UK & Ireland

Unusual places to stay in the UK for a quirky weekend break

If you’re searching for a hotel break that’s anything but normal, or if your ideal stay is definitely not ‘average,’ then the UK is your golden ticket.

Eclectic by its very nature, the United Kingdom is home to a wealth of quirky, cool, and extraordinary places to lay your head. From ‘off-grid’ retreats where you can disconnect to reconnect, to treehouses that take luxury to new heights or floating must-stay hotels in the urban metropolis, there are noteworthy abodes in every corner of the country.

Whether you’re a family after something different, a couple looking for a completely new standard, or a solo traveller on a quest for the unconventional, one of these unusual places to stay are sure to tickle your fancy.

A chic Artist Residence hotel with sea views

1/4

Eclectic, bohemian and big on food, the Artist Residence story began with an ad on a Brighton notice board calling for artists to decorate rooms in return for board. This elegant townhouse at the head of the town’s majestic Regency Square oozes now eccentric charm. Each room is a veritable box of delights packed full of local artwork, upcycled furniture, fancy nick-nacks and other cool, lust-worthy stuff.

The hotel has a refreshingly honest vibe—take the room names, which include ‘Tiny Sea View’ and ‘Bigger Sea View,’ leaving no doubt as to where you’re going to lay your head. That same open approach is replicated in the dining room of The Set Restaurant, where guests can sit at the kitchen table and watch the chefs prepare dinner, which itself is based on down-to-earth, seasonal, good food.

The town’s North Laine is a literal stone’s throw away; once a slum, Brighton‘s bohemian and cultural quarter is now a honey pot of coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, art shops and independent boutiques. Kick back after a shopping spree in the Residence’s The Fix bar, with a suitably chic tipple—the rum cocktails are a must.

Every little detail has been considered, from the artwork on the walls, to the reclaimed communal dining tables and the credentials of the food and drink brands on offer in the rooms.

Artist Residence Brighton

Brighton, 1.6 km to Booth Museum of Natural History
8.8 Excellent (533 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
Hotel CTA

A floating boutique hotel in London’s docklands

1/3

With its white neon sign and lush, living roof, Good Hotel in London’s Royal Victoria Dock strikes a pose on the city’s waterside skyline. What looks like a black rectangular container is, in fact, a slick, minimalist, design hotel and welcoming community space.

The ground floor ‘Living Room’ trebles as a bar, reception and library, with sharing tables and inspiring Insta-style captions on the walls. And alongside guests, the hotel welcomes freelancers to wander in, connect to the Wi-Fi and get down to work. All of which injects a relaxed, laid-back and young, tech startup vibe to this unusual space.

The rooms are neat, cute and minimalist with décor that’s on point and many have waterside views. In summer, ‘The Roof’ is ideal for a cocktail, and the craft beer menu (naturally) features local brews. The restaurant serves tapas and small plates inspired by chef Miguel’s Spanish heritage, with vegans and vegetarians catered for well.

What’s most noteworthy, though, is that the profits from Good Hotel don’t go to the company’s owners or shareholders, they go back into the business, which offers training and jobs to long-term unemployed people in the local London borough of Newham.

Stay while you can

On the move

The Good Hotel won’t be in London forever. The eight-million-kilo concrete structure was transported by barge across the North Sea, up the Thames and through King George V lock to its current location in Royal Victoria Dock. In 2021, Good Hotel will be on the move again. Destination unknown.

Good Hotel London

London, 2.1 km to Airport London City
8.2 Very good (829 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.8 / 10
Hotel CTA

‘Off-grid’ glamping in the wilds of Yorkshire

1/4

A glamping village set in 250-acres of North Yorkshire countryside, Camp Katur is an effortless blend of a quirky campsite, adventure playground and classic country estate. Here, home for the night is anything but mainstream—take your pick from Hobbit pods, safari tents, tipis, bell tents, geodomes, unidomes, or a retro caravan named Betty—all decorated to be cute, cosy and exceedingly comfortable.

Katur means happy in Icelandic and the emphasis at Camp Katur is on finding your happy—be that taking time at the eco-spa where you can unwind in the wood-burning hot tub, strumming a guitar in the music den, or channelling your creative side at life drawing workshop.

Adrenaline-fuelled families can get their fill of outdoor activities, which include a high-ropes course, climbing wall, zip wire and the bordering-on-bonkers nine-hole football golf course. Or, if you’d rather forgo filling your time and simply hang out with the birds and bunnies then you’re in just the place.

A short taxi ride from the town of Bedale and only one and a half miles away from the A1 motorway, getting to the Camp is best by car. A communal kitchen is on hand for those who don’t have cooking facilities on tap and there are pubs in the nearby villages of Kirklington and Carthorpe.

Market towns

Explore beyond the camp

The picturesque market towns of Ripon, Masham and Bedale are a 10 to 20-minute drive away. Visit on market day to stock up on artisan foods—think local cheese, breads and beer—crafts and trinkets.

Moorish spas

Harrogate, some 25 miles away, has been a spa town for over 200 years. Visit the restored, Moorish-style Turkish Baths & Health Spa for an off-camp treat.

Camp Katur

8.7 Excellent (43 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.8 / 10
Hotel CTA

A luxury stay near Oxford’s shops, bars and spires

1/4

When HM Prison Oxford closed in 1996, the Grade-I listed building lay empty for nearly a decade, its cells, corridors and exercise yard were cast aside as a relic from yesteryear. Then along came Malmaison with a kooky plan to turn the former penitentiary into a luxury Oxford bolthole. It worked and Malmaison Oxford is now one of the city’s most sought-after places to stay.

Set in a prime location, in the buzzing Castle Quarter, both Oxford’s history and nightlife are on the doorstep. Former cells are now rooms, the exercise yard is an al fresco dining room and bar, and the Brasserie has several ‘solitary confinement’ cells for romantic dining.

The building’s former incarnation is referenced continually—there are ‘steal-me’ toiletries and the rooms include the ‘House of Correction Double’, but it’s all very tongue-in-cheek, and given the exquisite attention to detail, the joke rarely wears thin.

The top pick of the places to lay your head are the generous suites, which boast huge claw-foot baths and walk-in showers the size of your average, well… prison cell! The Brasserie bottomless brunch has people flocking with its menu of eggs benedict, waffles, ‘Mal’ burgers and unlimited Prosecco.

From a former brothel to a church and an old Royal Mail sorting office, Malmaison specialises in renovating historic buildings and turning them into something special.

Malmaison Oxford

Oxford, 0.5 km to Ashmolean Museum
8.3 Very good (1854 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.2 / 10
Hotel CTA

The UK’s most unusual, luxury family tree house

1/4

Ten metres above the ground, cocooned by pristine English woodland, are four boltholes on stilts that offer a style luxury living that’s truly hard to match. Built without cutting down a single tree, and at a cost of £7 million, Chewton Glen’s luxurious treehouses are a glorious addendum to the main five-star hotel.

Perfect for families, the adventure starts with a short golf buggy ride through the hotel’s 130-acre grounds to the foot of your treehouse. It’s enough to whip the kids into an excited frenzy, and from there, the only way is up. Top pick for young families is the ‘Treehouse Loft Suite,’ which on the outside resembles some kind of Dr Who spaceship on stilts.

Inside, though, it’s elegant, homely and features a cosy twin loft for children, complete with toys, games and PlayStation 2. Once the kids are holed up playing, adults should hotfoot it to the outdoor hot tub on the deck—the ideal lookout from which to survey the lush tree canopy, especially with a glass of bubbly in hand.

Highlights

For kids:

Explore the outdoor play area and Bug Hotel or head to the kitchen for a kids’ cookery course. The Beehive children’s club will offer everything from painting and puzzles to PlayStation.

For adults:

Active types will love the on-site facilities—a nine-hole golf course, 17-metre swimming pool, state-of-the-art gym, indoor and outdoor tennis centre, and acres of woodland jogging and walking trails all in the grounds.

Looking for more cool tree house hotel experiences?

Europe

Treehouse hotels | the UK and Europe's most enc...

Hotel Chewton Glen

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (95 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
Hotel CTA

A luxury fairytale castle in Wales

1/4

Perched on the coast of Anglesey, between the Menai Bridge and Beaumaris, Chateau Rhianfa is a real-life turreted fairytale chateau. Built by baronet Sir John Hay William, as a gift to his wife, this Grade-II listed castle boasts incredible views to the Snowdonia mountains and the Welsh mainland, which lies just half a mile across the waters of the Menai Strait.

The remarkable design is based on five castles in the Loire Valley, all favourite places of William’s wife Sarah. Lady Sarah based Rhianfa on detailed drawings of the chateaux, channelling her obsession in breathtaking detail into the Welsh castle. Everything from the intricate ceilings to the ornamental gates are exact copies.

Restored with the utmost care, the hotel’s interior is a rich box of treasures. Every nook and cranny is adorned with historic artwork, artefacts and bold fabrics and the rooms come in unusual shapes and interesting sizes—like the bathroom in a turret. Its waterside location and three-acre grounds are rife for exploring and there’s a tennis court, spa and sauna on site. Dining is a suitably formal affair based on locally sourced foods—Carmarthen ham, Menai lobster and Conwy lamb are all on the menu.

Getting to Anglesey is part of the adventure.

The iconic Menai Suspension Bridge built in 1826 (mentioned in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass) delivers you minutes from the hotel door.

The nearest train station is a five-minute drive from the hotel away in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, but you can book your train ticket with the town’s common name Llanfairpwll!

Chateau Rhianfa

8.8 Excellent (517 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
Hotel CTA

A romantic getaway in private boutique lodges in Scotland’s Glencoe Valley

1/3

Small and very beautiful sums up the experience of staying at Riverbed Lodges on the Dragon’s Tooth Estate in Scotland’s Glencoe valley. Getting to your private ‘wee’ lodge involves walking along a wooden boardwalk, lit by twinkling lights, which sets the tone for your stay.

These luxury wood-and-glass cabins set in thick forest overlook a bubbling mountain stream. And whilst they are admittedly small— twelve-metres-square to be exact—you don’t need oodles of space when you’ve got fluffy towels, Egyptian Cotton sheets and an outdoor hot tub on the deck.

By night, the lodges are lit by LED lights that change colour—choose which hue suits your mood. Breakfast is delivered to your door each morning and dinner is best taken in any one of the many of the local cafes or restaurants on the shores of nearby Loch Linnhe.

If you can tear yourself away from the lodge, the Glencoe Valley is a challenging but stunning adventure playground. Ben Nevis lies 10 miles to the north and Fort William a tad further at 14 miles. Thunderbolt Mountain, just above the estate, is a favourite for mountain biking. A gentler ride can be had by cycling the meandering Caledonian Way, which passes through the grounds of the Dragon Tooth Estate.

Getting there

Travelling to Riverbed Lodges

Glencoe is a two-hour drive from Glasgow airport and a similar distance by car from Glasgow Central Station. If you prefer train travel, then take a local train from Glasgow Queen Street to Fort William. From there, it’s a short taxi ride to Glencoe.

From the south, trains run from London Euston direct to Glasgow (eight hours) and from Inverness or Dundee in the north (three and a half hours and 90 minutes).

Glamping Pods

8.3 Very good (228 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.8 / 10
Hotel CTA