Good Housekeeping - Quirky and unusual hotels in the UK for a holiday with a difference
Posted on 8 October, 2021
Photo by Renato Marzan on Unsplash
Written by Ruth Doherty and Roshina Jowaheer for Good Housekeeping
Do you have a sense of adventure and interest in the curious and unique? If you're tired of the same old cookie-cutter escapes, it could be time to turn your attention to the UK's best quirky hotels for an unusual escape full of surprises.
Ideal for a summer mini-break, a stay at a quirky hotel is a great way to experience something different after months of being stuck at home.
There's a host of unusual hotels across the UK that offer an eye-opening holiday to delight you, with their thoughtful touches and alternative design.
In East Sussex, the whimsical Bell in Ticehurst has eclectic interiors full of curiosities (one bedroom has a silver birch tree trunk in the middle). The recently opened Ruby Lucy in London is a feast for the senses, boasting a fabulous fairground-themed decor. Meanwhile, retro B&B Snooze in Brighton is a '70s style-lover's dream.
From secret passageways, hidden staircase and underground rooms to a cathedral hotel and a Mediterranean-style village resort in Wales, we've rounded up the best quirky and unusual hotels for a fun getaway in the UK in 2021.
1 Amberley Castle, Arundel, West Sussex
Fancy living like royalty for a weekend? Get a taste of how the other half live and step into a piece of history at the majestic Amberley Castle, a quirky hotel with parts that date back to the 12th century. See all the impressive trappings you might expect, like suits of armour and grand fireplaces, while feeling pampered in luxurious rooms and a modern restaurant.
There's also 12 acres of glorious grounds to discover at the unusual hotel, which boasts tennis courts, a croquet lawn and even an 18-hole putting course. As a Relais & Chateaux hotel, foodies will adore the gourmet offerings, which have been awarded AA Red Stars and AA Rosettes.
2 The Harrison Chambers of Distinction, Belfast, Antrim
The quirks of this hotel starts with the cool name - The Harrison Chambers of Distinction. It's a restored, landmark Victorian merchants’ residence dating from 1879 and designed to serve the culturally curious traveller.
If you're looking for a heritage place to stay that's quirky and fun, this is it. Owner Melanie Harrison has expertly woven past and present into an individual celebration of a city like no other. Each of the 17 rooms combines pieces collected by Melanie over many years with all the facilities a 21st-century traveller expects.
Huge bay windows, antique furniture, sumptuous velvet curtains and bathtubs in the bedrooms add to the elegance, with underlying mischief and tongue-in-cheek humour lurking beneath. Eccentric curios and surprises await to delight around every corner at this unusual hotel.
3 The Old Mill, Lymington, Hampshire
There aren't many places that have a restaurant sitting right over the riverside but this quirky hotel offers just that. The Old Mill in the New Forest has Instagram-worthy opportunities everywhere, and there's even a full-sized adult swing in the garden for enjoying the views.
There are country walks aplenty, browsing of the independent shops in nearby picturesque Lymington and great gastropub food with the dulcet tones of the river flowing past.
4 Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, Canterbury, Kent
Did you know that you can sleep in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Canterbury Cathedral Precincts? Home to the incredible Canterbury Cathedral and the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey - the oldest church in the English-speaking world - there's also a comfortable and affordable hotel in the grounds to get you up close and personal.
A wonderfully unusual hotel to spend your nights in the city, the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge offers cathedral views from most of the rooms and hearing the bells toll next door is rather magical. Set in the peaceful grounds of the cathedral, the quirky hotel is homely, with its spacious terrace and cosy library lounge.
5 Georgian House Hotel, Pimlico, London
This light, bright and chic boutique hotel has a secret room hidden underground. The Wizard Chambers offer a magical stay in the capital, and are concealed on the hotel's lower ground floor. They're reached via a portrait-filled passageway bathed in candlelight, complete with stained glass windows, stone arches, cauldrons, velvet-clad four poster beds and wood burning stoves.
The Georgian House Hotel also offers Wizard Afternoon Teas as a mystical feast of goodies including smoking salmon sandwiches, eye of newt scones, lemon cursed tart and head-popping chocolate lollipops complemented with either Bottomless Bubbles or a Wizard’s Cocktail or Mocktail potion of frozen crystals, druid's water and ancient red fairy dust. This is a quirky hotel experience that's brilliant for both big kids and little ones alike.
6 The Mermaid Inn, Rye, East Sussex
This unusual hotel has unique features around every corner, including hidden passageways, secret priest holes, smugglers' tunnels and a secret stairway hidden behind a bookcase. Once the headquarters of a notorious gang of smugglers, The Mermaid Inn has a reputation of being one of the most haunted hotels in the UK.
It's been visited by royals including the Queen, Queen Mother, and Prince Edward, and is dark but cosy inside. The quirky hotel is also home to a celebrated restaurant and the cosy open fire will keep stories of ghosts at bay.
7 Fonab Castle Hotel, Pitlochry, Perthshire
Is there anything more romantic than staying in a castle overlooking a loch in Scotland? And it's certainly not something you do every day. Fonab Castle Hotel draws inspiration from its historic past and breathtaking surroundings, overlooking Loch Faskally and the impressive Ben Vrackie.
Each of the rooms and suites, including the magnificent Penthouse, are individually designed to ensure a seamless quality to the blend of modern furnishings and original castle features. There's the 3 AA Rosette awarded Sandeman's Restaurant for fine dining and a brasserie for a more relaxed affair. There's also a spa with a 15-metre swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and four treatment rooms.
8 Talland Bay Hotel, Porthallow Cornwall
Boasting a captivating clifftop setting at Porthallow between Looe and Polperro, the luxury Talland Bay Hotel is just yards from the South West Coast Path and Talland Bay's beach.
The eye-catching and original art and design features are as much a part of the experience as the service, setting and food. There is an air of magic in the cornucopia of sculptures decorating the sub-tropical seaside gardens, from wire fairies to toad stalls and giant teacups.
Step inside to encounter further eclectic touches – some the legacy of the previous owners, some acquired or created since – including flamingos and zebra print sofas, a lion’s head emerging from a coffee table, a Mad Hatter’s top hat here, a disembodied mannequin there. This is a boutique beachside retreat with a difference.
9 Ruby Lucy Hotel London, Lambeth, London
Enjoy a magical mystery tour around this unusual hotel in London. Ruby Hotels, the Munich-based hotel brand, recently launched its first UK property in London’s Southbank. Ruby Lucy's interior design is inspired by the area’s bustling fairs and markets, entertainment and theatre scene, with a carnival theme running throughout the hotel.
Rich, dark tones meet bright brass accents and subtle stripes, accented with playful props including circus drums and juggling pins.
Rooms, in contrast, feature neutral hues but showcase Ruby Hotels’ sleep-scientist-approved formula, including full soundproofing and blackout curtains, as well as unusual touches and cutting-edge technology, like a Marshall guitar amp and a personal tablet PC pre-loaded with a carefully-curated London city guide.
10 Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, Hythe, Kent
When a safari holiday abroad feels out of reach, Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve in Kent offers the next best thing. Giving you a touch of the exotic with a twist, the unusual hotel is set within 15 acres of landscaped gardens at the top of the Port Lympne reserve, which houses rhinos, tigers, gorillas and other amazing creatures.
All profits from the hotel go to the conservation of the reserve and guests get exclusive access before and after visiting hours on the golf buggy included in the stay.
11 Titanic Hotel Liverpool, Liverpool, Merseyside
This luxury hotel in Stanley Dock Liverpool is unlike any other accommodation in Liverpool. Titanic Hotel Liverpool was a busy warehouse built in the 1800s and has retained much of its character, with exposed brickwork, steel columns, concrete ceilings and the original windows featured throughout.
These are combined with contemporary furniture and decor to bring a modern twist on the historic hotel.
12 Malmaison Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire
For something completely different, check into the Malmaison Oxford for a night in a prison. Now a more luxurious place to rest your head, the hotel's 95 rooms and suites were once basic cells.
The converted Victorian prison became a hotel in 1996 and many of the original features remain. The rooms are luxurious, with power showers, digital TVs and 24-hour room service.
13 Burgh Island Hotel, Bigbury on Sea, Devon
At the Burgh Island Hotel in South Devon, you'll not only spend the night on a tidal island but you'll get to make a quirky entrance too, arriving at the luxury hotel when the tide is out on the unique sea tractor. Once you're on the island, you can check into an unusual room - perhaps the Agatha's Beach House or The Artist's Studio.
The hotel is a treat for art deco fans and boasts some of the most significant art deco pieces of the era. As it was built in the 1920s, it's packed with history and tales too. There's so much to see and do around the hotel and it even has its own tidal pool.
14 The Bell in Ticehurst, Ticehurst, East Sussex
If an unusual country escape is on the agenda, you can't beat The Bell in Ticehurst for a whimsical hotel experience. Decor leans towards the eclectic, with top hat lamps, cuckoo clocks, floor-to-ceiling stacks of books, and neon signs. There are seven bedrooms in the hotel and four rustic lodges in the garden.
One bedroom even has a silver birch tree in the middle of the space. Eschewing room numbers, each of The Bell’s guest rooms has its own distinctive name, from “The Benefit of the Doubt” to “Smile of Memories”. For all its quirks, the hotel is warm, stylish and welcoming (dogs included), with locally-sourced delicious food. Truly magical.
15 Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth, Gwynedd, North Wales
Have you every stayed at a spot on its own private peninsula where accommodation is spread between the hotel, its own castle, and brightly-coloured village houses? Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth in North Wales is like a mini resort, surrounded by acres of woodland gardens and sandy beaches, and just 21 miles from Snowdonia National Park.
You can discover the Mediterranean pastels of Portmeirion village by foot with the Wales Coast Path. Built in 1925 by notable architect Clough Williams-Ellis, the colourful collection of bright houses are often referred to as the Venice of Wales. Adults and children alike will be amazed by the quirky buildings and their intriguing past, and enjoy exploring the exotic Japanese garden.
The rooms are located at either The Portmeirion Hotel, Castell Deudraeth, or in the village rooms and suites. They're brightly decorated, each with a unique design and all the essentials you need for a mini-break.
16 The Pig-in the Wall, Southampton, Hampshire
Set smack-bang in the the centre of Southampton, literally within its medieval walls, this quirky hotel has an age-old exterior with a fresh, boutique interior.
A deli with rooms, it's the ideal spot for foodies looking for a luxurious base for a city break in Southampton. At The Pig-in the Wall, you can get the best of both worlds and get transfers to its sister hotel The Pig, in Brockenhurst, to combine soaking up the city's sights with a country escape.
17 Victorian House House, Grasmere, Cumbria
This delightful and chic Lake District bolthole offers lots of quirky charm. The Victorian House Hotel has stargazer rooms (the Deluxe King Rooms) complete with telescope and star map, family rooms with little teepees for kids to sleep in and even a luxe shepherd's hut right on its riverbank.
Surrounded by epic natural beauty, it's perfect for lakeside pony treks, boating, and hiking, as well as foodie delights, culture in picturesque Grasmere, and lots of National Trust properties to visit in the area.
18 Snooze, Brighton, East Sussex
Quirky hotel Snooze is an explosion of '70s chic and memorabilia, including framed vinyl covers, old gig posters, vintage fairground signs and retro wallpaper.
Set in the heart of Kemptown in Brighton, it's ideal for scouring the area's antique and vintage emporiums, and it's just a five-minute walk to the seafront. Riotous, fun, and funky, it's calling your name if you're a bit of an old rocker.
To read the original article written by Ruth Doherty and Roshina Jowaheer for Good Housekeeping, featuring photos for each destination, please visit: www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/lifestyle/travel/g34667984/quirky-unusual-hotels-uk/