13 Unusual UK Hotels
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 30s 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 - and in its heyday it was well loved by Ms. Christie herself, and Noel Coward and others and it is rather like staying in a Poirot or Bertie Wooster novel. Dancing is to live bands and there’s a tennis court and croquet lawns.
- Just off the coast of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight is another really unique holiday destination: Spitbank Fort, a fort to luxury hotel conversion. As soon as you leave Gunwharf Quay, the experience begins, including the boat trip across, a fantastic tour of the fort and its eclectic collection of objects, drinks with a view in the crow’s nest bar, or in the cellar wine bar, a dip in the hot tub, entertainments in the games room and supper in the officer’s mess or by the rooftop fire pit.
Unusual UK Escapes
- 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… And paying from only £80 per night for the privilege.
- 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.
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. 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, off 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
- Many an unusual UK hotel has been 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.
Hotels with a Theme
- Themed hotels are certainly unusual, but many seem to miss out some of the essential pleasures of a hotel stay. We like The Scotsman created from the offices of said newspaper in the heart of Edinburgh and The Avaitor at Farnborough airport.
For a clever conversion
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. It’s also great for fly fishing.
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 £310Beach Life - Located along a rugged stretch of British coastlineRetro/Vintage - Decorated in an authentic 1930s styleSights nearby - There are a number of day excursions from Burgh Island, to historical houses and castles.Restaurant - Seasonal menu with classic dishes, locally sourced.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
Spitbank Fort Portsmouth (Royal Clarence Marina) 8 rooms from £600Fishing - Perfect location for an exclusive fishing trip.Views - Great views from hotelSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.Spa
Cley Windmill Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk 10 rooms from £159Birdwatching - For keen ornithologist NWT Cley Marshes Nature Reserve is a wonderful area for spotting all manner of birds.Views - Panoramic views over the salt marshesLocal 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
Port Lympne Hotel Hythe, Kent 8 rooms from £209Country Escape - Home to over 700 rare and endangered animals this is a country house with a difference.Great walks - Take blustery walks along the Kent coastline.Views - Great views from hotelFull of character
Boasting a unique setting in the heart of Port Lympne Reserve, with rolling countryside and the coast in the distance; an historic boutique hotel 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
The Scarlet, Cornwall Mawgan Porth, Cornwall 37 rooms from £195Romantic Break - You, your loved one (and even the pooch) can enjoy an indulgent coastal staySpa breaks - Excellent spa with a range of Ayurvedic treatmentsSwimming Pool - Outdoor and Indoor PoolGreat walks - South West Coast Path.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
Relaxing, purpose-designed eco-friendly hotel overlooking Mawgan Porth beach. Contemporary furniture and modern local art adorns bedroom walls. Great sea views from the cocktail lounge and stylish hotel restaurant. Fantastic spa facility for ultimate relaxation and great outdoor activities nearby. See More
Bar Convent Guesthouse York 19 rooms from £109Total relaxation - Unwind in this tranquil convent, enjoy afternoon tea in the walled garden and read up on the towns history in the library.Sights nearby - Visit the nearby York Minster, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe.Restaurant - Cafe open for breakfast, lunch and high teaFull of characterRecommended by - Good Hotel Guide
Unusual guesthouse in an elegant living convent. Newly refurbished comfortable rooms, a baroque chapel, Victorian garden and 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
Augill Castle Nr Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria 14 rooms from £160Families - 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.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
Swinton Park Hotel Ripon, Yorkshire 32 rooms from £150Cooking classes - Variety of courses run throughout the year at the on site cookery schoolGarden - 200 acres of parklandSpa - Swinton Spa offers pool, hot tub, thermal suite, gym & wide range of treatments using Elemis and Bamford productsSwimming Pool - 18m indoor pool in the spa and 10m outdoor natural pool in the gardenRecommended by - Good Hotel Guide, Frommers
Star Castle Hotel St Mary's, Isles of Scilly 38 rooms from £192Exclusive offer - Spring SpecialsTennis - 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 poolSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.Recommended by - I Escape, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
Hotel Portmeirion & Castell Deudraeth Porthmadog (Penrhyndeudraeth) 55 rooms from £149Architectural - The hotel was built on a wooded peninsula by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1926Great walks - See the dawn break over the mountains of MeirionnyddSights nearby - Portmeirion Village offers fantastic garden visits.Other Activities - Organic Spa Treatments at Castell Deudraeth.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
The Scotsman Hotel Edinburgh 59 rooms from £195Great 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.Full of characterRecommended by - Fodors, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide
Aviator Farnborough, Hampshire 169 rooms from £200Romantic 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.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith
Malmaison Oxford Oxford (3 New Road) 95 rooms from £179City Style - Modern hotel in the heart of historic OxfordLocal markets - Oxford Covered MarketSights nearby - Bridge of SighsQuirky - An experience!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
Sunborn Yacht Hotel London (Western Gateway) 135 rooms from £127Short fly break - Located just 15 minutes away from London City AirportLocal exploring - Spend your days seeing all that London has to offerLocal markets - Camden Market and London Bridge Borough Market are both well worth a visitGreat walks - Wander all over this bustling city's streets getting a feel for the place
Crazy Bear Hotel Stadhampton, Oxfordshire 16 rooms from £199Romantic 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.