From yurts and yachts to castles, think off-the-wall for UK stays
Anyone who thinks you have to go abroad to find excitement couldn’t be more wrong.
Suggest one of these unusual places to stay in the UK and Ireland and give clients a domestic break that couldn’t be less home-from-home – in a good way.
1. Lording it up
Ever fancied waking up in a four-poster bed in a fairytale castle before heading downstairs to be greeted by a pack of Irish wolfhounds, then heading off after breakfast to do a spot of clay-pigeon shooting or falconry?
Once home to the aristocratic Guinness family, Ashford Castle in County Mayo gives guests a taste of the titled lifestyle, even if just for a weekend.
Dating from 1228, this turreted castle has been updated throughout its history, but most recently by new owners Red Carnation Hotels, which spent £50 million renovating it after purchasing the property in 2013 – and it now looks seriously swanky.
Sitting on the banks of Lough Corrib – Ireland’s second-largest lake – on a 140-hectare estate, the 82-room hotel has a falconry school, billiard room and 32-seat cinema where guests can feast on popcorn in red velvet chairs during screenings.
Activities on the estate include fishing, archery, cycling, kayaking, golf, tennis and horse riding. Alternatively, guests can relax in the spa, take a cruise on the lake, or indulge in afternoon tea.
Book it: Four nights in a Corrib room starts at £964 including two dinners, a range of complimentary activities, Wi-Fi and return airport transfers. ashfordcastle.com
2. Gone glamping
If you think ‘caravan’ when someone says ‘holiday park’, then it’s time to change your tune. Haven’s Perran Sands park in Cornwall has a range of much more exciting accommodation to keep families entertained, from safari-style tents and luxury beach houses to ‘geo domes’ and yurts.
Haven’s round yurts sleep up to four, while extra bedrooms can be added to boost the capacity to six or eight. Geo domes, the latest thing in the world of glamping, are networks of interconnecting domed tents that are ideal for extended families or friends holidaying together.
Both types of accommodation come with electric sockets, cookers, fridges and proper beds, so there’s no need for clients to rough it just because they’re under canvas. Bathroom facilities are nearby and shared with other campers.
Perran Sands is set in Cornwall’s largest dunes system and overlooks Perranporth Beach, where clients can learn to surf at the on-site school.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s an indoor pool with a flume and the FunStars kids’ club. Other activities include everything from WaterWalkerz and pottery sessions to evening entertainment shows.
Book it: A three-night break in a yurt at Perran Sands starts at £169 for a family of up to five. bourneleisuresales.co.uk
3. Life afloat
“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Anyone who has read children’s classic The Wind in the Willows – or seen actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West in Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys – will have been inspired to find their own boat to mess about in.
And there is little more iconic than a classic narrowboat – the long, thin, wooden boats designed for Britain’s canals.
Hoseasons has 570 narrowboats on offer at 52 bases on the UK’s waterways, from the Thames to canals in Scotland, Wales, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Cheshire, amongst others. Boats have between two and 12 berths, and are 40 to 70 feet long.
Those who want a touch of luxury afloat should book a boat from the Starboard collection – there are 30 of these boats at eight locations on canals in Oxfordshire, the Midlands and Avon.
They have flatscreen TVs, modern kitchens, high-quality linen, luxury toiletries and even Champagne welcome packs. Most of these boats accept pets on board.
Novices need not worry, as all boatyards offer tuition on how to drive, turn and moor up, and will take clients out for a trial run before they let them head off on their own. Bad weather can take the shine off boating, so boats are available between April and October.
Book it: Three nights on the Regency 4 Dominique, a new craft this year that sleeps six people and has an alfresco dining area at the stern, starts at £746. hoseasons.co.uk
4. Towering achievement
History suggests that the Princes in the Tower came to a sticky end, but there’s no reason at all that clients staying at the medieval monument Lendal Tower in York shouldn’t have a much more luxurious and entirely trouble-free stay.
This 14th-century tower, sitting on the banks of the River Ouse, was originally part of the city’s defences, before it was transformed into a waterworks in the 17th century.
It’s been carefully renovated to retain its character, with original ornate wooden panelling and plasterwork, and even a spiral staircase.
There are three double bedrooms, two with en suite bathrooms and all with TVs, plus a living room, kitchen and a dining room with doors that open on to the garden.
But the jewel in the crown has to be the roof terrace, which has spectacular views over the historic centre of York. Here, clients can explore York’s history at the Minster and the Jorvik Viking Centre, or enjoy the 21st-century side of the city at the shops, restaurants and theatres.
Book it: Three nights starts at £1,170, through Cottages4You, for arrivals on November 30. cottages4you.co.uk
5. Yachts for Scots
Yachts aren’t just for the Med or the Caribbean. Sail Scotland’s west coast and clients can explore remote islands, fjord-like lochs and sandy beaches; experience wildlife in unspoilt locations; and enjoy some of Scotland’s finest walking, accessing rarely trodden routes.
Wilderness Collective tailor-makes itineraries visiting the Knoydart peninsula, known as Scotland’s last wilderness, the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides.
The yacht Eda Frandsen is a beautifully converted 65-year-old gaff cutter with four twin berths. There are two bathrooms with showers, and even though clients are at sea, the food will be a highlight, with meals prepared using local produce, from seafood to venison.
Book it: Eda Frandsen costs £5,000 a week for six guests, on a full-board basis. The price includes a skipper and mate, harbour fees and fuel costs. thewildernesscollective.co.uk
6. Fortified times
The company that owns No Man’s Fort is called Amazing Venues, and in this case, it’s no exaggeration.
It owns three Victorian sea forts off the coast of Portsmouth, and the largest and most recently opened – this year, after a multimillion-pound refurbishment – is No Man’s.
The two-storey tower pokes out of the waves of the Solent. Built to defend Britain from Napoleon, but never used, the former military quarters have been transformed into a 24-room super-luxury boutique hotel.
Clients wondering what there is to do on a fortress at sea, are in for a surprise.
There are hot tubs, a fire pit, games room, sun deck, wine-tasting room, cabaret bar, lighthouse, two restaurants and even LaZer Battle. Package prices include return boat transfers from Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, but with two helipads on the fort clients can arrive by air.
Overnight stays include a glass of prosecco on arrival, tea and cake, a buffet lunch, four-course dinner, English breakfast and use of the facilities. The fort is also available for private hire for events and weddings, from £7,000.
Book it: Overnight packages start at £450 per room. amazingvenues.co.uk
7. Leaf it out
Anyone who thinks treehouses are for kids hasn’t stayed in the versions they have at Chewton Glen, the Relais & Châteaux hotel in the New Forest that has added a touch of Robin Hood luxury.
Built on stilts into the leafy canopy and accessed by gangplanks, there’s a hot tub on the deck, a wood-burning stove by the sofa and floor-to-ceiling glass to let guests feel at one with nature.
The decor chimes with its natural surroundings – think timber, marble and neutral colours – but with luxuries including underfloor heating, freestanding baths and flatscreen TVs.
There’s full access to all the hotel’s facilities, but if clients just want to bunker down in the treehouse, hampers can be delivered with everything from breakfast to afternoon tea.
The treehouses are hidden in the grounds of Chewton Glen, between 200m and 400m from the main hotel, so they’re secluded and peaceful, and guests can be dropped off by golf buggy if they feel even that short distance is too much effort. Some even have a bunks area, so there is also room for the kids.
Book it: A treehouse studio suite starts at £800 a night. chewtonglen.com
8. Animal magic
Families don’t have to go all the way to Africa to enjoy a safari experience – just head to Jersey. Between March and October, glamping pods are available at the Durrell Wildlife Park, with views over Orangutan Island and Lemur Lake.
Each dome sleeps four and is set on wooden decking, with a wood-burning stove, cosy beds, private showers and toilets, and a separate kitchen, all with hot running water. There’s a cafe and restaurant on site.
Residents have free access to the park, and can line up special dawn or dusk and behind-the-scenes animal experiences at the time of booking.
The 12-hectare park is home to endangered species including gorillas, orangutans, tamarin monkeys, lemurs and giant tortoises, and there are no cramped cages here – this is a place where conservation and animal welfare are all important.
Book it: Airways Holidays offers three nights from £368 a person, travelling by sea from Poole in the client’s own car, or from £397 by air from Gatwick, including transfers. airwaysholidays.com
9. Round it up
Angles are overrated. For those who want a cottage that’s just a little different, suggest the five-bedroom Roundhouse at Roserrow in Polzeath, Cornwall.
The wraparound design of this curvy spot means every guest gets their own space, but public areas are large and open. Bedrooms are a mix of doubles and twins, plus one room with bunks.
It stands alone overlooking a lake, has a balcony on the first floor, its own garden, table-tennis in the garage and a patio area with a barbecue.
The property is a 20-minute walk from the surf beach at Polzeath, where there are also shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s also just a five-minute walk from The Point at Polzeath, a development with a golf course, tennis courts, swimming, spa, health club, restaurant and bar.
Book it: Nightly rates start at £212, based on 10 sharing. naturalretreats.com
10. Highland fling
This super-luxurious modernist lodge in the heart of a Scottish Highlands estate the size of Los Angeles does come with a rather hefty price tag – but as it can accommodate up to 30 guests, there will be plenty of people with whom to share the costs.
Corrour Lodge is described by Loyd & Townsend Rose as a ‘contemporary castle’, and this sleek mansion designed by architect Moshe Safdie is surely fit for a king – there’s even a contemporary version of a banqueting hall with a long table and a tapestry on the wall. There’s a games room with snooker and table football, and a sauna that overlooks the loch.
The house is fully staffed and breakfasts, light lunches and three-course dinners – plus house wine – are included in the price.The lodge is 90 minutes from Inverness airport, while the estate even has its own rail station, which is served by the overnight sleeper from London.
Activities include fly-fishing for brown trout, pony trekking, mountain biking, canoeing and motor-boating. Alternatively, clients can visit local whisky distilleries to sample a wee dram.
Book it: From £42,000 for 14 guests for seven nights' full-board, through Loyd & Townsend Rose. ltr.co.uk
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