Are you a fan of museum lates? Pottering around old manor houses? Well, here’s how to go one better.
Across the UK there are some incredible buildings that you can stay the night in. You don't just gawp at the antique furniture, you can put your feet up and pretend you live the life of an absolute baller. Why stay in a hotel when you could wake up in a fairytale folly or a library with rooms? From towers on the Dorset coastline to a poet’s retreat in the lush countryside of the Lake District, here are the best buildings across the UK where you can stay over.
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With a salt note to the air and panoramic sea vistas, it’s easy to see the appeal of staying in a tower perched on a cliff’s edge. Not too close to the edge, mind. In 2002, Clavell Tower almost fell off the crumbling cliff and had to be entirely dismantled and reassembled further back. Now, this cosy eyrie gazes over the Dorset coast from a safe distance. After a day walking the South West Coast Path (it goes right past the tower), retire to the first-floor balcony for fine views over Kimmeridge Bay.
Sleeps two. From £496 for four nights.
Stroll down Chapel Street in the heart of Penzance and the striking, colourful façade of Egyptian House will stop you in your tracks. This curious place was built in 1835 when, thanks to Napoleon’s 1798 campaign there, an exotic Egyptian style was the millennial pink of its day. The house started life as a geology shop and museum but has now been split into three cosy apartments. The top flat has the best views, through countless Cornish chimney pots to St Michael’s Mount and beyond.
Sleeps four. From £210 for four nights.
Set in a vast, historic building in Wales, picture-perfect Gladstone’s Library is the ultimate bookish destination. And the best part? You can stay here. As a resident, you’ll have access to the Reading Rooms and free rein to explore the 150,000-strong collection, so you can while away your days quietly plotting that novel or sitting with your nose in a hardback. You can even take library books back with you to browse in the comfort of your boutique-style bedroom.
Twenty-six bedrooms. From £69 per room a night.
This fancy Kent tower is the tallest folly in the UK. It’s got fairytale escape written all over it. The romantic, gothic-style, Grade I-listed building has 360-degree views over the sprawling Kent countryside. Its five floors are connected by a spiral staircase and the three bedrooms are, in true fable-style, each named after a storybook character. Bagsy Rapunzel on the top floor with its enormous, curtained bed!
Hadlow Tower would like to offer a 15% discount to all Time Out readers. Just mention Time Out when you book!
Sleeps six. From £2,000 for two nights.
You don’t have to be a poet to bask in the beauty of the Lake District, but you may find yourself filled with an uncontrollable urge to scribble a sonnet or two at Howthwaite in Grasmere. That’s because it enjoys the same views as Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, which is just a short woodland walk from your front door. The Wordsworth Museum is well worth a look in, and to continue a tour of British literary favourites, visit nearby Ambleside, where you can poke around inside Beatrix Potter’s farmhouse, Hill Top.
Sleeps eight. From £560 for four nights.
Timber-framed Langley Gatehouse is so beautiful to look at, you’d never guess that when the Landmark Trust and English Heritage came to rescue it from collapse in 1992, they found one corner post propped up by an ancient wine bottle. It’s now an ideal country escape, so deep in the Shropshire countryside that your sat nav might struggle. It’s worth the journey, though, for its cosy beam-laced interiors, peaceful farmland views and dazzling stargazing opportunities. Oh, and all the walls are totally sturdy now – promise.
Sleeps six. From £382 for four nights.
Built in a quatrefoil design (like a four-leaf clover), this tower is less about height and more about width. It was originally a defensive fortification, built to house heavy guns and artillery aiming to keep out Napoleon’s forces. Now, the converted accommodation is a quirky yet spacious place to stay, with the sea right on its doorstep. You can practically smell the fish and chips from the seaside town of Aldeburgh, which is just a short stroll away along the shingle beach.
Sleeps four. From £615 for four nights.
If SpongeBob were to relocate to Scotland, he’d probably live in this quirky summer house. The pineapple dome was added in 1777, after a particularly flamboyant lord adopted (and embellished) the Virginian tradition of returning sailors putting pineapples on their gateposts. A stay here will be just as memorable as its fruit-topper. You’re free to wander around the impressive walled gardens to the front, or sit out in your own private back garden, where you should probs sip Piña Coladas. You know, just to stay on theme.
Sleeps four. From £257 for four nights.
With its spire roof and gothic windows, this enchanting Cornish tower looks like the kind of place a witch might trap you in for a hundred years. Not that we’d mind much, with four floors of characterfully curved rooms to explore. If you do venture outside, seek out the small beach on the Trelissick estate or hire a canoe to explore the nearby River Fal and surrounding countryside.
Sleeps two. From £296 for two nights.
You wouldn’t think twice if a well-dressed laird pulled up outside this pile with a horse and carriage, but luckily you don’t have to be Scottish nobility to stay here any more (it was home to biographer-diarist James Boswell). You’ll find all the trappings of a country house – dining room with long table, ornate plasterwork, four-poster beds, sprawling grounds… Gaze out of the west-facing windows for views of the Isle of Arran and spectacular sunsets.
Sleeps 13. From £762 for four nights.
Set in the grounds of Glenarm Castle, this mini tower is as charming as they come. Once a gateway guarding a bridge and the Glenarm River, the little building still has riverside views and plenty of period features, such as its spiral staircase and a coat of arms above the door. Close to the sea, it’s the perfect base for exploring Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast, or makes a good stop-off if you’re planning a road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route.
Sleeps two. From £266 for two nights.
A stay on this magnificent Yorkshire estate feels like stepping into an episode of ‘Downton Abbey’. And if you’re popular enough to have 31 Facebook friends, you’re in luck, because this mammoth house can accommodate 32. With luxurious period rooms at your disposal, you’ll be spoilt for choice with suitably grand pastimes like lounging in front of open fireplaces, playing billiards or retiring early to flop on to your four-poster. Such lavish and historic decor means the house has been used as a film set – and, unsurprisingly, it comes with a hefty price tag. But split it 32 ways and you can channel your inner aristocrat for around £200 a night.
Sleeps 32. From £13,849 for two nights.
For all its grand French style, this pretty-in-peach ‘chateau’ is in Lincolnshire. As a countryside getaway, it has a certain je ne sais quoi. Get closer and you’ll realise that what appears as a full-on palace from a distance is actually tiny, with enough space for one royal couple only. Originally built as a lawyer’s retreat, this romantic bolthole boasts bucolic views over the River Trent and surrounding countryside. You’ll never want to leave.
Sleeps two. From £345 for four nights.
Travel just over an hour out of London and you’ll end up at this wow-factor sixteenth-century manor house tucked away in the Surrey Hills. Throughout the house you’ll find romantic wooden beams and historic grandeur, as well as a few decidedly modern extras like a gym, hot tub and projector screen. Make sure you shotgun the master bedroom; its airy, floor-to-ceiling windows have panoramic views over the grounds that can be admired from the comfort of a king-size bed. Dreamy.
Sleeps ten. From £3,850 for two nights.
Originally a multi-purpose garden building, this eighteenth-century Shropshire gem goes way beyond your standard shed or cabin. The best seat in the house? Without a doubt, the bright and airy orangery, with light spilling in through floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, and epic views across the Capability Brown parkland. All this, plus quirky circular rooms, spiral staircases, a cosy snug and a modern basement kitchen in what was once a dairy.
Sleeps six. From £880 for two nights.
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