Bored by the same old staycations every year? Swap tired holiday cottages and charmless rentals for something extraordinary.
England is dotted with unusual places to stay, from treehouses in vineyards to 18th-century follies.
Here are 11 of the most incredible that step away from the well-trodden tourist track, swerve the coach trippers and explore the country’s more secretive sights, seeking the understated, unexpected and unusual.
FOLLY IN YORKSHIRE
With views across the landscape at Hackfall and beyond, The Ruin in North Yorkshire is a forest folly built in the 18th century.
Here, we provide 11 unusual staycation ideas, including The Ruin (above), a folly in North Yorkshire
It has been restored by The Landmark Trust and turned into a holiday home with two identities: from the front it is Gothic in style, while the back is rough and rugged, designed to evoke ancient Roman ruins. To access each of The Ruin’s three rooms you must use the outside terrace. A night-time trip to the bathroom has never felt more dramatic.
Don’t miss: Explore Hackfall, the atmospheric woodland by The Ruin, which is dotted with follies and curious constructions.
Details: Sleeps two; four nights from £396 (landmarktrust.org.uk).
The Poppy Treehouse in Hampshire feels like the treehouse of childhood imaginings
The Poppy Treehouse in Hampshire sits at the end of a boardwalk, deep in woodland on the edge of Black Chalk Vineyard’s neat rows of vines. Two outside terraces (one with a big tub) and enormous windows frame green views of the surrounding trees, while inside, Poppy feels like the treehouse of childhood imaginings, thanks to its cosy log burner and rustic going-on-an-adventure log cabin vibe.
Don’t miss: The Mayfly pub just down the road has one of the nicest beer gardens going, with tables by the River Test.
Details: Sleeps two adults and two children; from £245 a night (canopyandstars.co.uk).
Stay in Drovers’ Bough, a cabin on stilts in Herefordshire that’s priced from £275 a night
Set on Gwyrlodydd farm in the foothills of the Black Mountains, Drovers’ Bough in Herefordshire is a tall cabin on stilts hidden among 27 acres of farmland, over an ancient drovers track. Enjoy quiet time, or explore the farm to spot goats, peacocks, geese, guinea fowl and an emu called Joni.
Don’t miss: Shepherds Parlour in Hay-on-Wye for delicious and inventive scoops of sheep’s milk ice cream.
Details: Sleeps two; from £275 a night (droversbough.com).
Hinterlandes Cabin, which is off-grid and self-sufficient, moves location every 28 days. There’s no wifi, but you do have a wood burner, wood-fired hot tub, books and games
A stay so hidden you won’t even know the exact address until shortly before you arrive — as Hinterlandes Cabin in Cumbria moves location every 28 days. The cabin is off-grid and self-sufficient, so leaves no footprint on the land it borrows. Great views and access to incredible, lesser-visited parts of the Lake District are guaranteed. No wifi, but you do have a wood burner, wood-fired hot tub, books and games.
Don’t miss: Sampling local produce. You can order hampers full of breakfast or even barbecue treats.
Details: Sleeps two; from £134 a night (hinterlandes.com).
ECCENTRIC IN ESSEX
Osea, a privately owned island in Essex, is dotted with a collection of cottages, apartments and beach-side houses
Check-in and check-out on Osea Island in Essex depend on the tide, as your route on and off the island is a causeway built by the Romans, only accessible for four hours at low tide. That’s far from the only quirk about this privately owned island, which is dotted with a collection of cottages, apartments and beach-side houses. It’s all a little surreal, from the salt marshes and The Shack cinema to the incredible sense of seclusion.
Don’t miss: A drink at The Puffin, the island’s pub — but it’s only open a handful of times a year.
Details: More than 20 self-catering cottages and apartments; from £300 a night (oseaisland.co.uk).
Coastal: Kingswear Castle in Devon stands at the water’s edge, with views of Dartmouth
Kingswear Castle is a 16th-century castle perched on rocks opposite Dartmouth. It’s not huge — it has two bedrooms — but it feels mighty. It has chunky walls, ancient stone floors and battlements, with great views of the sea. Completed in 1502, it was built to defend the harbour, but now it’s a special setting for a whiling away the hours. The best spot is the roof terrace, where you can watch boats bob past.
Don’t miss: Getting the ferry from Kingswear to Dartmouth.
Details: Sleeps four; four nights from £848 (landmarktrust.org.uk).
SURREAL IN KENT
You can really immerse yourself in the surreal vibe of Dungeness at Shingle House, where expansive windows flood the house with coastal light and the sea beyond (as well as the miniature Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, which passes by at the end of the garden).
It is an architectural take on Dungeness’s simple, tarred fisherman shacks, which continue to define the landscape.
Don’t miss: The Denge Sound Mirrors, three concrete relics of a pre-World War II acoustic early warning aircraft defence system.
Details: Sleeps eight; from £1,695 for a long weekend (living-architecture.co.uk).
RUSTIC WOOD CABINS
Have a rustic experience with a stay at one of the twin cabins at Swallowtail Hill in East Sussex
Down a bumpy farm track, Wood Cabin, near Beckley in East Sussex, sits a little way from its neighbour Penfold Cabin. Both are rustic and off-grid, each with a fire pit, compost toilet and a hot outdoor shower. There’s an undercover dining and kitchen prep area, with pans to heat your pre-ordered stews or barbecue over the flames. Lanterns help you find the loo in the night.
Don’t miss: Tillingham vineyard, just a ten-minute drive away.
Details: Sleeps four; from £97 a night (swallowtailhill.com).
Bush Cottage (above) lies off a rural track, deep in a lush Shropshire valley
Bush Cottage in Shropshire is a petite two-up, two-down cottage made of red brick and oak, lattice windows and roses around the door, dating back to 1548. The cottage is off a rural track, deep in a lush valley.
Don’t miss: Ludlow for its picturesque castle, and a starting point for Shropshire Hills walks.
Details: Sleeps two adults and two children; four nights from £284 (landmarktrust.org.uk).
Off-beat: Sleep in a pod on stilts – priced from £137 a night – at Kudhva cabins in Cornwall
Kudhva cabins in Cornwall are off-grid pods on stilts in a quarry, with coast views. Facilities are basic, but that’s the point. There are USB chargers and solar-powered showers at reception, but you could just spend your stay foraging, surfing and swimming in the reservoir and making pals in the communal kitchen.
Don’t miss: St Nectan’s Glen, a valley with walks and waterfalls.
Details: Sleeps two; from £137 a night (kudhva.com).
SECLUDED IN SUFFOLK
Hex Cottage features a roll-top bath, plus plenty of books and games to keep you entertained
Describing thatched Hex Cottage in Sibton, Suffolk as charming does it a disservice.
The one-bedroom, secluded cottage is off-grid, heated by a woodburning range and at night it’s lit by the flicker of fire and candlelight (though there is mobile phone coverage).
This doesn’t mean compromising on comfort though: you’ll find a huge bed and roll-top bath, plus plenty of books and games to keep you entertained as the light fades.
From Hex Cottage, take a short drive to the pretty coastal town of Southwold
You also get access to the facilities on the nearby Sibton Park Estate, which includes a pool and hot tub, plus bike and rowing boat hire.
Don’t miss: Southwold, the pretty coastal town is the perfect place to stock up on supplies (beer from Adnams and supper from The Little Fish & Chip Shop).
Details: Sleeps two; from £504 a night (wildernessreserve.com).
Ellie Walker-Arnott is the author of Hidden England.