The UK is fertile hunting ground for those families who enjoy staying in something a little quirky, a little less conventional – from train stations to windmills, there is much fun to be had.
The Boat House, Devon
Sleeping up to 8, this intriguing property in Dartmouth was built on the site of a previous boathouse on a bend in the Dart and has gorgeous views towards the sea in one direction and the town and naval collage in the other. Fittingly, it’s decorated like a luxury ocean liner, with panelled ‘cabins’ (one a bunk-room for kids) and a ‘saloon’ with vast bay windows to take advantage of the vista. There’s a games room should you tire of exploring the fascinating surrounds, plus a garden. Most pleasingly, its only accessible by boat.
Cley Windmill, Norfolk
A very special and characterful place to stay, this 18th-century windmill looking out over Blakeney Marshes and the sea offers both B&B and self-catering (the latter in its Dovecote cottage for 4 in the old stables). It once starred as the BBC continuity link…
Crown Hill Fort, Devon
Owned by the Landmark Trust, this fort sleeping 8 is a fabulous place to bring kids – once the building as a whole (built to protect the naval harbour at Plymouth in the 1860s and bristling with replica guns and cannons) is closed to the public, it’s all theirs to run around and re-enact battle scenes in.
Forest Holidays Treehouse Cabins, Various Locations
The latest innovation at some of the Forest Holidays sites (those at Deerpark in Cornwall, Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Keldy in North Yorkshire, and at the new Sherwood Forest site in Nottinghamshire) are extensions to its three-bed Golden Oak Cabins. There is an additional ensuite bedroom within a treehouse accessed by an ‘adventurers’ bridge’. These extended cabins sleep up to eight in total.
The House in the Clouds, Suffolk
This extraordinary old water tower in the 1920s holiday resort of Thorpeness, sleeps up to twelve over seven floors, so it’s a great place for a holiday with family or friends. The galleried games room at the top has amazing countryside and North Sea views.
Lighthouse Cottage, Norfolk
Well located for the seaside delights of Cromer as well as for the Broads, this small Graded II listed former lighthouse-keeper’s cottage (sleeping 4–5) stands beside a working red-and-white striped lighthouse that you can climb on Sundays in high season. Another highlight for kids is the cellar converted into a den specially for them, while outside there’s a large enclosed garden.
The Oast House, East Sussex
A converted traditional oast house sleeping up to 10, this property within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers lovely views over the Brede Valley from its garden and surrounding woodlands and orchard. The breakfast room is picturesquely situated within the old roundel (a circular kiln for drying hops). An open fire and a wood-burning stove make it cosy in winter, while for summer it’s within easy reach of beaches including Camber Sands. A hard tennis court is available for guests use, and there’s lots of wonderful walking in the area, including around the remains of Battle abbey.
The Railway Carriage Pier Sidings – Dalmally, Argyll
For the little ones who love Thomas the Tank Engine and older train enthusiasts, this lovingly restored 1950’s railway carriage is positioned right on Loch Awe, which lives up to its name and offers stunning views from your bedroom window. It sleeps 5 and there is a restaurant car available. Oban is nearby and there are fantastic walks and boat trips to take.
Star Narrowboat – Manchester
Have a lovely relaxing holiday on board Gloria, a beautifully restored and kitted-out house boat moored on Bridgewater canal near Manchester. This is a great introduction for your kids to the joys of narrow boats as Bridgewater Canal is a delightful waterway to peruse and there are no tricky locks to tackle. There is a wood burner and lots of board games and is available all year round for a family up to four people.
Families can take part in all ‘The Prisoner’ madness by staying in a castle, an Art Deco hotel or several self-catering cottages built by the visionary architect of this Italianate tourist village.
Wynnstay Hall, Wales
Occupying one wing of an a historic hall, this property near Ruabon, in Llangollen, is idea for extended/multi-family holidays as it sleeps 18–20. Designed around its great hall, it mixes original features with contemporary decor to stunning effect. The communal grounds, designed by Capability Brown, hold tennis courts and a five-a-side football pitch, while indoors there’s a games room and a cinema.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Scotland
You can stay in one of three traditional blackhouses (for 2, 5 and 16 people) in this crofting village on the Isle of Lewis – the essence of an ‘authentic’ holiday that leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to getting away from it all. Visitors can enjoy traditional rural activities, outdoor pursuits including water sports and fishing, and wildlife-watching.
This property for 10–12 occupies a magnificent location on a clifftop beside an automated lighthouse near the lively harbour town of Portpatrick, with amazing views of the sea and local birdlife. There is an enclosed garden, but close supervision of younger children is required while staying here, due to the unprotected drops. Walking, along the shore or in the Galloway hills, is the highlight of this area.
The Pineapple, Scotland
Though the Landmark Trust has plenty of eccentric places to choose from, none are more so than The Pineapple in Dunmore in central Scotland, sleeping 4. Covered by prickly stone leaves, the fruity summerhouse folly built for the 4th Earl of Dunmore presides over a huge walled garden.