Fort Clonque Exterior Steve Wheelen 11 07 11 27

A bed less ordinary

A hotel? That’s so last year. Ashleigh Gibson checks in to 13 quirky spots where you’ll find yourself waking up amid Devon’s treetops, breaking fast in a fortress and snoozing in millenia-old Turkish caves

Minimalist sea cabin Manshausen, Norway

Home to more sea eagles than humans, this rugged section of Manshausen Island boasts Europe’s largest colony of the graceful, beady-eyed hunters. It’s a remote Nordic world where diving, snorkelling and red granite rock-climbing are on hand all day long – the sun doesn’t set here in June. From inside this ultra-chic cantilevered sea cabin – which resembles a giant pair of binoculars – you can gape through the massive windows as herring flip in the crystal-clear waters right before your eyes. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights shimmying overhead during winter stays. Transformed by explorer Børge Ousland (the first individual to reach the North Pole unsupported in 1994) and architect Snorre Stinessen, these stark, minimalist spaces were previously part of Grøtøy harbour, an old trading post established in 1698. Fishing is still important in the bay, and the mackerel, pollock and cod which make their way from the Barents Sea make for a delicious dinner – a chef can be arranged if you don’t feel like cooking yourself.

1 Manshausen  Dsc7910 3

Travel Details

Manshausen Island Sea Cabins sleep two adults in a master bedroom and two children in a smaller room. From £166 (adult), £32 (child) per night.

Historic fortress Alderney, Channel Islands

As the final pieces of granite were laid and the last of 30kg guns deemed ready for battle, advances in steam-powered warships’ firing ranges rendered Fort Clonque redundant almost immediately. Built to protect the Channel Islands from capture by the French in 1847, these days it is safely disarmed and, at the grand old age of 165, fulfils a new role as a fully functional base for family get-togethers. Roam polished hardwood hallways, conk out in cast-iron beds and clamber the steps to Battery No.1, a perfect vantage point from which to spy gannets dive-bombing into the open water which surrounds. The stone fortress sits strategically atop a craggy outcrop off Alderney and its entrance gates wait at the end of a drawbridge. You and your troops must invade during low tide, before the causeway gets cut off by the sea. Bring supplies for self-catered cooking in the soldiers’ kitchen or pay a visit to The Georgian House’s award-winning Orangery restaurant in nearby Alderney. Lunch might be a crab sandwich and a chilled glass of white, while dinner can be eaten on the terrace on warm summer evenings; the seasonal menu boasting the likes of fish soup, barbecued dishes and a hearty seafood paella.

Fort Clonque Exteriors Jul 11 7

Travel Details

Fort Clonque sleeps 13. Exclusive hire from £190 per night (minimum four-night stay).

Ocean-view windmill Santorini, Greece

Back in 1956, a freak earthquake devastated parts of Santorini’s south-eastern Imerovigli settlement. The iconic ice-cube houses and blue-domed churches which spill down this Cyclades isle’s stony slopes have since bounced back – and have been joined by three landmark windmills. Azure skies and a private pool set the scene for watching their slim, sail-like arms tick. Accommodation is in a well-appointed round-walled, window-boxed villa, painted in calming shades of pastel and white that’s sure to be a hit with all the family. From this comfortable base, you can set off on a range of local adventures, filling your days with boat trips, dips in the sea or a memorable donkey ride up steep, volcanic terrain to gaze at views of the island’s large, mainly submerged caldera and the ruins of an old Venetian citadel. To refuel, indulge in some sweet pastries from a local bakery or cold drinks in a village café, followed by a visit to the island’s fascinating hot sulphur springs. Later, The Athenian House is a sensational setting for eating homemade lobster and shrimp ravioli and watching the sun drop into the inky Aegean.

Drz 6588

Travel Details

Santorini Windmill Villa’s Green and Lilac villas sleep five; the Blue villa sleeps six (all have private pools). From £198 per night (open 1 April - 1 November).

Old-school double decker bus Lewes, Sussex

The wheels on this 1982-built West Midlands metro bus no longer go round and round, but when you clock the bucolic views from the top deck, we don’t think that you’ll be bothered one iota. Now permanently parked in the heart of the South Downs, the vehicle has been lovingly converted into a stylish self-catering lodging. A fully fitted, bright lime kitchen and custom-built power shower have been neatly slotted in, while original school bus seats (minus any discarded chewing-gum) offer ample opportunities for surveying your secluded surroundings or playing board games. Whether it’s basking in the log burner-heated hot tub, scouting a favourite spot of woodland with its marauding deer and buzzards, or getting to know Mo, the resident pony, this private piece of Sussex promises to impress all passengers. Journey a little farther afield and you’ll find lots of family-friendly attractions, including Branching Out Adventures’ eight-metre climbing wall and the National Trust-owned Sheffield Park, with its landscaped gardens and parkland that simply begs to be explored. For dinner, Cru Wine Shop in nearby Eastbourne makes a great pit stop, where the market fish of the day is always a good bet, best enjoyed with a glass of local Bolney wine.

Hi Res 50 Of 76

Travel Details

The Big Green Bus sleeps six. From £275 per night for a family of four (minimum two-night stay). Dogs are welcome on the lower deck.

Thatched mud hut Anamaduwa, Sri Lanka

In the far-away forests of Anamaduwa, in north-west Sri Lanka huddle a handful of wall-free, wooden hideaways on the outskirts of a small village. Each one was crafted with a natural aesthetic in mind, using ancient techniques and materials. Particularly noteworthy are the chunky four-poster beds and sinks sculpted from tree roots – and the 100 different species of birds that soar above your thatched ceiling. The white-bellied sea eagle, emerald dove and their neighbours are more animated and captivating up close than the kind of angry birds your kids are probably more familiar with on their iPads. Paddle kayaks, take a guided tuk-tuk trip to the mysterious Paramakanda Temple or learn to cook curry the Sri Lankan way using clay pots, an open fire and ingredients plucked from the site’s organic farm. Guests of all ages are encouraged to get involved in growing grains, harvesting herbs and stirring the supper. A spicy lentil dal and coconut sambal are menu staples. Unwind in hammocks after dinner and watch the sun sink slowly into the lake.


Travel Details

The Mudhouse sleeps six. From £120 (adult), £60 (child, 5-17) per night, including meals, soft drinks and excursions. Under 5s, free.

Romany gypsy caravan Monmouthshire, Wales

Imagining you’ve upped sticks and joined a gypsy family sets the tone for a fun family foray into windswept Wales. Your bed for the night is a pretty 1940s-built ‘bowtop’ caravan, carefully restored by Irish Romanies and finished with authentic Celtic touches – look out for the pair of Welsh dragons either side of the arched doorway, said to guard small stowaways as they snooze. Equally welcoming is the local cider – apple juice for little ones, of course – on arrival, ornately patterned panelling and goose-down bedding inside the caravan, while cooking, eating and washing are done in the neighbouring Owl Cabin. Away from roads, on a secluded Monmouthshire farm complete with wildflower-strewn meadows and a shallow stream at the bottom of the hill, there’s lots of opportunity for inquisitive legs to roam freely, paddle and make endless daisy chains. The Black Mountains and Wye Valley are well worth visiting, as is the Michelin-starred The Walnut Tree Inn for its perfectly executed loin of pork, goose Charlotte and Morteau sausage.

Romany Caravan 002 1

Travel Details

Romany Caravan sleeps two adults and two children (on a blow-up bed). From £82 per night (minimum two-night stay). Dogs welcome.

Indoor campsite Berlin, Germany

Forget traffic jams and drizzle – Hüttenpalast’s indoor caravans offer whimsical camping in the Neukölln district in the heart of Berlin. This former vacuum cleaner factory turned deluxe trailer park is the brainchild of two forward-thinking women and the lone spot of its kind in the city. There’s an eclectic mix of temporary homes to choose from, each with its own imaginative concept. The ‘Kleine Schwester’ 1970s caravan, for instance, is designed to cast you into the land of nod dreaming of summer, its roof topped with a yellow hat adorned with flowers, horses and musical notes. There are also vintage VW camper vans and miniature ski chalets. Spend time in the colourful garden before heading into town. The metro takes just 15 minutes to reach the iconic Alexanderplatz square, and the Brandenburg Gate and Charlottenburg Palace are both easily reached. Pumpkin and goat’s cheese gnocchi at excellent local restaurant Eins44 is infinitely superior to camping grub, too.

Panorama Halle1

Travel Details

Hüttenpalast’s caravans sleep two adults and two children under six (on pull-out sofa beds). Cabins, huts and hotel rooms for larger parties and multiple bookings are also available. From £60 per night.

Luxurious treehouse Chumleigh, Devon

Lovers of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree stories will be enchanted by the circular chambers and platforms that hug this 250-year-old oak tree. Perched on stilts overlooking the Fox and Hounds’ six-acre grounds in Devon, Treetops Treehouse is a triumph of carpentry and design. The decor consists of wide-panelled floors, delicately painted murals and even a copper roll-top bath. Mini Moonfaces will love the children’s room, which features crooked bunks and a ladder of branches, and there are also plenty of beanbags and hidden coves where bookworms can hole up for an afternoon. From the main living room, French doors open onto a roomy terrace which overlooks a lake where you can try your hand at fly fishing. The River Taw is within easy strolling distance, while history buffs will be in awe of Heywood Castle, a Norman motte and bailey with ties to William II. If living in a tree is whetting their appetite for climbing, take them to Rock and Rapid Adventures in nearby South Molton. A classic burger from Exeter’s Globe Inn is a delicious way to refuel after all the excitement.

Jb4 8240 3027365396 O

Travel Details

Treetops Treehouse sleeps two adults and two children (under 12). From £270 per night.

Battle-hardened castle Aberfoyle, Scotland

Indulge fairy-tale fantasies by booking a stay in this pale pink Scottish palace, straight out of the picture books. Originally a 16th-century royal hunting lodge commissioned by King James IV, Duchray Castle boasts a steepling turret, stone courtyard and evergreen grounds to rival anything Disney has come up with. The expansive estate lies in the heart of Queen Elizabeth Forest, home to red squirrels and deer for little princes and princesses to befriend. Inside, there’s ample space for games of hide and seek, polished four-poster beds, plush ceramic bathtubs and elegant contemporary and antique furnishings. Once they’ve had their run of the rooms, children will love hearing how the heroic Rob Roy managed to evade Redcoat capture here by leaping through one of the castle’s windows. Get out and about in the beautiful Scottish countryside with a guided mountain bike tour of the Trossachs National Park. Or visit the Lake of Menteith fishery, central Scotland’s best spot for fly-fishing for rainbow trout. Later, recount the memories of your adventures while you feast on rosé veal, onion tart and caramelised sweetbreads at the atmospheric Roman Camp Hotel in nearby Callander.

External 1 2

Travel Details

Duchray Castle sleeps eight. From £350 per night, self-catering (minimum five-night stay).

Geodesic dome Mile End, Gloucestershire

This futuristic eco-site in the Forest of Dean epitomises the term ‘glamping’. Despite looking like an alien spaceship or a zorb ball that’s about to take flight, each geodesic dome is kitted out with a loo, a wood-fired shower or bath and surprisingly comfortable beds. All the pillowy insulation lining these giant golf balls’ walls means guests will be cosy, regardless of the weather forecast. Your morning pot of coffee will be brewed using a blackened rocket stove and, when in Dome, pizza- making is a must. Guests are invited to toss the pies and scatter them with toppings as generously as they see fit. Collecting hens’ eggs, tree-swinging and llama-trekking is rather hungry work, after all. For little ‘Dome-ateers’, as owner Jonny playfully terms his guests, Puzzlewood’s mossy maze of paths and the Perrygrove steam train and treasure quest will win the day. Choose head chef Rob Cox’s partridge, quince, candied walnuts and parsnip at the Tudor Farmhouse for a locally grown meal to remember.

4 Domes 1

Travel Details

The Dome Garden’s tents sleep up to six. From £132 per night (minimum three-night stay).

Get Premium access to all the latest content online

Subscribe and view full print editions online... Subscribe