By Rhonda Carrier
Kids love the novel, the unusual or the downright weird, as the success of leftfield family holiday options such as Feather Down Farms and treehouses testify. The following may not all be places to spend an entire two-week holiday, but for a night or two of quirky fun, they’re sure-fire winners.
Though the Landmark Trust has plenty of eccentric places to choose from, none are more so than The Pineapple in Dunmore in central Scotland, sleeping 4. Covered by prickly stone leaves, the fruity summerhouse folly built for the 4th Earl of Dunmore presides over a huge walled garden.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village
You can stay in one of four traditional blackhouses (for 2, 4/5 and 14 people) in this crofting village on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides – the essence of an ‘authentic’ holiday that leaves nothing to desire when it comes to getting away from it all. Visitors can enjoy traditional rural activities, outdoor pursuits including watersports and fishing, and wildlife-watching.
Families can take part in all The Prisoner madness by staying in a castle, an Art Deco hotel or several self-catering cottages built by the visionary architect of this Italianate tourist village.
Keldy is among a few Forest Holidays sites that have extensions to some of its three-bed Golden Oak Cabins, consisting of an additional ensuite bedroom within a treehouse, accessed by an ‘adventurers’ bridge’. They sleep up to eight in total. Other sites with treehouses are Deerpark in Cornwall, Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.
Well located for the seaside delights of Cromer as well as the Broads, this small Graded II listed former lighthouse-keeper’s cottage (sleeping 4–5) stands beside a working red-and-white striped lighthouse that you can climb on Sundays in high season. Another highlight for kids is the cellar converted into a den specially for them, while outside is a large enclosed garden.
A very special and characterful place to stay, this 18th-century windmill looking out over Blakeney Marshes and the sea offers both B&B and self-catering (the latter in its Dovecote cottage for 4 in the old stables).
The House in the Clouds
This extraordinary old water tower in the 1920s holiday resort of Thorpeness in sleeps up to 12 over seven floors, so it’s a great place for a holiday with family or friends. The galleried games room at the top has amazing countryside and North Sea views.
Sleeping up to 8, this intriguing property in Dartmouth was built on the site of a previous boathouse on a bend in the Dart and has gorgeous views towards the sea in one direction and the town and naval college in the other. Fittingly, it’s decorated like a luxury ocean liner, with panelled ‘cabins’ (one a bunk-room for kids) and a ‘saloon’ with vast bay windows to take advantage of the vista. There’s a games room should you tire of exploring the fascinating surrounds, plus a garden.
Crown Hill Fort
Owned by the Landmark Trust, this fort sleeping 8 is a fabulous place to bring kids – once the building as a whole (built to protect the naval harbour at Plymouth in the 1860s and bristling with replica guns and cannons) is closed to the public, it’s all theirs to run around and re-enact battle scenes in. Read also our feature on a stay in a Landmark Trust fort on Alderney (not technically part of the UK).
South Lodge, Battle Abbey
The gatehouse at the famous abbey, sleeping 4, is just one of many interesting – and surprisingly stylish – places to stay offered by English Heritage. Many are in the grounds of castles or other spectacular historic buildings, so families can get a history lesson close up.
See also our features 30 Amazing Family Glamping Sites Around the UK, Unusual Places to Stay with Kids in Europe and Unusual Places to Stay with Kids Outside Europe.