesthouse converted from part of an elegant, living convent, originally founded in 1686. A baroque chapel, Victorian garden and glass roofed entrance hall make this an impressive building, the cafe serves meals until high tea, and best of all is staying amongst the sisters of the convent.

For couples

Duck Lodge

  • Duck Lodge B&B is a single luxury log cabin located in the South Downs National Park. Interiors have a Scandi-chic feel with pale wood and simple modern furniture. Complete with a hot tub and indulgent breakfasts provided, this is a charming choice for a couples' weekend hideaway.

For Families

Port Lympne Hotel

  • Fancy waking up with only a pane of glass between your family and a family of tigers, wolves, rhinos or giraffes? Well that’s a possibility at the Port Lympne Hotel, part of the Port Lympne reserve in Kent. Around 700 rare and endangered animals live here, but it’s not a zoo, it’s a breeding facility. As well as staying in rooms close to the animal enclosures, you can also stay in the main house, which is a very stylish country manor house hotel, or you can glamp. Amazing, whatever your choice.
  • Bodmin Jail Hotel is another fun choice for families. This boutique stay is set within the historic Bodmin Jail. Interiors are sleek and contemporary but with plenty of period features. With spacious family rooms, casual dining the kids will love, and the general novelty of the setting — this is a great option for a family getaway.

By the Coast

Cley Windmill

  • 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. Rooms in the windmill are sheer 'Swallows and Amazons' fun and adventure, and there are panoramic views from the look-out. Though you can also stay in their converted stables or boathouse, where you can choose to self-cater.
  • Or for a proper island break getaway, try the Star Castle Hotel, converted from a star-shaped castle on St. Marys, in the Isles of Scilly. There are 38 newly refurbished rooms, which are quaint but extremely comfortable, and there are two excellent restaurants. Owner Robert Francis has two passions: lobster fishing and wine and you will enjoy the fruits of both.
  • Hotel Portmeirion and Castell Deudraeth were originally created to show how an area could be developed, but without ruining the surrounding countryside. Both properties boast unique design and offer a charming stay overlooking Snowdonia's Dwyryd Estuary.

Unusual Castle Hotels

Augill Castle

  • Many an unusual UK hotel has converted, and resurrected, a beautifully dilapidated old castle, but two of the best are Augill Castle, near Kirby Stephen in Cumbria, between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Stuffed with antiques, this eccentric mid-Victorian-folly-castle has 14 rooms, with four-poster beds and roll top baths. Dinner (on request) is communal, around a huge oak table and breakfast is a leisurely affair. Dogs and children welcomed.
  • And Swinton Park in Yorkshire, which is a more traditional, luxurious affair, set in 250 acres complete with battlements, towers and turrets, plus lakes, walled gardens, a spa, fishing, golf, cooking classes and with an award winning restaurant. Swinton Park also qualifies for our list of the UK’s best unusual spa hotels.
  • While you cannot stay in the castle itself, Hever Castle B&B is set in the grounds of Hever Castle and it is so high-end that it still feels like a grand stay. Gorgeous rooms are all individually styled with antiques and original features. The best have in-room free-standing baths. Pick this for a taste of the royal life.
  • Similarly, Leeds Castle Stable Courtyard B&B, is (unsurprisingly) set in the old stable block of Leeds Castle. Ideal for a rural weekend away — enjoy the beautiful grounds and garden, dine in the nearby pub, and enjoy the traditional decor.

Hotels with a Theme

The Scotsman

Themed hotels are certainly unusual, but many seem to miss out some of the essential pleasures of a hotel stay.

For a clever conversion

Malmaison Oxford

  • Oxford’s Malmaison has been imaginatively converted from a prison — the cells are now modern bedrooms but the Gothic colours and original fittings, doors and window bars remain! The hotel is spread over three storeys, with a central atrium and red carpets. The Exercise Yard has become an attractive outside space and you can enjoy pre-dinner drinks in what was once the Visitor’s room. Before it was a prison it was a castle, so it’s a double conversion.

For London

Sunborn Yacht Hotel

  • Moored on the Thames, just a short distance from Canary Wharf is the Sunborn Yacht Hotel, a permanently moored super yacht with 135 smart, classically styled rooms, a restaurant and a spa. It’s just 15minutes from London City airport too.

Downright Eccentric!

Crazy Bear Hotel

  • 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 eclectic 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.

Still not sure which to book?

  • Refine your search by location, and use the ‘sort by’ button on best places to stay in London, for example, so it shows you our recommended hotels in price order,
  • or use the Destinations tab to see our curated lists of the best hotels in London, for example,
  • or check out our Ultimate Guide to the best Party Hotels instead!
  • Alternatively you could contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice and personalised recommendations.
    • Burgh Island Bigbury-on-Sea, Devon 27 rooms from £310

      Beach Life  -  Located along a rugged stretch of British coastline
      Retro/Vintage  -  Decorated in an authentic 1930s style
      Sights nearby  -  There are a number of day excursions from Burgh Island, to historical houses and castles.
      Restaurant  -  Seasonal menu with classic dishes, locally sourced.
      TennisSpaRestaurantGardenViewsNo pets
      Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide

      Full of character, this seaside art deco hotel on a tidal island is a true 'experience' hotel, where time has stood still in the 1930s. Comfortable period-style rooms. Locally sourced food and classic pre-war cocktails are on the menu. Half board only, because the tide locks you in at night. See More

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    • Cley Windmill Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk 10 rooms from £179

      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.
      Restaurant  -  A no-choice, three-course menu at £32.50 per head is served at 7.30pm and changes daily.
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide

      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. See More

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    • Port Lympne Hotel Hythe, Kent 8 rooms from £209

      Country Escape  -  Home to over 700 rare and endangered animals this is a country house with a difference.
      Great walks  -  Enjoy scenic walks with stunning views across the Kent coastline.
      Views  -  Great views from hotel
      Full of character
      RestaurantGardenDisabled accessViewsParking

      Boasting a unique setting in the heart of Port Lympne Reserve, with rolling countryside and the coast nearby. This historic boutique hotel is particularly suited to couples looking for a romantic stay, but with the added fun of exploring one of the country’s best animal reserves in style. See More

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    • The Scarlet, Cornwall Newquay (North Cornwall) 37 rooms from £195

      Romantic Break  -  With a spoiling spa, luxurious rooms with sea views, and fine dining - this is the perfect setting for romance
      Spa  -  An eco spa featuring a bromine-filtered indoor pool, outdoor natural reed pool, a wooden sauna, and pod treatment rooms
      Restaurant  -  Seasonal dishes are served in the restaurant alongside a good selection of wines
      Surfing  -  There are several surfing beaches nearby and plenty of surf schools too
      SpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenPet friendlyDisabled accessViews
      Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays

      Relaxing, purpose-designed eco-friendly hotel overlooking Mawgan Porth beach. Rooms are decorated with contemporary furniture & local art. Enjoy sea views from the cocktail lounge and the stylish hotel restaurant. Expect fantastic spa facilities for relaxation and great outdoor activities nearby. See More

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    • Bar Convent Guesthouse York 19 rooms from £109

      Total relaxation  -  Unwind in this tranquil convent, enjoy afternoon tea in the walled garden and read up on the town's history in the library
      Quirky  -  The living convent is open to guests, which means guests can explore the lovely gold and white Baroque chapel
      Local exploring  -  York has a huge amount of history (starting at the hotel itself) making this ideal for a cultural getaway
      Historic  -  This is England's oldest convent founded in 1686
      RestaurantGardenDisabled accessNo pets
      Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide

      A unique guesthouse in an elegant living convent. Newly refurbished comfortable rooms, a baroque chapel, Victorian garden and a glass-roofed entrance hall make this an impressive building. A cafe serves meals until high tea. Best of all is staying amongst the sisters of the convent. See More

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    • Augill Castle Nr Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria 14 rooms from £160

      Families  -  With fantastic facilities for kids, from cooking classes, to playgrounds, dressing up boxes and plenty of toys.
      Country Escape  -  Spectacular walking, wonderful views and whiskey in the drawing room old school weekend in the country vibes.
      Great walks  -  With national parks all around, this is the perfect spot to get on your walking boots.
      Cooking classes  -  The hotel has a wonderful cookery school for children.
      TennisRestaurantGardenDisabled accessViewsParkingNo pets
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays, Great Small Hotels

      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. See More

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    • Swinton Park Hotel Ripon, Yorkshire 32 rooms from £245

      Families  -  Magical Yorkshire hideaway in a castle with pkenty of space, interconnecting rooms, and fun activities for kids
      Cooking classes  -  Variety of courses run throughout the year at the on site cookery school
      Country Escape  -  In a great locality to explore this beautiful and rugged part of the UK
      Honeymoons  -  A perfect spot for newly weds to hideaway in rural luxury
      SpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenDisabled accessViewsParking
      Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide, Frommers

      Striking, castle-like stately-home set in sweeping parkland and offering plenty of on-site activities from fishing and golf to a cookery school and sleek spa. Vast rooms, beautiful views and a choice of two restaurants. See More

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    • Star Castle Hotel St Mary's, Isles of Scilly 38 rooms from £189

      Tennis  -  The tennis court is located a short stroll away and rackets and balls are available from reception.
      Views  -  Some of the best views on the island.
      Swimming Pool  -  Heated indoor pool
      Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
      TennisRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenViewsParkingNo pets
      Recommended by  -  I Escape, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays

      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! See More

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    • Fingal Edinburgh (Leith) 23 rooms from £300

      City Style  -  Set in the hip Leith area, with numerous high-end eateries and bars within walking distance, this is a luxurious and unique stay
      Groups  -  The magnificent ballroom is a unique and luxurious space for an event; hosting up to 60 people
      Great walks  -  Take a scenic stroll along the Water of Leiths river
      Sights nearby  -  Compare boat notes at the Royal Yacht Britannia
      RestaurantDisabled accessParking

      A retired lighthouse tender, now turned luxury hotel, anchored in the hip area of Leith. Cabins range from classic doubles to decadent suites. The design is luxurious with brass fittings, leather, and rich hues. A glamorous ballroom is ideal for a party and there's a fabulous little restaurant too. See More

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    • Hotel Portmeirion & Castell Deudraeth Porthmadog (Penrhyndeudraeth) 55 rooms from £149

      Architectural  -  The hotel was built on a wooded peninsula by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1926
      Great walks  -  See the dawn break over the mountains of Meirionnydd
      Sights nearby  -  Portmeirion Village offers fantastic garden visits.
      Other Activities  -  Organic Spa Treatments at Castell Deudraeth.
      SpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenParkingNo pets
      Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide

      This eccentric resort was built by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis to show how a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. Hotel Portmeirion and Castell Deudraeth each have a unique design and give a fantastic opportunity to stay in this charming village and explore. See More

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    • The Scotsman Hotel Edinburgh 82 rooms from £195

      Great walks  -  Calton Hill, the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site or Arthur's Seat for even more impressive views.
      Sights nearby  -  Overlooking Edinburgh Castle.
      Views  -  Good city views.
      SpaRestaurantDisabled accessViewsParking
      Recommended by  -  Fodors, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide

      This landmark Edinburgh building, the former Edwardian offices of The Scotsman newspaper and well-placed between the Old and New Towns, carefully mixes original features with a low-key modern luxury. The private cinema is an indulgent treat. See More

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    • Hard Days Night Hotel Liverpool 110 rooms from £95

      Restaurant  -  Blakes restaurant is named after the celebrated Sergeant Pepper Album cover artist Sir Peter Blake
      Bar  -  The smart Lounge Bar features original artworks and offers a versatile menu throughout the day
      Suites  -  Individually designed suites with exclusive artwork

      Billed as the only Beatles inspired hotel in the world, this 'Fab Four' star stylish hotel is housed in the elegant grade two star Central Buildings in the 'Beatles Quarter' of the city. Next door is the famous Cavern Club where the Beatles rose to fame. Beatle memorabilia and Beatle mania rules. See More

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    • Aviator Farnborough, Hampshire 169 rooms from £200

      Romantic Break  -  A chic retreat for discerning couples- stylish contemporary suites, extensive spa, fantastic food and knockout cocktails.
      Foodies  -  This slick hotel boasts two fantastic dining options- Adam Fargin's Brasserie and the more laid back One Eleven.
      Birdwatching  -  Enjoy a brisk walk and a bit of birdwatching at nearby Frensham Little Pond.
      Great walks  -  Take a wander around The Sculpture Park in Churt, well worth checking out.
      Air conditioningRestaurantDisabled accessViewsParking
      Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith

      A quirky designer hotel at Farnborough private airfield. Contemporary rooms (all soundproof) boast every modern connivence, plus the best offer views of the runway. A sleek and opulent luxury getaway for urbanites. Effortlessly cool. See More

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    • Malmaison Oxford Oxford (3 New Road) 95 rooms from £179

      City Style  -  Modern hotel in the heart of historic Oxford
      Local markets  -  Oxford Covered Market
      Sights nearby  -  Bridge of Sighs
      Quirky  -  An experience!
      RestaurantPet friendlyParking
      Recommended by  -  Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Kiwi Collection

      Fantastically modern interiors and stunning atrium in this atmospheric castle and former prison. Sleep in converted cells with original fittings and Gothic colours. New, airier rooms are also available in the additional buildings. Good brasserie food and a smart neon-lit cocktail bar. See More

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    • Sunborn London Yacht Hotel London (Western Gateway) 135 rooms from £127

      Short break  -  Located just 15 minutes away from London City Airport
      Local exploring  -  Spend your days seeing all that London has to offer
      Local markets  -  Camden Market and London Bridge Borough Market are both well worth a visit
      Great walks  -  Wander all over this bustling city's streets getting a feel for the place
      Air conditioningRestaurantViewsNo pets

      Sunborn Yacht Hotel is moored on the Thames, just a short distance from Canary Wharf. This super-yacht hotel boasts smart, classically-styled rooms as well as a restaurant and a spa. Perfect for those who fancy something different! See More

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    • Crazy Bear Hotel Stadhampton, Oxfordshire 16 rooms from £199

      Romantic Break  -  In room freestanding baths and intimate dining areas make for a romatic weekend away.
      Fishing  -  Fly fishing is organised by the hotel both for events or just a day out.
      Great walks  -  Explore the 80 acres of parklands with rare bread farm and woods.
      Romantic  -  Good for couples.
      SpaRestaurantGardenParkingNo pets

      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. See More

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    • Duck Lodge B&B Pyecombe, West Sussex 1 rooms from £140

      Romantic Break  -  A romantic, private and secluded property, perfect for just a couple.
      Sights nearby  -  Nearby Brighton has many great sights as well as a beach.
      Great walks  -  Explore the South Downs National Park.
      Hideaway  -  Tranquil and intimate.

      Charming, luxury log-cabin style accommodation that sleeps 4 guests. The bedroom is pretty and comfortable with fresh white linens. A hot tub is available for use. Provisions are provided for a Continental Breakfast. Great location in the South Downs National Park. See More

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    • Bodmin Jail Hotel Bodmin (North Cornwall) 70 rooms from £203

      Families  -  Spacious family rooms, casual dining the kids will love and you're right in Bodmin Jail!
      Local exploring  -  Bodmin is a great central location for exploring further afield in Cornwall
      Restaurant  -  Enjoy a la carte dining at The Chapel Restaurant or something more casual at the Jolly Hangman Tavern
      Full of character  -  There is a good blend here of period and original features plus smart contemporary styling
      RestaurantPet friendlyParking

      A boutique property built within the walls of historic Bodmin Jail. Interiors are sleek & contemporary but with plenty of period features; original stone walls are complemented by luxury linens and indulgent bathrooms. Dine in the smart Chapel Restaurant or Jolly Hangman Tavern. Great for families. See More

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    • Hever Castle B&B Edenbridge, Kent 25 rooms from £190

      Country Escape  -  Stay within the grounds of an imposing British Castle. The very finest of country escape.
      Sights nearby  -  Take a tour of Hester Castle the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.
      Great walks  -  Stroll through the castle's beautifully manicured gardens.
      Four poster beds  -  For romantics.
      GardenDisabled accessViewsParking
      Recommended by  -  Sawdays

      A luxurious B&B situated in the grounds of the impressive Hever Castle, former home of a number of royals. Individually designed rooms are traditional in style with chintz fabrics, fireplaces and antique furniture. The best have free standing baths. The ideal choice for a weekend getaway. See More

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Written by Sarah Empson

posted Tuesday, 28th February 2023