Sometimes, on vacation, you just want to stay somewhere a little less traditional than a hotel. Fortunately, Britain comes with a raft of alternative, creative and unique types of accommodation that will ensure a memorable stay. Here we take a look at just a few of these amazing places in the south of England.
Stay in… a treehouse, double-decker bus or helicopter
Blackberry Wood in the stunning Sussex countryside is a pretty place for camping thanks to its cute woodland glades…and you’ll also find some extraordinary glamping options thanks to its unique transformations of public transport! A converted 1965 search and rescue helicopter sleeps up to four and comes equipped with an outside kitchen area, while its 1964 Routemaster London double-decker bus has transformed the upstairs into a cosy sleeping and lounge area – complete with soft play area if you’re coming with children – and downstairs an area to cook and dine. And, for something really special, its Higgledy Tree House looks like it’s appeared from a fairy tale. High up in the trees there’s room for up to four and is fully contained with a shower room in its turret and enchanting window seats for observing the wildlife. A truly magical experience.
Getting there: Blackberry Wood is around 30 minutes’ drive from Brighton, or two hours from London.
Stay in… a windmill
In the heart of Rye near Hastings, and on the banks of the river Tillingham, Rye Windmill B&B offers ten ensuite rooms, with two actually in the white smock, Grade II-listed windmill itself, making it a luxurious and unusual place to stay. It occupies a historic site in Gibbet’s Marsh where a windmill has stood, in one form or another, since at least the 16th century. Book into its Windmill Suite, which is situated over two floors in the Mill, offering fantastic panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside. Enjoy drinks in its cosy lounge with its guest honesty bar, plus outdoor terrace for the summer and fireplace to cosy up to in the winter.
Getting there: Rye Windmill is around two hours’ drive from London.
Stay in… a zoo
For a sleepover safari, book into one of the nine lodges at Whipsnade Zoo and experience something other visitors to the zoo wouldn’t get. At Whipsnade, people view the animal closures by their own cars or the zoo’s bus services, so after you’ve completed a sunset tour of Asia and Africa, you’ll enjoy dinner followed by a torchlit walk to see what animals are still awake. After breakfast you’ll tour the European area and help feed some of the animals. Each of the lodges has twin or double beds, as well as a private veranda. Open between late March and October, there are adult-only nights as well as family nights to include children aged five years and above.
Getting there: Whipsnade Zoo is around one hour 15 minutes’ drive from both London and Oxford.
Stay in… a folly
For a truly romantic experience, The Hadlow Tower in Kent is a picturesque, Grade I-listed Gothic folly (a highly decorative or ornamental building often built for aesthetics rather than practicality). This 19th-century tower – the tallest Gothic folly in the world – is now home to four luxury bedrooms spread over five floors, connected by pretty spiral staircases and offers gorgeous panoramic views of the Kent countryside. Inside is particularly lavish, with stained-glass period window and stylish furniture and antiques. Guests have exclusive use of the property during their stay and can even hire in a chef to cook meals. There is also an exhibition centre detailing the history and renovation of the tower on the ground floor.
Getting there: Hadlow Tower is in the village of Hadlow, just over an hour’s drive from London.
Stay in… a railway carriage
Nestled within Northiam Steam Railway Station, on the border between the counties of Kent and East Sussex, Railway Retreats has converted former carriages that sit within a working station – you can even see the steam trains pull up just 20 feet/six metres away. The transformed MK1 railway carriage sleeps up to six and an additional two goods wagons each sleep up to four – all come with en-suite facilities. The former also boasts an elevated glass balcony giving fabulous views of the station and the surrounding countryside.
Getting there: Northiam is around two hours’ drive from London.
Stay in… an Art Deco barge
A unique way to explore the Thames is by staying with the owners on their Art Deco barge, built by British craftsman, as they take you through the beautiful scenery and stopping at charming riverside pubs between Kingston in Surrey to Oxford – that’s 90 miles and 32 locks. The barge offers complete comfort – guest accommodation and facilities are private from that of the crew’s, so you can enjoy total privacy when you want. Enjoy the pretty villages and towns along the way, such as Henley, Sonning (where George and Amal Clooney have a home), Hampton Court, Marlow and Windsor.
Getting there: If boarding in Kingston, Kingston is 30 minutes’ train journey from London Waterloo.